Page 33 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 44

Basic HTML Version

2 1
very rich literature on Eretz-Israel you will not find even one
work, written by a Jew for Jews, which presents a general picture
of Eretz-Israel, past and present, without which one cannot arrive
at a more or less correct description of the future potentialities of
the land. Most of the books, even those written by secular Chris­
tians, consider it for the most part from a theological viewpoint.”
Ben-Gurion and Ben-Zvi stressed that the Christian researcher
has no interest in the history of the land during the lengthy
period between the destruction of the Second Temple and the
19th century (except for the Crusades). Nor does he have the nec­
essary knowledge of post-biblical literature (and Josephus), a fact
which detracts from the scientific value of his writing. They con­
cluded: “The redemption of Eretz-Israel by Jews cannot come
without the redemption of the knowledge of Eretz-Israel by Jew­
ish scholars. This is not a task for an individual or individuals, but
for all the intellectual forces in Jewish life that are engaged in
Jewish research.”
It is quite evident that the two authors, who expressed not their
view alone but that of an entire generation, sought to differenti­
ate between the sacred history of Eretz-Israel, which is written as
background to theological research and religious faith, and a
Jewish history which is a national-secular history of the land. Such
a history is concerned not with Eretz-Israel as the scene of mirac­
ulous events and as a terra santa, a land of holy sites, but as a land
which has a “secular” history. It was necessary, therefore, to study
its settlement, demography, society, economy and other spheres
of human endeavor which evolved there. But the aim and moti­
vation are national; not history for its own sake, but knowledge of
the land as an expression of the redemption of Eretz-Israel by
Jews through scientific study as well. When seen through Jewish
eyes it will loom as a central and vital chapter in the history of our
national rebirth and of the new Hebrew culture. As in literature
and the theatre, so in research, too, must the national rebirth pro­
duce original and independent fruits in order to free Hebrew
culture from dependence on translations from other cultures.
It is noteworthy that a similar rationale for Eretz-Israel
research (including archaeological study) was expressed in
Orthodox circles. We find it stated in the approbations to the