Why do Jews live in Israel? Out of all places on the globe, why did they pick that hotly disputed piece of territory in the Middle East? Surely they could have settled somewhere more peaceful, where they are not surrounded by enemies on all sides and don't have to contend with constant wars and terror. They could have progressed so much further if they did not have to invest so much energy in defense rather than in a robust economy and culture.
In the Israel of today, 62 years after independence, many are asking this question. They do not understand how we ever got caught up in such a hopeless situation. Then there are others who don't ask, but not because they know the answer. They simply do not want to complicate their lives by asking too many questions.
Others, who are more in tune with our nation's history, know not to direct the question at the 19th century Jewish settlers who first began to build the modern state of Israel. They understand that Israel's roots go way back in history. To find out why the Jewish people live in Israel, we need to ask Moses and Joshua, who led our forefathers out of Egypt, through the desert and into Israel. But why did they choose Israel? What was special about this land? Couldn't they have found a better place to build a country?
According to the book of Joshua, the land of Canaan, before it was conquered by the Jews, was home to 31 kings. All of them had a handgrip on a small piece of this land. And the Jews decided to start up with all of them. Why? Was it not enough for them that they had recently escaped the oppressive Egyptian regime? Why not settle in a neutral place that was not yet claimed by anyone?
The answer is quite simple. Our ancestors did not choose this land; they were sent there by a divine decree. G-d chose this land for us, and only for this reason did our ancestors settle there, and only for that reason did the Jews return there and live there now. It's that simple.
The real question to be asked is, why did G-d choose Israel? Or, to reframe it slightly, if G-d did decide that this was to be our land, why did He not hand it to us on a silver platter? Why did he first allow other nations to settle there, and then bring the Jews there later, so they would have to battle for possession?
We were given this land not just for its material bounty but for its spiritual quality, although Israel has great physical beauty as well. And the most precious things are never given on a silver platter. The land of Israel, the spirituality that it embodies, is something worth fighting for.
This spiritual quality is also the reason that other nations constantly battle us for domination. It is the true reason why the other nations feel such an imperative to rule over this tiny sliver of land and to drive us out of it. But it is our land. The land of Israel belongs to the people of Israel, who were chosen by G-d to settle the land and flourish in it. Our spiritual strength is a perfect match to the spiritual quality of Israel.
As long as the Redemption has not yet come, we do not sense the spiritual and therefore we do not feel the full extent of Israel's special qualities. It is also the reason that many Jews ask themselves how they and their ancestors ever ended up in Israel in the first place. However, we are filled with hope and faith that within moments, Moshiach will be revealed with the true and complete Redemption. Then we will be granted the ability to sense spirituality, and we will understand what a great gift G-d has given us, with His promised land.