Why the Holy Land?
What's the deal with the Land of Israel? Why not Uganda, for example, or maybe Brooklyn?
The Aish Rabbi Replies:
If there's one thing God hates, it's religion.
"Religion" usually means one day of worship, sandwiched into a week's brutal exploitation of our neighbor. But God wants His commandments to shape every nuance of our lives – the way we do business, administer justice, fight war, make love, raise children, and respond to the poor. Only a community can live the Bible.
A community needs a place where it can live its ideals – it needs a land. And Israel is not just any land. It is a holy land, which means a place where God is uniquely present and available.
Patton probably didn't comment on God's role in the Battle of the Bulge, but in Israel, even atheists find God's presence too tangible to ignore.
An old joke tells of the Israeli prime minister's visit to the White House.
On the president's desk there are three phones. The president explains that the white phone is a direct line to the U.S. ambassador in Moscow. The red phone is a direct line to the commanding general of NATO. The blue phone is a direct line to God.
"But," says the president, "we never use that phone because it's too expensive."
Then the president goes to visit the Israeli prime minister. On his desk there are three phones. The prime minister explains that the white phone is a direct line to the Israeli ambassador in Washington. The red phone is a direct line to the head of the Army. The blue phone is a direct line to God.
"But how can a small country like Israel afford such a phone?" the president asks. "Even the U.S. can't afford to use it."
"Mr. President," says the prime minister, "here in Israel, it's a local call."