There is good reason that the Arab world and the anti-Israel left insist on using the mendacious and geographically inaccurate term “West Bank” when they refer to Judea and Samaria.
Think about it: Imagine a human-rights movement built around the slogan: Ban Arabs from Arabia! Such a slogan and movement would raise many questions. For instance, where else would Arabs have a right to be if not Arabia, and who could have a greater claim to Arabia than Arabs?
Although freedom-loving Americans have endless reasons to squirm when contemplating Saudi Arabia (as do freedom-hating Americans), we all tend to agree that Arabs who want to live there have an assumed right to do so. Arabia for Arabs.
Somewhere along the litany, it would make sense to say: Yehuda for Yehudim—i.e., Judea for Jews. Even anti-Semites would find it hard to get behind slogans such as “Ban Jews from Judea! Jews Never Lived in Judea!” The Jews (Yehudim in Hebrew) of the tribe of Judah (Yehudah) gave the land of Yehudah its name: Judea, as transliterated in the King James Version of the Bible.
It has always been preposterous to call Judea and Samaria the “West Bank.” Think of the most famous locations in the Bible: Jerusalem, Hebron, Bethlehem, Nazareth, Beth El, Jericho, Shiloh, Shechem (Nablus), Galilee, Tekoa—all the places where the Jewish patriarchs and matriarchs, the kings and prophets walked and lived. Jesus and the Apostles, too. Their lives all centered in Judea and in Samaria. Those terms are all over the Bible, with more than 100 mentions just of “Samaria” in the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) and in the Christian Gospels.
In those days, there was no Tel Aviv, no Herzliya, no Haifa, no Netanya. Sure, the Zionists occupied those lands, too. But it was in the cities of Judea and Samaria that the seeds of Western civilization were planted and took root.
Visit virtually any of the 140 Jewish communities where 800,000 Jews now reside in Judea and Samaria, and you will not see any river banks. It is not like Jersey City, New Jersey, which is on the west bank of the Hudson River. No one calls Jersey City “the West Bank.” Why not? Too much history there? Too many biblical memories of Moses and Aaron buying shoes at Journal Square or using the PATH trains at the Grove Street station?
The Arab world and their woke allies have no problem calling every other location in the Middle East by their biblical names: Beersheva, Galilee, Jordan River, Gaza, Damascus, Lebanon, Tyre, Sidon and, of course, Jerusalem, Hebron, Bethlehem and Nazareth. Even Americans comfortably employ biblical names for so many of their cities: Hebron, Maryland; the Jericho Turnpike, New York; Bethel, Indiana; the Battle of Shiloh, Tennessee; Manassas (Menashe), Virginia.
Judea and Samaria—Yehuda and Shomron—should be called by their real names and not by the ersatz woke term that seeks to divest 800,000 Jews now living there of their heritage and of their land. When a newborn child is due to arrive, think of the hours, the contemplating, even the inter-family wrangling and negotiating that often precede naming the newcomer. Names have great power and meaning. That is why Israel’s enemies call Judea and Samaria “The West Bank.”
And why we should call it Judea and Samaria.
Rabbi Dov Fischer, a law professor and senior rabbinic fellow at the Coalition for Jewish Values, is a senior contributing editor at “The American Spectator.”
This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.
Be a part of our community
JNS is your ideological home. Situated at the center of the pro-Israel ecosystem, we provide readers with the critical context they need on issues facing Israel and their Jewish world.
You can help support our efforts — and enjoy an ad-free experience, as well as premium content and other community benefits.
Join our community and help us continue to keep you engaged and informed.