The Israeli prime minister’s open Bible study group met for the sixth time since its recent reestablishment, and focused on the people’s claim to the land of Israel.
The tradition to form a Bible study gathering was initiated by the country’s founding prime minister, David Ben Gurion, and has been discontinued and revived twice since. Its current incarnation was kickstarted by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife, in the name of her late father, Shmuel Ben-Artzi, a noted bible educator.
The meeting took place October 5th in Netanyahu’s office, and was attended by dozens of rabbis and academics, many of them current members of Israeli government. Also present were the parents of the three Israeli boys kidnapped and killed this past June: Uri and Iris Yifrah, the parents of 19-year-old Eyal; Avi and Rachel Frenkel, the parents of 16-year-old Naftali; and Ofir and Bat Galim Sha’ar, the parents of 16-year-old Gilad.
Education Minister and Rabbi Shai Piron raised the topic of the Jewish claim to the land of Israel in connection to the first verse of the bible. Citing 11th-century Torah scholar Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, known as Rashi, Piron asked why the Bible begins with the story of creation.
According to the sage, who identifies his own father as his source, the story of creation gives the Children of Israel an answer to accusations from the nations of the world that they “are robbers, because you took [the land of Canaan] by force.” It is God who created the land and it is therefore His to distribute as He sees fit.
In his opening statements, Netanyahu himself noted the timely nature of the topic,”We are about to finish the reading of the Torah on the Simchat Torah holiday and start all over again from Bereshit,” said Netanyahu.
“The cyclical nature of the reading of the Torah and starting to read it afresh, is also symbolic of the renewal of our nation in our country. Despite all of the attempts to annihilate us, we rebuild ourselves anew every time, with a truly deep connection to our roots, but at the same time growing the tree that is called the Nation of Israel, with our deep roots and the branches that turn up and upward.”
“I am always stirred by this occasion,” Netanyahu added. “It was postponed by the campaign that took place in the summer, but I want to tell you that even during this campaign, in this house, we continued to study the Bible. We study it at least once a week. It is a part of who we are and it is not for nothing that this class is named for my father in law, Shmuel Ben Artzi z”l, who was a man of the Bible, and who saw the study and teaching of the Bible as his life’s mission. He passed this on to generations of students, and also to his daughter, sons and grandchildren.”
“We are excited on this occasion by the participation of the parents of the three wonderful youths, the wonderful parents, who also symbolize the great sacrifice and the nobility of spirit and greatness of soul of our nation at its finest. I greet all of you, along with my wife, Sarah, with a welcome and a real hug, which is the hug of the entire nation of Israel.”
The periodic class is held in cooperation with the Begin Heritage Center.