“You have to build and build – to develop Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria – because this is our home, and this is our right,” Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked told Breaking Israel News.
However, building in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria is controversial and generally condemned by the Western and Arab world.
A day after the historic visit of US Vice President Mike Pence to the Holy Land, the newly founded The Heart of Israel program launched an international petition, calling on Christian and Jewish Zionists to tell their leaders that they support the Jewish people’s right to build their homes in all areas of Israel’s Biblical heartland.
“It is our land,” said The Heart of Israel’s founder Aaron Katsof to Breaking Israel News. “God gave it to us. We are home.”
During Pence’s visit, Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein presented the vice president with a basket of goods produced over the Green Line and asked him to support construction of an industrial zone in the contested area of Ma’aleh Adumim, known as E1. Plans to build more than 3,000 housing units on empty hilltops in the E1 area just outside Jerusalem have been frozen for 23 years.
Starting with former US President Bill Clinton, all US administrations have opposed construction in E1, holding that it posed a threat to the viability of a future Palestinian state. Israel has always held that E1 will remain within its permanent borders in any final-status agreement with the Palestinians.
Any homes that are renovated or built over the Green Line, explained Israel Gantz, head of the Binyamin Regional Council located just north of Jerusalem, have had permits that were pre-approved decades ago or within small windows in which the government was approving construction. He also said that while the mainstream media makes such construction projects appear to be massive, they are in fact “very, very little.”
Jews living in the Biblical heartland are governed by Israeli law. Palestinians are governed by the Palestinian Authority. The land, however, is governed a combination of holdover laws from the Ottoman period (1500s), British period (early 1900s until 1948), Jordanian rule (1949 until 1967) and current Israeli law.
Judea, Samaria, Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley are known collectively as Israel’s Biblical heartland. The territory has more than 3,000 years of Biblical and messianic history. For example, Bethlehem is mentioned over and over in the Bible and it is the birthplace of King David. Tekoa is the town of the Prophet Amos, and Shiloh was the location of the Holy Ark for 369 years.
Gantz told Breaking Israel News that while the world largely takes a dim view of Jewish settlement in Israel’s Biblical heartland, he believes it to be a fulfillment of many Biblical prophecies.
“The hills are flourishing again, and people are living on the same hills as our Jewish forefathers,” said Gantz. “If you want to see prophecy fulfilled, the main thing we have to do is build and bring the people back.”
The land of Israel was virtually laid waste until the late 19th-Century when Jews in exile began re-settling the land. There were countless reports of barren fields and declining population before the Jewish people’s return to the land.
“There is no where else in the world where the land waited for its people to come home,” said Katsof of how the Jews have managed to “make the desert bloom.” The Biblical heartland is highlighted by a high mountain ridge that overlooks the cities of Israel’s central region. Between the mountains and valleys are archaeological sites, nature reserves and breathtaking views.
“You can walk north, south, east or west if the Biblical heartland and feel the land and see how it has come back to life,” Katsof said.
However, according to Katsof there are either too few permanent homes in the region or homes too small for the large Jewish families that choose to make the Biblical heartland their home. He and his family live in a trailer in Shiloh.
There are 50 Shilohs in the United States, said Katsof, including one in Atlanta and another one in Tennessee.
“Imagine if you are Jewish and are told you cannot build your house in Shiloh, Atlanta,” said Katsof. “People would say it is anti-Semitism. The only Shiloh in which Jews cannot build is the original Shiloh, Biblical Shiloh.”
Katsof said that when the world pressures US President Donald Trump or Israel against building in the Biblical heartland, then Israel puts a freeze on construction for fear of condemnation. But Gantz said that if Israel was given the green light to build up the territories, Israel could double its population living over the Green Line within a decade.
Gantz said he would like to call on supporters of Israel abroad to push for the Jews to be able to build in the Biblical heartland.
“If we want once again to see the words of the prophets come true, we must build,” Gantz said.
Added Katsof, “We have to lay down bricks.”