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Quotes on Judaism & Israel: Abraham Joshua Heschel

On the Holiness of Israel

“The land was not holy at the time of Terah or even at the time of the Patriarchs. It was sanctified by the people when they entered the land under the leadership of Joshua ... We do not worship the soil. The land of Israel without the God of Israel will be here today and gone tomorrow.”

On the Jewish Connection to Israel

“The land was taken from the Jewish people by violence, and we have never abandoned hope of regaining it. Throughout the ages we said No to all the conquerors of Palestine. We said No before God and man emphatically, daily. We objected to their occupations, we rejected their claims, we deepened our attachment, knowing that the occupation by the conquerors was a passing adventure, while our attachment to the land was an eternal link. The Jewish people has never ceased to assert its right, its title, to the land of Israel. This continuous, uninterrupted insistence, an intimate ingredient of Jewish consciousness, is at the core of Jewish history, a vital element of Jewish faith.”

On Jewish Self-Defense

“We have a right to demand, ‘Love they neighbor as thyself.’ We have no right to demand, ‘Love they neighbor and kill theyself.’ No moral teacher has ever asserted, ‘If one stands with a knife threatening to kill you, bare your heart for him to murder you.’ There is no moral justification for self-destruction.”

On Morale Before the Six-Day War

“In those days of distress [just prior to the 1967 War] a Christian friend asked me, ‘Why are you so dreadfully upset, so dreadfully desperate?’ I answered, ‘Imagine that in the entire world there remains one copy of the Bible and suddenly I see a brutal hand seize this copy, the only one in the world, and prepare to cast it into the flames....’”

Sources: Heschel, Abraham Joshua. Israel: An Echo of Eternity, VT: Jewish Lights Publishing, 1997.