The Land and the Spirit: Why We All Care About Israel

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Jewish Learning Institute Fall 2014 Course  
The Land and the Spirit:
 Why we all care about Israel


Many people love their homes and their countries, but once they relocate, they form new allegiances. They cannot trace the ancestral homeland that their families claimed two millennia ago, nor do they continue to long for those places. Yet no matter where we have lived, Jews have continued to dream about the land of Israel.

Israel is different. Israel retains its hold upon our spirit.  It is a land that has pulsed with energy and mystery since the dawn of time, a land that has captured the imagination throughout history, a land that breathes with the glory of our past and the dreams of our future.

Whether Israel makes us feel pride or disappointment, hope or concern, we somehow know that Israel matters. Find out why.






Lesson One 

The Promised Land


In the book of Genesis, G‑d promises Abraham that if he transmits his legacy of ethical monotheism to his household, his children will inherit the Land of Israel. Why was the land promised even before the nation existed? In what way is the Land of Israel integral to the Jewish mission?


Lesson Two 

Living on The Land


What was life like for the people in Israel in the days when the Temple stood? So many of the commandments can only be performed in the Land of Israel and are intimately linked with an agrarian lifestyle. Why must a spiritual people be involved with working the land?


Lesson Three 

The Holy Land


What does it mean for a land to be holy? How can we tell that it is different? And what implications does this have for the people living within that land?


Lesson Four 

Whose Land Is It Anyway?


Israel has endured numerous battles and conquests throughout history. How can we determine who has a legitimate claim to the land? What criteria shall we use to determine ownership?


Lesson Five 

A Land Like Other Lands?


What is the vision for a Jewish state? Is it meant to be a land like other lands, granting the sovereignty enjoyed by other people? Or are we meant to be somehow different?


Lesson Six 

Israel and The Diaspora


Even though Israel exists today as a modern state, most Jews continue to live in the Diaspora. Have those of us living outside Israel become somehow disconnected? Or is it possible to retain our bond with Israel regardless of our place of residence?




Course Endorsements




"The Rohr Jewish Learning Institute and Rabbi Aaron Herman are to be congratulated for their challenging course, The Land and The Spirit, in which the spiritual values and centrality of the Land of Israel are expounded through a fascinating range of religious and secular texts. These texts span a remarkably wide range of opinions, from Moses to Herzl, from Rashi to Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, from Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson to Natan Sharansky ("There is No Zionism Without Judaism"), from the Talmud to the opinion writers of the Jerusalem Post. These texts, like the course itself, will serve a noble cause in stimulating thought and encouraging understanding." 

Sir Martin Gilbert, Leading Historian Official Biographer of Sir Winston Churchill




"The Rohr Jewish Learning Institute's course on The Land and the Spirit informs the mind and inspires the soul, a "must-see" for those learning about and advocating for Israel. JLI's global educational initiative continues to be an incubator for twenty-first century Jewish leadership." 

Ambassador Dan Gillerman, Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations




"To ensure the future of the Jewish people, we must understand our past, and the links of our past to our present. I congratulate you on this exciting and challenging course." 

Ambassador Alan Baker, Israeli Ambassador to Canada




"In these tumultuous times, strengthening our identity is critical. JLI's course, The Land and the Spirit, provides an intriguing opportunity to connect to our roots, to be empowered by a personal link with our people and history, and to understand our bond to Israel. It is only by drawing a clear line from the past to the present that each of us can chart a course for a creative, constructive, and fulfilling future as part of the Jewish People." 

Natan Sharansky, Noted Soviet dissident, Former Member of Israeli Knesset




"The new course from the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute provides important insight about the uniqueness of Israel for all Jewish people around the world. We, the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF), proudly carry this message by giving back to the brave men and women who are protecting the land of Israel. We hope students attending The Land and The Spirit will come to more fully appreciate the sacrifices of the Israel Defense Forces." 

Brigadier General (Reserve) Yehiel Gozal, National Director of the Friends of the IDF (FIDF)




"I am honored to add my name to the list of supporters of the Jewish Learning Institute's upcoming course "The Land and the Spirit - Israel: Why We All Care." Now more than ever, it is vital for Americans Jews to strengthen their bond with Israel, to get to know the land and the people and to experience the many facets of our beloved country. This course aims to appeal to all audiences, regardless of religious or political affiliation, and I applaud the JLI's commitment to creating an opportunity for open dialogue about an issue so central to our Jewish identity." 

Barukh Binah, Consul General of Israel to the Midwest