Kia ora, Talofa lava, and greetings to you all. I have a question, – Can we know who the Jewish people are and where they come from? The answer is, Yes we can. In almost every language, other than English and French, Jews are referred to as, “the Judean people”. They come from Judea! – an area incorporating modern-day Israel and the disputed West Bank. DNA testing, archaeology, and anthropological findings all confirm, that the Jewish people are indigenous to Israel.

But today, many claim that the Jews have no historical link to Israel. Here, are some common myths:

Myth Number 1: Today’s Jews are European – they are not from the middle-east.
Science has destroyed this argument. European Jews – known as Ashkenazi & Sephardic Jews, – share the Cohenite gene specific to the Levant, an area that includes modern Israel. And, the Mizrahim – or Jews who spent their exile in neighbouring Arab countries – make up more than half the current population of Israel. Many, are descendants of the 800,000 Jews expelled from Arab lands around 1948. Their genetics, are also, identifiably, Jewish. So, based on DNA alone, Jews are indigenous to the land of Israel.

Myth Number 2: The Jews are colonisers of Muslim lands.
This view fails at the first hurdle, because Islam didn’t enter this part of the region until the 7th century – an entire 600 years after the death of Jesus and the destruction of Israel’s second Temple. The land subsequently changed hands between Christian and Muslim powers until 1948, when the modern state of Israel was established.

Myth Number 3: The land of Israel is not historically significant to the Jews.
This is just absurd. Israel is teeming with ancient Jewish holy sites. Like the Tombs of the Patriarchs in Hebron; the resting places of Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, and Jacob and Leah. But these sites pale in comparison to the most Holy Jewish site of all – the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. It was here that the first and second Jewish Temples stood until they were destroyed. First by the Babylonians and then by the Romans. Many of the Jews were expelled but, even in exile, they never gave up their dream of returning to their ancient lands. Much of the Tanakh, or Old Testament, deals with the pain of exile. In the book of Psalms we find the famous lines “by the rivers of Babylon, where we sat down, yay we wept when we remembered Zion”. The capital of the Jewish nation is mentioned more than 600 times in the Old Testament and “Zion” – another name for Jerusalem – is mentioned at least 150 times. And in the New Testament Jerusalem continues to play a central role. Even today, at the end of the Jewish celebration of Passover, Jews cheer, saying, “Next Year in Jerusalem”. For the Jews, the dream of a return to their indigenous homeland is central to their very identity.

Despite these undeniable facts, Israel’s opponents still refuse to acknowledge the Jewish connection to the land. International bodies like UNESCO refer to the Temple Mount only by its Islamic name, and others speak of Israelis “Judaising Jerusalem” –,being clearly ignorant of history.

Denying the Jewish connection to the land of Israel is nothing new. In 135 CE, Roman Emperor Hadrian – yes, the one who built the wall between England and Scotland – sought to wipe even the name of Israel off the map, renaming it “Syria Palaestina”, and forbidding Jews to enter Jerusalem, under pain of death. After the 7th century Muslim conquest, the Islamic shrine, the Dome of the Rock, and the al-Aqsa Mosque were constructed on the Temple Mount. They remain there to this day.

Despite all this, the facts, remain: Jews are from Judea and have always maintained a presence in the land. Their history, their culture, significant landmarks such as Jewish holy sites, archeology and the evidence of genetic science, all collectively prove this beyond doubt.

The re-establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 was a case of an ancient indigenous people returning to their ancestral lands, with the revival of an ancient language, and the restoration of self-determination lost for two millenia. That is something that should be celebrated. Kia ora, Faafetai tele, and thank you very much.