Do Humans Need a Homeland?

two hands cradling a house

The news is filled with the horrific events taking place in Israel and the Gaza Strip, and it’s easy to be overwhelmed by images and videos of grisly attacks. In fact, as the attacks on civilians continue on both sides, it can be hard for some to even determine whose “team” they are on.  Part of the reason why passionate supporters on both sides seem to have righteousness on their sides is that both the Jewish people and the Palestinians are battling for the same thing: a homeland.

The idea of a homeland is as old as human civilization, and, for many, the term refers to the land where ancestors dating back thousands of years lived, died, and left their mark. In some parts of the world, families trace their lineage back for dozens of generations in the same community—on the same piece of land. For many Americans, “homeland” refers not to North America but to another part of their world from which their ancestors migrated—some recently but others hundreds of years ago.

In a sense, this connection is basic to human nature. We crave a sense of belonging, and that sense can come as much from place as from purpose.  Most human beings can trace their roots and culture to a specific spot on the globe. Many can point to a particular chunk of real estate – a farm, a house, a small town – and call it “home.”  And while today’s nations bear little resemblance to the maps of a thousand years ago, those same spots are still identifiable.

In the case of the middle east, much of the conflict is over ancient rights to ancient towns and portions of the desert. Trace back the stories of the Jews and Palestinians over the centuries, and it’s easy to see that each group has its reasons for claiming Gaza, Jerusalem, and the West Bank as their own. Israel, while it was first described as the Jewish homeland following the Holocaust, has been home to the Jewish people since about 1200 BCE. The same area is and was home to a large community of non-Jews, mainly Muslims, whose roots are very old—if not quite as ancient.

The idea of battling over one’s homeland is hardly new. But is it outdated?  Does the global nature of today’s world have any impact at all on our inborn need to protect the place we call home—even when protecting it could lead to our own deaths?  How meaningful is the concept of a homeland to you?

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