We read in Parashat Behukotai the Torah’s description of the dreadful curses which G-d threatens to send upon us if we disobey His commands. Toward the end of this section, the Torah writes that Eretz Yisrael will become desolate after the Jews are exiled from the land, “Ve’shamemu Aleha Oyebechem” – “and your enemies shall leave it desolate” (26:32).
The Ramban explains this phrase as a blessing which G-d interjects amid the description of the curses. The Torah here promises that although we will be driven from the land, throughout our period of exile it will remain desolate. The gentile nations who try to settle the Land of Israel will be unsuccessful in their attempts to cultivate and develop the land. Even as G-d warns us of the painful tragedies we will suffer for disobeying the Torah, He emphasizes the special connection between us and the Land of Israel, how it will not produce fruit or be developed while we are in exile, as though waiting for us until our return.
Remarkably, we see with our very eyes how this promise of the Torah has proven true. The only times since the Torah was given that Eretz Yisrael blossomed were when our nation settled it. For nearly two thousand years since we were ousted from the land, it remained mostly desolate and undeveloped. It was only when large numbers of Jews began returning to Eretz Yisrael in modern times that it “responded.” In just several decades, the Land of Israel became by far the most developed and affluent country in the Middle East. The territory that resisted attempts at cultivation for nearly 2,000 years was suddenly transformed into a thriving, prosperous country. This is precisely what the Torah promised – the Land of Israel is very “sensitive” and “agrees” to be developed only by its natural inhabitants – the Jewish people.
As the Ramban wrote, this has truly been a blessing. If Eretz Yisrael was capable of being developed before our return, we could hardly imagine the other nations giving it back to us. Before 1948, the land was under the British Mandate. Is it conceivable that England would have left it for the Jews if it was developed and thriving at that time? Or if it had anywhere near the amount of oil that exists in other parts of the Middle East? Our homeland was given to us because it wasn’t wanted, and it wasn’t wanted because efforts to rebuild it failed, time and time again.
Even as G-d warns us of the curses that would befall us, He reassures us of our eventual return to our homeland, and that our land will lie alone, barren and desolate, anxiously awaiting our long-awaited return, which is happening now before our very eyes.