This Land Is Our Land
Then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your ancestors forever and ever. – Jeremiah 7:7 (NRSV)
I just read the best book (next to the Bible) that I have ever read on the matter of immigration. I thought there was nothing new to say and along came Suketu Mehta, an associate professor of journalism at New York University and the author of This Land Is Our Land: An Immigrant’s Manifesto. He helped me understand why the contest over land and place was so fundamental in the First Testament, with a few thousands more years to the discussion.
Mehta tells the story: “So my grandfather, he was sitting in a park one day in North London minding his own business. And this elderly British gent comes up to him and wags a finger at my grandfather and says, why are you here? Why don’t you go back to your country? And my grandfather, who came from a business family, said, because we are the creditors, because you came to my country. You took all my gold and my diamonds. You prevented our industry from growing, so we have come here to collect. We are here because you were there.”
Because his book is so terrific, I hate to disagree with him. But land is not mine or yours or theirs or ours: it belongs to God, who gifts it to us, who lets us dwell in places.
The ancient Israelites were immigrants. The land was not “their” land but God’s land, the gift of a place to dwell.
No one wins the contest if they steal God’s land from another.
Save us from contests, O God, by showing us that all land is your land. Amen.