When Yehoshua came to Israel, he conquered it and divided it among the Jews. This land belongs to them and their descendants.

When the Jews were exiled many years later and came back (by the 2nd Beis Hamikdash), how were they allowed to live in any part of Israel? Land isn't stealable, and the land still "belonged" to the original owner.

Moreover, even if there was some kind of takana then (as there was a full Sanhedrin, prophets, etc.) how would Jews be allowed to move to Israel later on (say in the time of the Rishonim until now)? It could have had owners in the past?

Even if one can say that "Hamotzei Mechaveiro Alav Haraya", it still doesn't answer how can one lechatchila live in a place which he knows is definitely not his.

How does buying my house from the state (or JNF, or whoever owns the "unused land") affect acquisition from its original owners?

  • 3
    "which he knows is definitely not his": how does he know this? Maybe he's the rightful heir of that land. (Talk about hashgacha p'ratis!) +1, though: interesting question.
    – msh210
    Commented Mar 14, 2013 at 6:00
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    Why is this question limited to Israel? You can't steal a non-Jew's piece of land either.
    – Double AA
    Commented Mar 14, 2013 at 6:11
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    Why is the question limited to the State or JNF? Buying from anyone should present the same difficulty.
    – Double AA
    Commented Mar 14, 2013 at 6:17
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    What is this about me?
    – JNF
    Commented Mar 14, 2013 at 8:09
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    @MonicaCellio What does ancestry have to do with it? So long as we assume there was once a rightful owner (which is easy to do assuming before that it was ownerless), and we assume that wars and what not have displaced most massive populations at some point (also not hard, certainly for the Americas) then it applies everywhere.
    – Double AA
    Commented Mar 14, 2013 at 15:47

3 Answers 3


Is this not a simalar case like if a jew from shevet don buys land from a jew from shevet naftoli, after the jubilee year, the jew from shevet naftoli gets his land back? I assume its the same case here. However, since we don't know who's land it is, and we don't have a jubilee year altogether, you keep the land until moshiahH comes, or keep on selling it, and the last person to have when moshiahH comes, will give it back to the original owner. I forgot the source in the gemoro which mentions buying and selling of land amung shavotim. Sorry.

  • You're not buying from the original owner. You're buying from an usurper Commented Mar 14, 2013 at 16:20
  • Did the exile happen after The jubilee year before it or on it? Because there are people who might have sold their land and it belongs to them and now the shevet's since there is no jubilee year. Also the land we live has to be taken to account. I'm pretty site israel now belongs to most is shevet yahudoh and a little of others. Commented Mar 15, 2013 at 4:55
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    Or maybe the land is Hefker to live where u want as for now since we're in Goluth, the land being split is only when we are in Israel. Commented Mar 15, 2013 at 4:56

Land isn't stealable, and the land still "belonged" to the original owner.

Its true that if an individual forces an owner off a property, it still belongs to the owner. However, if a country conquers another country and the individual owners are exiled, I don't think they keep their original claims to specific properties. Conquering a country seems to transfer the property to the winning country.

After all, the Jews initially acquired the land from the Canaanites through conquest, though in Ezra's time they were given or purchased the land. In more recent times, they initially purchased many areas, but then also acquired additional parts in defensive wars. Either way, that works to acquire the land. (No one expects the US to give back the Southwest to Mexico, even though it wasn't a defensive war.)

  • (Does) it works outside Israel (see hilchos lulav re. asking a landowner to cut the lulav/schach rather than doing it youself). Does it work inside Israel? Commented Mar 15, 2013 at 4:18
  • If your country conquers another one, I assume you can use the palm tree you conquer for lulavim.
    – Ariel K
    Commented Mar 15, 2013 at 4:44
  • This might depend on whether we hold יש קנין לנכרי בא"י or not. If yes, when they conquered it the land became theirs. If not, it get more iffy. Perhaps, though, it is still valid enough to extract the ownership from the original owners, even if it can't become theirs. This actually seems to be the truth, since the rule is only about נכרי and the reasoning being that Hashem gave it to us.
    – HaLeiVi
    Commented May 27, 2015 at 6:40

According to VaYikra 25:23, " וְהָאָרֶץ לֹא תִמָּכֵר לִצְמִתֻת, כִּי לִי הָאָרֶץ, כִּי גֵרִים וְתוֹשָׁבִים אַתֶּם עִמָּדִי." The land belongs to God, and we are merely renting it from Him. When He exiled the original inhabitants due to their sins, their "renter's contracts" were invalidated. When Israel repented and were allowed back, new "contracts" were created for the new inhabitants.

  • Yes, I realize talking about old and new contracts sounds like Christianity. Could still be a grain of truth here.
    – Shmuel
    Commented Apr 18, 2014 at 4:38

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