The Bible promises the nation of Israel a huge country from the Nile to the Euphrates. Such a country was unsustainable and utterly unnecessary for Jews in antiquity. “From the Nile” includes Sinai, but even Egypt didn’t govern the Sinai in times of old except for a narrow strip. The Promised Land was a technical impossibility and a burden to maintain. The land wasn’t prized, but consisted of deserts and steppes. If you were bent on seducing Hebrews with a promise, a takeover of Egypt would be much more attractive.

Only in the late twentieth century did we understand the rationale behind the Promised Land. Israel critically needs the Sinai for depth of defense against Islamist Egypt. If not for Sinai and the Negev, the initial thrust of the Yom Kippur war would have drowned the Jews in the sea. Now that Egypt has acquired missiles and cutting-edge aircraft, the depth of defense the Sinai affords to the Jewish state becomes all the more important.

The Promised Land includes the Frankenstein state of Lebanon. Jews so far have failed to realize the commandment and conquer that land, driving the ever-fighting Lebanese tribes away to Syria—and the Lebanese tribes have proved to be a perpetual source of trouble for Jewish Galilee.

Likewise with the Euphrates. The Jordanian monarchy won’t last long. The Palestinian majority will take over that desert state, and unable to create a viable economy there, they will turn to nationalism and militancy. Jordan will become a huge Gaza, rife with terrorist training camps. Jordanians will extend their influence to those Arabs whom Israel failed to expel in violation of the commandment, and they will become “a trap for you,” “a sore in your eye,” and “masters over you.” In order to establish security, Israel would have no choice but to extend toward the Euphrates, relocating the hostile Arabs to Iraq. As if prompting Israel to fulfill the commandment, the strong and militant state of Iraq was invaded for no reason and destroyed; now the way for relocating Palestinians and Jordanians is cleared.

Israel also needs a huge territory to disperse her population. The hi-rise buildings in Israeli cities will become a death trap in a major earthquake, and Israel is located on two lines of tectonic activity. Jews must live in light, single-story houses. Dispersing the population is also the best way to avoid or mitigate an Islamic nuclear strike. Pakistan, besieged by the Islamists, has an unknown number of nuclear bombs, probably more than fifty. Saudi Arabia likely hoards some of the Pakistani nukes in return for financing its nuclear program. Iran, Egypt, Libya, Algeria, and Morocco have the critical know-how in nuclear technologies, and North Korea stands ready to help them. There is absolute certainty that Islamic terrorists will lay their hands on nuclear weapons fairly soon. Crude nukes are not that apocalyptic: a primitive bomb detonated at the ground level in Tel Aviv would kill something like 10,000 Jews, a sorrowful but statistically insignificant number. Looking at Nagasaki, the long-term effects of nuclear bombing are also tolerable. So instead of panicking, Jews should disperse into a single-story society interconnected by the latest communication networks rather than Tel Aviv’s promenades. And that’s why we need the Promised Land in its entirety.

It’s great to live in peace. Persecuted for millennia, exterminated recently, and embattled for decades, Jews long for peace as no other nation does. We were ready to kiss Sadat when he came to Israel, signaling the peace. We accept hard choices and concessions for peace. Unfortunately, amid a sea of Muslims, Israel will never live in peace. It is a heart-rending assertion, but true nonetheless.

And so the Torah instructs us to fight for safety.