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The city of Hevron in Eretz Yisrael, in the land of Israel, represents the very starting place of Jewish history. Hevron is the oldest Jewish community in the world. It would be difficult to find another place with more Jewish history than that which we find in the city of Hevron. It is mentioned 78 times in the Torah. Hevron was the very first place acquired by the first Jew, the Patriarch Abraham. He purchased Ma'arat HaMachpela, the cave of Machpela, in order to bury his wife Sarah. The site now serves as the burial place for all of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs except for Rachel. Hevron was the first capital of the kingdom of David, where David ruled for seven and one half years before then establishing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Hevron was an important city for King Hezekiah, when the Assyrians were the world's aggressors. Hevron was also a critical military area, both at the time of the Maccabbees, and during the time of Bar Kochba.
There has been a continuous presence of the Jewish People in the city of Hevron from ancient times until today. David Ben-Gurion, the first prime minister of the modern state of Israel said, "Three cities hold a great and unique place in the ancient history of our people: Shechem, Hevron, and Yerushalayim (Jerusalem)." He went on to say, "The beginnings of Israel's greatest king were in Hevron, the city to which came the first Hebrew about 800 years before King David...Hevron is worthy to be Jerusalem's sister."
Visiting Hevron this summer was truly a highlight of a recent congregational trip to Israel. To ride through the ancient hills of Judea the region that bears our name to see the places we are mentioning, when we sing to a bride and a groom Od yishama b'arei Yehuda, when we sing about the hills and "cities of Judea," was a truly wondrous journey.
The travesty, then, to this deeply meaningful trip to Hevron was that to reach this city, which houses the most ancient Jewish community in existence, we needed to travel in an armored, bullet-proof bus.
Where is the world's outcry of injustice and foul play when, in order for Jews to reach their sacred, holy spot where the Patriarchs and Matriarchs are buried, where Caleb prayed during the time of Moses, they must travel in a bullet-proof bus? Where are the human rights watchdogs with their cries of "occupation," directed where these accusations rightly belong: against those who prevent the Jews' access to their own heritage? Where were these human rights monitors when I had to load my community into an armored bus in order to travel to our sacred, holy city of Hevron so that we could stand in the presence of our ancestors?
If you want to understand the genuine meaning of the word "occupation," try to go visit Joseph's tomb in the city of Shechem, where Jews can only go under the cover of night and watchful eyes of the Israel Defense Forces. After all of the assurances that the Arab authorities would respect this holy site, on the very day that the transfer of authority to Arab supervision of this part of Samaria occurred, the tomb of Joseph was desecrated, along with the Yeshiva, the Jewish house of study, that stood next to the tomb. It was all left in ruins; and today, Jews are only able to get there by armed escort and at extremely limited times.
To understand the history, as well as, the condition of Shechem today Shechem which is the first place the Patriarch Abraham visited in the land of Israel, Shechem, where the Patriarch Jacob made his home, Shechem, where the Northern Kingdom of Israel established itself to understand what has happened in Shechem, is to understand that there are those who regularly try to keep Jews out of their ancestral home: out of Shechem, out of Hevron, off the Temple Mount where both of the ancient, holy Temples stood; as well as, out of the Golan Heights where Jews have had roots for thousands of years. These forces try to keep Jews out of Judea and Samaria, the very heartland of Biblical Israel, and out of Jerusalem. Out of Jerusalem! And the international community, whether through lack of information or lack of good will, is allowing, and at times aiding, with this ongoing injustice.
Hevron is a microcosm. Hevron represents the duplicity and grave injustice that is being perpetrated against Jews today, against Jewish history and heritage. If something so clear, so straightforward, so indisputable as Hevron, if something as unmistakable as the Jewish connection to Hevron can be so rewritten, so misrepresented; if those around the world can literally turn history on its head and accuse Jews of being occupiers in Hevron, then the absolute, dire necessity to stand up and fight against this attempt to subvert the truth and rob Jews of their history, heritage, and homeland has never been made more clear. Hevron is a microcosm and gets to the very heart of what all people of good will face as we enter 5770 on the Hebrew calendar.
This year we remember the 80th year anniversary of the Hevron massacre. On August 23, 1929, the Jews of Hevron, men, women, and children, were brutally massacred by their Arab neighbors. The slaughter was bloody and frenzied, with gouged out eyes, and amputated hands, with parents murdered in front of children; neither the old nor the young were spared. The Mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin al-Husseini had been inciting the Arabs, challenging the Jews' connection to the Kotel, and claiming that the Jews were trying to take control of the mosque on the Temple Mount.
So we see that well before 1967, well before the establishment of the modern state of Israel in 1948, back in 1929, Jews were being slaughtered, and the Jewish connection to Israel was being denied.
What was the British response to this horrific massacre, the British, who, at the unanimous direction of the League of Nations were tasked with supervising the area and reconstituting the Jewish people in their historic homeland? The British reaction was not to defend the remaining Jews. Their reaction was not to affirm the ancient, historic connection of the Jewish People to the land of Israel, the connection which was stated, affirmed, and ratified by all the nations of the world only a few years earlier in the Mandate that the League of Nations had entrusted to Great Britain to enforce, thereby promoting and ensuring the "reconstitution" of the Jewish People in their national homeland, and the subsequent "close settlement by Jews on the land." The British reaction was not even to allow the Jews to defend themselves. The British response was to evacuate this ancient Jewish community, this community which had been in the holy city of Hevron since the time of Abraham, since Caleb, since King David. The British response was to evacuate the Jews and tear them from their roots because England refused to stand up for the truth and confront the Arab aggressors.
And this is precisely the same response we are seeing from the international community today. As Eli Hertz writes: "The U.S. Administration, the European Union, United Nations, and Russia's decision to rewrite history, by labeling the Territories 'Occupied Territories,' the Settlements as an 'Obstacle to Peace' and 'Not Legitimate,' thus endowing them with an aura of bogus statehood and false history; the use of these dishonest, loaded terms empowers terrorism and incites Arabs with the right to use all measures to expel Israel."
How dare the international community call the Jewish holy city of Hevron a settlement, an occupation of another's land? How dare anyone call Samaria and Judea this land that bears the name Jew occupied? How dare anyone presume to tell Jews that they cannot build on land that has belonged to the Jewish People for four thousand years? I bristle with anger when I read of the pressure on Israel to halt and freeze construction in the Jewish Biblical heartland of Judea and Samaria, and now, in Jerusalem, as well. What incredible chutzpah!
It is simply unacceptable to have Jewish history rewritten and erased. Israel did not come from the Holocaust. There has been a continuous Jewish presence in the land of Israel from ancient times to today. Many, the world over, keep trying to conveniently begin the Jewish connection to Israel with the founding of the modern state in 1948, while the Muslim Waqf, continuously bulldozing the layers of archeological remains and history under the Temple Mount, tries, simultaneously, to systematically destroy all evidence of the ancient and ongoing Jewish presence in the land.
But this Jewish thumbprint and footprint are everywhere, affirming the long-standing existence of the Jewish People in the Land of Israel: from Hevron in Judea, to Shechem in Samaria, to Tel Dan in the Golan Heights; from the recent discovery of a menorah engraved 2000 years ago in a stone found near the Kinneret, the sea of Galilee, to the road recently uncovered in Ir David, in the City of David, from which the Jews would begin their accent from the south to the ancient Temple Mount. The Jewish presence is everywhere, throughout the millennia, and the history and the discoveries, numerous as they are, continually, unequivocally defy the never-ending claims to the contrary.
There has been a demand for a building freeze in Jerusalem?! Jerusalem has always been central in Jewish life. On Passover we say L'shana ha'bah b'Yerushalayim, "Next year in Jerusalem." On Tisha B'Av, Jews sit in mourning and weep lamentations over the destruction of the holy city and Temple. When building a home, Jews leave an unfinished corner to remember Jerusalem, still not rebuilt; and at every Jewish wedding, the groom breaks the glass, showing that he places Jerusalem above his highest joy. The ancient sages taught that ten measures of beauty were given to the world; of these, Jerusalem has nine, and the rest of the world has only one. 586 BCE is a tragic day in Jewish history because Jerusalem was destroyed then by the Babylonians. 539 is a joyous year on the Hebrew calendar because Cyrus decreed the return of the Jewish people to Jerusalem. 516 BCE is a celebrated date in history because the Jews completed the rebuilding of the holy Temple in Jerusalem. 70 CE is a year of immense tragedy to the Jewish People because Jerusalem and the holy Temple were once again destroyed, this time by the Romans.
All of the Jewish nation brought sacrifices to Jerusalem. King Solomon built the holy Temple, the Beit HaMikdash, in Jerusalem. Three times each year, on Passover, on Shavuot, and on Sukkot, the Jews made pilgrimage to Jerusalem to bring offerings to the holy Temple, and to spend the festivals in the holy city. King David was ruler of two provinces, that of Judah and that of Israel; and the city of Jerusalem was the capital which pulled them together. Jerusalem is the Jewish People's holy city, and every Jew turns toward it to pray.
The immense Jewish yearning for Jerusalem never ceased: wherever a Jew was, his heart was always in Jerusalem. When he sat by the waters of Babylon, he wept as he remembered Zion. If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its cunning. May my tongue cleave to its palate... if I put not Jerusalem above my highest joy (Psalm 137). From Spain, Yehuda HaLevi cried Libi B'Mizrach, Va'Ani b'sof ha'Ma'arav; "My heart is in the east, though I am at the ends of the west."
One cannot simply rewrite history, yet it is being done everyday. And if we sit back and allow it to happen, we would be aiding and abetting in the destruction of Israel to take place. When speeches are given, when statement are made that imply or overtly claim that Israel and our Jewish presence there began only 60 years ago with the Holocaust, then people of good will must speak up and write to the author of every such statement and hold that author accountable, whether those authors be local officials, our national leaders, or international leaders. The attempts to rewrite and erase Jewish history have reached a fevered pitch. The calls for boycott and divestment against Israel are being heard around the world, in Norway, in England, in Toronto around the International Film Festival. The recent release of the libelous Goldstone report at the United Nations, accusing Israel, was, as Melanie Phillips writes, an absolute "inversion of morality," painting the victim as aggressor, and the aggressor as victim. On college campuses, a relatively new, self-proclaimed, anti-Zionist group has been formed which is actively using the language of "occupation," "boycott," and "colonialists."
Hevron is a microcosm for Israel, and Israel is a microcosm for what is at risk for all of civilized society when truth is subverted. People of good will who care for the difference between just and unjust, care for the difference between truth and hypocrisy, need to stand together, need to stand up for the truth and demand that it be told and honored.
The Land of Israel is the Jewish National Homeland: the history, faith, religion, culture, and identity of the Jewish People has been, is, and forevermore will be, tied to this land which bears their name, from its ancient name of Judea, to its modern name of Israel.
This is the Jewish heritage. It is essential, and it is just that, together, we know and honor that history so as to stop untruths from being perpetuated about Israel, thereby paving the way to give this historical Jewish land to others. It is essential and just that there be an end to the subversion of Jewish rights within the Land of Israel, whereby Jewish holy places are routinely desecrated, destroyed, and erased, and Jews are prevented from visiting their religious sites. It is essential and just that, together, we stand up for the truth and demand of those who would say otherwise, to stop insulting our intelligence by claiming that this conflict has to do with anything except for the absolute and total rejection of the ancient, historical, and eternal Jewish right to the Land of Israel, the land of their ancestors; the heritage of their children.
Hevron is a microcosm. The Jews of Hevron who simply refuse to abandon Jewish history, Jewish heritage, and the Jewish homeland, are routinely vilified, and they are held up as the obstacles to peace. And just as in 1929 with the Hevron massacre, there are many, the world over, including world leaders, who would prefer to evacuate the Jews who have been there since the beginnings of recorded history, rather than stand up for the truth and confront the true aggressors. The injustice and duplicity surrounding Hevron, is the ultimate paradigm of the challenges we face. This is a threat to good people everywhere. This is a threat to truth, and to the norms of civilized society; this is a threat to the time-honored values cherished by a just society. This is a threat over which we must prevail.
Yonina Pritzker is a member of Congregation Or Yisrael. This is an
account of her visit to Hebron. It appeared on the Generation Z blog
and on October 12, 2009 in Arutz Sheva (www.IsraelNationalNews.com).
It is archived at
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