This posting — which is a sequel to my last – begins with a video. An unusual way to begin, I know. But this is an unusual posting, and the video, which is seven minutes long, is quite extraordinary. I want to thank long-time reader from Toronto, Leon K., for calling my attention to it.
Don’t pass it by, for it is powerful and contains the heart of my message today.
The message: The Jewish People endures. Endures, because the Almighty is with us.
This is profoundly comforting. It strengthens us, and buoys us.
But in no way do I wish to suggest that because of this we are absolved from making efforts on our own behalf. We must face down growing anti-Semitism. We must contend with the hatred of radical Muslims. We must build and protect our Land.
We can do all of this with determination, knowing that we can prevail.
In my last posting I wrote about the protests coming from the Meretz Party with regard the plans of President Yitzhak Herzog to light the first candle at the Machpelah (the Cave of the Patriarchs) in Hevron. The terrorists of Hamas not only protested – claiming that the Machpelah was in its entirety a mosque – but also threatened violence. Islamic Jihad was not far behind.
Not to be left out, Peace Now, Breaking the Silence, and other pro-Palestinian Arab leftist Israeli groups came to demonstrate, charging that the president’s presence at the Machpelah “legitimizes the apartheid regime and non-stop violence by settlers, under which the Palestinian residents of the city live.”
These charges – bandied about for political affect – are so remotely removed from the truth that I must stop here for a moment to look at the situation a bit more closely. Unfortunately, there are those who, lacking the facts, would believe these libelous charges.
“Apartheid” is one of the most commonly utilized buzz words intended to delegitimize Israel. Within Israel, Arab citizens move freely everywhere, and avail themselves of the same services, educational, medical, etc., as Jewish Israelis. This is NO apartheid. And with regard to Hevron, it is not a relevant concept at all, as the Jewish and Arab populations are separated by a political agreement instituted with official agreement from both sides. (Note: there were many on the right of the Israeli side who were adamantly opposed to the agreement.)
Hebron is in Judea, outside of Jerusalem:
H1 on the map above is Arab Hebron, administered by the Palestinian Authority. It has a population of at least 200,000 Arabs.
H2 is Jewish Hebron, administered by Israel. Today it is a separate municipality and not part of Arab Hebron. Some 1,000 plus Jews live here.
Jewish Hebron encompasses the old Jewish neighborhoods of Hebron – there is a very old and venerable Jewish history in the city. The Machpelah, which is situated here, is shared, with times set for Muslim prayer.
This division took place in 1997, in a protocol – signed by then Prime Minister Netanyahu and the PLO’s Yasser Arafat – that was an extension of the Oslo Accords.
One only need look at the map, and consider the relative population numbers to recognize how ridiculous is the charge that the Arabs in the city live with “non-stop violence by settlers.” This lie is particularly galling because of the painful history of Arab Muslim attacks on the Jews in the area. It goes back to the horrendous massacre of 1929, when Arabs slaughtered 65 Jews.
This, it turns out, has personal significance for Yitzhak Herzog, who revealed on Sunday that his great-great grandmother was in Hebron during that massacre and barely survived.
Since 2015, there have been numerous attacks reported; I will note here just one: the 2016 stabbing of 13-year old Hallel Yaffa Ariel in her bed, in nearby Kiryat Arba, by an Arab terrorist who crept into her room through the window.
The Jews of Hebron and its environs are brave souls. Their presence assures that control of the Machpelah will stay in Jewish hands, the only way to guarantee Jewish access to it.
For more information, see: https:// https://41k.82b.myftpupload.com/hebron/
Thus I am pleased to be able to report that President Herzog was not remotely intimidated by the threats. He handled himself precisely as he should have. For me he was the man of the hour Sunday night.
You see him here praying in the Machpelah:
“The historic connection of Jews to Hebron, to the tomb of the patriarch, to the heritage of the patriarchs and matriarchs is unquestionable. Recognition of this connection must be beyond all controversy,” he declared.
Then he alluded to the fact that all those who are sons of Abraham have roots in the cave. Without making any concessions, he was being inclusive: Abraham purchased the cave in which to bury Sarah. This is in Torah text, the most ancient documentation of a land purchase. Subsequently Abraham, the other two patriarchs, and the matriarchs, with the exception of Rachel (whose grave is on the side of the road towards Bethlehem), were buried there. All those who are of the Abrahamic faiths count Abraham as their father.
“…we have to continue dreaming of peace, between all faiths and creeds in this land, and to condemn any type of hatred or violence,” he added.
Yitzhak Herzog’s father, Chaim Herzog, who was president of Israel, also served as Israel’s Ambassador to the UN. (He is seen below at the UN, delivering his famous speech against the “Zionism is racism” vote.) In that role, in 1976, he distributed to the members of the UN the Torah verses that document the purchase of the Cave by Abraham.
Reported the JTA: “For the first time in history, an agreement made almost 4,000 years ago and recorded in the Bible has been issued as a United Nations document.”
Chaim Herzog, serving as a British soldier, helped to liberate the Bergen-Belson concentration camp. The experience was seared in his consciousness, and he related it to current instances of anti-Semitism.
And so, his son, President Herzog, lit the Chanukah candles. Then he and those with him at the lighting sang Hatikvah.
My impression of Yitzhak Herzog until this week has been one of an individual who tilts well to the left. But I have now revised that and pray that what we saw on Sunday continues. He has shown himself to be a proud Jew who is not afraid to stand up against those who threaten us. He may prove to be the right man to come to prominence (although much of his role is ceremonial) at the right time.
He is firmly bolstered by his personal heritage, which cannot be discounted. I mentioned his great-great grandmother above, and his father. But there is also his grandfather, Rabbi Yitzhak Halevi Herzog, who served as the chief Ashkenazi rabbi of Mandatory Palestine. He made valiant efforts to rescue Jews from the Holocaust, and he is credited with bringing back hundreds of Jewish children after the war who had been hidden with Christian families and in Catholic monasteries.
What a powerful legacy!!
We must hope for a parallel strength of purpose in the actions of the prime minister and those in his coalition who claim to be right wing. A very tall order, but one of enormous importance.
Here I want to touch upon two issues of concern:
The first is the matter of the desire of the US government to open their building on Agron Street in western Jerusalem – which serves currently as an adjunct to the US Embassy – as a separate consulate to provide diplomatic services to the Palestinian Authority. It would be, de facto, an unofficial embassy to the PA.
This is an unheard of practice: setting up in the capital of one country an embassy for another political entity. Other nations have their diplomatic missions to the PA in Ramallah. The US wants its diplomatic mission to the PA in Jerusalem in order to weaken Israel’s control over all of Jerusalem and set the tone for a Palestinian state presence in Jerusalem.
And please note this quote from PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh:
“We want this consulate in Jerusalem to be the future US embassy for the state of Palestine.”
This is in the nature of a Freudian slip on the part of Shtayyeh. He’s telling it like it really is. For the consulate in question to be the future US embassy to the state of Palestine would mean that “Palestine” controlled ALL of Jerusalem, not just the eastern part, which is what it pretends it wants. Unfortunately, people don’t pay close enough attention to what the Arabs are saying.
This is totally unacceptable from Israel’s position, and Israel has made this clear. The US cannot open the consulate without the approval of Israel (whatever the counter claims of the PA).
But there are constant rumors about the imminence of the opening of this consulate. And the question is whether our government will absolutely stand strong against it. For there are also rumors regarding the very heavy pressure the US is placing on Israel over this, and, conversely, the perks that are being offered as trade-off.
Lastly, I want to look at a very unwise move that has already been made by our government – a move that signals weakness instead of determination to follow through on what is in our best interests.
On November 24, the Jerusalem Municipality announced plans to build 9,000 homes in Atarot, in eastern Jerusalem.
The project as it was laid out was to transform the 300 acre site of the former Kalandiya Airport into a series of new neighborhoods, with walking paths between them, parks, hotels, public buildings, commercial areas and senior housing. It would also preserve the historic airport, which ceased operations in 2000. It was a serious response to a need for additional housing in Jerusalem – especially for the fast-growing ultra-Orthodox community that had not had any new housing for some time. It was of note that it did not draw upon high priced real estate.
The Palestinian Authority immediately objected because it would be a step towards separating PA areas from Jerusalem.
Responded Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Fleur Hassan-Nahoum (pictured):
Jerusalem is a fast-growing city with almost a million residents, and we need more neighborhoods for young people to be able to buy and stay in the capital…a residential area in an old abandoned airport not only makes planning sense but will enhance that entire area of the city for Jews and Arabs alike.”
It didn’t take long at all for our government to cave. On November 25, Prime Minister Bennett was assuring the US government, which had objected, that the plan would not go through – at least not for some years. There had been queries from the US regarding this plan. (And I will have more to say about the US position shortly.)
How does “right wing” Naftali Bennett feel about the fact that Peace Now congratulated him for his stance?
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by independent journalist Arlene Kushner. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.