For those who are home, and for those who are on the way. For those who support the historic and just return of the land of Israel to its people, forever loyal to their inheritance, and its restoration.
Last week saw an upsurge in Palestinian riots and attacks against Israeli vehicles in Gaza and the West Bank. What crime did Israel commit to invite the wave of violence? Israel’s government simply announced that it intended to honor the country’s heritage by including the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, and Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem in a list of Israeli national “heritage” sites.
The violence-fueled Palestinian reaction may seem entirely disproportionate to Israel’s offense. But a look at the historical background shows that it is not without grim precedent.
For several decades, Palestinians have been attacking Jewish worshipers at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, the Tomb of Rachel near Bethlehem, and the Tomb of Patriarchs and Matriarchs, Machpelah, in Hebron. After the Oslo and Hebron Agreements in the 1990’s, attacks intensified.
To protect visitors to Rachel’s Tomb, a fortified building was built around the tiny, 19th century building that had been built over the tomb. That wasn’t enough, since getting to the building from the closest Israeli checkpoint, a few hundred meters away, exposed Jews to sniper fire and bombs from adjacent buildings along the road. A new road was built, therefore, surrounded by high cement walls.
Palestinian riots against the rights of Jews to visit holy and historic sites are nothing new. In Jericho and Gaza, ancient Jewish synagogues from the Talmudic period have been destroyed and are off limits to Jews.
In Shechem, Nablus , the site of Joseph’s Tomb, was attacked by Palestinian mobs in 2000, fire-bombed and destroyed. A wounded Israeli soldier inside bled to death while Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and his Defense Minister, Shaul Mofaz, negotiated with the Palestinian Authority.
I visited Hevron in November 2000 after the outbreak of the Rosh Hashanah War to see what could be done to assist in the face of the growing daily attacks on the community. After returning to work for the community in the summer of 2001, a bond and a love was forged that grows to this day. My wife Melody and I merited to be married at Ma'arat HaMachpela and now host visitors from throughout the world every Shabbat as well as during the week. Our goal, "Time to come Home!"