|Jews praying at the Western Wall – |
an 1859 painting by Carl Haag.
05 November '15..
All UN institutions serially test our sanity – very sorely so. UNESCO – the gallingly misnamed “educational, scientific and cultural” arm of the dysfunctional organization – managed to barely brake at the brink of bedlam, but only just and only for now. At the very last minute it let go of a plan to pronounce the Western Wall a Muslim holy shrine, an integral part and parcel of the al-Aksa Mosque compound.
That presumably would have accorded Muslims international sanction to bar the Jews from Judaism’s holiest site – the remnant of the great Temple, in front of which for 2,000 years Jews bewailed the Temple’s destruction, the loss of their sovereignty and their ongoing tragedy.
So pivotal a Jewish site was to be consigned to Islam because of a Johnny-come-lately tale that Muhammad tethered his winged steed Burak there on a mysterious mythical midnight flight.
Here it needs be noted that the identification of the Western Wall as Burak’s hitching post is quite recent – less than a hundred years old. It was the brainchild of the infamous Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini, who would become Hitler’s avid collaborator during WWII.
As British rule began after the First World War, Husseini evinced overnight attachment to the Western Wall. He sanctified it as Burak’s stopover spot and thereafter Husseini abided Jewish wailing at the Wall only occasionally, after remittance of exorbitant fees for the privilege – providing Muslim sensibilities weren’t offended.
The problem was there was no telling what would give offense. In 1919 wooden benches for the old and infirm were pointed to as insufferable affronts. The British promptly removed them but Arabs then began to regularly drive cattle and laden donkeys through crowds of Jewish congregants. From Al-Aksa perched above the Wall, Arabs also hurled stones and tossed human feces, animal dung and all manner of garbage onto the praying Jews below. These presumably are all befitting representations of Muslim respect for sanctity.
From 1920 the muezzin was dispatched to bellow his loudest chants precisely during Jewish services. By 1921 the sound of the shofar, blown at the Wall on High Holydays, became the next pretext for unrest. The British authorities obligingly forbade the annoying blasts. Thereafter, Jewish youths had to smuggle the shofar to the wall.
The shrillest Arab outcry was raised in 1928 over a flimsy cloth partition put up to segregate male and female worshippers. The British lost no time to tear down the insulting screen right at the climax of Yom Kippur prayers.
Even so, the premeditated disruptions at the Wall grew increasingly violent. Husseini exhorted all Muslims to a “Holy War to protect al-Aksa from Jewish conquest.” On August 23, 1929 Husseini sent his disciples to avenge what he hyped as a Jewish conspiracy. The week-long bloodbath left 133 Jews slain and destroyed the venerable old Jewish community of Hebron.
UNESCO was a micro-millimeter away from sanctioning Husseini-like incitement about the Wall along with derivative holy bloodletting. But it did declare two other intrinsically Jewish sites – Hebron’s Cave of the Patriarchs and Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem – as exclusively Muslim. To this was stitched a firmly-worded demand that that both be removed from the inventory of Jewish heritage sites.
Hang on – that’s not new! It’s just a replay-cum-reaffirmation of precisely what UNESCO already wrought five years ago. In 2010 this same shameless UN agency demanded exactly the same.
Quite incredibly – when they redefined Rachel’s Tomb and the Cave of the Patriarchs as Muslim mosques that must be stricken off the list of Jewish heritage sites – representatives of western democracies on UNESCO’s executive delivered a self-destructive blow to their own heritage. The impression imparted was that these were only ever Muslim from time immemorial. By referring to them only by Arabic monikers, UNESCO plainly sought to detach seminal biblical place-names from any Jewish connections.
It’s one thing to willfully subscribe to mind-blowing colossal deception; it’s quite another to shake the foundations beneath one’s own civilization. Politically incorrect as it may be in our postmodern multicultural existence, Europe’s and America’s democracies are constructed on Christian foundations. By accepting Muslim deconstructionist diktats, the West not only injures the Jews. It foremost injures its own legacy.
To be fair, the world’s current most inveterate revisers of the past – the Muslims – are relative newcomers to the fanciful world of fabricated historiography. Long before Islam at all existed, Christians were obsessed with their own retrospective rewriting and they were preceded by pagans. Perhaps it was all already foretold by the biblical Balaam who prophesied (Numbers 23:9) that Israel shall be “a people who dwells alone and shall not be counted among the nations.”
Consequently Christianity could expend so much effort on cleansing the historic Jesus of his Jewishness. But telltale vestiges remain in the New Testament attesting to the truth which volumes of convoluted rationalizations and distortions couldn’t quite erase. Just turn to Mark 12:28-30, where Jesus is asked which is the most important commandment of all. He replies without equivocation: “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is one; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and all your might.”
Any Jew would instantaneously recognize this as the primary article of Jewish faith, a direct quotation from Deuteronomy 6:4-9. For observant Jews it is an obligatory prayer each morning and evening. It’s the Jewish bedtime prayer. It’s the prayer inscribed within the Mezuza on every Jewish doorpost.
It’s the final prayer uttered by the faithful before death. It is the last prayer with which Jewish martyrs perished at the hands of their executioners – whether from the ranks of the Catholic Inquisition, Muslim Jihadists or Hitler’s henchmen. It constituted the avowal of Jewish devotion and loyalty that Jesus valued most.
He surely would have unreservedly identified Hebron and Bethlehem as incontestably Jewish and the tombs therein as unquestionably sacred to Jews like him. Islam hadn’t yet come into the world and wouldn’t be conceived of for many hundreds of years to come.
Thus when Christians – practicing or otherwise – voted to support UNESCO’s presumption call the Cave of the Patriarchs the al-Ibhrahimi Mosque and Rachel’s Tomb the Bilal ibn-Rabah Mosque, they thereby belied and betrayed Jesus. The Christian narrative cannot stand apart from Jewish history.
Since Islam’s debut on the world stage, however, Muslims have made it their routine custom to expropriate the holy sites of others. When Muslim conquistadors first invaded Jerusalem, they called it Bayt al-Maqdis, their adaptation of the Hebrew Beit Hamikdash – the Holy Temple. Al Quds – the contemporary Arabic contraction for this original appellation – daily highlights the very Jewish heritage which Arabs now take inordinate pains to obliterate.
Their latest claim is that the very inclusion of the Hebron and Bethlehem tombs among Jewish heritage sites will somehow compromise Muslim freedom of worship.
The irony is that Arab notions of freedom don’t extend to others. In 1910 Yitzhak Ben-Zvi (in time Israel’s second president) and his wife Rachel Yana’it Ben-Zvi hiked to Hebron. Each described, in separate books, how they were barred from the Cave.
Ben-Zvi wrote: “the entrance to the Patriarchs’ Cave was prohibited to non-Muslims… Jews were allowed to climb no higher than the seventh step in the courtyard. Only brave-hearted Jewish women dared enter, masquerading in Arab garb and their faces veiled according to Arab custom.”
Rachel recalled: “Hebron’s Jewish women would sometimes infiltrate the cave veiled and costumed like Arabs. Only by stealth could they pray at our forefathers’ tombs. When Hebron’s Arab fanaticism escalated, Jews were forbidden even to glance into the cave… Hate spewed from the Arab guards’ eyes and from Arab worshippers who brushed against us on their way in. We arrived at the steps and stood silent. I refused to climb the seven permitted stairs. The insult was too searing.”
So much for Arab pluralism and tolerance. Actually, the Arabs don’t demand liberal equality of us, which we anyway grant. They want it all and they want us out, as they did when their forebears descended in 1929 on peaceful homes in Hebron’s ancient Jewish community and hideously hacked their innocent inhabitants to death to glorify Allah.
The Western Wall is by no means off UNESCO’s ever-mutating agenda. Odds are it will reappear and eventually be globally consecrated as Muslim. It’s not too absurd to forecast that the day isn’t far off in which Jews would likewise be required to abjectly relinquish all attachments to the Mount of Olives. By the wisdom of redrafted Arab chronicles and UNESCO, it behooves us to obey. Hence Jerusalem isn’t one whit different from Hebron or Bethlehem.
Bethlehem’s case is the most enlightening. Until 1996 Bethlehem Arabs themselves spoke of Rachel’s Tomb. Only then, at the height of their Oslo-spawned terror offensive, did they switch to calling it the Bilal Ibn-Rabah Tomb.
Ibn-Rabah was an African slave and Muhammad’s muezzin, reputed to have fallen in battle in Syria. Indeed Damascus’s Bab Saghir Cemetery has dibs on what’s said to be Bilal’s grave.
On July 2000 Yasser Arafat insisted to Bill Clinton at Camp David that no Jewish temple ever existed. This is now official PA mantra, recited impudently and unabashedly by Ramallah’s purportedly moderate figurehead Mahmoud Abbas. He concomitantly rails that “filthy Jewish feet contaminate Muslim Jerusalem.”
PA headliner cleric Sheikh Taissir Tamimi proclaims repeatedly that “Jerusalem had always only been Arab and Islamic.” The Cave of the Patriarchs, he hectored, “is a pure mosque, which Jewish presence defiles. Jews have no right to pray there, much less claim any bond to Hebron – an Arab city for 5000 years… All Palestine is holy Muslim soil. Jews are foreign interlopers.”
Back in 1950 poet Natan Alterman penned a tongue-in-cheek reply to a near-identical proclamation (“Palestine is an Arab country and always was. Foreigners have no part in it.)” Entitled An Arab Land, Alterman’s verses appeared on the Labor daily Davar’s front-page. By replacing Biblical Hebrew names with Arabic adaptations, Alterman appeared to amplify the spirit of progressive Arab scholarship. I translated his verses decades ago:
A clear night. Treetops shiver,
Vibrating the view with an airy whisper.
From above, Arab evening stars
Sparkle over an Arab land.
The stars wink and flicker
And bestow their quivering glitter
Upon the tranquil city Al-Quds
In which once reigned King Daoud.
And from there they gaze and witness
The city of El Halil in the distance.
The city of Father Ibrahim’s tomb,
Ibrahim who begat Is’hak.
And then the clever rays so fast
Rush the golden glow to cast
Where the waters of the river El Urdun flow,
Where Ya’acub once did go.
A clear night. With an airy wink
The stars legitimately blink
Over the mountains of an Arab land
Which Mussa from afar beheld.