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Monday, December 05, 2011

The future of Hebron's Jewish past

Melanie Phillips hits another home run, describing her two recent visits to Hebron.
The first time was with a private, non-political group to visit Hebron's Jewish area and the Cave of Machpelah, where Abraham and the patriarchs and matriarchs are said to be buried.

It was a shock. If ever there was a illustration of the attempt by Islam to supersede Judaism, this was surely it.

This holy Jewish shrine was to all intents a mosque. Islamic prayer mats were piled high, and there seemed to be not one Jewish artefact in the place. Even the catafalques sporting labels claiming them as the tombs of the founders of Judaism were topped by Islamic crescents.

Those labels are hung only on the handful of days per year the Jews are allowed to visit. Hebron has become a synonym in the west for oppression of the Palestinians by 'crazed settlers', but it is in fact those Jewish residents who are hanging on by their fingernails to a minimal right of access to one of Judaism's holiest sites.

Their presence requires the IDF to ensure that access. Without the soldiers, does anyone seriously imagine Machpelah would not suffer the same fate as Joseph's Tomb in Nablus which, after the Israelis were forced to abandon it, was burned to the ground?

It is also grotesque to call them 'settlers' as if they are colonising land with which they have no connection. Jews have lived in Hebron for thousands of years but have been repeatedly driven out, as in the 1929 pogrom when Arabs slaughtered 67 adults and children.


Friendly relations have been established between local rabbis and the remarkable Sheikh Jabari, leader of Hebron's largest clan, who some years ago prevented the planned torching of a nearby synagogue.

Sheikh Jabari has publicly acknowledged the right of Jews to live in Hebron. Recently, he welcomed and blessed a group of Jewish visitors and declared that Machpelah should unite Jews and Arabs. Alas, Sheikh Jabari does not speak for the Palestinian Authority, which is intent on using its new membership of UNESCO to stop what it calls the 'Judaisation of the city'.

UNESCO has recognised Hebron as a 'Palestinian heritage site', demanding it be removed from Israel's own list of national heritage sites. Hebron's mayor has said that if the PA controlled the whole town, Jews would again be barred from Machpelah. UNESCO is merely the latest weapon the PA is deploying to erase the Jews from their own history.
Read it all.

I should be on the plane by the time you read this, but hopefully there will be more today.

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