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Airbrushing Jewish History

Airbrushing Jewish History

Chipping away at the millennia of Jewish connection to the Land of Israel.


Wouldn't it be convenient if the Jews never existed? If they had no claims whatsoever to the Land of Israel? If every piece of their history was exposed as a lie? If they silently, painlessly, just disappeared?

Baron Carl von Clausewitz famously called diplomacy "war by other means." In today's hostility to Israel, scholarship – archeology, sociology and history – is the new means in an old, old war. Jewish history – particularly those aspects establishing links with the land of Israel – are being quietly airbrushed away.

Attacking the Foundations

The first concrete Jewish link to the land of Israel is nearly 4,000 years old. When Sarah, the Jewish matriarch, died, her husband Abraham looked for a plot in which to bury her. A local landowner offered Abraham a field as a free gift. But Abraham demurred, insisting on paying full price for it. The Bible even records the amount Abraham paid: 400 silver shekels (Genesis 23:16).

Why was Abraham so insistent on paying full market value for this field? Because, Jewish tradition explains, he wanted to ensure that his connection with the land would never be questioned, never expire, never be denied. How ironic.

The name of the field that Abraham purchased was Machpela, and over the years, almost all of the Jewish patriarchs and matriarchs were buried there. Abraham and Sarah. Isaac, Rebecca, Leah. Jacob died in Egypt, but his sons carried his body back to Israel to bury him in Machpela, too.

[Rachel is the only one of the Jewish founders not buried in Machpela. She is buried about 20 miles away – at Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem – where she died in childbirth.]

Tomb of the Patriarchs is the second-holiest site in Judaism.

For thousands of years, Machpela, also known as the Tomb of the Patriarchs, has been – after the Temple Mount – the second-holiest site of prayer and pilgrimage in Judaism. There is a synagogue at the site, and hundreds of thousands of Jews visit each year to pray. Christians and Muslims also enjoy free access to worship at this site. Under the Oslo Accords (which still technically govern relations between the Palestinians and Israel), the Israeli government and Muslim authorities share control over Machpela.

This arrangement has worked well for many years. But recently, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas started using the Tomb of the Patriarchs as a tool in the ongoing war against a Jewish presence in Israel, stating saying that Israeli control over any part of the Tomb was grounds for a "holy war”. Rachel’s Tomb, they claim, is actually an old mosque, Bilal al-Rabah.

And now, Palestinian efforts – and years of lobbying the UN – finally paid off. UNESCO, the United Nations' Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, officially reclassified both the Tomb of the Patriarchs and Rachel's Tomb as Palestinian. Not Jewish. Not shared. Exclusively Palestinian, exclusively Muslim. Further, UNESCO declared, that any actions taken at these sites by the Israeli government is a "violation of international law.”

UNESCO has no police or army to enforce its edicts, but it is a prestigious (though obviously highly politicized organization), and its pronouncements carry moral weight. That it would "classify" the graves of the founders of Judaism as exclusively Muslim sites is absurd. But in 2010, that is the case.

Related Article: Unearthing the Bible

Trashing the Temple Mount

Which brings us to Judaism's number-one holy site: Har Habayit, the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. This is where the first and second Jewish Temples stood for 800 years, from 833 BCE until the destruction by Roman forces in 70 AD.

The Holy Temple was a huge complex where the entire Jewish nation gathered and offered sacrifices to God year-round. The first Temple housed the Ark of the Covenant, containing the tablets on which God wrote the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai. Jewish tradition teaches that God's presence rested in the Holy of Holies, the most sacred spot on earth.

Today, the Western Wall – the retaining wall of the Temple Mount – is revered the world over.

After Israel’s capture of the Temple Mount in June 1967, in what can only be described as an unprecedented show of religious tolerance, Israel handed the Muslim Waqf (religious trust) autonomy over the site.

The Waqf is excavating the Temple mount treasures using garbage trucks.

For years the Waqf has been carrying out illegal excavations and renovations on the Temple Mount. In doing so, they surely must have found the most amazing archeological treasures known to man – utensils from the Temple period, stone tablets and ancient records. Perhaps even the Ark of the Covenant or a portion of the Ten Commandments themselves? Surely the world's most eminent archeologists are working on this site, unearthing it piece by piece with tweezers.

No. The Waqf is carting it away in garbage trucks. For years the Waqf has excavated millennia of Jewish history from the Temple mount using huge bulldozers, piling the priceless, crushed treasures into garbage trucks, then dumping it all into the valley below. Thousands of tons of it. It has become a cottage industry to visit the garbage dumps favored by the Waqf and sift through the filth, in order to uncover priceless fragments of our heritage.

But we needn't bother, according to the Palestinian Authority. What is the Jewish connection to the Temple Mount, the focal point of continual Jewish prayers for over 3,000 years? Nothing. According to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, the Jews “claim that 2,000 years ago they had a Temple. I challenge the claim that this is so" (Kul Al-Arab, August 25, 2000).

Le Monde, the French newspaper of record, gave credence to this lie, quoting PA cabinet minister Yasser Abed Rabbo: “Looking at the situation from an archaeological standpoint, I am sure there is no temple.”

Indeed. Given a few more years, the majority of evidence may be sitting in a garbage heap.

Jews Don't Exist

After denying Judaism's connection with its most holy sites, it’s a short step to rejecting the history of the Jewish people outright. That is the argument put forth in the international bestseller, The Invention of the Jewish People by Shlomo Sand. He claims that Jewish roots in Israel are not from 4,000 years ago, but were largely invented in 19th century Germany, when a group of colorful folklorists decided to appropriate a national identity for themselves.

This thesis is almost too baseless to debunk, and reams of scholarship have been written refuting Sand's bizarre claims. (See Newsweek’s article, "The DNA of Abraham's Children") But this didn't stop Sands’ book from being awarded the prestigious Aujourd'hui literary award.

The Bible warns us to "keep away from falsehood" (Exodus 23:7). Only regarding lying are we instructed to "keep away" entirely. Lies have a habit of creeping and growing, of building on each other.

It is up to each of us to educate ourselves and refute the lies whenever and wherever we find them. For if we fail to be vigilant, it opens the door to those who not only seek to distort Jewish history, but to erase it entirely.

November 13, 2010

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The opinions expressed in the comment section are the personal views of the commenters. Comments are moderated, so please keep it civil.

Visitor Comments: 26

(26) Ellen A., February 6, 2013 8:30 PM

A logical question

If Israel knows the Waqf is carting off precious Jewish artifacts which testify to the Jewish history and claim on the land, why doesn't the gov't stop it? Isn't there a ministry of antiquities or something like it? Why is the Israeli gov't so willing to allow others to airbrush Jewish history?

(25) A. Goldstein, November 23, 2010 5:09 AM

I think we need to do a bit more than "educate ourselves and refute the lies whenever and wherever we find them." We need to take the Temple Mount and holy sites, and stop the trashing of our history. We need to condemn UNESCO's pronouncement, annex the land surrounding Rachel's tomb, and announce to the world that this is a Jewish holy site, and always has been. Period.

(24) Anonymous, November 17, 2010 7:21 PM

What did they expect?

"Unprecedented show of Religeous tolerance'!!!! unprecedented show of madness by the Israeli government... The biggest mistake of many mistakes...Doesn't the Israeli government realise even now, that the Moslems will never be satisfied with less than annihilation of the Jews and then the rest of the world!

(23) Ruth Housman, November 17, 2010 5:33 PM

Frayed Ends: Prayer shawls

I read the article and I am right there with the author, about these sanctified ruins, beneath the Temple Mount and the artifacts that are being carted away for the dumpster. What's so wrong is clearly the idea, the very idea, that the Jews have no right to this homeland and that it is possible to erase the traces of our story. How hard it is to read that we are not sharing the Tomb of the Patriarchs, because our ancestors, and yes, "theirs", the Ishmael story, are buried here. There is so much anger, hostility on both sides. I shudder when I see the nail in denials of all kinds, and surely, even something so documented, so known, as the Holocaust, how dare they, has its deniers. What, never happened? How could anyone say this and be, believed? I feel there is history and herstory on both sides, and as, for me, I feel we need to get back to humanity, to reality here, and realize it's time to do something different, because what has been done, is not working. And I don't mean the rhetoric of hate, on either side. I mean, Seeds of Peace. I mean, programs like HAGAR, for young children, and I mean it's time to take this anger out, on the playground, but that playing for real, with hearts and souls and minds, requires something different. And for that it's ruah, I hold my breath.

(22) doron, November 17, 2010 12:02 PM

Jews Need to Wake Up, Hashem is out There and the World Is Waiting...

We are to blame. We are not doing what we are supposed to be doing. Instead of learning about Hashem and teaching the world about Hashem, we are either holing up in ghettos or trying to be like the children of Esav, the Goyim of the west. Of course the Goyim in the west and the Goyim that descended from Ishmael are going to unite against us. Those of us that know about Hashem in the world don’t teach the world out of fear and the world is only doing what Hashem said it would do if we behaved stiff-necked about it… We are all reaping what we have sown and our chosen leaders are the worst of us. The positive side is that maybe someone will read this article or a comment here and change, cling to Hashem, and then tell the world!

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