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.
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.