Only after the Israel Defense Forces returned to Hebron during the Six-Day War were Me’arat HaMachpelah and Kever Rachel reopened to all visitors regardless of their religious faith or identity. History suggests that the Israeli policy of open access, which has remained in place since 1967 despite repeated episodes of Muslim violence, would be unlikely to endure for very long should Islamic rule over these Jewish holy sites ever be restored.
Indeed, the week-long eruptions in late February over the amended Heritage list, with ritualized stone-throwing and tire-burning by Palestinian teen-agers in Hebron and Jerusalem, offered a familiar replay of previous episodes of orchestrated Palestinian violence. In 1996, when the first Netanyahu government opened a new entrance to tunnel excavations adjacent to the Western Wall, Yasir Arafat incited Palestinian rioting that quickly claimed the lives of seventeen Israeli soldiers and dozens of Arabs.
Four years later, with the knowledge and consent of the Palestinian Authority’s chief of security, Ariel Sharon led a Likud delegation to the Temple Mount, location of the ancient Jewish Temples that centuries ago had been miraculously transformed into Islam’s “third holiest” site. A day later, Palestinian violence erupted in Jerusalem and then throughout the West Bank, resulting in fifty deaths and hundreds of injuries.
With the Israeli evacuation of Joseph’s Tomb in Shechem, it became the site of a mosque, as had the Temple Mount and Me’arat HaMachpelah many centuries earlier. Needless to say, biblical land purchases were valueless to readers of the Koran.
In the end, it is Islam – not Israel – that remains determined to erase identity, preempt religious sites, and steal another people’s history. It is long past time for Western nations, the United Nations and especially the United States to take notice of the relentless Muslim determination to rob the Jewish people of their birthright in their own homeland.
If this is too much to expect, then Israelis and Jews might at least rouse themselves to defend their ancient heritage and preserve the land that symbolizes it.