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April 18, 2014 / 18 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘national heritage sites’

Who Firebombs a Grave?

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

It’s an amazing concept. Why would someone firebomb a grave…and an ancient one at that?

I just read a news article that Arabs have thrown 290 firebombs (and or planted explosive devices) at Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem in the last six months alone (that doesn’t count hundreds, perhaps thousands, before that).

I actually know the answer as to why – it comes back to that concept of hating all that is different from them and worse, an attempt to erase any one else’s past. Okay, I got that…sick…but I got it.

But seeing that headlines also reminded me of an article I wrote a decade ago. Only, it wasn’t about Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem, but her son, Joseph’s tomb in Nablus (Shechem).

In February, 2003, Arabs rioted and burned the grave/tomb of Joseph, son of our patriarch, Jacob and his beloved wife, Rachel. Joseph was buried in Shechem after his bones were exhumed by the Israelites as they were leaving Egypt – a promise fulfilled not to leave his bones in a foreign land. His bones were carried through the desert, until they were brought home to rest in the land of his fathers. Only today, his tomb is found inside a Palestinian city. To get there is nearly impossible and only accomplished with an army escort, under strict protection.

Rachel was buried, according to tradition handed down over the centuries, in Bethlehem. You can get to her grave site, but you need to leave your car in Jerusalem and take armored buses – silly…it’s only a few hundred yards. The area around the tomb has been fortified, cement barriers erected to protect those wishing to pray beside her grave.

Back then – in 2003, I wrote an article, “Rachel is Crying.” I thought of that article as I read the news about the firebombs. Then it was Ariel Sharon as prime minister when they attacked and burned Joseph’s tomb and now, as they attack Rachel’s tomb it is Bibi Netanyahu.

Writing in 2003, I asked that Sharon either defend the tomb of Joseph, or go in and remove the body and rebury him near his mother’s grave in Bethlehem. Nothing was done to defend the tomb, to bring his body to Bethlehem. Jews sneak in to visit Joseph’s tomb under heavy guard, usually at night. It’s ironic that some 10 years later, it is Rachel’s grave that has come under attack.

Visit A Soldier’s Mother.

Post-Chanukah Musings at the Maccabees’ Hometown

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

Late last week, as the sun was setting, I stood in the center of an archaeological ruin in the town of Modi’in, Israel, about a five-to-ten minute walk from my home. Israel has thousands of archaeological sites, some of tremendous historical and religious significance and others which will be investigated but likely bulldozed someday, as they are deemed of lesser value and standing in the way of the modern state’s progress.

What made that evening very special was the fact that it was the start of Shabbat, the seventh night of Chanukah and the site was Umm el-Umdan, containing an ancient rural village, mikveh and beit knesset, confirmed as one of the oldest ever unearthed in all of Israel, dating back to the Hasmonean Period. Given its location and dimensions, some archaeologists contend that it was very possibly the home of the Maccabees themselves. The beit knesset was unearthed in 2002 and according to the Israel Antiquities Authority the layout is similar to only a handful dating from the Second Temple period such as those discovered in Gamla and Herodium.

A large gathering of men and women from the surrounding Buchman neighborhood had entered the site. For the past several years the residents have come to this place to welcome Shabbat and pay tribute to the Maccabees. The men stood in the central part of the site, in a rectangular area that was probably the main floor of the beit knesset. In front of me was a small indentation in the stone framework surrounding the floor, perfectly positioned to accommodate an ark to hold Torah scrolls. As I looked past it, I realized that it was perfectly oriented on this hill to face Jerusalem. Our prayers began- we completed mincha and proceeded with a very beautiful kabbalat Shabbat service incorporating the music of Shlomo Carlebach.

However, it was not lost on any of us that this site has remained unmarked, undeveloped and virtually ignored by both municipal officials and our national government. Although Umm el-Umdan holds a prominently high position on the national registry of “Heritage Sites,” the only thing of note that has occurred here is that the weeds engulfing its large stones have periodically been pulled by municipal workers. The average city resident doesn’t even know the location of the site although it lies squarely along the main entry road to Modi’in from the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway. In fact, as we were preparing to pray last night, a jogger came by and shouted a thank you to us, saying “I never knew this was here.”

While standing and praying in the quickly receding daylight and having great difficulty reading from my siddur, just to our right, perhaps 200 yards away, I could see Modi’in’s new pride and joy: our recently opened extreme sports park lit up as brightly as Yankee Stadium at a night game and full of skate boarders. I’ve been told that it’s the biggest and best one in the country. The juxtaposition of the two sites really struck me: all I could think of was Maccabees vs. Hellenists. Please don’t get me wrong. I love skate boards. In fact in high school back in the 1960s I owned a first generation board and used it often. I believe Israel has room for all of us, no matter what path we choose to go down.

But that’s the rub— How could we have been standing those 200 yards away on this incredibly meaningful site, in the town where the Maccabees’ efforts assured Jewish continuity and be in the dark? How could this archaeological site be so ignored and treated almost as a nuisance by the municipal government, without – aside from the weeds being plucked – a shekel having been invested in site preservation? Without a shekel spent to put up a proper historical marker acknowledging the beit knesset’s existence in our town? Without even a string of cheap light bulbs strung to allow people to pray comfortably and in safety at the site? Maybe what we have forgotten is how to be modern day Maccabean activists who need to let our countrymen know how we feel.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/post-chanukah-musings-at-the-maccabees-hometown/2012/12/18/

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