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Sunday, May 15, 2011

Children of Abraham

I have a friend of whom I am very fond...we worked in the trenches of criminal courtrooms for decades. Our only real disagreement is and was over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

She is the daughter of a Palestinian man from Beit Hanina, and grew up in California, and has a narrative quite at odds with my own Zionist appreciation of history.

She sees the Palestinians as victims of Israel; I see Israel as the stalwart beacon of hope and refuge for spat-upon, murdered, humiliated, disenfranchised Jews world-wide. Including those in that Arab world which has tried to destroy us time and again.

She sees 1948 as the "Naqba"; I see 1948 as the rebirth of our ancient sovereign state, living in dignity and freedom instead of under the boot of European Christians, or Arab Moslems. She sees 1948 as a disaster; I see 1948 as the Intifada of the Jews, shaking off the yoke of centuries of oppression.

One of her friends recently posted the newest in Jewish delegitimization: Jews aren't really descendants of Abraham but instead are European Slavs who converted to Judaism.

He then conceded that North African and Middle Eastern Jews might be, but Ashkenazi Jews are not descendants of Abraham and the Judean tribe that survived multiple conquests and ethnic cleansings in our own land.

I can only assume that his adherence to this is based on his own racism--Middle Eastern and Maghrebi Jews are usually but not always darker in skin, eye and hair color than the Ashkenazi populace (I have one Syrian-Jewish friend and one Turkish-Jewish friend who are both blue-eyed blondes), therefore his declaration is based on the absurdity of a person's coloring. This is laughable in large part because Palestinians and Jews here are largely indistinguishable. Yes, red-headed, freckled, blue-eyed Ashkenazi Jews live here; on the other hand, my Arab electrician is a fair-skinned, blue-eyed guy with wavy light-brown hair; the Palestinian woman waiting in line at Hadassah with me had two daughters young enough to not wear hajib, who both had porcelain skin, grey eyes and blonde hair. Even Egyptian novelist Naguib Mahfouz's Cairo Trilogy contained an Egyptian daughter with blue eyes and blonde hair.

I don't ascribe this racism to my friend, who is a peaceful woman of good intentions and who believes that Jews and Arabs are descendants of the same father Abraham.

However, her friend's comment points to a rising tide of delegitimizing not just the Jewish connection to Israel, but to Jerusalem and to historic Jewish connection to this land.

I doubt that most Arabs understand that our Law commands us to live in this Land. I doubt that most understand that Judaism, among many details, overarchingly relies on the Torah, on Am Yisrael the People, and on the Ha Aretz "the Land."

Maybe they do know this. Maybe that's why it is so important to teach Arab and Palestinian youth that these are all Jewish lies, because by reducing the Jews to cockroaches instead of cousins, it is easier to call for our expulsion and extermination.

Young people have the internet. They can do their own research. They can travel virtually to someone else's web-page, and if they both speak English, they can talk directly to each other, and maybe come to a better, if not complete, understanding of each other's hopes and fears.

I cited one of many studies regarding the close genetic affinity between Jews and Palestinians--ALL Jews, including Ashkenazim. Her friend shrugged it off as "fantasy." I got the clear impression he didn't even read the scientific article demonstrating this affinity.

I already have one friend who wryly refers to the Palestinians as "The Cousins" and I thought by pointing this out to the writer who dismissed this affinity, he might, like me, view us as "cousins" and have more regard for our mutual desire to live in this small piece of land.

Silly me.

Arab rejectionism has reached new lows.

In 2002 at Camp David, Yasser Arafat, an Egyptian, announced that the Jewish Temple was never in Jerusalem, in complete contradiction to Islamic writings.

This was just one in a series of Palestinian attempts to erase any Jewish connection to Jerusalem or Eretz Israel.

In a statement issued Dec. 10, 1997, the PA’s Ministry of Information claimed that Jews never had any connection to Jerusalem because archaeological excavations in the Old City have found “Umayyad Islamic palaces, Roman ruins, Armenian ruins and others, but nothing Jewish.” The Ministry also falsely claimed that “there is no tangible evidence of any Jewish traces/remains in the old city of Jerusalem and its immediate vicinity.”

Well, in fact there are plenty but they are ignored when professional archeologists uncover them, or derided as "plants" or destroyed when Palestinians uncover them.

The PA newspaper Al-Hayat Al-Jadidah published an article in its issue of Dec. 1, 1997, which declared: “I call to be alert and to treat the Tomb of Joseph and the Tomb of Rachel as dunams of Palestinian land which must be liberated, and to treat Joseph and Rachel as just two people who died, like anyone else who dies.”

Similarly, the Israeli daily Ha’aretz quoted Palestinian Authority officials as saying that “Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem is the traditional tomb of the Cushite servant of Mohammed.” (Ha’aretz, Oct. 9, 1996)

Prior to 1996, no one in the world had ever claimed that Rachel's Tomb was anything but a Jewish holy site. Ottoman historical records support this. The alleged "Cushite servant" is actually buried in Syria, according to other Arab records.

The oddity of this is that for centuries, Moslem rulers of all stripes, Turk, Mameluke or Arab, treated these as Jewish sites and protected them as Jewish sites. Only since Arafat came to power has the Jewish connection to these ancient sites of veneration been erased.

“The Western Wall is not a Jewish holy site.” The Arafat-appointed Mufti of Jerusalem, Sheikh Ikrama Sabri, who was the PLO’s senior religious authority for the city, said: “The Al-Buraq Wall [Western Wall] and its plaza are a Muslim religious property, and the Israeli government’s decisions do not affect it…The Al-Buraq Wall is part of the Al Aqsa Mosque. The Jews have no relation to it.” (Al Ayam, Nov. 22, 1997)

No, actually, your mosque is built on top of our Temple's ruins. Check out those Herodian walls and carbon dating....

Arafat’s Minister of Religious Affairs, Hassan Tahboob, said: “The Al-Buraq wall is Muslim property and it is part of the Al Aqsa Mosque of course.” Tahboob said that in accordance with a Muslim religious court decision in 1929, Jews “are allowed to pray towards the Wall,” but they must remain “two meters [six feet] away from the Wall” and not touch it. (Interview with the Israeli news agency IMRA, Nov. 23, 1997)

This is another excellent reason for Israeli unwillingness to give up the Old City--discriminatory laws and practices against Jewish worshipers, which were practiced under the Turks but not under the Jordanians--they simply denied all Jewish access to holy sites.

Yasser Arafat corroborated the Islamic denial of any Jewish connection to our ancient Temple: “That is not the Western Wall at all, but a Moslem shrine.” (Ma’ariv, Oct. 11, 1996)

And then there is the "Slavic conversion" lie:

“The Jews never lived in ancient Israel.” A program broadcast on Palestinian Authority Television in June 1997 featured Palestinian Arab historian Jarid al-Kidwa, who claimed that “all the events surrounding Kings Saul, David and Rehoboam occurred in Yemen, and no Hebrew remnants were found in Israel, for a very simple reason—because they were never here.” Al-Kidwa said: “Most of the Khazars [a Turkish tribe that converted to Judaism in medieval times] are the Ashkenazic Jews who arrived in Palestine. As Allah is my witness, in my blood flows more of the Children of Israel and the ancient Hebrews than in the blood of Ariel Sharon and Benjamin Netanyahu.” [Ha’aretz (July 6, 1997)]

The Khazar fable is debunked by modern DNA testing showing that Palestinians and Jews are closely related. A little historical knowledge would help those in denial as well: there was a Khazar tribe in what is now the Ukraine. There is some apocryphal evidence that some of them converted to Judaism, but ultimately the area was overrun by the Russians who converted the populace to Christianity at sword point, and later the same area was conquered by the Ottoman Turks who made many of their conquered into Moslems. The vast bulk of the Jews of eastern Europe were migrants from Jewish communities fleeing from western Europe to escape Christian persecution.

“Jerusalem was never a Jewish city.” Someone please get the Palestinians a copy of the Ottoman censuses....from the time the Turks first started keeping census records, Jerusalem was a majority-Jewish city. Oh, you mean ancient Jerusalem? David and Solomon weren't Jewish? The Roman and Jewish records of the Jewish capital's conquest and destruction are about some "other" Jerusalem? The Byzantine tendency to build churches where Jesus was buried in Jerusalem aren't evidence we're still in the same Jerusalem? Jerusalem has always been a Jewish city, not only in terms of population but also because every religious Jew in the entire world sings of it during the blessing after meals, and bends toward it in prayer three times a day.

“Jerusalem is not a Jewish city, despite the biblical myth implanted in some minds…There is no tangible evidence of Jewish existence from the so-called ‘Temple Mount Era’…The location of the Temple Mount is in question…it might be in Jericho or somewhere else.” (Walid M. Awad, Director of Foreign Publications for the PLO’s Palestine Ministry of Information, interviewed by the IMRA news agency, Dec. 25, 1996.)

Sure. All those archeological remains, those bullae written in Hebrew and carbon-dated to before the Islamic conquest and colonization of Israel, those shards, those wall and floor tiles.....those are all figments of international archeologist's imaginations. And then there is the historical record....

Yasser Arafat, the Egyptian: “Abraham was not a Jew.” “Abraham was neither Jewish nor a Hebrew, but was simply an Iraqi. The Jews have no right to claim part of the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron, Abraham’s resting place, as a synagogue. Rather, the whole building should be a mosque.” (Arafat, quoted in the Jerusalem Report, Dec. 26, 1996)

Abraham was the first Jew, you illiterate terrorist....the first to accept HaShem as the One and Only G-d; the first to enter into the Covenant of Circumcism; the father of Isaac and grandfather of Israel.

More Palestinian denial and delegitimization: “There never was a Jewish Temple in Jerusalem.” “The people of Israel realize perfectly well that they have no temples or ruins near Al Aqsa Mosque. According to the Koran, the people of Israel lived somewhere to the west of Bethlehem…they were living in Bethlehem and not in Jerusalem.” (Sheikh Ismail Jamal, the PLO’s Director of the Islamic Wakf in Jericho, quoted in the Chicago Jewish Sentinel, May 18, 1995)

This is in direct contrast to Islamic teachings:

Imam Abu Abdullah al-Qurtubi, who lived from 1214 to 1273 and was one of the most authoritative medieval Quranic annotators, in his Al-Jami’ li Ahkam il-Qur’an, or Encyclopedia of Quranic Rules, explains the context (asbab) of the verses by mentioning among other sources the authentic Prophetic tradition (hadith). He wrote:

Hudhayfah Ibn al-Yaman asked the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him:

‘I travelled more than once to Jerusalem, but saw no Temple standing there. What is the reason?’

The Prophet Muhammad replied:

‘Verily Solomon son of David raised Bayt al-Maqdis [i.e., Beth ha-Mikdash, the First Temple] with gold and silver, with rubies and emeralds, and Allah caused human beings and spirits to work under his command, until the raising of the House was completed. Afterwards a Babylonian King destroyed Bayt al-Maqdis and brought its treasures to the land of Babylonia, until a King of Persia defeated him and ransomed the Children of Israel. They rebuilt Bayt al-Maqdis for the second time [the Second Temple], until it was destroyed for the second time by an army led by a Roman Emperor.’

Thus Jewish and Muslim traditional sources corroborate each other: The Temple was built by Solomon and destroyed by a Babylonian king. A Persian king later defeated the Babylonians and ransomed the Jews, permitting them to return to the Land of Israel. The Temple was rebuilt but afterward was destroyed by the Romans. This Temple stood in the area referred to as Beit haMikdash in Hebrew and Bayt al-Maqdis in Arabic. Those political and pseudo-religious Palestinian leaders like Arafat and his politicized religious appointees who claim that “there was never a Jewish Temple in Jerusalem” are surely aware that, in order to support their political claims, they are compelled to lie and contradict the letter of the Quran and the Islamic tradition.

An earlier Quranic exegete and jurist, Imam Muhammad ibn Jarir at-Tabari, who lived from 838 to 923, writes in his Tarikh al-Rusul wa al-Muluk, or History of Prophets and Kings, that the same sacred area was the place where Jacob had his vision of the Heavenly Ladder:

When Jacob awoke he felt blissful from what he had seen in his trustful dream and vowed, for God’s sake that, if he returned to his family safely, he would build there a Temple for the Almighty. He also vowed to perpetual charity one tenth of his property for the sake of God. He poured oil on the Stone so as to recognize it and called the place Bayt El, which means ‘the House of God.’ It became the location of Jerusalem later.

In Jerusalem on a huge Rock, Solomon son of David built a beautiful Temple to expand the worship of God. Today on the base of that Temple stands the Dome of the Rock.

In 1932, during the British Mandate period, the Supreme Muslim Council of Jerusalem published a Brief Guide to Haram as-Sharif for Muslim pilgrims, written in English. “This site is one of the oldest in the world,” it says. “Its sanctity dates from the earliest times. Its identity with the site of Solomon’s Temple is beyond dispute. This, too, is the spot, according to universal belief, on which David built there an altar unto the Lord, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings.”

My friend asked me why I was making Arafat "the heavy" with regard to Jewish delegitimization. I can answer that question easily: because historical negation of Jewish and Islamic sources concerning Jerusalem is recent and does not predate the PLO and its political propaganda. It started on Arafat's watch and under his direction,and is continued by his successors in the Waqf and the PLO. His lies undermining Jewish existence historically and religiously here are designed to sow discord, hate and war.

Most Moslems seem to be unaware that the Jewish return to our land from centuries of exile is fulfillment of Islamic prophecy as well as our own:

Sura 17:104~ "And thereafter We [God] said to the Children of Israel: ‘Dwell securely in the Promised Land. And when the last warning will come to pass, we will gather you together in a mingled crowd."


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