Saturday, May 25, 2024 -
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Part of the fabric

IT seems that adherents of every religion in Israel are respected, given the opportunity to pray at their respective holy sites. Except the Jews in Israel.

I know the burial place of Joshua is not an oft visited grave with throngs of people on pilgrimage. Perhaps this is because that is how our tradition evolved, or perhaps because it is located in territories ruled by Palestinians. In order to reach it, a potential visitor needs to coordinate his plans with the Israeli army in order to be safe.

I know this marking of Joshua is not considered a significant national holy site. But that is beside the point. A holy site is a holy site.

Apparently, a car full of Jews were returning from a trip this week and decided to detour, to pay a visit to this ancestor of ours, Joshua.

To begin with, the white gravestone is completely marked and imprinted by graffiti with the black lettering of the Arabic language. Can you imagine the bloodbath if Jews would desecrate a holy Muslim site in this way?

Of course the reason we don’t desecrate another’s holy sight is not because of the potentially violent consequence, but due to the respect we show to others’ places of worship. But let us be mindful of what such a consequence would mean.

I remember the eve of Yom Kippur in 2000 in Jerusalem. Earlier, on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, Ariel Sharon had ascended the Temple Mount — a holy place for Jews. By the eve of Yom Kippur, 10 days later and just before we were to experience the lynching in Ramallah, Palestinians had defaced the grave of Joseph, in Shechem.

I believe one person was killed in the conflict that ensued at that holy site.

Ariel Sharon ascended Har Habait — the Temple Mount — and the response? Literally, all out war. What came to be known as “the intifada” — the ongoing assault of suicide bombs and shootings for five years —marked the beginning of this new millennium for Israel.

During an Israeli army’s incursion into Gaza a number of years ago, armed Palestinians held innocents hostage in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem — a holy site for Christians. For some reason the world was pretty quiet about that cynical use of the church.

Mostly, it was perceived by the world as legitimate “resistance” by Palestinians. Unbelievably, it was the Israeli army standing outside the church, trying to help negotiate for the release of the hostages, that was criticized.

GRANTED, the people who spontaneously decided to detour into the Palestinian territories to visit the tomb of Joshua had no business doing so. Fair or unfair, wrong or right, ethical or not, the reality on the ground is that a Jew, an Israeli, can’t just meander into the territories and visit this holy site without first coordinating with the army.

This is current reality in Israel.    

When it is unheeded, a kidnapping or a lynching may take place. So, these people were in the wrong not to follow the necessary security protocol.

What pains me is that, in Israel, driving where you want in order to visit or pray without clearing it with the army first could cost you your life. That’s the real wrong.

This car full of people was stoned and cursed, barely escaping with their lives.

Let us pray for a day, for a time, when just as the Palestinians are a leisurely and ordinary part of the fabric of Israel’s daily life and society, any Jew will be able to travel safely in his country.

Any Jew will have the ability and the honor to visit any place of his choosing, especially a place of worship or any other holy site, without fear for his or her life.

Let us pray for the day when the Palestinian street will extend the same fundamental life right to life and courtesy that it enjoys in Israel.



Tehilla Goldberg

IJN columnist | View from Central Park


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