The smell of smoke permeates the air, but it is not alarming or scary but rather expected, because today is Lag Ba’Omer, the 33rd day of the Omer and the day of the death of Shimon Bar Yochai, a great Torah scholar and a disciple of the famous Rebbi Akiva. On this day Jews have a tradition to light bonfires and sing songs in memory of Rebbi Shimon Bar Yochai and by extension remember the Bar Kokhba Revolt which went on during his lifetime. Sitting at one of these bonfires (I did not get to go to the grave of Shimon Bar Yochai on Lag Ba’Omer but I did drop by the week beforehand) I remembered reading a book by Yigal Yadin by the name of “Bar-Kokhba: The Rediscovery of the Legendary Hero of the Last Jewish Revolt Against Imperial Rome,” an interesting book about the discovery of the Cave of Letters and how the artifacts inside shed light on the revolt. One of the items found in the cave was this:
I’ll forgive you for thinking that it is the worst fork you have ever seen that for some odd reason has been stuck to a wooden door knob, but it is actually a house key, which is now on display in the Israel Museum alongside other items from the cave. Now the thing is that the owners of the key were very far away from home. They were being chased by the Roman army and they were hiding out in a cave trying to wait the Romans out. Yet they still kept things from their old life back home before the revolt, whether it was a beautiful glass plate, a cache of letters and contracts (hence the name “cave of letters”) or a set of house keys. These people had hope they would gain freedom from the Romans and that they would be able to return to their home safe and sound, however this was not the case. They were killed by the Romans and their hopes and dreams lay buried for nearly two thousand years until the Jews once again gained sovereignty in their homeland, when they became uncovered by Yigal Yadin, a Jewish fighter, and his archaeological team for all the Jews of the world to see: that this is our home and we even have the keys.
However this inspiring thought was soiled by another one. I recently had a discussion with a friend about some of the themes of Palestinian propaganda and Pallywood, and one of them is this:
That is right. A key. The key is often used in Palestinian symbolism, especially when on the subject of the right of return, to symbolise the keys of those who were “expelled” (read left for various reasons, mostly by choice not by force) from their homes and have been forced (by their Arab brothers and sisters) to live as second-class citizens in the surrounding lands. The key is used when discussing the right of return to try to prove that the Palestinians are native and the Jews are the (vampiric, as the comic would have you believe) invaders -because the Palestinians have these (relatively modern looking) keys to their homes that they are no longer in. I am not trying to say that they stole the idea of using a key from us -in fact, while I don’t know when they started using the key in their symbolism it most likely was before the keys in the Cave of Letters was found. I just want to bring this interesting parallel to everyone’s attention, and when someone tries to show you their “grandfathers key from Jaffa” or something of the like, just remember we have our own keys and our own houses that we were kicked out of and now we have returned to finally undo that wrong and live in our home once again. Chag Sameach.
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