Last week Israel saw two more terrorist attacks. Two more senseless murders of Jews. Varda wrote beautifully about Hallel Yaffa Ariel. Predictably, much of the media focused on where she lived – near what they called “the Palestinian city of Hebron.”
“The what?” I thought when I read it.
The city of Hebron is older, obviously, that the concept of a “Palestinian people.” It’s older, in fact, than Islam. Jews have lived in Hebron since before Islam existed, and were forced out only after the 1929 Hebron massacre, in which 67 Jews were slaughtered due to incitement against them.
Even knowing this, however, does not really explain why Jews want to live there now. I admit I did not really understand it myself until I happened to look up the Tomb of the Patriarchs on Google maps.
This is where all but one of the Jewish patriarchs and matriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca and Leah are believed to be buried. The enormity of the building attests to the enormity of its meaning. It makes the patriarchs and matriarchs real and tangible; it gives them a physical presence on earth. These are the founders of the Jewish religion as well as the Jewish nation. Can it really surprise anyone that Jews want to live near this, even at great risk?
Here is some more history of Hebron from Jewish Virtual Library,
King David was anointed King of Israel in Hebron, and he reigned in the city for seven years. One thousand years later, during the first Jewish revolt against the Romans, the city was the scene of extensive fighting. Jews lived in Hebron continuously throughout the Byzantine, Arab, Mameluke and Ottoman periods and it was only in 1929 that the city became temporarily “free” of Jews as a result of a murderous Arab pogrom in which 67 Jews were murdered and the remainder forced to flee. After the 1967 Six-Day War, the Jewish community of Hebron was re-established.
It’s true, of course, that most of Hebron is under the administration of the failing Palestinian Authority. Part of it, however, is under Israeli control, for the protection of the tiny Jewish community that preserves this history.
Describing Hebron as a “Palestinian city” is a convenient way to paint Hallel Yaffa Ariel and her family as belligerents who encroach on Palestinian rights, and who are therefore deserving of the horror committed against them. Much like the recent UN resolution that called the Tomb of the Patriarchs a Muslim site, doing so erases Jewish history and the important contribution that the Ariel family and others like them make to protect that history.