Israel or Palestine?


By Ariel Natan Pasko

I read in the news not long ago something that caught my eye. A headline, "Breslov Hassidim Arrested On the Way to Joseph's Tomb." I know I can't praise them for "breaking the law". Officially, violating a military order barring Israeli citizens from entering PA autonomous areas. But I just can't help myself from thinking, congratulations, for keeping the issue in the news. Since Operation Defensive Shield in April 2002, groups of Breslover Hassidim have regularly tried to get to Joseph's Tomb in Shechem (Nablus) to pray.

Recently another group of Breslov Hassidic Jews tried to go to pray at Joseph's Tomb. It was the week that we read in the Torah that Jacob had bought the place where he set up camp for his family, in Shechem, upon returning to the Land of Israel for "100 Kesitahs" (Genesis 33:19). Jewish tradition says that Joseph is buried on that plot. But this time, "Palestinians" shot at the Breslovers, injuring seven, four seriously. Islamic Jihad and the Fatah Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades both claimed responsibility for the attack. But what has the Israeli Army and Police chosen to do? Arrest nine members of the Hassidic group, that's what.   

Why have they had to try and out fox the Israeli Army, to sneak into Shechem? Why does the Israeli government have to protect its citizens from themselves and deny them access, when they want to pray at a Jewish holy site? Why doesn't the Israeli government secure the area, and re-open it to visits by Jews?

The answer is that Joseph's Tomb was supposed to be under Israeli control according to the Oslo Agreement. Jew's were supposed to be free to go learn Torah and pray there. The Od Yosef Chai Yeshiva - Joseph Lives Rabbinical Seminary - was there. But on October 7th, 2000, three days after Israel Television Channel Two reported that then Chief of Staff Shaul Mofaz said that he would pull the Israeli forces from Joseph's Tomb if the situation worsens, PA mobs overran the site, killed a soldier, and stole our heritage again.

The "Palestinians" quickly ransacked the place, burning Jewish prayer books, and repainting the white dome roof, Muslim Green, transforming the Biblical Joseph's resting place into a Muslim holy site. The Israeli government then under the mis-leadership of Ehud Barak, didn't think it was worth fighting over to hold onto. Jewish holy sites, our connection to our past, and to our Land, didn't matter. And that gets to the heart of the problem. Whose land is it? Whose Holy Sites are they? Who cares more?

In an interview published in Ma'ariv (Feb. 16, 2001), then IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Maj.-Gen. Moshe Yaalon regretted the decision to abandon Joseph's Tomb in Shechem.  Gen. Yaalon said that the pullback "fired up the fighting spirit of the Palestinians… It will be a grave error if Israel continues to pull out of other areas or settlements under fire." But our present Chief of Staff Moshe Yaalon missed the point. Beyond the operational need to be seen as strong against "Palestinian" violence, Israel has to be strong in its belief in the rightness of its cause. Jews have to feel connected, as the Holy Breslovers do, to Jewish tradition, the Jewish past, and the Jewish future. That's the only way to overcome these spiritual imperialists.

What did the Arab hordes do when they captured Joseph's Tomb & Yeshiva? They Islamicised them. Recently it's been discovered that they destroyed the tombstone. They stole our history for themselves again, as they have for over 1400 years. Islam you see is a successionistic religion. That is, they want to succeed Judaism. They steal our Patriarchs & Matriarchs. Notice their claims to the Ma'arat HaMachpela (Tomb of the Patriarchs) in Hevron, where Abraham & Sara, Isaac & Rebecca, and Jacob & Leah are buried.  They also claim Kever Rachel (Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem) as theirs. Our prophets and leaders, Moses & Aaron, King David & King Solomon, all are Muslims according to this Arab imperialist movement.

Whereas early Christianity settled with having stolen our spiritual heritage and claimed to succeed us; Islam, the Islamic world, the Arabs of Eretz Yisrael, and the so-called Palestinians, go further. Not only do they claim ownership to our history and spiritual tradition, but they also claim ownership to our Homeland.

When "Palestinians" speak about the "right of return" they don't just refer to Judea and Samaria - the West Bank - and Gaza, they include, Acre and Jaffa and Haifa and Safed and Jerusalem.  All of "Falistin" is holy to them, because it is Holy to us. Palestinian nationalists and Islamic fanatics speak with burning enthusiasm about "Falistin-Palestine". It's a pity so few Jews speak with equal fervor about our HOLY PROMISED LAND and HOLY SITES.

That's why seeing the Breslovers trekking out to Shechem, brightens the heart. The Breslovers you see aren't "settlers," aren't interested in politics, they're just simple Jews who still feel the need to connect to Jewish history & tradition. Their sustained effort for over a year and a half now, to get to Joseph's Tomb to pray, has more than anything else, kept the issue percolating just below the surface. 

With all the effort made by the United States to end the violence, formulating the Mitchell and Tenet Plans, and then the Quartet's (US, EU, UN, Russia) Road Map, no one has explicitly stated that Joseph's Tomb will return to Israeli control. The recent "private" Ayalon-Nusseibeh Peace Petition, and "private" Beilin-Abed Rabbo Geneva Initiative assume that the Jews will give it up.  

According to the text of the Roadmap released by the State Dept. on April 30, 2003, "As comprehensive security performance moves forward, IDF withdraws progressively from areas occupied since September 28, 2000 and the two sides restore the status quo that existed prior to September 28, 2000. Palestinian security forces redeploy to areas vacated by IDF." The emphasis is on Israeli withdrawal, not "Palestinian" withdrawal. 

Where is Joseph's Tomb? I don't expect the US, EU, UN or Russia to care about our ancestors. I know the Arab-Muslim world wants to steal our history. But, where is the Israeli government? Where is Chief of Staff Ya'alon? Where are the Jews of Israel?

And that's why it's so heartening to see the Breslovers, simple believing Jews, not "settlers" - as if that would some how lessen the value - not "nationalists," but simple believing Jews, who still are burning with enthusiasm for OUR HOMELAND, OUR HISTORY, OUR TRADITIONS, and yes OUR ANCESTORS. Their actions prove that JOSEPH'S TOMB - and all of our Homeland - isn't just for military or political purposes, isn't just for "settlers," but for simple believing Jews too!