In addition to the havoc that terrorists are wreaking on the Jews living in Israel, some Palestinians have decided apparently that’s not enough. Last Friday, rioters in Nablus (Shechem) set fire to the tomb of Yosef. And yesterday, there were Molotov cocktails being thrown just outside Kever Rachel. I found these incidents upsetting, but unfortunately not surprising.
It makes perfect sense that people so infused with hatred of Jews would damage Yosef’s tomb. After all, Yosef epitomizes Israel and the Jewish people so well.
Initially, Yosef’s brothers were jealous of the special treatment their father gave Yosef. Once he started constantly touting how he was different than them, their hatred and jealousy grew so deep, it was all they could think of. They even had a discussion about if they should kill him or not. They decided to dehumanize him, sell him as a slave, and cast him away from his homeland.
Unfortunately, his woes didn’t cease once he was in a foreign land. Shortly after rising in the ranks in his master’s house, he was defamed as a criminal based on false accusations and bold lies. He sat imprisoned for years and looked like there was a bleak future in store for him.
Yet, in spite of the incredible adversity he was up against, he still had a tremendous impact wherever he went. Any harsh situation that he was put in, he was able to persevere and excel. No matter what hardships that befell him, he was able to overcome them. He had faith in G-d, but also had confidence in himself that he was intelligent, talented, and worthwhile. Despite the deck being stacked against him time and again, he managed to have great influence on the world when it came to the areas of guidance, economics, government, and humanitarian aid.
So yes, I’m not surprised that Palestinians set fire to this perfect symbol of resilience and hope, the very core of the Jewish spirit.
Of course, after attacking Yosef’s Tomb, it’s only natural that Palestinians would start rioting near Rachel’s grave, for she was Yosef’s mother. If Yosef represented the Jewish people through his success despite the physical and emotional harm done to him, Rachel may represent the Jewish people even more so.
Rachel was someone known for her incredible patience and selflessness. She waited 7 years to marry Yaakov, the man she was destined for. And just as she was about to marry Yaakov, her father intended to have her sister, Leah, marry Yaakov (unbeknownst to him) instead. The love and compassion she had for her sister overrode any personal investment she had in the situation.
She saw someone in need and who was at risk of being embarrassed, and that’s all that mattered to her. Even if it meant that for the rest of her life and marriage, there would be inevitable tension and often rivalry because of her kindness, she didn’t care. Helping someone else was the most important thing.
Her entire existence was centered on the future of the Jewish people and being a caregiver. All she wanted to do was to be able to give. That was her whole purpose in life. Fittingly, she died during childbirth, while giving life.
Even as Israel is overwhelmingly criticized for all it does in the efforts to care for and protect its own people, it will always have that compassion when it comes to helping other peoples and countries in need, from the Haitians to the Nepalese.
After the First Temple was destroyed, Judaic sources say that as the Jews were going into Babylonian Exile, they passed by Kever Rachel and prayed. Almost as if they realized that the only way the Jewish people would survive and return would be if they remembered what Rachel stood for.
So again it makes sense that a character so devoted to the concept of love, would be the antithesis to people that are so focused on hate.