When God, through Moses, led the Children of Israel out of the land of Egypt towards the Promised Land, he took with him something – something special, something unique, something that fulfilled a promise made so many years before. He took with him the bones of Joseph. Joseph knew the children of Israel wouldn’t be in Egypt forever and he knew the time would come where they would return home to the land of their fathers – the Promised Land. So he made the sons of Israel promise him that when that day came, his bones would be returned so that they could forever rest among his forefathers.
There’s a place in Israel today, near Shechem (or modern day Nablus), called Joseph’s Tomb, where it is believed Joseph’s bones continue to lie. It is a place of such significance and importance to the Jewish people. Unfortunately, it has come under attack many times since it was given to Arab control. In 2015, they torched the compound and caused major damage to this Jewish Holy Site. And it has also been under attack many time since by rioting Arabs.
As is often the case, the world bodies largely ignore this flagrant attack against Jews and their Holy sites, this attack against history itself. The same Arabs who often deny there was ever a Jewish presence in Israel, still do all they can to wipe away any evidence of Jewish history at all.
They do it because historical records and historical evidence overwhelmingly and unquestingly backs up Jewish history, while their own historical records are completely non-existent.
So the other night, my friend went on a unique journey to visit this special place. He went by bus at midnight, with a thousand other fellow Jews. But this was no regular journey – because travelling to one of our most holiest sites, which lies in areas of land controlled by people who wish us death, never is. The busses were fitted with bullet proof windows and the Israeli Defence Force escorted them – always on the alert for an attack by Arabs. A journey that should take half an hour, takes hours, because roads have to be secured, and security has to be established – just so a bunch of Jews can visit their Holy site.
Eventually they arrived there, and for a time period of about half an hour prayed and remembered one of the most special people in the history of our people, in a place of such power and such awe and such holiness – a place where history leaps off the pages and immerses you within.
And then, all too quickly, they left – once again under the cover of darkness.
It was only the next day that he read that a bomb had been discovered at the site – a bomb designed to murder Jews. But the Israeli Defence Force, whose job is to protect the Jewish nation, did so, defusing it and removing it.
A story like this breaks my heart. And it breaks it, because we Jews have a history that stretches into the distant part, a history as old as the history books themselves. We have giants in our past, giants who molded our people, who defined us as a nation. We remember them daily in our prayers and in our stories and in our culture and in every aspect of our lives. History is not, for us, a dusty relic from a distant past, but a living breathing entity that we continue to study and listen to and admire and respect.
We honour them.
And yet to visit and to pray, we cannot do so safely. We have to have bullet proof busses and army escorts. We have to be on alert for rioting Arabs or improvised explosives. We have to go under the cover of darkness rather than in the light of day.
This is not right. This is not just. This is not what a people who live in their ancestral lands should have to do.
Just as Muslims are allowed to visit their holy sites in Saudi Arabia or in Israel and just as Christians are allowed to visit their holy sites in Rome and in Israel without fear of attacks – why should Jews not be allowed that same basic right?
Our Jewish Holy sites must always and forever be under our control and our control only. Because history has proven that under the control of others, our rights will be removed and we will be denied that which other nations are granted. And if that upsets the outside world, who do everything they can to strip us of our land and our history through their bogus illegitimate organisations anyway – so be it.
Israel is a Jewish country where history is written in stones and in trees and in shrubs and in mountains and in rocks and in ancient tombs. It is our history, our legacy, our past and our future – and if we even begin to start giving parts of our history away, we are literally giving away a part of our very essence. Our very soul.
I can’t say what lies in the future or what any government would do, but I can say that to give away a part of what makes us who we are, will never make us stronger, but only weaker.