Josef Olmert

Zionism revisited-Beit Shearim recognized by UNESCO

The UN is arguably the last name that a normal Israeli will think about in positive terms these days, especially in the aftermath of the shameful Gaza report, but here is another proof , that miracles do happen, and the UN made a decision which should delight every Jew , particularly Zionists.UNESCO just decided to recognize Beit Shearim in lower Galilee as an international heritage site.

So, what is the big deal? is it that the UN decides something positive connected with Israel, which is ”something”, or are these the implications of this decision on understanding Jewish history and our claim over our historic homeland?, I, for one, go for the latter.

Some background is necessary here. Beit Shearim is another proof that Jewish life continued in our homeland even after the destruction of the Temple at 70 A.D , Mezada in 73 A.D and the catastrophic failure of the Bar Kochva national liberation rebellion in 132-135 A.D. Beit Shearim was the place where the great Rabi Yehuda Hanasi-135-219] was buried, something which turned the place into a national Jewish burial site, as many Jews wanted to be buried near the great sage of his generation. Well, some cynics may still giggle uncomfortably, asking the question ”so what”?. Like Beit Shearim there are numerous sites all over our homeland, and not only within the Green Line borders of 1949-1967 which show in the most vivid way, which archaeology can illustrate about the continuation of Jewish life in the country during the time of 2000 years which we refer to as the time of the exile. A lot of sites reflect Jewish life from periods much after the Third Century. SO, we were never absent COMPLETELY from our homeland. Sure, our numbers dwindled dramatically, though even on the eve of the Muslim occupation in the Seventh Century, there still were hundreds of thousands of Jews in the country, though a minority among a Christian majority.

That said, some more fundamental reflections on the meaning of all that. First, the conventional Zionist narrative is about how ”we came back to our Father’s land after 2000 years of exile”, implying that there were no Jewish life in the homeland for all these 2000 years, an argument which plays to the hands of our enemies[as if they need more excuses to hate us…], who claim that the Palestinian Arabs are the indigenous people of the land.

Well, if we put together the many centuries of rich Jewish life prior to the destruction of the Temple plus the last two thousand years, we can see who was here before and for how long. The Muslim occupation was exactly that, a foreign occupation of the Jewish homeland, substituting centuries of Roman and Christian occupations.

Throughout all these long, long years, the Jews were the ONLY one people who continually resided in the land , as opposed to the occupiers who came and went, and those who stayed from the Seventh Century.

Second, the dwindling numbers of Jews reflected centuries of oppression, forced conversions and, as proved by the great historian Moshe Sharon, who I had the privilege of being a student of, the simple fact, that under the Muslim occupation, the country, deteriorated in every respect, and that showed itself also with the dramatic population decrease. That should not come as a surprise to those who want to know the truth, because it was clear to the Muslim occupiers, that this WAS NOT their promised land.

Third, archaeology is one of the most important tools of understanding and learning from history. I am yet to witness the great discovery that will show us even a shred of evidence for Arab or Muslim life in this country prior to the occupation 1300 years ago. So, when there is no such evidence, why should we be surprised that Sa’ib Eraqat, the chief Palestinian negotiator said some time ago, that the Jews have no history in Jerusalem, as even the Temple was built by King Solomon, who was a Muslim![no joke, he said it!!!].

So, we talk here about manufactured legacy which the Palestinians try to create artificially in order to justify their claims.

Here finally we come to the crux of the matter-it is all about politics. The politics of denial of Jewish rights in our homeland, a denial shared by the Catholic Church, some marginal Protestant denominations,Many , mayby almost all Muslims and Marxist Jews, like the historian Shlomo Zand and his claim that the Jewish people was invented.What an unholy alliance!

But politics work in all kinds of ways, and this blogger, for one, while never doubting our undisputed right over ALL of our homeland, still clings to the desperate Zionist need to compromise over large parts of our homeland.

Still, in a day like that, when our long, uninterrupted attachment to our homeland is internationally recognized, we can rejoice with satisfaction. Let us just hope, that the UN will not get second thoughts. This is the UN after all.

About the Author
Dr Josef Olmert, a Middle East expert, is currently an adjunct professor at the University of South Carolina