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Israel or Palestine, Our Land or Theirs?
by Ariel Natan Pasko
22 April 2003

With all the effort made by the United States to end the violence, formulating the Mitchell and Tenet Plans, and now the Quartet's (US, EU, UN, Russia) 'Road Map,' no one has explicitly stated that Joseph's Tomb will return to Israeli control.



I read in the news recently 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.

Why have they had to try and outfox the Israeli Army, to sneak into Shechem? Why does the Israeli government have to protect its citizens from themselves, when they want to pray at a Jewish holy site?

The answer is that Joseph's Tomb was supposed to be under Israeli control according to the Oslo Agreement. Jews 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 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 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 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 now the Quartet's (US, EU, UN, Russia) 'Road Map,' no one has explicitly stated that Joseph's Tomb will return to Israeli control. A tentative draft of the 'Amended Road Map' published in Al Ayyam newspaper (Nov. 20, 2002) stated, "The Israeli army will undertake an advanced withdrawal from the territories occupied after September 28, 2000; both parties will return to the situation that prevailed before September 28, 2000; the Palestinian security troops will be deployed in the regions that will be evacuated by the Israeli army." The Jerusalem Post  (Dec. 29, 2002) published an official summary of the Quartet's 'Revised Road Map,' (released by a highly placed diplomatic source privy to Quartet discussions), which simply states, "Return to September 28, 2002, positions."

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 purposes, isn't just for 'settlers', but for simple believing Jews too!

Ariel Natan Pasko is an independent analyst & consultant. He has a Master's Degree in International Relations & Policy Analysis.  His articles appear regularly on numerous news/views and think-tank websites, in newspapers, and can be read at:  www.geocities.com/ariel_natan_pasko.

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