Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Rachel's Tomb As A Test Case For The West Bank

The current situation of Kever Rachel and the behavior of Palestinian Arabs does not bode well for what can be expected should the West Bank be handed over to the Abbas and the PA. The following article is from the Jerusalem Center For Public Affairs.

The Palestinian Authority and the Jewish Holy Sites
in the
West Bank: Rachel's Tomb as a Test Case

Nadav Shragai

  • Rachel's Tomb lies on the northern outskirts of Bethlehem, about 460 meters (about 500 yards) south of the Jerusalem municipal border, and for more than 1,700 years has been identified as the tomb of the matriarch Rachel. "The building with the dome and olive tree" became a Jewish symbol, appearing in thousands of drawings, photographs, and works of art and depicted on the covers of Jewish holy books. However, today the little domed structure has been encased in a sleeve of reinforced concrete with firing holes and defensive trenches, and covered with camouflage netting.
  • According to the armistice agreement signed on April 3, 1949, Jordan was to allow Israel "free access to the Holy Places and cultural institutions and use of the cemetery on the Mount of Olives." In practice, Jordan did not allow Jews free access to their holy places, and for 19 years, until 1967, Jews could not go to the Western Wall, Rachel's Tomb, the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron, Joseph's Tomb in Shechem (Nablus), or other sites sacred to Jews which remained in Jordanian hands.
  • The Gaza-Jericho Agreement signed in May 1994 stated: "The Palestinian Authority shall ensure free access to all holy sites in the Gaza Strip and the Jericho Area." The Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement, signed on the White House lawn on September 28, 1995, dealt with the status of 23 places holy to Jews. The Palestinians promised to assure freedom of access to those places. However, the Palestinians either made access extremely difficult or prevented it entirely.
  • In October 2000, Joseph's Tomb in Nablus was attacked, set ablaze and desecrated. Druze Border Police Corporal Yusef Madhat bled to death on October 4 because Palestinians refused to allow his evacuation. The "Shalom al Israel" synagogue in Jericho was also attacked. Holy books and relics were burned, and the synagogue's ancient mosaic was damaged.
  • In 2000, after hundreds of years of recognizing the site as Rachel's Tomb, Muslims began calling it the "Bilal ibn Rabah mosque" - a name that has since entered the national Palestinian discourse. The Palestinian claim ignored the fact that Ottoman firmans (decrees) gave Jews in the Land of Israel the right of access to the site at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Israel's experience since the Oslo agreements has shown that the responsibility for Jewish holy sites or the roads leading to them should remain in Israeli hands.
Read the whole article.

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