Shavua Tov. I wanted to publish this KICpost before the Israeli cabinet makes the "do we or don't we" decision in relation to the Gaza synagogues. Here we are, almost a month after disengagement began and many days after the last resident was taken out of the area, and only now the Israeli government are struck by the synagogue destruction dilemma. I mean, really, what were they doing during the last 18 months?
For months they've known that syngogues would have to be destroyed, or relocated or left to the Palestinians. Why wasn't this decision made months ago? The answer - all too familiar.
It is one of the Israeli traditions that horrify me daily. I call it the 'band-aid, sticky plaster syndrome'. Israelis (leaders in particular) wait until the ship is flooded and then put the pumps into operation. Having just watched Titanic with my wife last night, allow me to make the comparison to the captain's fateful decision to light up all the boilers and go 'full steam ahead' even in light of the poor visibility and the well-known risk of enormous icebergs. Israel is so used to putting cellotape and band-aids across the holes in its ship and often fail to investigate the sources of the problem. Should they actually look for the source, they rarely deal with the problem immediately nor in a permanent fashion.
Truth is, Israelis are normally pretty good at responding to national and personal traumas that occur suddenly. Still, nothing wrong with a little future planning is there? A little strategic management wouldn't go amiss. Why do we always have to wait for the sudden trauma?
I don't envy any Cabinet minister - ever - and especially in this country. It appears that the Cabinet will vote against destruction and leave it over to the Palestinians and the world to deal with the matter. Irresponsible and controversial? Maybe - all the more so when you consider some of our cousins who will have great pleasure in destroying another nation's holy sites. Controversial but necessary for some of the reasons noted in this article. As far as Israel is concerned, it does give the wrong message to have Israel destroying its holy places. We don't need "if Israel can do it, so can we" statements developing out of Arab capitals and other states. Apparently, halacha also prefers non-Jewish hands in the destruction.
I quite understand the concern of the PA. I mean, it will be uncomfortable for them if their people run in and pillage Jewish holy sites. It certainly wouldn't do much for the world's view of their struggle and their desire for mutual acceptance and tolerance.
Here we have Saeb Ereket saying that "we do have respect for Jewish holy sites but..." and the like. Other PA officials are suggesting that the synagogues would only give a message of 'the occupation is not over' to the Palestinians and would be a source of fear, hate and violence. But in my view, that's their issue and Abbas and friends do need to start taking responsibility for the actions (and EDUCATION) of their own people. If every Israel used the existence of mosques in Jewish cities as justification for violence, where would we be today?
I don't take this view lightly. However, the whole matter has an anti-Jewish familiarity and horrific disrespect for Jewish holiness that we've seen by the Palestinians and the Arab world over many years. My friends, over decades (and during the last 5 years), Palestinians and Arab states have desecrated Jewish holy sites happily. They have had no respect for Jewish history nor holiness. Not only did Jordan & Palestinians turn the Old City of Jerusalem into a rubbish dump, but the few synagogues they did not destroy, were turned into urinals, barns for animals and the like. They throw rocks and rubbish at the Kotel and continue their horrific destruction of invaluable Temple remnants under the Temple Mount. Palestinian academics speak openly on PA TV about the lie of the "Jewish Temples". Palestinians broadcast lectures that claim Jews of 2000 years ago are not connected to the Jews of today. In the last 5 years, they have attacked synagogues and most famously burned and destroyed Joseph's Tomb in Shechem/Nablus along with Torah scrolls and holy books. They have murdered and attacked Rabbis and scholars and those on their way to and from prayer services. In 2002-3, many Israeli shules were forced to place armed guards at their entrances.
On the other hand, one can still see Mosques and their minarets standing around the recaptured Old City and throughout cities in Israel. Except when terror threats exist, Palestinians can pray at the al-Aqsa mosque. Jews however are forbidden from doing so and Jewish or Christian tours must be heavily guarded of course. The Palestinians use mosques to store weapons and to hide terrorists and therefore endanger the holy places and those who reside inside or nearby - the Bethlehem seige of the Church of Nativity was an excellent example of disrespect for local Christians. They claim Israeli interrogators rip copies of the Quran in front of them, and yet Palestinians themselves have been recorded as doing so and cutting out the pages to insert explosive devices and so on.
The religious tolerance is one-sided and just like Arafat and Abbas have both been able to prevent or lower violence when it suits them, so the PA should be made to guard and show respect to our holy places. I have heard that last week, a Chachnasat Torah (new Torah ceremony) took place safely and happily in the historical city of Jericho which is now under PA control. Like the violence, Palestinians can decide if they wish to show religious tolerance or alternatively they can display their intentions on the world stage.
Let's see what the Cabinet decides. Things are moving at a million miles an hour here and who knows who's watching for icebergs.