Wednesday, April 16, 2014
The 'House of Peace' on the road to Abraham
Four hundred silver shekels was the amount our forefather Abraham dropped in Ephron the Hittite's extended hand, and "Ephron’s field in Machpelah near Mamre -- both the field and the cave in it, and all the trees within the borders of the field -- was deeded" (Genesis 23:17), becoming the eternal inheritance of the Jewish people and a sepulchre for its ancestors.
Half a million Jordanian dinars was the amount paid by a different Abraham, Morris Abraham from New York, a descendent of the 1929 exile, through frontman Ayoub Yusef Jaber to the House of Peace's owners in Hebron, making it a permanent inheritance for the city's Jews as well, while creating the much needed, natural passage between Kiryat Arba and the Cave of the Patriarchs.
In a normal Jewish state, the government would be the one encouraging Jewish settlement in Hebron, the city of our ancestors, which David Ben-Gurion saw as the "neighbor and progenitor of Jerusalem," believing "we would be making a huge, terrible mistake not to inhabit [Hebron]."
Five years too late, justice was finally served by the courts and the defense establishment regarding the House of Peace. Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon showed the rule of law -- which over the years had devoted most of its efforts to isolating, encumbering, restricting and embittering Hebron Jewish life -- that there is another way, where policy is set by government ministers, not legal clerks -- not even if they serve in the State Attorney Office.
It is good that the House of Peace was purchased instead of being taken, confiscated or expropriated. That is how Israeli Jews behave. That is how Hebron's settlers ought to behave, not through the price-tag method, but Abraham-style purchases, complete ones. That is the right way -- far more righteous and moral.
Actually, another insight has been left out of the House of Peace saga, and others purchases like it as well. The Palestinian Authority mandates a death sentence for anyone who "commits the crime" of selling land to a Jew -- a law which is met with overwhelming silence in Israel. In any other civilized country, the government, attorney general and Supreme Court would have brought down the heavens rallying against such an order. It is nothing less than a license to kill. But the knights of human rights here in Israel -- which honestly should have risen up against such a twisted Palestinian edict -- are also of the opinion that a Palestinian who sells his land or home to a Jew is criminal. That is why they kept quiet. That's why they remain silent to this very day.
The Jewish community in Hebron will go on existing past a permanent Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, so better that it is strong, anchored and recognized. The Jews inhabiting the city of our patriarchs have come to embody the fundamental domiciles we nearly forgot: The Land of Israel is not simply the physical home, but our historical, religious memory, and the Cave of the Patriarchs is an inseparable part of that.
Rabbi Moshe Levinger, one of the revivalists of the Jewish community in Hebron, will be remembered by the coming generations not as a source of ridicule, as the Israeli media has painted him over the years, but in the spirit of a piece author Shmuel Yosef Agnon penned about him many years ago. In it, he wrote, "A beautiful emissary on a beautiful mission, future generations will inscribe your actions in writing, that you returned our sons to the city of our forefathers."