>Palestinians Oppose Calling the Cave of Machpelah a Heritage Site

>In a previous post, I reported that the Israeli government was planning to add the Cave of Machpelah and Rachel’s Tomb to the list of Israel’s Heritage Sites.

This decision of the Israeli government has drawn strong reaction from the Palestinians. The following is an excerpt from a news release reporting Palestinian opposition to adding the Cave of the Patriarchs to the list of Israel’s Heritage Sites. The article also describes Palestinian reaction to the recent discovery of Solomon’s Wall:

Palestinian protesters have clashed with Israeli police in Hebron after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu announced Sunday that the two fiercely contested sites in the West Bank would be included in a $100 million plan to restore national heritage sites.

These are the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron and Rachel’s Tomb on the outskirts of Bethlehem, 12 miles north of Hebron.

The Hebron site has been a source of conflict for decades. Jews call it the Cave of the Patriarchs, where the Bible says the patriarchs Abraham, Issac and Jacob were buried with three of their wives. The site is also sacred to Muslims, who also revere Abraham. They call it the al-Ibrahimi Mosque.

In 1994, a hard-line Brooklyn-born Jewish settler, Baruch Goldstein, shot to death 29 Palestinian Muslim worshipers in the shrine. He was beaten to death by those who survived the slaughter but remains an iconic figure for Israel’s far-right.

Hard-line settlements have grown up around the city, where a few hundred militant settlers maintain an enclave heavily protected by Israeli troops amid a Muslim population of 160,000. The settlers converted part of the al-Ibrahimi Mosque into a synagogue.

The tomb of the Jewish matriarch Rachel stands in an Israeli enclave in Bethlehem, revered by Christians as the birthplace of Jesus. It’s surrounded by a 24-foot-high concrete wall.

“We strongly condemn this decision which yet again confirms the Israeli government’s determination to impose facts on the ground,” declared Saeb Erakat, the chief Palestinian negotiator.

Netanyahu said the sites must be preserved by the state because they show Israelis owned the land in ancient times, a key element in Israelis’ claim that they have a legitimate and historical right to the West Bank, which they call by its biblical name of Judea and Samaria.

Read the news release in its entirety by clicking here.

Palestinian reaction to Israel’s decision to add the Cave of the Patriarchs to its list of Heritage Sites was to be expected. The same thing was also to be expected with the declaration that the wall discovered in Jerusalem was dated to Solomon’s time.

This controversy demonstrates how the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will be difficult to solve. The question is: who owns the land? Israel says that Abraham was the father of their country. But, the Palestinians also say that their ancestry goes back to Abraham.

Not even the wisdom of Solomon can solve this problem.

Claude Mariottini
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

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