Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – The holy places shared by the three monotheistic faiths are often a cause of friction between Israelis and Palestinians as proved by recent events in Jerusalem.
Yesterday the Temple Mount-Haram esh-Sharif re-opened to Muslims after last Friday’s shootings, but worshippers refused to go as a protest over the added metal detectors set up at the Lion’s Gate.
Recently, a UNESCO resolution recognising the Cave of Machpelah as a World Heritage site has caused outrage in Israel because it was interpreted as defining it as a “Palestinian” heritage site. Israeli statesman Uri Avnery challenged this interpretation on the website of Gush Shalom, the NGO he founded.
The "Cave of Machpelah", also known as the Cave of the Patriarchs, “is a large building, which the Arabs call al-Haram al-Ibrahim, the Mosque of Ibrahim”, Avnery writes.
According to the Bible, Abraham and his progeny are buried there. This is the reason why “A tsunami of emotions surged over Israel. Jews were united in protest. Everybody vented their anger as loudly as possible. Rarely was such unanimity seen here”.
What puzzles the Israeli statesman is the fact that “UNESCO does not assign places to nations. […] The holy church in Nazareth is located in Israel, but it does not "belong" to Israel. […] UNESCO did not say that the Machpelah-al-Haram al-Ibrahim site belongs to the Palestinians. It said that it is located in Palestine”.
“I am grateful to an ex-Israeli called Idan Landau who lives in the US. He took the trouble to read the original text and sent us emails to correct our impression,” writes Avnery.
For the Israeli, the “UNESCO resolution is fair and correct. It remarks that the site is holy to the three monotheistic religions, as indeed it is. Because of this, a Jewish fanatic – a settler from America – once murdered dozens of praying Muslims there. Jewish fanatics have settled nearby”.
Moreover, “if one believes that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were real persons, it would still be doubtful that they are buried there. An entire school of archaeologists believes that the burial place is somewhere else in Hebron, not the building now known as the Cave of Machpelah. The graves there are those of Muslim sheikhs”.
In his comments Avnery goes on to quote a biblical passage little known in Israel, verse 9, chapter 25 of Genesis: "And Abraham gave up the ghost and died in a good old age… And his sons, Isaac and Ishmael, buried him in the cave of Machpelah."
For the statemen, this verse is not taught in Israeli schools because “Ishmael is the forefather of the Arabs, as Isaac is the forefather of the Jews”.
In Israel, it is known that Sarah sent Ishmael and his mother into the desert to die of thirst. He was saved by an angel, and then disappeared.
“The revelation that the Bible in fact says the opposite is shocking. So Ishmael did not disappear, but somewhere along the line made his peace with Isaac. The two sons buried their father together. This changes the story completely. It means that the Bible makes the Arabs, too, rightful heirs of the Cave of Machpelah, side by side with the Jews and the Christians.”