MUSLIMS ANGRY OVER ISRAEL’S HIGHLIGHTING OF ANCIENT LINK
Muslims Furious Over Israeli Decision to Highlight Ancient Link [Excerpts]
A decision by the Israeli government to include a location with an almost 4,000 year-old link to the origins of Judaism in a list of 150 national heritage sites has sparked an uproar among Muslims – and drawn the disapproval of the Obama administration.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu insisted Thursday that the decision to include the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron on the list would not in any way change the status quo at the site, which has long been shared by Jews and Muslims.
He called accusations being made by Palestinians and others “an artificial attempt to distort reality and sow discord.”
Two days after Palestinian Authority (P.A.) chairman Mahmoud Abbas warned during a visit to Brussels that it could ignite a “religious war,” Palestinians clashed Thursday with Israeli soldiers in Hebron. The radical Palestinian group Islamic Jihad has called for a “day of anger” on [February 26, 2010].
State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the administration regarded the move as “provocative,” and that U.S. diplomats had conveyed that message to Israeli officials.
On [February 25, 2010] the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) weighed in, demanding that the United Nations act against “this Israeli unilateral aggression.”
Earlier, a spokesman for U.N. secretary-general Ban Ki-moon said he raised with visiting Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak his concerns about “the inclusion of holy sites in the occupied West Bank on an Israeli heritage list.”
It is the site in Hebron, about 20 miles south of Jerusalem that is causing the most unhappiness.
Although a predominantly Arab city today, Hebron’s importance to Jews goes back to the foundation of their faith. According to the Old Testament (Genesis 49), Abraham bought a cave known as Machpela at the site to bury his wife, Sarah and was himself also buried there, along with Isaac and Jacob, as well as Isaac’s wife Rebecca, and Jacob’s first wife, Leah.
The Old Testament also records that Hebron was the capital of the kingdom of Israel for seven years before King David moved to Jerusalem (2 Samuel 5). Rabbis consider the Cave of the Patriarchs the second holiest site in Judaism, after the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Hebron as a city is also one of Judaism’s four holy cities, the others being Jerusalem, Tiberias and Tzfat.
Historians say Hebron had a small, almost continuous Jewish presence for thousands of years until 1929, when it ended abruptly after 67 members of the then 800-strong Jewish community were killed during three days of Arab riots.