A heritage covered up
The vilified chief scientist at the Education Ministry, Dr. Gavriel Avital, is apparently more open and enlightened than the esteemed cabinet secretary, Zvi Hauser. While Avital, who was immediately the object of widespread ridicule, simply sought alternative theories (and beliefs) in addition to evolution and global warming, Hauser, inspired by his boss, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, sought to bequeath us a single, unitary historical narrative.
Avital was considered backward even though he wasn't calling for Darwinism to be ignored, yet Netanyahu and Hauser in their enlightenment insist on ignoring most of history.
NIS 400 million, 150 "heritage sites," and one big, old lie: A people without a land came to a land without a people. After more than 100 years of Zionism and over 60 years since the state was declared, Israel still needs to conceal, deny, cover-up and obfuscate to justify its existence.
There is no greater proof of its lack of self-confidence in such justification. "This is not a holiday for post-Zionism," Hauser said when the national heritage program was approved by the cabinet, which is true. It's a holiday for the propagandists.
Let's leave aside riots in Bethlehem and Hebron. Rachel's Tomb and the Cave of the Patriarchs were added to the program as a last-minute provocation due to pressure from Shas, and the disturbances will probably subside.
One must also accept the approach which says that a country and a people are allowed to immortalize their past and their heritage. But a country that covered 416 abandoned Arab villages with Jewish National Fund forests and isn't leaving behind a monument to them - as in the words of the poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko about Babi Yar - must finally bestow the entire history upon its citizens, and not just selected and misleading chapters of it.
Israel is a well-established and strong regional power, whose right to exist, contrary to its baseless arguments, is not put in doubt by many around the world, and the Netanyahu-Hauser government should have had the courage to propose a true heritage plan, presenting the whole truth.
They should not be erasing entire chapters of history and squeezing out the heritage of about a fifth of the country's citizens, Arab citizens, whose presence here is longer and more rooted than that of most of its Jewish citizens. Prime minister David Ben-Gurion's modest house in Kibbutz Sde Boker? Of course include it. But what about the neglected and inaccessible Arab cemetery of the village of Sheikh Munis, now part of Ramat Aviv? When Hauser speaks of "our sites," he can't refer just to the Jews of the country.
In the center of Moshav Zekharia in the Judean Hills, which was established on the ruins of Palestinian Zakariyya, there is an abandoned mosque. Go there some time and see the fence surrounding it. What's written on the fence? "Caution. Dangerous structure."
Is there a more apt metaphor than this? The true and authentic Palestinian narrative, which is no less worthy than our own, is still thought of as a dangerous structure. Why, really? If everything was so just in 1948, why hide it, and neglect it, surrounded by a fence and a warning sign? Why not restore it as part of the heritage program and tell the residents of Zekharia the truth about the land on which they are living.
Why is it considered offensive "post-Zionism" to say that there was a village there that existed from Roman and Byzantine times, where in the 16th century 259 people lived and where in 1948 its 181 houses were home to 1,180 Arab inhabitants?
One can also speak about the last days of the village, how in March of 1949, after the establishment of the state and the end of the War of Independence, when the village was still inhabited, the district representative from the Interior Ministry wrote that "there are many good homes in the village, and it will be possible to house several hundred new immigrants in them."
One can tell about how Prime Minister Ben-Gurion met while on vacation in Tiberias with Moshe Sharett and a group of government functionaries and decided to expel the village's residents, and how during the summer of 1950 they were permanently expelled. It's not pleasant, but people have to know. That, too, is part of our history.
Not only this chapter is skipped, of course, in the Netanyahu heritage plan. It skips over hundreds of years of non-Jewish presence in the Land of Israel.
Is it so we won't know? Can a propagandistic heritage change the face of history? And if the past is so problematic, maybe we will put it aside until Hauser has the courage to tell it in full.
In the meantime, maybe it would be better for Netanyahu to deal with the future. Maybe he should think about the heritage that he wishes to leave behind him. What will he leave to his descendents? More cemeteries? More wars? Or perhaps something else for a change.