hebron - Reuters - February 22 2011
The Tomb of the Patriarchs is one of the icons of the Jewish connection to the Land of Israel − a constant reminder that the Land of Israel is the ancient homeland of the Jewish people. Photo by Reuters
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Who are the people, including the editorial writers of this newspaper, who have gone ballistic over the education minister's announcement that students should be taken on heritage trips to the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron? Are they Zionists, non-Zionists, post-Zionists or anti-Zionists? Have their roots in the Land of Israel withered over the years, or have they lost hold of their senses in these tumultuous times?

They seem to have forgotten the very foundation of Zionism: that the Jewish State is located in the Land of Israel just because it is the ancient homeland of the Jewish people, and that the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron and Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem are the icons of the Jewish connection to the Land of Israel - constant reminders to one and all that the Land of Israel is the ancient homeland of the Jewish people, who have returned after 2,000 years in exile.

They seem to have fallen under the spell of the "1967 borders." They are infatuated by the "Green Line" drawn like a scar across the Land of Israel. West of this line Israel is kosher, not an occupier of another people, but east of that line, you had better watch out. These, they hold, are occupied territories where Israel rules over another people, and no Jew should be living there, or God forbid, be allowed to settle there.

So what is this sacrosanct Green Line? It is nothing more than the armistice line agreed between representatives of Israel and Jordan at Rhodes on April 24, 1949. It was never intended to be a border between two nations. It simply represented, with some modifications, the line where the fighting during Israel's War of Independence ceased. The British-officered and -equipped Jordanian Arab Legion that had invaded the newborn state of Israel on May 15, 1948 had reached the point during the fighting where its commander, Glubb Pasha, realized that unless Jordan agreed to a cease-fire, the Israeli army was going to advance to the Jordan River and his army would be powerless to stop it.

The armistice left the biblical heartland of ancient Israel, the mountains of Samaria and Judea, the major historical and biblical sites of the Jewish people, east of the armistice line. The War of Independence brigade commanders Moshe Dayan and Yosef Tabenkin had urged the Israel Defense Forces' General Staff to allow them to capture the Old City of Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Hebron, but they were halted by the cease-fire of October 22, 1948.

With Jordan in control of these areas, not only were Jews not allowed to live there, but during the 18 years of Jordanian occupation, Jews were denied access to the Western Wall, the Tomb of the Patriarchs and Rachel's tomb. Masada, a site visited over the years by almost all Israelis, young and old, came under Israeli control only in March 1949, when IDF units moving from Be'er Sheva reached the Dead Sea at Sodom and Ein Gedi. One can imagine that had this "last-minute" operation not taken place, the very same people who now complain about students visiting the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron would be arguing against visits to Masada, located in "occupied territory."

This perverse objection by some to visits east of the March 1949 armistice lines seems to be part of a wider boycott movement of the whole area. Whether it is Ariel or Hebron, these rootless Israelis will not set foot there. They give credence to the frequently heard Arab propaganda that the Jewish claim of a historic connection to this land is nothing but fiction.

The supporters of the "two-state solution," who insist that Israel withdraw to the 1949 armistice lines and consider Judea and Samaria to be occupied territory, seem to give no thought to assuring contact between the Jewish people and these sites if such a withdrawal were to take place. Was this even on the agenda in the negotiations between Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat, or between Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni and the Palestinian Authority?

Perhaps supporters of the "two-state solution" would prefer to sever the connection between the Jewish people and the sites that are reminders of the Jewish people's connection to the Land of Israel. That might be one explanation for the objections voiced to visits by Israeli students to the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron.