Many years ago I participated in Friday morning tours around Hebron. I clearly remember, one such day, when we were escorted by Rechavam Ze’evi, Gandhi, HY”D. He asked where we would go, and pointed in a particular direction. Someone commented, ‘no, we can’t go there. Even the army doesn’t go there.’ With that, Gandhi exclaimed, ‘if the IDF won’t go there, we will.’ And off we went.
The Tomb of the Patriarchs, Ma’arat HaMachpela, is divided into two sections; one for anyone not Jewish and the other for anyone not Moslem. Excepting ten days a year, when they have access to the entire building, and ten days a year when we have access to all of it. Each can choose the days they want, which usually consist of various holidays.
During the Moslem month of Ramadan, they have the entire building each of the four Fridays of the month. Being that Ramadan began last week, this past Friday the site was closed to Jews and open only to Moslems. In order to ensure that all Jewish belongings and property remain safe and intact, all moveable items are removed to a side room, while cabinets and other similar objects are locked.
On Friday night, following closing of the site, a group of Jews were allowed to enter to move all the items stored, back to their original places, in preparation for Saturday - Shabbat morning worship services. To their surprise and shock, they discovered that two Mezuzahs were missing, and a third damaged.
A Mezuzah is a small scroll, written by hand on parchment, placed in a storage case, and hung on all doorposts of a Jewish home or building. It is considered a holy item, and is very rarely removed, after being affixed to a doorpost. Two of these were stolen during the Moslem access to the entire site, while a third was damaged.
This morning, Deputy Religious Affairs minister, Rabbi Eli Ben Dahan, visited the site for early morning prayers. He then met with Hebron and Kiryat Arba residents and leaders, as well as with the local police commander of the place. To his utter surprise, and chagrin, the officer told him that during the Arab holy days, when they access the entire site, no Israeli security forces are present inside the building. This, out of fear for their safety and security.
To be fair, this particular officer is not responsible for security at this holy site. Security is placed in the hands of the IDF and a border police contingent. Actual policy is determined by the army and defense ministry. But his revelation left many present, including myself, with a terrible feeling. How is it possible that the arguably best army in the world, which may have to deal with an Iranian nuclear threat, which has developed the most advanced weaponry on earth, is afraid of a few thousand Arabs, at Machpela?
There are cameras inside the building, but as the officer explained, they were not able to film or capture the culprits. And this is not the first time such damage has occurred. Once a couple of books of Psalms were forgotten. We received them back in pieces.
On Friday night, our workers discovered three books of Koran, which the Arabs had forgotten. Today they were returned to the Arabs, without any damage having been done to them.
It is, by my way of thinking, unimaginable that the IDF should be afraid to station troops wherever, and whenever necessary. If this entails decreasing, and limiting the number of Arabs in the building at given time, so be it. We don’t have to tell the IDF what to do, or how to operate. But our enemies should know that there is a price to pay for desecration of Jewish holy sites and items. Otherwise, it’s quite predictable that this coming Friday, and the one after that, and the one after that, what exactly will happen. The desecration will continue, and that is unthinkable. Not in the state of Israel. As MK Orit Struck said this morning, for 700 years the Arabs prevented us from entering this holy site, and now, we are willing to allow them total access, denying ourselves our own access, and they take advantage of that to defile our holy place?! Absurd!
Our security services must not be afraid of anything. To the contrary, our enemies should be shivering and shaking at the very thought of seeing an Israeli, in uniform or out of uniform, knowing that such violations of holy places, such as Ma’arat HaMachpela in Hebron will entail the most serious of repercussions.
We must not be afraid. Of anything. It is them who must be afraid. An only them. We have nothing to fear, we never have, and we never will. Period.