Israel's Foreign Ministry is taking steps that must be bringing some 'naches' (Yiddish for parental pleasure) to the Foremothers and Forefathers buried in the Cave of Patriarchs - Judaism's second holiest site after the Temple Mount.
Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon (Israel is Our Home) informed the Knesset Wednesday that "We have instituted as a permanent instruction that the Ministry's instructional system will bring every new ambassador appointed by the Ministry and cadet who is accepted to the Foreign Ministry to visit heritage sites, including the Cave of Patriarchs in Hevron... Other than that," Ayalon added, "I think it is right to act in such a way that makes clear that the Cave of Patriarchs was, is and will be a Jewish site under Israeli sovereignty."
Ayalon was delivering the government's formal response to a parliamentary question by MK Yariv Levin (Likud). Levin also mentioned that the Palestinian Authority has asked UNESCO to recognize the Cave of Patriarchs as a world heritage site under PA guardianship, and that foreign governments have been assisting the PA in building a neighborhood that would cut off the Cave from the Jewish community.
Ayalon said that the PA's request to UNESCO has stalled because the PA is not a country, and only a country can make such requests according to UN protocol. As for the neighborhood being constructed - he explained that it is being built in the area designated as PA-controlled in the Wye Accords regarding Hevron. Israel's hands are tied in this matter, he said, and it could do nothing other than lodge protests with the governments involved - which it did.
A spokesman for the Jews of Hevron, David Wilder, responded to the statements by Ayalon by saying that the Jewish community of Hevron is "very pleased that a high-ranking official, such as Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, has recognized the importance and significance of Hevron and the Cave of Patriarchs." The declaration, Wilder noted, followed the visit to Hevron by Education Minister Gid'on Saar and his decision to send school children on tours of the City of Patriarchs.
"Of course, every school child, every foreign visitor, and every ambassador, as well as every Israeli diplomat should visit Hevron and the Cave of Machpela [the biblical name of the Cave of Patriarchs - ed.]. Just as all visit Yad VaShem, under the motto 'never forget,' so too we must never forget our roots, common to all mankind, as Abraham is the father of all people. In short, it's about time that the Israeli government recognize that which G-d chose, 4000 years ago."
Yesha Council Chairman Danny Dayan also complimented Ayalon for the initiative, which he called "an important step toward bringing back the Jewish and Zionist dimension to Israel's foreign policy."
Chief Sephardic Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Shlomo Amar, was the godfather at a brit (bris) ceremony at the Cave of Machpelah this week (see photo, by the Jewish community of Hevron). The Cave is a preferred location for brit ceremonies, seeing as it is the burial place of Abraham, the first Jew to circumcise his son eight days after his birth - and of that same son, Yitzchak. The circumcision is often referred to in Jewish prayers as "the brit (covenant) of Abraham our father."