The Palestinian Authority is making a historic bid to list Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity as its first world heritage site under the United Nations.
The PLO knows the consequences of locating King David and Jesus’ city as being in the “country of Palestine”. The final goal is the de-Judaization of the land of Israel. Oras Hamdan Taha, the Palestinian minister who deals with antiquities and gets funds from Unesco, made clear,“it’s writing or rewriting the history of Palestine”.
The next in line is Rachel’s Tomb, Judaism’s third most holy site, or as the Jews say in Hebrew, “Rahel Imenu”, and in Yiddish, "Mame Rochel" - our Mother Rachel.
In the book of Genesis, the Bible says: “And Rachel died, andwas buried on the way to Ephrata, which is Bethlehem. And Jacob set a pillar upon her grave: That is the pillar of Rachel’s grave unto this day”. For millennia, Rachel’s Tomb, alongside the road between Jerusalem and Bethlehem, has served as a place of longing, pilgrimage and prayer for the Jewish people, although there is some controversy about the grave's exact location.
Only in1996, the Palestinians began referring to the site as the “Bilal ibn Rabah Mosque”, as Unesco shamefully listed it in 2010.
The PLO enrolled the tomb as a weapon in the Second Intifada, claiming the site and shooting on a daily basis at the Jewish worshippers. On Yom Kippur 2000, six days after the Israeli army retreated from Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus, the PLO newspaper Al-Hayat al-Jadida published an article explaining that Rachel’s Tomb was the next Palestinian target. Before the PLO’s propaganda, the Arabs simply referred to the site as “Kubat Rahil”, the dome of Rachel.
What is unknown is that the Christian institutions in Judea and Samaria are collaborating with the Muslims to destroy and deny the Jewish character of the sacred site. And the strategy has already proven to be very successful.
Last February, Unesco, which has accepted the Palestinian Authority as a state, claimed Rachel’s Tomb and the Tomb of the Patriarchs are not exclusively Jewish sites, but “also belong to Christians and Muslims”. Writing in the Palestine Chronicle, the Christian Fadi Kattan denied “the Jewishness” and “the exclusiveness of Jewish access to Rachel’s tomb”.
It was in a meeting with Christian leaders that, in March 2010, Chief Islamic Judge, Tayseer Tamimi, called on Muslim and Christian leaders to take immediate action against Israel’s attempts to “Judaise” Jerusalem and “the Bilal ibn Rabah Mosque”.
Pax Christi, one of the most famous global Catholic organizations, in its website, repeatedly calls the Jewish site a “mosque”.
Then there is the Bethlehem University of the Holy Land, the only Vatican-run educational institution in the area and whose founding can be traced back to the visit of Pope Paul VI in the holy land in 1964. The Catholic University recently launched a project about the Rachel’s Tomb. The document calls it “a historical religious site for followers of Christianity and Islam, a sacred site also for Jews, who today control all access to it, despite its location on Palestinian lands”.
The Vatican institution seems to ignore that all of Rachel’s Tomb belongs to Area C, which the Oslo Accords gave to Israeli jurisdiction.
The very title of the Catholic project, “Rachel:An Alien in her Hometown”, suggests that the tomb is a spot hijacked by the Israelis. The tomb, the Catholic report says, “is also known by Muslims as the Bilal Ibn Rabah Mosque”. According to the Vatican university, the Jews stole the past, the Jewish shrines are Arab treasures stolen by the Zionists, and the Jews are no more than invading colonizers.
The last time I visited Rachel’s Tomb, two years ago, the Israeli contractor who worked at the security barrier showed me the Arab houses from where the Palestinian snipers shot at the Jews visiting the grave. Down below, there is the romantic, medieval picture of the once modest, quiet, calm, serene and solitary domed tomb.
The 20th century of Joseph Goebbels has taught all of us that a lie starts as a small one, but if it is not corrected, it festers like a cancer destroying truth, justice and finally - people. A lesson that the Catholics should have learn much better.
Now Rachel’s Tomb is like a bunker highly protected by walls, barbed wire, soldiers, cameras, corridors. Someone should also protect it from horrible lies.