Time for Complete Reclamation of Jewish Holy Sites

Dr. Joseph Frager,

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צילום: ערוץ 7
Dr. Joseph Frager
The writer is a leading American pro-Israel activist who sponsors and coordinates many Zionist events. He is clinical Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine (Gastroenterology & Liver Diseases) at the Einstein School of Medicine as well as a practicing physician.

With president Trump's monumental declaration of Jerusalem as the eternal capital of Israel on December 6, 2017 it is time to discuss reclaiming Jewish Holy Sites in Israel.

The main Holy Site that needs help right now is the Tomb of Joseph in Samaria. Jewish Holy Sites were well protected (as were Holy Sites of all religions) in Jewish hands from 1967 until 1993 when the Oslo Accords were signed. As part of the Oslo Accords sections of the Heartland of Israel in Judea and Samaria were broken into three administrative areas designated A,B and C. Area A which currently represents 18% of Judea and Samaria gives total civil and security control exclusively to the PA. Area B which represents at least 22% of Judea and Samaria gives civil control to the PA, and security to a joint Israeli-PA administration.

Area C gives full civil and security control to Israel. Joseph's Tomb is in Nablus which in 1995 was handed over to the PA as area A. Joseph's Tomb was to be excluded from this designation and functioned as a Yeshiva and Synagogue until 2000. One of Ehud Barak's tragic blunders as Prime Minister was to hand over security control of Joseph's Tomb to the PA Police on October 7th, 2000. On October 13, 2000 the PA Police allowed for the Yeshiva to be burnt to the ground, its books incinerated and its Torah Scrolls desecrated.

The Tomb was painted Green. Rabbi Hillel Lieberman who tried to save the Torah Scrolls was brutally murdered. I had gone to Israel with his father of Blessed Memory Rabbi Zvulun Lieberman of Brooklyn in 1993 with Rabbi Aron Soloveitchik Z'TL to talk to Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin to try to prevent exactly what occurred seven years later. In April 2002 Joseph's Tomb was retaken by the IDF as part of Operation Defensive Shield. Despite this only through sheer will and determination Jews visit the Tomb only at night  with a heavy Army presence only allowed to do so once per month. Governor Mike Huckabee with a group I helped organize visited the Tomb of Joseph on the eve of the President's visit to Israel in May of 2017. The Governor said eloquently "Jews should not be forced to pray in the dead of Night at their Holy Sites".

The grave of the first Judge of Israel Otniel Ben Kenaz was handed over to Arafat as part of the Hebron Accords in 1996 when 80% of Hebron was surrendered. This needs to be undone and the site open all year to Jewish Visitors. Unfortunately, the Labor Government who formulated the Oslo Accords was not thinking much about Jewish Holy Sites.

Without protests around the globe the Tomb of the Matriarch Rachel and the Tomb of Samuel would have been handed over to Arafat. I take special personal satisfaction in convincing the Labor government at the time(1995) to save the Tomb of Rachel. In those days, I worked with Gabby Gozland, Carl Z"L and Sylvia Freyer and Dr. Manfred Z'L and Anne Lehmann Z'L to organize a massive rally outside of the Israeli Consulate in New York to save the Tomb of Rachel. The outcry was so great that the Consul General at the time Colette Avital actually phoned the Foreign Minister Shimon Peres  and pleaded with him as a woman to save the Tomb of Rachel. Not only was the Tomb of Rachel saved, the Israeli government allocated five million dollars to make sure it was protected.

It remains in Jewish hands to this day. The Tomb of Samuel was saved by Sephardic Chief Rabbi Bakshi Doron. The Tomb of Isaac located in the Cave of the Patriarchs is only open to Jews ten days out of the year. This is totally unacceptable and shameful. Jewish Holy sites have to be reclaimed speedily in our day. The President of the United States showed us the way. It is time to be much more vocal about such matters.