I finally returned to Jericho after ten years. The last time I was there, guiding tourists, was just before the Oslo War
The weapons Israel gave them came in handy. Turns out it wasn't about land after all.
broke out in October 2000.
I had been to the “City of Palms” or 'The back door of Jerusalem” many times - when it was safe – before the Oslo “peace”. Since those Accords of 1993, when Israel rolled out the red carpet for Yasser Arafat and the PLO., we guides did not feel very comfortable guiding in Jericho and most scratched it off the touring map.
Armed Arabs and posters of Arafat were not encouraging but I did continue to visit,
The charming ”Peace unto Israel” synagogue with it's beautiful mosaic floor from the times of the Talmud, and the little yeshiva above where a handful of students “held down the fort” studying Torah were a must visit.
We would dance with the young idealist scholars encouraging them and they encouraged us. It was a bizarre situation. with “Palestinian police” with assault rifles on the outer perimeter and nonuniform armed Israeli guards sitting on the porch eying each other suspiciously.
It was clear that this situation could not last. And so in October 2000 when Prime Minister Barak offered Arafat 97% of his demands including half of Jerusalem, the terror chief gave the signal for a terror wave that eventually took thousands of Israeli lives. “Palestinian police” opened fire on their Israeli counterparts on their joint “peace” patrols. The weapons Israel gave them came in handy. Turns out it wasn't about land after all.
One of the casualties of the Oslo war was the closing of the doors of the Oasis casino. Arafat and his Israeli partners (one of whom was the same person who was representing the government and negotiating with him about the future of the Land of Israel) had to manage without the million dollars spent daily by bused in Israeli gamblers.
Jericho was effectively closed to Jewish visitors. Well, almost.
Every Rosh Chodesh, the first day of each new Hebrew month, a handful of dedicated Jews try to scrap together a minyan for the joyous once a month prayers in the ancient, historic, but now forlorn little synagogue.
This time twelve men and three women answer the call. I am one of them.
Leaving Jerusalem very early, we travel east through the Judean Desert liberated in the 1967 Six Day War for what is to be a bitter sweet experience.
The plain mosaic stones, dusty and worn after 1500 years seem to shine for us that early morning.
As I said, I have viewed these stones many times before, but this is different. Today I have come to pray and keep them company - for a few fleeting stolen moments. The little chipped red hearts on the floor seem to burst with joy and achieve a color I had never noticed before. Our hearts beat together with the living stones on the floor.
Before entering Jericho in our armored bus, we wait for our IDF escort. Five military vehicles will accompany the strange group of Jews who insist on not abandoning Jericho. They would simply not let go! The commander briefs us on how we must behave in the alien territory. “Operation Joshua”as he named it was about to be launched.
Operation? Were we behind enemy lines on some daring raid? It would seem so. What was a natural, simple activity years ago has become a complicated, risky military operation requiring special military and political preparations and permission.
What have we done to ourselves? This was the first city that Joshua conquered 3500 years ago. I want to apologize to the soil under my feet. I feel ashamed before Eretz Yisroel, abandoned by her children for another.
Jewish presence was in self imposed exile. Jericho welcomed her sons home again in 1967 but they chose to trade her away. Trade? No, Give her away. to strangers. Strangers? No, enemies – cruel enemies. The City of Palms, the City of Joshua is an Arab city. King David vanquished the Philistines and Israel's leaders brought them back.
As I compare the city with the one I knew before the “peace process”, I see a new creation Large bill boards proclaim foreign aid from the whole world, especially the USA. Everyone is busy erasing any trace of Jewish life in our Jericho, making sure it remains an orphan of Jewish History. . Ishmael and Esau have found their common goal
We are escorted out of the city after the prayers and after we spend some time cleaning up the area. The little shul returns to its month of isolation and longing for its children.
I thought of the words of that Jericho native, Rachav, as she told Joshua's two spies,.” We have all heard of the miracles of the Exodus and your victories. Our hearts have melted for your G-d is with you”(Joshua 2:10)
Would our leaders today only believe the words of that courageous woman.
(Shalom Pollack will be making his annual speaking trip to the US from Nov 22 - Dec.22, bringing along his power point presentations:: .
"The Arab - Israel conflict, It's NOT about borders!"
"Six days of miracles - The 1967 Sux Day War"
"A virtual tour of the books of Joshua, Judges and Samuel I",and his DVD 'Israel - Ancient Roots, Modern Miracle"
Shalom can be contacted for speaking invitations at www.shalompollacktours.co.il}