Vice President Joe Biden just returned from his visit to Israel. He was there to reassure Israelis (and American Jews of course) of the United State's commitment to the State of Israel. All was going according to plan until Israel's interior minister, Eli Yishai announced plans for the construction of 1,600 homes in a Jerusalem neighborhood on the other side of the green line. "You see," everyone now says, "Israel is not really interested in peace." Actually Israel and the vast majority of Israelis, as well as Jews everywhere, have been bending over backwards to make peace for generations. Israel has steadfastly declared Jerusalem a unified city and not part of the West Bank. That the timing of this announcement was mishandled by Yishai is of course true and Netanyahu has since publicly chastised him, but the more fundamental truth is that it is always easier to blame others than take responsibility for your own problems and failures. So how about this one for starters? The Palestinian Authority is planning on naming a square in Ramallah after Dalal Mughrabi. In a 1978 terrorist act, Mughrabi murdered 36 Israelis, one American photographer and injured 71 other people. Last week Palestinians became exercised and even rioted over Netanyahu's announcement that the Cave of Machpelah in Hebron and Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem were going to be renovated and declared Jewish heritage sites. Again the issue is not that Israel is exercising sovereignty over areas it captured in the Six Day War and now controls. The larger issue is the Palestinian's unwillingness to recognize the historic Jewish connection to the land of Israel. That was the thrust of the rioters' contention. In fact too many Palestinian leaders deny that the Temple even stood in Jerusalem or that Jews have lived in the land of Israel for millennia. It would have been extraordinary if Netanyahu had challenged Palestinian leaders to renovate these historic sites together. Wouldn't it be something for the history books if Palestinians and Jews pledged to renovate these holy sites together? I imagine Israeli and Palestinian leaders could have stood together and declared, "Here our father Abraham is buried. He changed the course of history forever. We can change our history as well. Both of our peoples revere this site. We pledge to work together to guarantee the holiness of this place for all people." Ok, now I am really dreaming, but such an act could change the course of history-- forever. The issue is not so much sovereignty over Hebron or Jerusalem. The larger issue is recognizing the holiness each of us ascribes to these cities. That can be shared. Holiness should be shared.
"From the place where we are right flowers will never grow in the spring." Yehuda Amichai