This year’s overlap of Christmas and Chanukah brought startlingly different, but ultimately connected, developments overseas. In Nigeria, word of five suicide bombs by an extremist Muslim sect murdering and maiming Christians at prayer, and wiping out whole families, cast a pall on many of the faithful. Meanwhile, archaeologists working in Ir David—the ancient neighborhood adjacent to Jerusalem’s Old City Temple Mount/Dome of the Rock, announced a discovery validating the historicity of a heritage central to Jews but also important to Christians.
Bearing two Aramaic words meaning “pure for G-d,” a rare, coin-sized clay seal was found not far from the site of the Beit Hamikdash – Holy Temple where Judaism’s holiest rituals were practiced until it was destroyed by the Romans two thousand years ago.
The seal of ritual certification was similar to the seal on a jar of untainted oil that the Maccabees--heroes of the Hanukah story--were so desperately looking for when they secured the Holy Temple from the occupying Greeks. Such seals were likely in use when Jewish pilgrims came to visit the Holy Temple. Such discoveries deepen the connection to the past for today’s religious pilgrims to Jerusalem, Christians as well as Jews.
For Jewish families, the seal’s discovery also serves as another concrete confirmation of Judaism’s near-miraculous continuity and of our people’s millennial-old link to David’s City.
Unfortunately, Palestinians loathe such discoveries. Because the seal with the words, “pure for G-d”, also debunk the lies of a global campaign of religious-and-historical Denial spawned by the Palestinian leadership. Simply put, the Palestinians insist that today’s Jews and have no authentic connection to the Holy Land dating back to the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, or to the biblical Prophets and Kings of Israel.
Indeed, the serial denial of the Jewish people’s legitimacy is the one core issue that Palestinian President Mohammed Abbas and the Muslim Fundamentalist Hamas can agree upon.
Even as Abbas steps up his efforts to merge his Fatah Movement with the Muslim Fundamentalist Hamas—whose founding Charter fuses traditional religious anti-Semitism with the secular, genocidal Jew hatred of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion—Abbas’ Palestinian Authority has accelerated its broader campaign to expunge Jewish history and identity from the Holy Land.
Leveraging the voting muscle of Arab and Muslim states at the UN, a committee of the United Nations’ Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), recast as a mosque, the iconic Rachel’s Tomb near Bethlehem—recognized by Christians as well as Muslim for centuries as a venerable Jewish site.
The Palestinians’ historical amnesia about Jewish roots also extends to archaeological evidence of King David and King Solomon’s ties to Holy City. This is a radical break from the Islamic past when Muslim recognition of the Jews’ sacred connection to Jerusalem and its holy sites was traced back to the Caliph Omar in the seventh century and extended all the way up to 1953 when the Supreme Muslim Council’s guide to Al-Haram Al- Sharif (The Temple Mount) declared: “It’s identity with the site of Solomon’s Temple is beyond dispute.”
In his ‘historic’ speech before the U.N. General Assembly seeking international recognition for a unilaterally declared Palestinian State, used the world stage to invoke the ‘Holy Land’ as the place from where the prophet Mohammed ascended to heaven and where Jesus was born, but pointedly omitted any reference to Abraham, Moses, King David or Jeremiah. Not a hint of censure from the diplomats representing 192 nations.
Hand-in-hand with the historic amnesia, is the Palestinian Authority promotion of classic anti-Semitism. Evidence the recent article, published in the UNESCO-funded Palestinian youth magazine, Zayzafouna. In it, a ten-year-old Palestinian girl is purported to have had adream in which Hitler told her, “Yes. I killed them [the Jews] so you would all know that they are a nation who spreads destruction all over the world.” Brought to international attention by Palestinian Media Watch, nothing was done about the article until a protest by the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the United States ambassador, forced UNESCO to end its funding of the magazine. But the hatred remains— fuelled by a mixture of hateful secular and religious ideologies.
As events in 2011 proved, the international community’s silence over campaigns of religion-inspired hatred, won’t bring peace to Jews and Arabs in the Holy Land, or restore Christmas as a public holiday in Gaza, nor protect Copts in Egypt, Catholics in Nigeria, or Christians in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Silence only fuels the spread of more toxic bigotry in the name of G-d.
We can only hope and pray that in 2012, democratic governments, international agencies and NGOs will finally find the step up and construct a firewall of truth and civility to protect the faithful and their right to a future.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper is associate Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles.