July 13, 2017
Dear Friend of Israel,
Hebron, located about 20 miles south of Jerusalem, is the site of the oldest sustained Jewish community in the world. The Cave of the Patriarchs, one of the holiest sites in Judaism and the burial place of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, and Leah, is located here. David was anointed King of Israel in Hebron. The city is rich in Jewish history.
Today, the city is also divided, the majority of it under Palestinian control. Jews left Hebron in 1929, after Arabs murdered 67 of their Jewish neighbors, but today, a revitalized Jewish community in Hebron numbers in the hundreds. Jews continue to visit the Cave of the Patriarchs – located in the Israeli portion of the city – but they do so under the protective watch of the Israel Defense Forces.
Last week, UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, voted to designate the core of Hebron’s old city, including the Cave of the Patriarchs, a Palestinian World Heritage Site. It is just the latest in a series of decisions on some of Judaism’s holiest sites that amount to little more than attempts to undermine Israel and rewrite history.
Israel and the U.S. expressed their strong opposition to the resolution. U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley called it “an affront to history.” Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu decried the “delusional” decision, and reminded the world, “It is only in those places where Israel is, such as Hebron, that freedom of religion for all is ensured.”
Indeed, UNESCO contends that the Cave of the Patriarchs needs to be “protected” from “violations” of “the occupation” – meaning Israel. What a bitter irony: By denying Israel’s claims to the site, UNESCO has taken yet another swipe at the only nation in the Middle East with a proven record of protecting the holy sites of all faiths.
Even as the U.N. tries time and again to rewrite history, I remember the words of Moses as he addressed his people: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6).
Friends, let us be strong and courageous. The U.N. may continue to pursue its anti-Israel vendetta, but Israel’s claim to the Holy Land is not based on the decision of any world governing body. God has not forsaken the Jewish state. We must remain as certain of Israel’s future as we are of her past. That past, a past we see so richly displayed in Hebron, is a story written by God Himself – and the future, too, is in His sovereign hands.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President