Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Western Wall, Yad Vashem and a Proposal for Self Respect

Every time a political figure is brought to Israel, there seems to be a Yad Vashem photo opportunity or a visit to the Western Wall with flash bulbs blazing. I'm sick of it. The Western Wall is the last standing piece of our temple, the Beit HaMikdash. It was liberated from systematic desecration by the Jordanians in 1967. Yad Vashem is a memorial for millions without tombstones. Its sanctity is imparted by the blood of those murdered for their Jewish ancestry.
Israel is far more free than its Arab neighbours. We can't stop news photographers from snapping pictures of the latest politician from abroad trolling for votes. We can't prevent campaign managers from framing a Yad Vashem poignant sound bite on the way to Arafat's grave in Ramallah.
If someone wants to visit the Western Wall or Yad Vashem for a time of prayerful reflection let them have the opportunity.Jerusalem after all is not Mecca or Medina. All are welcome. But why can there not be an understanding that cameras are not welcome? All too many have autographed the Yad Vashem guest book and go forth with calls for "painful concessions"," risks for peace" or an end to the "cycle of violence" . Their meaningless condolences are followed by proposals that are a danger to all Jews in Israel, proposals that whet the enemy's appetite for Jewish blood.
Israel's government needs to meet with visitors from abroad to present its case in the court of world opinion. In this effort, the input of Jews from Arab countries is critical. Israeli independence was accompanied by a de facto population exchange between Israel and Its Arab neighbours. Nothing meaningful is said about something that should be reiterated and emphasised by Israel's foreign ministry.
For our self respect, there should be codes of decorum at the Western Wall and at Yad Vashem that preclude photo ops. To visitors from abroad we should offer the most extravagant hospitality in the complete absence of cameras. If visitors to Israel see in us a respect for the sacred, it will be far better for our diplomatic efforts than getting trapped into a pity contest with Palestinians.
It should understood that we want to be in our own land close to that which is sacred to us . It should be understood that many Israelis fled to Israel with nothing from countries in which they were in danger. In the future, we should state simply and honestly that we will do whatever is needed to guard our physical safety as dictated by strategic military considerations. Such resoluteness will save many lives, both Jewish and Arab as well. The time is long past to respect our holy sites and to respect ourselves.

Photo notes (1 bottom picture) at Western Wall 1898 (2 middle picture) Stone in Yad Vashem honouring towns in Czechoslovakia from which Jews were deported. (3 top picture) Jimmy Carter, at the high point of his trip to Israel visits Yasir Arafat's tomb, which is to him a holy site. Sphere: Related Content

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