MidEast Morals: Israel Has Always Guarded Everyone’s Holy Sites

Only three years ago, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS/Daesh) brought the World Heritage Site of Palmyra in central Syria to ruins. Palmyra was an ancient Semitic city with archeological findings that dated back to the second millennium BC, it was a city of great significance, a city that had been under the possession of many culturally different empires. Even with all the brutality that has been seen by the Islamic State: online beheadings, mass killings of other Muslims, genocide of the minorities of the Middle East, and many more medieval acts, the world was shocked by the destruction of this ancient site.

In the Middle East, a region of conquest and vital strategic interests, the protection of other’s ancient, historical or religious property is not a priority for most. Palmyra was just one example of the disregard for other people’s holy sites, though there are few outliers to this narrative, the major dissident is the State of Israel. In 1967, the people of Israel were faced with a noose of several Arab armies surrounding her borders. The State of Israel’s major population centers were at the mercy of Jordanian tanks, her thinnest point was only nine miles wide. In an act of self-defense, the Israelis had launched a preemptive air attack to push back all of the surrounding armies off her narrow border. While the war, known today as the Six-Day War, escalated, the Israelis were able to stop the Arab nations’ genocidal intentions to wipe Israel and her people off the map. At the end of the six miraculous days, Israel had gained important territories, and with them the ability to defend her people as well as the ability to use some of the lands to negotiate with her hostile neighbors.

At the end of the Six-Day War, immediately after the guns were put down and internal peace was restored, the Israeli government committed themselves to protecting as well as repairing all of their newly-gained holy sites. On June 27, 1967, the Israeli cabinet had set into law the “Protection of Holy Places Law,” which insured “The Holy Places shall be protected from desecration and any other violation and from anything likely to violate the freedom of access of the members of the different religions to the places sacred to them or their feelings with regard to those places.” This included the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem, which comprised of the Muslim sites of the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque. This also covered the Jewish sites that were placed in Judea and Samaria (aka the West Bank), then under Jordan’s twenty-year illegal occupation, which involves dozens of holy Jewish sites like the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron, the Tomb of Joseph in Shechem (Nablus), the Tomb of Rachel in Bethlehem and Ancient Shiloh in Tel Shiloh. Not to mention several Christian holy sites as well.

The State of Israel protects religious freedom with all her ability, even when it is unpopular because it is morally the right thing to do. In Israel, their morality and ethical values are set in stone, the course of action in which to take may be debated within Israeli society, but their judgement is wrapped in good intentions. For example, the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, the tombs of Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and Leah, the forefathers and foremothers of the Jewish people and Judaism, is today split between Jews and Muslims. The Muslims hold that this site is holy to them as well, due to the Tomb of Abraham (Ibrahim). The State of Israel protected the major holy site and gave everyone the freedom to worship there, though with rising tensions during the 1990s, the Cave of the Patriarchs was split into a Jewish side and a Muslim side. Another way of keeping the peace between the people and the protection of the site.

The Friends of Zion Museum is proud that the State of Israel, the Jewish state, protects the holy sites of all peoples. In this case, the State of Israel took immediate actions after the 1967 Six-Day War to not just protect, but rebuild damaged Synagogues, Mosques and Churches, particularly in the Old City of Jerusalem. This is the true Israel, a people of great courage and resilience whom will fight for the rights of everyone.