A SPECIAL PLACE IN ARAB HISTORY
By Micah Halpern
Monday March 10, 2008
History in the Muslim Arab world, the remembrance and recording of the past, differs from history in the Western world. The Western world records past events and calls them history. The Muslim Arab world recalls myths, hopes, conspiracies and events and calls that history. In the Arab world history and memory merge into a psycho-cultural universe that informs and motivates and plots the future.
The events on the evening of Thursday March 6th, 2008 were part of a chain of events that began years earlier, late at night, on Friday August 23rd, 1929.
The eight Jewish students killed by an Arab terrorist while learning in their religious school, their yeshiva, on Thursday March 6th, 2008 were a part of history even before they were brutally gunned down and massacred. Even before their deaths these Jewish students held a special place in history - a special place in Arab history. The machine gun toting terrorist who entered the Zionist stronghold yeshiva called Merkaz HaRav Kook on that Thursday evening, the people who planned the operation and sent him there and the people who rejoiced for his having been there, were all reliving a historical memory from 1929.
They were reliving the 1929 massacre of Hebron that began in Yeshivat Hebron. They were re-enacting the massacre of other Jewish students in another religious school. The location and the act chosen for this terrorist deed were a direct outgrowth of Arab/Jewish interaction and history, a history of Arabs massacring Jews. They were reconnecting the present with their past.
It was a hot Friday night in August. The students were gathered together in their yeshiva in the city of Hebron. The Sabbath had already been ushered in - and then the massacre began. The calls for reinforcements from the one British policeman in the area went unheeded for five hours, unanswered until it was too late. When it ended, three days later, 67 Jews were dead, brutally murdered - butchered with axes and knives and swords. Those students still alive were evacuated by the British to Jerusalem.
And that massacre, the 1929 Massacre of the Students in Hebron, became the paradigm in the Arab world for removing Jews. Massacre them. Massacre them especially while they are at study in their religious schools. Massacre them today and it will lead to the Jewish evacuation of Jerusalem just as it led to the Jewish evacuation of Hebron in 1929.
In the morning, after a night of murdering Jews, Arab leaders came to the home of a man whom they respected, a prestigious, well liked teacher at the yeshiva. They had a proposal to place before Rabbi Jacob Slonim. If the rabbi were to hand over all the Ashkenazi students, the students of European birthplace, they would end the massacre and spare the lives of the Sephardic students, the students who came from Arab lands. Rabbi Slonim declined the offer. He was killed on the spot. The massacre continued.
In retrospect we can say that in the days leading up to the Hebron Massacre tensions between Arabs and Jews were high, very high, especially in Jerusalem, especially around the area of the Western Wall. In sermons delivered in area mosques and in propaganda spread in Arabic newspapers stories were told about Jews killing Arabs and about Jews taking advantage of Muslim holy sites. These messages fed the already widespread - and still growing - conspiracy theory that the Jews were engaged in what was termed "the wholesale murder of the Arabs." So the Arabs of Hebron took matters into their own hands murdering the Jews of Hebron and forcing the survivors out of their city.
Re-enactments of the Hebron Massacre of 1929 have been carried out several times over the years, but never so successfully as this last attack. In the city of Ma'alot, high up in the Galil, a horrific attack was carried out in a school. In Gaza, just before Israel evacuated, terrorists massacred a Jewish religious school as the students sat down to eat on a Saturday night. Most recently terrorists attempted to murder students in a school in the Etzion block located between Bethlehem and Hebron. Luckily, teachers thought quickly, acted more quickly and killed the terrorist.
The Arab world claims that their intention to remove Jews is steeped in history, that their desire to remove Jews today is being done "for their own safety" - just as the British did in 1929 in Hebron. In truth, Arab leaders around the world are stoking the flames of the conspiracy in order to motivate their murderers to act. That is one of the most significant reasons that the Arab world, with regular frequency, speaks of the Holocaust Israel is perpetrating on the Palestinians.
There is no Holocaust being perpetrated by Israelis or by Jews anywhere in the world upon Arabs and there are no Jewish land grabbers. If anything, the opposite is true. Jews are ceding land and Israel is pursuing peace. But that message will not motivate.
Hatred and fear motivate evil. Untruths motivate massacres. History and conspiracy theories merge.
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