We now have a cease-fire in the recent war between Israel and Hamas. This was a violent and horrific conflict that presented an existential threat to Israel.
The Israel Defense Forces’ response to the unprovoked onslaught of thousands of Hamas rockets, including some aimed at Tel Aviv, was to destroy as much as possible of Hamas’ military assets, including over 100 kilometers of tunnels, rocket launchers, command posts, Hamas terrorist chiefs and electronic intelligence sites, one of which was the al-Jala tower, housing the Associated Press and Al-Jazeera.
The Israeli air force warned residents to get out. This is the general policy of the IDF, in order to avoid Palestinian civilian casualties as much as possible. Unfortunately, Hamas hides its military infrastructure in civilian environments because they know that civilian casualties are their strong point in the propaganda war against Israel.
Hamas political chief Ismail Haniyeh, speaking in Qatar, said, “Jerusalem and al-Aqsa Mosque form the basis of the struggle.”
Prior to Hamas’ rocket attacks on Israel, there was rioting on the Temple Mount, or what Muslims call the Noble Dome (atop the Haram al-Sharif), where the al-Aqsa Mosque is situated. The Temple Mount, as we Jews call it, is the site of the first Temple, built by King Solomon, and the Second Temple, built by the Jewish returnees from the Babylonian exile (Chronicles II, 36:21-23).
Ostensibly, the rioting on the Temple Mount was due to the imminent eviction of Palestinians from a “few plots of land” in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, which has had Jewish ownership dating back to 1875. Jordan invaded that part of Jerusalem in 1948 and evicted all the Jewish residents.
The Palestinian eviction case is now before the Israeli Supreme Court. Four of the Palestinian defendants are squatters, and the other four are descendants of tenants who have never paid any rent. The deputy mayor of Jerusalem pointed out that these Palestinians were offered very attractive alternatives, but turned down the offers because the Palestinian leadership wanted to politicize the issue and incite the Palestinians against Israel and Jewish control of Jerusalem.
This incitement was successful. The Jordanian Islamic Waqf has spiritual control of the al-Aqsa site, but Israel has security control. Tensions are very high there.
One of the main motives of the Hamas rocket onslaught was to whip up the Arab street. But, in the end, Hamas was not as successful as they thought they would be. The Abraham Accords, signed during the Trump presidency, have held up. These were normalization agreements between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan.
But, shockingly and surprisingly, Israeli Arab youths, enraged by the supposed sacrilege at the al-Aqsa Mosque, and the counterattack on Gaza, went on rampages in Acre, Lod and Haifa. This has very serious implications: What is stripped bare now is the essentials of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, that Israel as a Jewish state is not wanted.
The land of Israel has a history dating back thousands of years, a history of Jewish blood and toil, of Zionism, of the Jewish people’s return to Zion, as expressed in King David’s Psalm 9:12: “Sing praises to the Lord Who dwells in Zion, declare His works among the nations.”
In contrast to this, we have the Washington Post printing an inflammatory piece by Noura Erakat and Mariam Barghouti, both Palestinians. Erakat is a human-rights lawyer and professor at Rutgers University, while Barghouti is a Palestinian writer. They assert that Israel is a colonialist project, that Israel removed Palestinians from their native land in 1948, and is doing so again now.
This is a false Palestinian narrative. Palestinian residence in the Holy Land doesn’t begin until the early 20th century. The British were the colonialists, the Jews the rightful inheritors of the land of their forefathers, of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Of Moses, who received the Torah on Mount Sinai, of Joshua, who led the conquest of Canaan.
Our Rabbinic leaders, such as Maimonides (Rambam), arrived in Jerusalem in 1166. Nachmandides (Ramban) established a synagogue there in 1267. The Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Hasidism, and the Vilna Gaon, the leading rabbinic authority of the great Talmudic academies of Europe, arrived in Jerusalem in 1780 and 1808, respectively.
We have no apologies to make. Peace with the Palestinians begins with them recognizing our rights to the land. Our responsibility is to recognize that the Palestinians are our neighbors, and that therefore they have mutual rights.
The peace of Jerusalem is its holy nature. In that holiness a compromise with the Palestinians may be possible.
Moses Mordecai Twersky of Providence has a master's degree in American history from Providence College. He is a scion of the Chernobyl Belz Makarov Hasidic rabbinical dynasty.