Respecting Our Roots

It is difficult to be shocked by anything the United Nations says or does. The organization, with its automatic pro-Arab majority, routinely singles Israel out for “human rights” abuses, is oblivious to the dangers posed to the Jewish state by Iranian nukes or Hamas tunnels and missiles, and regularly rewrites history in a way that fits the “Palestinian narrative.”

Nonetheless, the decision taken by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) just before Pesach was truly shocking, not just for what it said, but for who backed it. UNESCO’s executive board passed a motion referring to Har Habayis solely as “al-Aqsa Mosque” and the Kosel as the “al-Buraq Plaza.”

The Jewish people, this august body decided, have no historical connection to these holy sites. Only the Muslims do.

And who voted for this nonsensical “motion?” France, Spain, Sweden, Russia and Slovenia.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu responded by correctly labeling the motion “yet another absurd U.N. decision” and pointing out that “UNESCO ignores the unique historic connection of Judaism to the Temple Mount, where the two Temples stood for a thousand years and to which every Jew in the world has prayed for thousands of years. The United Nations is rewriting a basic part of human history and has again proven that there is no low to which it will not stoop.”

But lashing out at the United Nations is taking the easy way out. He’s not asking the tough questions like how did things deteriorate to the point that France, Spain and others could raise their hands in support of a motion that is an anti-Semitic fairy tale masquerading as history?

The answer, in part, comes from a terrorist by the name of Salah Taamri, who was captured by the IDF in the 1980s and imprisoned in the Ansar detention camp. This was after the IDF succeeded in driving the PLO from Beirut to Tunisia, and Taamri, a senior PLO figure, was a broken man, convinced that the Palestinian “cause” was over, that Israel had won.

Taamri was later interviewed by Aharon Barnea, a senior journalist at Yediot Aharonot, who wrote a book about him called To Be Captive.

“I concluded,” Taamri tells Barnea, “that we had no chance to overpower Israel’s financial and military prowess, and that we should make do with the crumbs that they would throw us and fold up all our flags.” But then, Taamri continued, a surprising event took place that turned everything upside down.

“My hands were holding the cold bars and I was looking from inside my dark jail cell toward the hall, where an Israeli guard was walking. I saw him from far. He was walking slowly, holding something in his hand that he would constantly bring close to his mouth … When he was close to my cell, I called to him. I saw that he was eating a pita.

“‘You are a Jew,’ I said to him. ‘Why are you eating chametz on Pesach? Don’t you know that it is forbidden for a Jew to eat chametz on this holiday?’

“‘I am not committed to the things that happened to my people during the exodus from Egypt 2,000 years ago. I have no connection to it,’ said the prison guard.

“I sat on the mattress in my cell and said to myself: A nation of people who do not have a connection with their past, who are willing to publicly desecrate the laws of their faith, is a nation that has cut off the roots from its land. We will be able to achieve our goals. On that night, my approach completely changed.

“The next morning I gathered the Palestinian leadership in the prison … I told them about my experience and the conclusions that I reached. I clarified that from that morning, we were embarking on a new course: a war for everything … For opposing us was a nation that lacked the connection to its roots; a nation not interested in its past.”

The story of Taamri and the prison guard came to mind on the eve of Pesach, when UNESCO passed its ridiculous motion and at the very same time a senior minister in Netanyahu’s cabinet felt a necessity to share with a “cultural” forum that he eats chametz on Pesach.

While it is a tragedy when any Jew does such a thing, and it pains us, it has much more devastating ramifications when a senior minister in the government of Israel does it. It shows weakness; it shows a people that “has cut off the roots from its land,” and it encourages the enemy to believe that it has a chance to win.

It is up to the prime minister to call the minister to order, not out of fear of a coalition crisis, but out of recognition of the importance of all Jews demonstrating their connection to the past, thereby ensuring their future in Eretz Yisrael.