Tishrei 20, 5766, 23 October 05
by Ellen W. Horowitz
"An official Vatican newspaper has reported that during his
upcoming visit to the Vatican, President Moshe Katsav will sign an
agreement giving parts of David's Tomb over to papal control."
Times reported that Israel will hand over control of
the reputed room of Jesus' last supper, in a building on Mount Zion
in Jerusalem. In return, a historic synagogue in Toledo, Spain,
which became a church after the Inquisition...."
Journal of Greater Los Angeles
"Throw in a Mary Magdelen rookie card, and you've got a
(Reaction on blogsite j-walkblog.com)
I had a privileged upbringing, and with it came the opportunity to
travel, see and study my share of art, history and culture. I've
beheld man-made structures that are both magnificent and imposing.
I've viewed the ceiling of the Sistine chapel and have been inside
of the Dome of the Rock (just don't tell the Waqf). And this Jew
can say with full confidence that I find nothing intrinsically holy
in grand architecture or in the finest wood, stone, mosaic or iron
work - no matter how glorious. In fact - in all of their grandeur -
domed ceilings, marble flooring and decorative pillars leave me a
For a Jew, a simple canvas structure standing in Eretz
, and filled with the joy of those observing the
of Succot, should win the holiness contest
hands-down when juxtaposed against the most magnificent of
historical synagogues in Toledo, Spain. And yet, it appears that
years of immersion in the material, and exile from the spiritual,
has sapped the ability of the Jewish people to perceive and value
that which is sacred.
Our friends the Evangelicals seem to have a good grasp of the
importance of the Holy Land, and the Catholics are willing to
exchange prime church real estate and an architectural masterpiece
for the upper room of a rather relatively non-descript building.
But some Israelis will sell their very souls in order to secure
dubious diplomatic alliances, fill the nation's coffers with
tourist dollars, and to curry a bit of favor with the Pope.
I find it upsetting that upon reporting the swap, the Catholic
, at www.cathnews.com/news/510/70.php
failed to make mention of the fact that the building on Mt. Zion
involved in the purported deal not only currently houses a vibrant
yeshiva, but is also the traditional location of the Tomb of King
I find it disturbing that, according to Vatican
a Catholic Mass celebrating the Last Supper will be heard in the
upper room of a place that, at present, echoes with the sounds of
Torah learning and Jewish prayer.
And I find it nauseating that a number of Diaspora Jews who will
spend their last suppers in exile, in some treif
restaurant, are intent on deciding my future here in Eretz
According to an article, "The Vatican and Its
, which appeared back in February on Arutz Sheva, it
seems some well-heeled, well-respected Jews (some Torah observant
among them) have been pushing for this "historic" deal with the
Vatican. If this is the case, then you should surely pay a visit to
in order to see to see who's who behind this latest sacrilege (I
think you'll be surprised).
But it appears that the unholy roots of this scandal are home-grown
and began back in 1998, when the negotiations over the room first
commenced. By September 2004, then-Interior Minister, Avraham
Poraz, met with the Pope and endorsed the Vatican 's request to
assume control of the area of the Old City where David's Tomb is
located (I believe that's the same Avraham Poraz who worked so hard
to legalize the sale of pork here in Israel).
Now you can be sure that there are plenty of academic and
archeological experts who will try to assuage any anxiety over
this, G-d forbid, upcoming swap by insisting that the actual Tomb
of King David is elsewhere in Jerusalem.
Rather than forcefully address the actual matters at hand, there
are some rabbinic leaders who will choose to skirt the issue by
engaging in hair-splitting debates over the location of the tomb.
Gentlemen, please! I stopped worrying about split-ends when I
turned 18, and moved on to far more pressing concerns - like the
territorial integrity of the Land of Israel.
With all of the rantings over our recent failures at securing Gush
Katif and certain communities in Samaria, there are some activist
leaders who will, once again, miss the boat by failing to take note
of this issue and vigorously protest. They may not comprehend that
Jerusalem is on the line, nor realize how important it is to unite,
raise a public outcry, and apply immense pressure on President
Katsav before his November 17th trip to Rome. They may choose not
to, because some of our top activists and organizations are
themselves currying favor and funds from various Christian groups
and are afraid to make waves or poison the relationship. This issue
should be at the top of our agenda and is cause for all
Torah-observant Jews to unite together, as well as with those of
our people with any sense of self-respect and Jewish history. I
wonder how Katsav's speechwriter, the religiously observant Yaakov
Ma'or, will handle his duties without compromising his
For the record, please know that I have contacted Rabbi Goldstein
of the Diaspora Yeshiva (which is housed in the building on Mt.
Zion involved in the purported swap), and he has fully sanctioned
our protesting at this time.
While many of us have been fully engaged in the battle against the
physical threat to our nation, we must remember that there is an
equally critical battle taking place over our very souls.
Missionary activity abounds in Israel and there is something of a
land grab taking place by various Christian interest groups. But
make no mistake, as it's we Israelis who have encouraged,
strengthened and established relationships at any cost. By making
generous offers to the few "friends" we have, or would like to
have, we've invited and created another very real threat to our
Religious Christian influence in the Jewish state is growing by
leaps and bounds. According to an October 20th article in the
, the Jerusalem Post
will soon be introducing
a monthly Christian edition. And Haaretz
that plans are in the works to develop an evangelical Christian
center on 125 acres (500 dunams) of prime Lake Kinneret real
estate. It's described as a mini-Israel of sorts, which may include
a Biblical theme park and will provide Christians with a sense that
"Jesus lived here". But anyone who has toured the Galilee region
will tell you that the point has already been made.
If spiritual concerns aren't your thing, then at least consider the
following: relinquishing control of buildings to the Church has, in
the past, placed our soldiers in precarious situations and our
government in a diplomatic mine field. Recall that for almost six
weeks in 2002 Palestinian terrorists were holed up in the Church of
the Nativity in Bethlehem. There was an impossible and ridiculous
standoff, which ended with the terrorists being sent to hotels in
Europe. And need I remind anyone of the dangers and logistical
nightmare we face with the Muslim Waqf in control of the Temple
Am I being overly sensitive? Before I wrote this piece, I asked
myself that question and called my rabbi for a reality check. After
hearing the details, he laughed the kind of laugh which I'm sure
Rabbi Akiva laughed upon seeing the foxes on Har HaBayit
(the Temple Mount). He suggested that I write the strongest piece
possible, but advised that I remain dignified. He said "dignified",
but he didn't say "diplomatic" (that gives me a bit of leeway,
So, friends, Romans (I'll get to countrymen soon), lend me your ear
- and please understand that when you're in Israel, we welcome you
as our guests. We have excellent tourist facilities, archeological
and religious sites, museums, stunning vistas, restaurants and
places of entertainment. We will protect your body with the best
security forces and apparatus in the world. And we will provide for
your soul by ensuring open access to sufficient sites that are
sacred to all religions. We ask in return that you accept and
respect the Jewish nature of our state and our need to keep it that
President Katsav, members of our diplomatic corps, members of
Knesset and Diaspora do-gooders: when in Rome, remember who you are
and the obligations you have to your people. Ensure the integrity
of our land, Torah and heritage. You are public servants
representing the Jewish nation, not slaves beholden to any foreign
power. A little self-respect is called for. We don't have to pay
any tribute to Rome, but they may owe us something (like some of
the items hidden away in those underground vaults of theirs).
And please keep in mind that building fences to protect our
spiritual self-preservation is as important and as legitimate as
constructing fences to protect our physical well-being.
That means that no matter how overwhelmingly impressive you find
the pomp, ceremony and architectural achievements of an oval
office, Vatican complex, or synagogue-turned-church in Toledo,
there is nothing more valuable or precious than the Land of Israel.
It is simply not to be swapped, sold or surrendered.
"For Your servants have cherished her stones and favor her
(From the words of King David, Psalms 102:15)
[Thank you to Yisrael Medad for bringing this issue to my attention
and for his research assistance.]
The writer is the author of The Oslo Years: A
Mother's Journal. The book is available through retailers listed