by Sarah Honig
When US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was here last and reproved
us with a sanctimonious schoolmarm's sternness, she pro-forma
professed to genuinely believe that Jews unlawfully seized "Arab
Jerusalem." To facilitate Washington's self-serving cockamamie
"two-state vision," it's therefore incumbent upon Jewish trespassers
to renounce what isn't theirs, and certainly not construct more
housing for more unwanted Jews.
But I bet anything that self-righteous Condi never heard of Rabbi
Kalonymus the Miracle Maker (Kalonymus Ba'al Ha-ness). He's my direct
ancestor. Until 1948, a massive mound of stones marked his final
resting place on the Mount of Olives' slopes. The Arabs smashed all
that. What was once a conspicuous landmark is now gone. But does
unbridled vandalism grant Arabs an unassailable deed of ownership?
MY FATHER'S family knew for sure of at least two illustrious
forebears' graves in this country. One was of Rabbi Elazar Rokeach,
the Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Amsterdam, to whom we trace our lineage
directly, generation-by-generation, without omission. He left
everything to live in Safed, where he died and was buried in 1741 - a
full 35 years before American independence.
Kalonymus Haberkasten, another of my paternal grandmother's direct and
indisputable forefathers, headed the Ashkenazi community of Jerusalem
over 200 years before Rabbi Elazar left Holland to settle in the
Galilee. Kalonymus died in Jerusalem in 1550, and was reputed to have
been the holy Ari's teacher.
But his greatest renown came from having saved the then-Sephardi
Eliyahu Hanavi Synagogue from the bloody consequences of a blood
libel. On the last Saturday before Passover, neighboring Arabs dumped
the body of a young boy at the synagogue and charged that Jews had
baked matzos with his blood - a popular calumny that originated in
1144 in Norwich England and for spurious spin-offs of which many Jews
in diverse corners of the world were to pay with their lives for
centuries. Somehow my great-great-great…great grandfather Kalonymus
pulled off his day's counterpart of a forensic whodunit-sensation,
proved the accusers' deceit and foiled the rioters.
THOSE OF us not big on miracles can skip the details. Suffice it to
say that tradition ascribes the rescue of congregants and synagogue to
Kalonymus, and that he was revered equally by Ashkenazim and
Sephardim. His bold feat had become a staple of Jerusalem folklore.
The 3,000-year-old Jewish...
The 3,000-year-old Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives, where
tombstones were ripped out for maximal ethnic cleansing.
But Kalonymus didn't savor his victory. He berated himself for having
violated the Sabbath in the course of performing his miracle. To
punish himself he requested that no tombstone be erected atop his
grave. He was interred on the lower mountain gradient, near Rabbi
Ovadia of Bertinoro (the "Bartenura"), and ordinary Jerusalemites
passing by would always place stones on his unmarked grave. Over the
centuries this folksy homage grew to considerable proportions and was
visible from afar.
That was the case until 1948, when Arab occupiers ransacked and
defiled the Eliyahu Hanavi synagogue (along with 57 others), ripped
out tombstones from the 3,000-year-old Mount of Olives Jewish cemetery
and used them to construct public latrines - the ultimate humiliation
and desecration. At that time they also savagely pulled down the giant
stack of stones piled up as Kalonymus's marker during almost 400
years. This was maximal ethnic cleansing, deliberately calculated to
purge Jerusalem of its Jewish past and pretend it was never anything
but Arab. So what if Jews constituted the largest ethnic group in
Jerusalem as far back as the first available testimonies and records
of the earliest decades of the 19th century (borne out by noted
travelers like Richardson, Carne and Scholtz)?
THE FIRST official census of 1844 showed 7,130 Jews and 5,760 Muslims.
By 1875 the number of Jews exceeded 12,000 and the Muslims increased
to 7,560. By the 20th century the Jewish majority was incontrovertible
- 45,000 Jews and 12,000 Muslims in 1909. On the eve of the 1948 Arab
contravention of the UN Partition Resolution and the Arab Legion's
illegal occupation of east Jerusalem, the city included some 100,000
Jews and 36,680 Muslims.
That year, 1948, the Jordanians occupied east Jerusalem illegally.
They stayed for 19 years, destroyed 58 synagogues, sadistically
despoiled the ancient incomparable Jewish pantheon on the Mount of
Olives and denied Jews the right to pray at the Western Wall. But
there was no global outrage until, in 1967's Six Day War, Israel undid
the Arab illegality (only following extreme belligerent provocation).
The Arabs' 19-year illegality is now perceived as the legality that
must be restored. Arab conquest and barbarism must be rewarded and
recognized by all decent observers as the status quo ante. Hence it's
forbidden to develop the Ma'ale Hazeitim neighborhood adjacent to
Ras-el-Amud and the cemetery that was Jewish for three millennia.
Condi surely cannot fathom the meaning of 3,000 years. For her and her
like, Jews lost their rights to the Mount when Arabs uprooted its
Jewish life near the site that housed the Jewish dead - before the
collective memories of assorted admonishing Condis ever began - will,
asserts Condi, impede peace. She doesn't care that Ma'ale Hazeitim is
located on land purchased by Jews (Moshe Weinberg and Nissan Bek) in
the 19th century.
Irresponsible Israeli politicians - and this didn't start with the
corrupt Sharon and his sleazy sidekick and heir Olmert - managed in
their scandalous ineptitude to acknowledge the cynical equivalence
between Israeli settlements and Arab suicide-bombers or rocket
barrages on innocent families. Inimical foreign statesmen - out to
further their interests at our existential expense - deem both
home-construction and indiscriminate attacks as identical "obstacles
Imbecilely, Israeli hotshots imbibe and regurgitate the lie that the
Land of Israel doesn't belong to Israel and that Jewish revival in the
Jewish homeland is sinful occupation. Israel's own misguided
headliners have put settlements into deep freeze. So why the ceaseless
squawk and the relentless bad press abroad? It's mostly about
Jerusalem. Israeli incompetents helped demonize settlements and, by
delegitimizing them, thereby also rendered entire Jerusalem quarters
The bottom line is that it's no longer permissible by the
international community's insincere criteria to build homes for Jews
in Jerusalem. The presence in Jerusalem of Kalonymus and his like has
been effectively erased. The Jewish state's own defeatism helps paint
Jews as latecoming interlopers in the cradle of their nationhood, as
usurpers who displaced supposedly indigenous Arabs, who - according to
truth-slaying historical revisionism - had once comprised the majority.
The truth lies buried with Kalonymus - shamed and disgraced - in a
grave as unmarked and as forgotten as his.