There is a common mantra the international leftwing and woke movement repeats over and over. – “Israel is the occupier.” While it is easy to refute such nonsense, videos and images from cities like Hebron can make it hard to assuage even veteran Israel supporters.
After all, at first glance Hebron is jarring. A little more than 1,000 Jews live among at least 150 thousand Arabs. The IDF appears to be all over the place and security barriers divide various areas. Despite the fact that the larger Jewish community of Kiryat Arba abuts Hebron, the Jewish community in Hebron can still feel isolated.
However, the images and a videos one sees from afar or the experience one has in person is not the whole picture. In fact, the heavy security presence in Hebron only exists in about 3% of the city – the area that is controlled by Israel since the Wye River Accords otherwise known as H2. The rest of the 97% of Hebron – known as H1 is officially controlled by the Palestinian Authority.
The reason for the heavy military presence in H2 is due to the pogroms, terrorism, and violence against the Jewish community in Hebron. This has gone on well before the 1967, when the Jewish people regained sovereignty in Hebron and long before 1948, when the Jewish people regained their independence.
While the international left likes to paint a distorted image of Hebron, the fact is, it is hard consider control over just 3% of a city – occupation – especially when that 3% contains residents and holy sites that have been maligned by the majority Arab population for centuries.
It is time to look at Hebron holistically and within a broader historical context instead of pigeonholing it into the same false conflict paradigm that exists within the anti-Israel leftwing.
When Mark Twain arrived in the Holy Land in 1867 he saw a barren land with few inhabitants. His depiction of Land of Israel is as follows:
“The further we went the hotter the sun got, and the more rocky and bare, repulsive and dreary the landscape became…There was hardly a tree or a shrub any where. Even the olive and the cactus, those fast friends of a worthless soil, had almost deserted the country”.
While in Jerusalem he did find connection to the spiritual, he still depicted it as hardly populated. Interestingly, according to the Ottoman census already by the 1860s the population he would have found there would have been majority Jewish. This begs the question, if the Jewish population was in the majority, how big was the Jewish Quarter over 150 years ago if the Jewish population was in the majority?
In the second half of the 19th century Jewish Jerusalem was bursting at the seams. More and more Jews were streaming to Jerusalem and the surrounding areas. So much so, that by the 1880s Jews started venturing outside the walls of Jerusalem for the first time.
The Jewish population lived throughout today’s Old City and beyond. There were Jews in abundance by the Flowers Gate in the North as well as in today’s Christian Quarter. What is known as El Khaladia Street in today’s Muslim Quarter was the main street of the Jewish population.
However, this began to change when the British took over the Holy Land as they employed the quarter system we are all used to today. In the years between 1917 and 1948 a series of Arab pogroms occurred with little resistance from British authorities. This decimated the Jewish population and pushed back to the current Jewish Quarter, which was extinguished in 1948 when the Jordanian were able to take control Jerusalem’s Old City for 19 years.
Upon liberating Jerusalem in 1967, Israel reestablished what is today known as the Jewish Quarter, but kept the erroneous four quarters the British had instituted. Unfortunately this gives a false impression that Jews only lived in that area.
In order for the Jewish people to have an authentic and honest connection to their ancestral homeland, they need a very real historical account of Jerusalem. That includes fact that most of the “Christian and Muslim Quarters” were in fact Jewish not so long ago.
The path to self awareness and inner connection weaves through the darkness of our world. It requires us to recalibrate the balance between our soul and our bodies.
We are always descending within the darkness of the physical world. It is that descent, that confusion we find in our lives that we must abandon in order to rise up to the path of the light. This is the path of the Creator, who is hidden in all of Creation. Yet, until find the true Tzaddik, the loop that was forged at the time of our birth in this world will continue.
We rise only to fall – fall only to rise. We hold onto our false sense of self because we are too afraid to move forward. This is the job of the Tzaddik – to show us our own way. It is the path most carved out for each of us that allows us the comfort to let go of all of the false perceptions we have packed into our mind.
When we let go – we find ourselves and the body is once more ruled by the soul.
We all want to be set free – to move on from our quagmire of doubt. But how do we leave our exile when the negativity of our past keeps haunting us holding us back? The key is to let go of the faults and hangups from our past and move forward to real self awareness.
The world seems so upside down? Good people don’t seem to get break, and evil reigns supreme. Why? Doesn’t G-D care? Why did he create such an upside down world? Rebbe Nachman’s story – the Exchanged Children delves into the root of our confusion and exile.
A few years ago I attended a high level meeting of pro Igbo Jewish activists, Rabbinic leaders, and political connectors in Jerusalem to discuss how real the Igbo claim of Israelite heritage and if so what was there to do about it.
No real press was allowed at the meeting and in many ways, although we reached some fascinating conclusions and a desire to help – nothing came of it.
There are approximately 30 million Igbo in southeastern Nigeria. Most identify with some sort of Hebraic connection, however those who follow mainstream halachic Judaism are few yet growing. A larger percentage – perhaps the majority, follow a Seventh Day Adventist approach to Christianity, which leans far more to a Hebrew Roots style of worship that appears on the outside to be very Jewish, despite a clinging to a different “messiah.”
The real connection the Igbo have to Israel is not with modern Judaism, but rather a form of actualized Israelite customs that our own sojourning relegated to memory. The bandwidth of laws that are similar to what we see in the Bible as well as familiar ones like Brit Milah, basic Kashrut, and Shabbat is astounding. Whether these came out from a need to connect to the Judaism they saw in the Bible centuries ago, or are an accurate expression of Israelite connection doesn’t matter – the Igbo not only believe, but have a deep culture of practice of the traditions called Omenana – “What you do in the Land.”
With this backdrop, Rudy Rochman, a pro Israel and indigenous rights activist as well as two others went to Africa to film emerging African Jewish communities, eventually finding themselves in Nigeria with the Igbo. Unfortunately for them, the Nigerian DSS associated their work with the free Biafra movement (a loose confederation of pro Biafran separatists sometimes connected to the Igbo).
Despite differences, Nigeria increasingly sees the Igbo movement for greater Hebraic awareness and the Biafran independence movement as growing more and more interconnected. Nigerian President Buhari, is a known radical Muslim who hates the Igbo. Unknown to them, the three Jewish filmmakers essentially walked into a far more complicated and dangerous situation than they assumed existed. Unfortunately they are still being held weeks later.
Despite the frustration and the danger Rudy, David, and Noam are in, their captivity may be part of something larger, a trigger for a wider redemptive awareness. While it is true, we as Israel don’t have the vessels or ability to sift through the myriad claims of connection from around the world, our awareness of a far larger purpose to our homecoming is necessary.
The Jewish return to the Land of Israel is a mere first step to a global redemption. It is not surprising since we liberated the Biblical Heartland and Jerusalem in 1967 that a tremendous awakening is now underway around the world. This awakening may not mesh with our assumption of what the Lost Tribes or the next stage of Redemption would be like, but that is only because our awakening is one of acceptance to something far greater than our exilic imagination permitted.
From the Pashtun in Afghanistan to the Igbo in Nigeria or the individual Christians who for whatever reason desire to return to the path of the Torah to the Bnei Menashe of East India, there is a sense that something profound is unfolding. Our assumption has been that in order to reach Redemption we in Israel only need to strengthen in following G-D’s will as found in the Torah and conquer the Land of Israel. What happens if the there is a another layer?
We know that the Redemption at the End of Days will be global – like a pebble dropped into a pond, the resulting splash has a center point, but radiates outward. This is what we are seeing now amongst the Igbo, the Abudaya in Uganda, and the Lemba in Zimbabwe. Are they Israelites? Not clear and nor does it matter – their attachment to the One G-D of Israel is what may tip the balance between darkness and light.
Perhaps Rudy and his friends are just some naive Jewish filmmakers or perhaps their captivity is a message for all of us that we have a responsibility to not only set them free, but to actually take the Igbo far more seriously than we currently do thus helping to release them from captivity as well. The Redemption just might depend on it.
Learn about Rudy’s Film here.
Sometimes we fall so much we cannot see through the darkness that has become our lives. Our vision has become blinded from our own doubts – our own fears.
This is why we must strive for actualized Emunah – activated faith. When we see that the Creator’s will fills up and permeates all things and all things are in fact a reflection of the Creator’s unity, then our fear and confusion will dissipate. All experiences are messages from the Creator to us and each one of our experiences is unique.
We do not need to fear the unknown, but rather embrace the daily rush of events thrown at us by seeing the world through the prism of Emunah.