The Israeli President Had Every Reason to Celebrate Hanukkah in Hebron

On the first night of Hanukkah, President Isaac Herzog—a former leader of the Labor party—visited the city of Hebron to take part in a public menorah lighting at the cave of the Machpelah, traditionally held to be the resting place of the biblical matriarchs and patriarchs. Because Hebron was occupied by Jordan between 1948 and 1967, and because its Jewish population tends toward the Zionist religious right, the move was roundly condemned by left-wing Israeli leaders, and their criticisms echoed in the Western media. Jerold Auerbach comments offers some context:

Currently, 700 Hebron Jews inhabit a tiny, enclosed, and shabby neighborhood surrounded by 200,000 Muslims in the modernized and prosperous Arab sector. Indeed, Jews are outnumbered by Arabs in their own constricted quarter. The notion that Hebron Arabs live under the rule of Jewish “settlers” is a striking demonstration of ignorance and bias.

The millennia-old Hebron Jewish community was destroyed in 1929 by Arab rioters who rampaged through the Jewish Quarter, savagely murdering men, women, and children because they were Jews. Three children under the age of five were slaughtered, one of whom had his head torn off. Teenage girls, mothers, and grandmothers were raped. Yeshiva students had their throats slit. Sixty-seven Jews were brutally murdered; six synagogues were desecrated; dozens of Torah scrolls were mutilated. Not until Israel’s victory in the 1967 Six-Day War nearly four decades later did Jews begin to return to live in their ancient holy city.

The irrefutable facts of Jewish history affirm Herzog’s choice of the Machpelah burial site to light the first Hanukkah candle.

Read more at JNS

More about: Hanukkah, Hebron, Isaac Herzog, Israeli politics


When It Comes to Peace with Israel, Many Saudis Have Religious Concerns

Sept. 22 2023

While roughly a third of Saudis are willing to cooperate with the Jewish state in matters of technology and commerce, far fewer are willing to allow Israeli teams to compete within the kingdom—let alone support diplomatic normalization. These are just a few results of a recent, detailed, and professional opinion survey—a rarity in Saudi Arabia—that has much bearing on current negotiations involving Washington, Jerusalem, and Riyadh. David Pollock notes some others:

When asked about possible factors “in considering whether or not Saudi Arabia should establish official relations with Israel,” the Saudi public opts first for an Islamic—rather than a specifically Saudi—agenda: almost half (46 percent) say it would be “important” to obtain “new Israeli guarantees of Muslim rights at al-Aqsa Mosque and al-Haram al-Sharif [i.e., the Temple Mount] in Jerusalem.” Prioritizing this issue is significantly more popular than any other option offered. . . .

This popular focus on religion is in line with responses to other controversial questions in the survey. Exactly the same percentage, for example, feel “strongly” that “our country should cut off all relations with any other country where anybody hurts the Quran.”

By comparison, Palestinian aspirations come in second place in Saudi popular perceptions of a deal with Israel. Thirty-six percent of the Saudi public say it would be “important” to obtain “new steps toward political rights and better economic opportunities for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.” Far behind these drivers in popular attitudes, surprisingly, are hypothetical American contributions to a Saudi-Israel deal—even though these have reportedly been under heavy discussion at the official level in recent months.

Therefore, based on this analysis of these new survey findings, all three governments involved in a possible trilateral U.S.-Saudi-Israel deal would be well advised to pay at least as much attention to its religious dimension as to its political, security, and economic ones.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Islam, Israel-Arab relations, Saudi Arabia, Temple Mount