(July 12, 2017 / JNS) By Stephen M. Flatow/JNS.org
The U.S. consul general in Jerusalem recently set off on the first leg of a 200-mile hike that will simultaneously promote one pro-Palestinian myth while inadvertently exploding another. That’s quite a “twofer!”
Consul General Donald Blome is an avid hiker. For some reason, he has decided to ignore Israeli hiking trails in Judea and Samaria, and instead is making his way across the “Masar Ibrahim Al-Khalil,” or the Ibrahim Path, which runs from northern Samaria to southern Judea.
The website of the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem quotes Blome as explaining that “this journey is all about exploring the connection of the people with the land.” But he’s not talking about the Jewish people, who have a 3,000-year-old connection to the land through which he is hiking. Instead, Blome has in mind the “connection” of people who only started calling themselves “Palestinians” in the 1970s and who—in many cases—are actually the descendants of Egyptian, Syrian or Lebanese Arabs who arrived in the 1920s and 1930s.
Blome began his hike in the Arab village of Rummana, north of Jenin, and will conclude in “the Old City of Hebron,” as he calls it. There will be no stops along the way in the sites that genuinely demonstrate the ancient connection between the people and the land—such as Shiloh, the first resting place of the biblical tabernacle and the center of Jewish religious life before the building of the First Temple. Nor will the consul general be visiting Beit El, where the patriarch Jacob had his famous dream of the angels ascending and descending to heaven.
Blome appears to have forgotten that the Jewish presence in that “Old City of Hebron” is a lot older than that of the Muslims. The Jewish connection dates back to Abraham’s purchase of the Cave of the Patriarchs. Muslims did not show up in the area until more than 2,000 years later.
For some reason, the U.S. consulate is determined to wipe out Jewish history in the Holy Land. I suppose one could say that’s consistent with the recent decision by UNESCO to brand the Cave of the Patriarchs a “Palestinian” historical site. But it’s not the kind of behavior we were expecting from a representative of President Donald Trump’s administration. (Blome assumed the consul general post in July 2015, during President Barack Obama’s tenure.)
While promoting one myth, however, Blome has unintentionally exposed another.
Few Americans have heard of the “Ibrahim Trail.” Based on what they read in the newspapers—and what they hear from former U.S. envoys such as Dennis Ross and Martin Indyk—the American public is led to believe that Israel “occupies” the Palestinians, “controls their movement” and “prevents their access” to neighboring communities.
Yet thousands of Palestinian hikers each year traverse the Ibrahim trail without interruption for 200 miles, proceeding “from the Masar Ibrahim Al-Khalil is a trail that runs through the West Bank from the Mediterranean olive groves of the highlands of the north to the silence of the deserts in the south, from the area west of Jenin to the area south of the Sanctuary of Abraham (known in Arabic as Al-Haram Al-Ibrahimi) in the city of (Hebron),” as the U.S. consulate’s website describes it.
Where are all the Israeli “occupation” troops? Where are the checkpoints that supposedly make the lives of Palestinians miserable? Where’s all the persecution, oppression and humiliation that we’re always reading about?
They’re nowhere to be found. The hikers aren’t stopped by Israeli soldiers. They aren’t bossed around by an Israeli military governor. That’s because way back in 1995, then Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin withdrew all of Israel’s troops from the areas where more than 98 percent of the Palestinian Arabs reside.
The hikers almost certainly won’t see any Israeli security checkpoints, because 26 of the 27 checkpoints are set up along Israel’s border with the Palestinian Authority (PA), not inside the areas the PA controls.
Giving the PA control over so much land that is steeped in Judaism and Jewish history was an extraordinary sacrifice by Israel, one that few in the international community have ever appreciated. Perhaps that is something for Blome to contemplate during the long hours of quiet reflection he will enjoy as he hikes across the land of Israel in the weeks ahead.
Stephen M. Flatow, a vice president of the Religious Zionists of America, is an attorney in New Jersey. He is the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995.