Heritage Project Reclaiming History for Israel's Youth

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HEBRON, Israel - Many of Israel's enemies are working hard to rewrite Jewish history, denying the Holocaust and pretending thousands of years of Jewish connection to this land didn't exist.
Israel's very existence as a country is anchored "first and foremost" in the country's "national and emotional legacy," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in February.

Sadly, many Israeli youngsters don't even know their own history.

Three Israeli young people shared their thoughts with CBN News on the importance of knowing their nation's history. Click here for their comments.

Teaching the Children 

"We haven't really told the story of our people of our heritage," National Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau told CBN News.
Israeli teenager Lia said she likes history but not everyone does.

"I guess most of the children don't think history is really important. They are busy on the Facebook," she said.
Israel's answer to this is the Heritage Project. It's designed to build up the country's youth with an understanding of their biblical and national legacy.
"We should know our case. We should be convinced on it and we should be prepared to defend it," Landau said.
And it doesn't come without a fight. Palestinians rioted after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu added two biblical sites in the West Bank - biblical Judea -- to the Heritage list. The Obama administration has also sharply criticized Israelis for claiming the biblcal sites as their own.

Erasing Jewish Connections
One of those sites is the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, where the biblical forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their wives are buried. But Islamic authorities insist the Jews have no history here.
Haj Zeid Al Ja'bari, general director of Islamic Religious Authorities in Hebron told reporters through a translator that he had read a verse from the Koran saying that Abraham had never been a Jew. According to Al Ja'bari, Abraham was "a Muslim, pure Muslim according to the Koran."
The Cave is divided into a Mosque and a Synagogue so each faith has a place to pray. Israel explained that its plans would improve the site for Muslims and Jews alike.
But that doesn't work for Al Ja'bari who claims this site is holy only to Muslims.
"It is a pure Muslem holy place and there is no right for non-Muslims to be here or to pray here and I'm against the presence of the Jews, even in the Old City," he said.

Prevailaing Attitudes

CBN News spoke with some young Israelis about what they thought of Hebron:
"I don't think it's important right now. It's not really history. I don't really think about it like this," Omri said.
"I think the situation is very difficult there and there are problems on both sides and for that reason I don't like to visit," Zoi said.
"Hebron? I know it's a city but I don't know anything about it," Amit said.
"It's part of our country. All the people should come there and see the history places. It's very important to us," Lia said.

Although biblical history shows the Jews were the first to lay claim to the cave, area resident Elyakim Ha'etzni believes the place should be open to all.
"So one should expect that this should be the meeting place of those three religions - the place where they embrace," Ha'Etzni said.

Denying Jewish History
Another disputed Jewish site, Rachel's tomb, is located in the West Bank town of Bethlehem. While Israeli-Palestinian agreements guarantee freedom of access and worship at both sites, Palestinian authority President Mahmoud Abbas said naming the sites as part of Israel's heritage could spark a religious war.
Netanayhu's spokesman Mark Regev said Palestinian reaction is not conducive to peace.
"To deny the importance of these sites to the Jewish people, the Jewish civilization is to deny my people's history," Regev told CBN News.
Landau points out archeaology proves that Jewish roots are more than 2,000 years deeper than Muslim roots. Now, more than $100 million will go to rehabilitate some 150 biblical and archeological, as well as modern Jewish sites.
Those sites include:

  • Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found.
  • Tel Megiddo, which overlooks the valley where many scholars believe the nations will gather for the battle of Armagedon.
  • Ceasarea where Cornelius, the first non-Jew, came to believe in Jesus.

Learning the Story

"I think it's good for those in the West who have forgotten what their fathers who knew the Bible knew that they should come here and learn the story of the Holy Land," Landau said.
Landau said attacking history is part of radical Islam's battle that is challenging the existence of the West. He said it's important for Israelis and all Westerners to know their own heritage and be prepared to defend it.
Fourteen-year-old Shira agreed.

"We can't live here without knowing the past. Every Jew needs to know why they are living here," she said.

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CBN News
Chris Mitchell and Julie Stahl

Chris Mitchell and Julie Stahl

CBN News Jerusalem Bureau

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