In 2000, Yisrael Hasson flew to Camp David. It was the twilight days of Ehud Barak’s premiership, and the Labor Party leader was making one last-ditch effort at reaching a peace deal with Yasser Arafat.
Just two months earlier, Hasson had lost out on the race to become the new head of the Shin Bet (Israel Secu- rity Agency), where he had become its deputy director after serving for 23 years. Despite skipping him over, Barak asked Hasson to join the Israeli negotiation team. Hasson was an expert on Jerusalem, and the Israeli capital was about to become one of most contentious issues on the Camp David table.
Ahead of the summit, Hasson toured the Old City and studied every nook and cranny to try to come up with a plan as viable as possible on how to divide the city, if a deal would be reached. Just as important, he spent days pouring over ancient Islamic texts where he found various references to Jerusalem and the Haykal Sulayman, Arabic for Solomon’s Temple.
Hasson recalled these experiences this week in the wake of another shameful resolution adopted by UNESCO, which once again ignored Judaism’s ties to the Temple Mount. Today though, Hasson is no longer just an ex-negotiator. He is the head of the Israel Antiqui- ties Authority, and the man to whom many Israelis are looking to provide evidence that can refute UNESCO’s claims.
“Then and today, the debate over Jerusalem has always been mixed with ignorance and evilness,” Hasson recalled this week. “The Palestinians used to tell me: ‘Prove to us that the Temple was really there’. I would say to them: ‘Our faith is not up for negotiation’.”
I spoke to Hasson on Wednesday just hours after the UNESCO vote, and coincidentally, after the Antiquities Authority announced the discovery of an ancient papyrus written in Hebrew and dating back to the Kingdom of Judah in the seventh century BCE, the period of the First Temple. The papyrus has “Jerusalem” written on it, in what is the earliest extra-biblical source mentioning the Jewish capital in Hebrew.
“All around us there are attempts by different people and organizations to erase history and culture,” Hasson told me. “It started with the Taliban and ISIS’s destruction in Iraq and Syria. UNESCO is trying to do the same, just by diplomatic efforts.”
Hasson claimed that the announcement regarding the discovery of the papyrus coincidentally fell on the same day as the UNESCO vote, and that it had been scheduled months before to coincide with an academic conference. But, he said, the point got across.
“The more we dig throughout Israel, the more we find scientific support of our historical roots in this land,” he said. “I have yet to find proof of Palestinian roots to the land.”
Hasson is right that UNESCO should be ashamed of itself, but so should some of the countries that Israel tends to view as its friends and allies. By giving a hand to the UNESCO resolution, other Western countries where Christianity is the primary faith are supporting the dele- tion of their own history and faith.
If there is one lesson from Israel’s history as a state and the decades of terror it has faced, it is that while terrorists might start their attacks against Israel, they quickly move on to other countries, other faiths and other people. Israel might be chosen first, but when hundreds of people are then murdered in Paris, London or New York, the targets become one and the same.
Some of these countries still have difficulty recognizing that we are all aligned in the same battle of the Free World against the forces of radical Islamic terror. To allow resolutions like UNESCO’s to pass this week is another failure to recognize just that. They might start with Jerusalem, but they will quickly move on.
As a boy growing up in Chicago, there was nothing quite like the Cubs. Wrigley Field was a magical place where my brother and I got to see Ryne Sandberg, Andre Dawson and Shawon Dunston play the game we loved.
We even had a special parking spot nearby. Our grand- father had a friend whom we knew as “Joe the Baker,” who would send us with a large stock of fresh bread that we would give to firemen just around the corner from Wrigley, who would then let us park next to their fire station.
Those were some of the best days a young baseball fan could imagine – to sit in the second-oldest ballpark in the country and watch a game of baseball, while eating peanuts, sipping coke, and seeing grown men around us gulping down beer and getting drunk.
But then came the losses, one after another. It was, after all, the Cubs’s trademark. Yes, they made it to the National League Championship Series in 1984, but after that it was pretty much downhill for me until I made aliya.
But even during the slump years – the years when the Cubs would come in last in their division – Cubs fans would always look to the future with a smile. There is always next year, the fans would say. And when next year came and ended in frustration and disappointment yet again, the fans still stuck it out, always coming to the games and always believing.
Winning the World Series the last time in 1908, “wait till next year” was a feeling Cubs fans had no choice but to embrace. It was also a feeling of optimism, the kind that legendary Cubs slugger Ernie Banks – nicknamed “Mr. Sunshine” and “Mr. Cub” – brought to the game. “Let’s play two,” Banks would always say on those few days when the sun was shining over Lake Michigan, in a saying that still today resonates of confidence and brightness throughout the city. The day is so nice, Banks meant, the Cubs should play two games. Why just one?
It is that sense of optimism that Israelis can relate to. Since this country’s beginning, Israelis have found themselves living in the shadow of a guillotine, under constant threat from across its borders. But despite the attacks and the terrorism that never ends, Israelis haven’t lost their sense of optimism or resilience. They plowed forward and built a country that today is an economic and military superpower.
If the Cubs win the World Series next week, there will be people who will tell you that anything is possible. Indeed, this paper already ran a column a couple of weeks ago saying a Cubs World Series victory is a sign that the Messiah might be coming.
That might be stretching it a bit. This is still just baseball. Nevertheless, a Cubs win would be a sign that faith can prevail, that hope is worth holding on to. It’s a lesson for all of humanity and not just Israelis, who after 68 years of statehood still live in conflict but pray daily for peace.
So whatever happens next week, win or lose, we Cubs fans will remember the philosophy that Chicagoans have lived by for the last 108 years: there is always next year