The double standard of the desecration of Jewish holy sites

Opinion: Christians and Jews should be equally alarmed.

 Palestinian rioters vandalized Joseph's Tomb in Nablus in the West Bank, April 10, 2022.  (photo credit: SAMARIA REGIONAL COUNCIL)
Palestinian rioters vandalized Joseph's Tomb in Nablus in the West Bank, April 10, 2022.
(photo credit: SAMARIA REGIONAL COUNCIL)

It’s a tremendous paradox that in the Middle East, only Israel protects the holy sites of all religions: Jewish, Christian, Bahia, Druze and Muslim. It’s been that way since 1967 when Israel regained control of Judea and Samaria and all of Jerusalem, the parts of the land of Israel which I refer to as the original Bible Belt.  

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But the paradox becomes a gross double standard when a Jewish site is attacked and desecrated as happened this week at Joseph’s Tomb

It is not the first time Joseph’s Tomb was attacked. In October 2000, Rabbi Hillel Lieberman set out on foot to protect the sacred site, the Torah scrolls, and other religious books inside, after hearing it was being attacked, desecrated and burned.  The next day, his bullet-riddled body was found outside Nablus, the biblical Shechem. 

I remember it vividly because, not knowing that things were going to escalate as they did, my oldest daughter who was seven at the time, recorded a message that went out to our entire community appealing for funds to help Rabbi Lieberman’s children. This was the beginning of what would become known as the Second Intifada, during which  more than 1,000 Israelis would be killed and thousands more injured over the course of four years. Who knew at the time that the victims would become too numerous to be able to raise money for each one’s family? 

Joseph’s Tomb is not an insignificant, out-of-the-way place. Biblically you’ll recall that, before dying, Joseph made his children promise he’d be buried in the land of Israel from which he had been physically separated, but which was always the center of his life. 

Sadly, Islam does not always accord such tolerance for other religions and their holy sites, or even houses of worship. The desecration of Joseph’s Tomb (again) this week is one of many examples. It’s not just in Israel and Jewish sites. One doesn’t have to think too far back to recall the desecration (along with murders) by ISIS on countless sites through Iraq and Syria. 

However, the desecration is especially egregious when it’s combined with anti-Israel Palestinian nationalism that seeks to erase Jewish and Christian religious history from the Land, and the targets are not “just” houses of worship but actual biblical sites. 

The physical desecration is a byproduct of the theology that says Jews don’t have a history in Israel. This is particularly ridiculous and offensive with the allegation that there was never a temple on the Temple Mount. I always reply that if there was no Temple there in the first century, where was it that Jesus overturned the tables of the money changers?

They not only undermine Jewish history and connection to the Land, but Christian scripture as well. 

Some people refer to Arabs and Jews as cousins, even brothers. That’s nice. I can get along with Arabs just fine, and I do. Even Islam recognizes this, but just twists the scripture.

Islam departs from biblical truth in Genesis 22:1-19, where it says that Abraham took Ishmael to be sacrificed, not Isaac, despite the clarity of the verse, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall show you.” 

Ishmael is simply not mentioned. 

As brothers, if they continued reading the scripture as Jews and Christians do, they would know that while God does promise that he will also make a great nation through Ishmael, the promises and covenant from God are to the Jewish people, through Isaac and Jacob, including all the promises relating to the land of Israel. 

It’s something that’s so clear that it should never have to be stated. But, when Joseph’s resting place is desecrated as if it were just a pile of stones, it needs to be shouted. Were Islam to continue past Genesis 22, they would read that after announcing to his brothers that he was their brother, and asking about the welfare of their father, Jacob, Joseph consoled them that what man meant for evil, God meant for good (Genesis 50:20).

The Muslims desecration of Joseph’s Tomb is made worse by the fact that the world is not enraged. This is the worst kind of Arab racism – not to hold them to the same standard and expectations to behave in a way that is expected of others. Think about it, were Israel to enter, much less desecrate a Muslim site – holy or not – universal condemnation of Israel would instantly displace the headlines about the Russian invasion of Ukraine.  

I am not advocating for desecrating sites.

But Joseph’s Tomb is entirely biblical. It’s the same pattern we see when Muslims oppose Jewish and Christian visits to the Temple Mount, much less Jewish or Christian prayers there. If religious sites should not be desecrated, how much more so biblical ones?

Today, we’re seeing a “wave of terror” in Israel that coincides with Ramadan. Sadly, this is a typical pattern in Israel where Islamists use their holy month to kill, maim and desecrate. Not all Muslims behave this way, but enough do which makes one question whether Islam really is the religion of peace. Will the “wave” become a flood, a tsunami or the Third Intifada? 

Nobody knows. 

The world must be called out for turning a blind eye to the desecration of Jewish holy and biblical sites. It is not just a double standard – it is anti-biblical heresy. And that should be alarming to Jews and Christians alike. Let us not forsake Joseph by letting this happen in silence. 

Jonathan Feldstein was born and educated in the United States and immigrated to Israel in 2004. He is married and the father of six. Throughout his life and career, he has become a respected bridge between Jews and Christians and serves as president of the Genesis 123 Foundation. He writes regularly on major Christian websites about Israel and shares experiences of living as an Orthodox Jew in Israel. He is host of the popular Inspiration from Zion podcast. He can be reached at [email protected]. This article originally appeared here.