The resurrection of the dead

Rav Yudan said, Regarding three places the nations of the world cannot deceive Israel and say ‘you have stolen them,’ and they are: the Tomb of the Patriarchs, the Temple and burial site of Joseph.”

Jews visiting Hebron, April 6, 2015 (photo credit: SETH J. FRANTZMAN)
Jews visiting Hebron, April 6, 2015
(photo credit: SETH J. FRANTZMAN)
I stood on a rooftop in Hebron. The wind caught my scarf and I held on to it with one hand while using the other to lean over the railing, catching everyday scenes from that oh-so-mythical other side.
Although it’s not really fair to call it the other side, as the Arab part of Hebron constitutes 97 percent of the city, whereas I’m standing on a patch of the remaining 3%. There are no two sides, but one side and a sliver; a majority and the fighting few.
It was weirdly mundane, this place that I had heard of, read about and that had such a towering presence in the stories of old and the news of conflict. It was a city and a home, not a war zone or a fairytale, and actually walking in the footsteps of my forefathers gave me ownership of the deed that was signed there, many years ago. A week before I got to Hebron I had stood at the foot of King David’s palace in the city carrying his name, being moved to tears as my guide made the pages of my worn-out Tanach come alive through stone and unearthed pathways. In a short amount of time I had claimed these places and their thousand years of history for myself, these abstract pillars of heritage had become relatable and concrete, and all I really had to do was show up.
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As the 27th of Nisan approaches, many of us will linger on the idea of remembrance. But what is remembrance, really, and what does loss of memory do to a nation, a people, and a dream? As I stood on that rooftop in Hebron I recalled a story I heard a while back, about a mother cooking chicken for her family in preparation for Shabbat. Every week she cuts the ends of the chicken, throwing away a third of it before putting it in the pot. Her daughter watches her do this, year after year, and as she grows up she invites her mother over to her own house to cook that very same dish. The daughter prepares the chicken, cutting off the ends and throwing away a third before putting it in the pot. Surprised, the mother asks her why she’s throwing away all that perfectly good chicken.
“What do you mean? I’m cooking it the way you always have. I’m honoring you by using the same recipe.”
“But the only reason I did that was that I didn’t have a big enough pot!” What that story tells me is that memories can be deceiving. As history becomes stories to be believed or distrusted things get lost and boundaries pushed until we no longer see the path for the politics or the forest for the trees. In order to stay true to the recipe and not throw away good chicken, we need caretakers of truth to walk the earth that we inherit, and over the course of these past weeks I have had the distinct honor of meeting such caretakers and seeing what they do.
From Ze’ev Orenstein at Ir David to Dr. Gabriel Barkay at the Temple Mount-sifting project and David Wilder of the Jewish community of Hebron – together they create links to history that connect us to the ground we walk and the land that we inhabit.
My friends in Hebron are often referred to as settlers, but to me they are returners, lamplighters that allow the rest of us to find our way back home. We owe them gratitude, yes, but more importantly we owe them our presence. To not stand alone holding that light, but for us to show up, take part, and carry it forward. This week, for Holocaust Remembrance Day, I suggest we all show up to remember. At Ir David, Hebron and the Temple Mount, making sure that we stay true to the recipe and honor each and every brave man and woman who chooses to inhabit the places deemed by our enemies as unjust and by our government as far too inconvenient. Because remembrance is not passive, but an active choice of truth, and for the sake of our children we must help release the confined and bring faith to those asleep in the dust, so that fact and history will never become story and myth in the mouths of our grandchildren.
I believe that is how we honor the fallen, and how we truly resurrect the dead.
The author is a political adviser and journalist.