Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu recently announced his government’s intention to designate Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem and the Ibrahimi Mosque/Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, both in the occupied West Bank, as Jewish heritage sites. The statement has led to outrage amongst Palestinians; the Ibrahimi Mosque/Cave of the Patriarchs is considered to be the burial place of Abraham, his wife Sarah and others, and is a site with special importance for both Jews and Muslims. It is also the place where a massacre of Muslim worshippers took place in 1994.
Talal Shihadeh, in a post on Palestine Think Tank, describes Israeli settlers’ visits to the Ibrahimi (or Abraham) Mosque:
I was born in the old city, very close to the Abraham Mosque. Immediately after the West Bank was occupied in 1967, the occupation government established the first settlement on the Hebron citizens’ land, which was called Qiriat Arbaa. The majority of the settlers who are living there are American. […] In the 70s and 80s, the settlers used to go to the mosque, doing their religious practices under the guardianship of the Israeli forces until Ramadan of 1994 after Baruch Goldstein, who perpetrated the Abraham Mosque Massacre (29 Muslims were killed and more than 125 others wounded during Al Fajr prayer). After this massacre, the Israeli occupation gifted Goldstein and the settlers by dividing the mosque to two zones, for the Muslims and the Jews. After that, it became very difficult for Muslims to enter to the mosque. It's easier to pass through an airport than to enter the mosque. The security measurements they use include ID check, physical check, passing through examination machine (the settlers are excluded).
After mentioning the latest announcement about Rachel’s Tomb and the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron, Talal finishes by saying:
Stealing the land, the history, and the heritage……. is the Israeli key to peace in the Middle East.
Rebel Spirits, another Palestinian author, expresses her emotion on Hazem's Blog: