Abraham, the first Jew and the first Zionist, under challenge at the UN
This coming Saturday, Nov. 5, Jews around the world will gather in synagogues for the Torah reading of Chapter 12 of Genesis, which ought to have a special resonance this year in view of the UNESCO vote to recognize and welcome "Palestine" as a full-fledged member -- a nation like any other nation.
Chapter 12 begins the saga of the patriarch Abraham, the first Jew and the first Zionist - "Now the Lord said unto Abram: 'Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto the land that I will show thee. And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and be thou a blessing."
As the story unfolds, Abraham "takes Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother's son, and all the substance they had gathered...and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan they came...And the Lord appeared unto Abram and said: 'Unto thy seed will I give this land.'"
This was indeed a momentous historical moment as Judaism and Zionism burst together onto the human stage. Judaism's birth wrenched mankind from the worship of multiple deities -- polytheism -- into recognition of a single divine spirit. In parallel, the seed of Zionism was sown with the prospect of a Jewish "nation" in a specific "land" -- Canaan.
From that moment on, Judaism and Zionism became two sides of the same coin.
Yet, as Jews prepare to recall at Sabbath services how Abraham was chosen to open the way for a full-fledged "nation" in the Promised Land, more than 100 other nations assembled in Paris and effectively voted to abrogate Abraham's legacy and negate 4,000 years of Jewish ties to this land.
In granting full membership to "Palestine" in the UN's cultural agency, the 107 countries which cast "yes" votes went along with Palestinian wishes for a state along the 1967 lines - or, as the PLO put it, on "all the territories that were occupied in 1967," when Israel overcame an onslaught by half a dozen Arab armies determined to exterminate the Jewish state.
Thus, the UNESCO vote sets a major precedent for international recognition of a Palestinian state with borders sought by the Palestinian Authority and Mahmoud Abbas that would encompass all of Gaza, all of the West Bank, and all of the Old City of Jerusalem -- without any land swaps.
The import of such a prospect cannot be exaggerated.
Palestinians would hold sovereign rights over Mount Moriah, where Abraham proved his fidelity to God with his willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac -- the very geographic heart of Judaism and Zionism. Wrenched from Jewish sovereignty would be this same site where also stood the First and Second Jewish Temples, better known as Temple Mount -- Judaism's holiest shrine.
Also ceded to "Palestine" would be Hebron -- Judaism's second holiest city after Jerusalem, the site of the Cave of the Jewish Patriarachs and Matriarchs, bought by Abraham for 400 silver shekels to bury his wife Sarah -- the first biblical real estate transaction to effectuate the Lord's promise of a "nation" in its own "land." In addition to Abraham and Sarah, this also became the burial place for the other two patriarchs, Isaac and Jacob, and for two other matriarchs, Rebecca and Leah.
In addition, with the loss of Hebron, a Jewish state also would be shorn of King David's first capital.
In short, the precedent set by the UNESCO vote strikes at the very heart of both Judaism and Zionism. And yet, more than 100 nations cast "yes" ballots without batting an eye.
A new, ominous chapter in a 4,000-year saga of Jewish nationhood, as promised to Abraham, has begun. This week's Torah reading ought to serve as a special warning.
Leo Rennert is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers