Back to the Future: Israel Accelerates Heritage Program


Back to the Future: Israel Accelerates Heritage Program

the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees—Deuteronomy 34:3


Those working in a date-orchard own a well kept secret. The best dates hide at the very top of the tree, where they are mercilessly scorched by the sun. They can’t be sold because they are extremely wrinkled; yet, they are the sweetest. While arduously cutting the commercial fruit branches, the better ones are enjoyed by the sweating workers.
Those working in a date-orchard in the Jordan Valley own a second secret. Among the regular trees producing the common brown-varieties of the fruit, hide areas producing yellow-dates, from the barhee type. Several barhee trees were robbed by Mossad from Iraq and brought to Israel during Operation Ezra and Nehemiah, between 1950 and 1952. Richer in flavor than regular ones, they are delicious when eaten frozen in the hot Middle Eastern summer.

Barhee Dates Date Pack
Dates are mentioned in the Bible many times; they are also the source for a name that Hebrew-speaking girls favor: “Tamar.” Yet, barhee dates are foreigners in the Holy Land, they are not the heritage mentioned in the Bible. As such, they are the perfect lead into today’s topic.
Israel’s Secretary of the Government is Replaced
Those working for the Israeli Government own many secrets. A piece of information that is not secret but acts as one is the code names for the different Government Committees; knowing them, one has access to the non-classified webpages summarizing the program. Not knowing them may lead to an arduous search. Veteran readers of this website probably have already guessed that the code name for Israel’s Heritage Program is “Tamar*,” date-fruit in Hebrew.

Kvutzat Kinneret Yard Part of Israel’s Heritage Program Lonely Planet Jordan

                                                                                  Former Military Advocate General Brig. Gen. Avichai Mendelblit

On May 13, 2013, the Israeli Government decided unanimously to replace its Secretary. Tzvi Hauser is leaving after four years in the post; Avihai Mendelblit is the new one, though his name is well known. As Military Advocate General, he addressed the justification for the blockade of Gaza Strip and the legal aspects of the IDF attack on Gaza’s Freedom Flotilla. This is another clear sign that there would be no substantial changes in Government decisions.
The Secretary of the Government is a key function within the Israeli Government; the prestigious post is often a prelude to becoming a government minister. Simply, the person in charge has unparalleled influence on the government’s agenda. While in this position, Mr. Hauser initiated Moreshet, the Heritage Program.

Herodion, Herodium, Frankenberg, Jabal al-Fourdis Picture colors are misleading, except for random rains, this area is grey

Related to this:       Israel Renounces Imperial Monument
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Israel’s Heritage Program

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Before becoming the Government Secretary, Mr. Hauser was a member of the Israel’s Heritage Preservation Council; this institution was the answer to a general feeling of violation after early Zionist governments had destroyed notorious landmarks, even Zionist ones like Gimnasia Hertzeliya in Tel Aviv. In 2009, he convinced Prime Minister Netanyahu to create the Heritage Program, at first it included just 30 minor projects. In 2013, it had a budget of roughly $200 million and 300 approved projects; 109 of them have already been finished. One third of the budget comes from contributions and private investments by the owners. For example, the Kvutzat Kinneret Yard shown in the picture above, got 2 million shekels from the government and an additional 1 million was invested by the kibbutz (in total less than $1 million). One of Hauser’s last actions was the promotion of another 16 projects; two of these are highly controversial.
Many sites often visited by tourists, like the Montefiori Windmill in Jerusalem, were introduced to the project and were restored in what one may define as creative ways. Being managed directly by the Government means that the project enjoys access to unusual resources. Member sites get upgraded in Google and Waze, getting additional online information.
“Mr. Tov! This is a nice project! Don’t be anti-Israeli!”
The title of this section is the most probable reaction of Israel Israeli, the archetypal Jewish-Israeli while reading this article. Since today three secrets have already been disclosed, let me add a fourth one. When Israelis use the title Mr, they do so in a derogatory fashion. Don’t worry Mr. Israeli, no offence taken. Let me end this article explaining why this project is not nice.

Cave of the Patriarchs in HebronThe first issue is that several projects are in the West Bank, an occupied territory where Israel is not allowed to build according to international law**. At least two sites which were recently proposed for the project are political bombs. One is Rachel’s Tomb in the northern entrance of Bethlehem. The second is even more sensitive, the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, where Abraham (see Genesis 23:1-20) bought a burial place for his wife Sarah from the sons of Heth. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, and Leah—called the Patriarchs and Matriarchs of the Jewish people—are believed to be buried there. Rachel, the only matriarch missing, is buried in Bethlehem, where she died in childbirth. The actual structure atop the burial cave, is much more recent, from Herodian times.

The last site I want to mention was recently featured in Israel Renounces Imperial Monument. Herodion has already been introduced into the program’s list, despite also being in the West Bank. In the linked article, I described some of the projects oddities. After its archeologist died in a very suspicious accident, Netanyahu decided to upgrade the Tomb of Herod, the main justification for the site, into a tower. This is no joke, Netanyahu wanted to “redesign” (let me just say the truth: invent) the tomb.
Like the barhee dates brought from Iraq, Israeli Heritage is Back into the Future; no past, but a painful work of an especially rich imagination that doesn’t stop at red lights.

* Hebrew favors the creation of acronyms, which are often pronounced as similarly sounding words. This is the case with the program “Tamar,” an almost acronym for “Tashtiot Moreshet Leumiot,” National Heritage Infrastructures.
**Unlawfulness in the West Bank has various layers. The international community considers Israeli settlements in the West Bank illegal under international law, but the Israeli government disputes this. The international community considers Israeli settlements a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention’s prohibition on the transfer of an occupying power’s civilian population into occupied territory. Thus, they are illegal under international law. Israel disputes that the Fourth Geneva Convention applies to the Palestinian territories as they had not been legally held by a sovereign prior to Israel taking control of them. This view has been rejected by the International Court of Justice and the International Committee of the Red Cross. The vast majority of West Bank settlements are in between these definitions; they are considered illegal by the entire world, but legal by the Israeli government. However, sometimes they are considered unlawful even by the Israeli government. The status of Jerusalem was formalized with the 1980 Basic Law: Jerusalem, Capital of Israel. The world opposed this law; UN Security Council Resolution 478, adopted by fourteen votes to none, with the abstention of the United States of America, declared that the law was “null and void” and “must be rescinded.” Israel ignored it.


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Roi Tov is a graduate—among others—of Tel Aviv University and the Weizmann Institute of Science. In addition to his memoir, Tov is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Molecular Physics and other scientific journals. He won various travel writing and photography awards. In his writings, he tries to reveal life in Israel as a Christian Israel Defense Force (IDF) officer—from human rights violations to the use of an extensive network of underground agents. He was recognized first as a refugee and subsequently as political prisoner of Bolivia.