A group of about 150 Jews recently made an exceedingly rare visit to the kever of the Amora Rav Ashi that lies literally on the perilous Israeli-Lebanese border.
As the Kan News report says, the visit involved a story that only the complex Middle East reality could create – one kever, two religions and a shared border.
When the IDF withdrew from South Lebanon in 2000, there was one issue holding up the deployment of United Nations peacekeepers – the site of Rav Ashi’s kever. The Lebanese claim that Rav Ashi’s kever is a holy site for them, saying that the site is the tomb of a Shi’ite Muslim, Sheikh Abbad, a founder of the Shi’ite movement in Lebanon who lived about 500 years ago.
Several options were considered, one of them being barricading the tomb to prevent both Jews and Muslims from visiting, but ultimately, it was decided to literally divide the site in half – the border fence cuts right through the middle.
This solution was one of the last issues settled between Israel and Lebanon in the wake of the Israeli withdrawal, ending the 15 years of warfare between the South Lebanese Army (SLA) aided by the IDF and Lebanese guerrillas led by Hezbollah in South Lebanon’s “Security Zone.”
However, for all intents and purposes, the kever has been off-limits since then as the close proximity of Hezbollah renders the area extremely dangerous for Jews.
This unique visit was enabled by an IDF commander with an appreciation for Tanach and Jewish history who agreed to have IDF soldiers secure the Jews’ visit.
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)