Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The Grave of Onkelos the Convert

Graves in Israel are serious business. Just last week we read in the parashat shavua of Avraham buying the Cave of Machpela to bury his wife Sarah.

And yet, last week was also the arrival of a "newly discovered" grave -- that of Onkelos the Convert. Onkeles is famous for his translation of the Torah into Aramaic.

Last week, a sign appeared over an old building in a barren field in the Bayit Vegan neighborhood of Jerusalem. The sign, written in Hebrew read "Grave of Onkelos the Convert." Coincidentally (or not) the field is next to the famous "Kol Torah" yeshiva. Coincidentally (or not), there's also a building contractor who has rights to build a complex of 280 apartments on the same field. There's also a Bezeq cell-tower at the edge of the field as well.

Within hours the building was transformed into a "proper" grave site.

A room was painted blue, benches and seforim were placed in the building, a mechitza for a women's section was constructed....even tzedaka boxes are there.

By Thursday evening, one could see Jews gathering at the holy site, praying and learning. Since then, there was davening there on Friday evening, Moztei Shabbat, and mincha during the week.

And yet, this entire grave site is fiction.

The picture above shows kids putting up the sign on the building...but that hasn't stopped people from visiting the site.

Why was this building transformed into the grave of Onkelos?
1. Kol Torah is interested in preventing the building of an apartment complex next to it (or wants to build there themselves), and the most surefire way to stop building in Israel is to find a grave on the property (let alone a "famous" one).

2. Bored yeshiva guys looking for fun (with no internet or blogging, can you blame them?)

3. Same people who created the "grave" of the horse named Shimon HaTzadik, decided to copy their success.
Due to the high levels of electromagnetic radiation from the nearby cell-tower, rabbis from Kol Torah have instructed their students to stay away.

Now it's only a matter of time before the legend of the "curse of the grave of Onkolos" pops up (wasn't it Halloween last week?)

Sources: Radio Kol-Chai, NFC, and my friend the kan'oi.

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael


Rafi G. said...

I heard about this... I had not paid attention to the details, but this sounds weird... usually the fake graves are placed where some guy with a kiosk wants to do some business. I guess this is the same but on a larger scale (a guy who wants to build a building..)

Lurker said...

To paraphrase my comment from your "Shimon HaTzaddik" post: I'll leave it to the intelligent reader's imagination to speculate on how many other "kivrei tzaddikim" Israel are similarly bogus...

Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

frightening... what was that party line about the mesora again?

YMedad said...

Can we pretend to be the Muslim Waqf and dig there? If we do find a grave, though, do we call him Onkelos or someone who was killed during the 1948 attack?

Am Kshe Oref - A Stiff-Necked People said...

Heh. This is hilarious! I love when they conveniently "find" graves.

Here's another issue. Why are they calling him Onkelus the Ger? First of all, we all know who Onkelus was. There wasn't another (at least famous one) recorded in Jewish history. Second, one is not supposed to bring up the non-Jewish past of a convert. This is definitely not the case here. It's actually kind of insulting to Onkelus! :)

Unknown said...

There was a report on Israeli television (channel 2?) yesterday about how the students had done this intending to show how silly the whole business of "Kivrei Tzadikim" (gravesites of Jewish saints) had become.

Tzipporah said...

LOL - let's hope it gets added to all the tours.

Anonymous said...

"There was a report on Israeli television (channel 2?) yesterday about how the students had done this intending to show how silly the whole business of "Kivrei Tzadikim" (gravesites of Jewish saints) had become."

Yeah - acc to the news report, they did it to make a point - here's the link:


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