Friday, May 10, 1996

Does Murder Pay Off?

Does Murder Pay Off?
May 10, 1996

Sixteen years ago I lived in Jerusalem suburb Meveseret
Yerushalayim.  Lag B'Omer was on Sunday.  The preceding
Friday night was a normal spring Shabbat evening.  Except
for the helicopters flying south of us,  in Jerusalem, in
the area of Hadassah hospital.  A friend of mine, taking
an after dinner stroll with his wife turned to her and
exclaimed, "something happened."

     One year before, shortly after Pesach, 1979,
Rebbetzin Miriam Levinger, along with nine other women
and forty children, left Kiryat Arba in the middle of the
night for Hebron.  Their destination - Beit Hadassah.
Beit Hadassah, a beautiful structure in the heart of
Hebron had stood empty for fifty years.  Originally built
in 1893 with funds contributed by Algerian Jews, Beit
Hadassah served as a free medical clinic for anyone
needing medical care - Jew and Arab alike.  The clinic
was so popular that in 1920 an additional floor was
added.  It was then that the well-known facade was
constructed.  Managed by the Hadassah Organization, Beit
Hadassah served the entire  Hebron community.

     Following the 1929 massacre Beit Hadassah turned
into a  vacant deserted shell, waiting for her children
to return home.  Even  after the return to Hebron in 1968
and the founding of Kiryat Arba in 1971, Beit Hadassah
remained barren, uninhabited.  But not for long.  The
father of resettlement in Yesha, Rav Moshe Levinger,
along with other Kiryat Arba citizens, decided that that
time had come to return home, to return to Hebron.

     Shortly after Pesach in 1979, a group of 10 women
and forty children, led by Rebbetzin Miriam Levinger,
moved into Beit Hadassah.  Entering the building via its
back windows, just above the original 1893 entrance, the
group hadn't really expected to succeed.  But to their
great surprise, no one discovered the clandestine
midnight rendevous in Hebron.  By first light the group
had set up house in Beit Hadassah.  They came with
provisions for only a few days.

     The discovery of the Beit Hadassah women took the
Begin government by surprise.  Not wanting to forcibly
evict women and children, Begin placed the building under
siege.  Surrounded by Israeli soldiers, no one was
allowed in and anyone leaving was not allowed to return.

Originally Begin planned to starve them out - he wanted
to deny them even the basic necessities of food and
water.  However, after being approached, Begin agreed to
allow them food, water and medical supplies.  He was
convinced after it was pointed out to him that following
the 1973 Yom Kippur War, when Israeli forces surrounded
the Egyptian Third Army, the enemy army was provided with
elementary living supplies.  Begin was asked, "If we gave
food and water to our enemy, who only days before had
killed our soldiers, mustn't we at least provide the same
thing to Jewish women and children in Hebron?"

     The women and children lived in Beit Hadassah for
over a year. One of the women, Shoshana Peretz was
pregnant.  During an hepatitis outbreak in the building,
brought on by almost nonexistent sanitary facilities,
Shoshana's friends begged her to leave, rather than risk
contracting the disease.  But Shoshana refused.  "If I
won't be allowed back in, I wont' leave."  As her due
date approached, the other women didn't believe their
ears.  Shoshana planned on giving birth inside Beit
Hadassah, rather than go to a hospital.  Only after
receiving promises that she would be allowed to return to
the building, did she agree to give birth in the
hospital.  The Peretz family named their new daughter
Hadassah, and Shoshana returned to Beit Hadassah.

     Shabbat evening was very special.  Yeshiva students,
studying at the Hesder Yeshiva in Kiryat Arba prayed in
Ma'arat HaMachpela.  Following conclusion of the prayer
service, the boys would sing and dance from the Ma'ara to
Beit Hadassah.  They would continue to sing and dance in
the street in front of the building, say Shabbat Kiddush
for the women, and then return to Kiryat Arba.

     Friday night - Erev Lag B'Omer 1980.  The Yeshiva
students sang and danced in front of Beit Hadassah, as
they did every Friday night.  Suddenly shots rang out.
Hand grenades flew through the air.  The singing turned
into a battle for survival.  From the rooftop on the
building opposite Beit Hadassah Arab terrorists attacked.
Six men were killed: Gershon Klein, Ya'akov Tzimmerman,
Hanan Kurthammer and Shmuel Marmelstein - all Kiryat Arba
Yeshiva students, Zvi Glatt, from Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav
in Jerusalem, and Eli HaZe'ev, from Kiryat Arba.  Many
others were wounded.

     That same evening a number of Arabs, responsible for
inciting, were deported, including Mayor Mustapha Natshe.
The next morning the building from which the attack took
place was blown up.  The Hadassah women and children were
allowed to reunite with their husbands in Hebron.  Beit
Hadassah became the first Jewish neighborhood in Hebron.
But the price for their return was extremely high.

     That was sixteen years ago - fifty one years after
Beit Hadassah's residents had been slaughtered by
Hebron's Arabs.  Today the Beit Hadassah Complex houses
25 families, a pictorial museum of the history of Hebron
and a memorial room for the victims of the 1929 massacre.

     Tonight I will attend a special Shabbat service in
front of Beit Hadassah, a memorial for the six men
murdered sixteen years ago.  The memorial service is an
annual event, but tonight's service has special

     Last week a reporter asked me if we have learned
anything from the Arabs.  My immediate reply was, "Yes -
we've learned that murder pays off.  Arafat the terrorist
used murder to reach his goal - he is now accepted by the
international community as a legitimate leader of his

     And tonight, as I sit with my children in the street
outside Beit Hadassah, listening to Rav Dov Lior and Rav
Eliezer Waldman speak of what was, 16 years ago, I will
ask myself again, will the Israeli people, in three weeks
time, really give murder its victory, will the Rabin-
Arafat-Peres triumvirate receive a stamp of approval-
will the Israeli electorate justify the murder of the
Beit Hadassah Six - along with the killing of so many
others since then?

     That is the question - does cold-blooded, terrorist
murder pay off?

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