April 13, 1997
Last week we were notified that the kidnappers and murderers of Israeli soldier Sharon Edri had been captured. Almost. Two of them are in Israeli hands, three are being held by Arafat, and one was killed in the bomb blast in Tel-Aviv. We were also told that they killed another 11 Israelis, bringing back too many bad memories. My son’s teacher, Yaron Unger, and his wife, graphic artist, Effie; Kiryat Arba X-Ray technician Zev Munk, together with his wife and her father; Dr. Oz Tibon and medic Yaniv Shemen, both serving in the then Israeli Hebron Military Compound, all slaughtered in cold blood by the freshly captured terrorists.
Effie Unger’s parents, Rabbi Uri and Yehudit Dasburg, had an interesting reaction. On Israeli television Yehudit expressed her feelings, saying that now the terrorists, no longer uncertain of their fate, could live off the tax-payers' wages, until a deal was made for their release.
Last week a few of us met with Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai. Following the attack against two Yeshiva students in the middle of Hebron, during which an acidic substance was thrown at them which burned their face and hands, and led to the shooting and killing of one of the attackers, the security situation in Hebron deteriorated rapidly. In reality, since the commencement of work at Har Homa in Jerusalem, just before Purim, rocks, bottles, and firebombs flying in the direction of Beit Hadassah have become a daily occurrence. The IDF, rather than forcefully repulsing the attackers, does pitifully little. Several days ago, when close to 100 Arabs nearly stampeded into the Beit Hadassah Complex, the four soldiers present took positions behind bulletproof outposts. A Beit Hadassah resident dispersed the would-be murderers by shooting in the air. His weapon was immediately confiscated and he was taken for questioning at 10:30 p.m.
This morning, while Arabs hurled rocks into Beit Hadassah apartments, soldiers stood meters away, in Israeli-controlled territory, and did ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. Instead, Israeli police tried to convince Hebron’s Jewish residents to leave the back porch of Beit Hadassah, the target of the attack. We answered them negatively. “If we leave, you won’t do anything, because there won’t be anyone to defend.” When Hebron children, some of whom had friends injured by the rocks, and seeing that the IDF was standing by as if nothing was happening, began returning the stones to their original owners, they were threatened with arrest.
The meeting with Mordechai was primarily geared at mollifying us. He invited us to meet with him at a military base in Hebron. The subjects discussed were reported in detail by the Hebron Press Office. But there is a point I must stress.
One of the major pledges made by the cabinet before the signing of the Hebron Abandonment Accords was that of building. We were promised, specifically, that we would be able to build within the Jewish area of Hebron. So far, almost 10 months of the Netanyahu reign, and nothing. This point has been raised at almost every meeting with all major military and political personalities. We spoke of this again last week, with the Defense Minister. His response was predictable: The government has already issued the permit to construct Beit Nahum b’Yehuda. However, the timing must be taken into consideration. After the present situation stabilizes, the army is authorized to grant final permission to begin.
This is ludicrous for at least two reasons. First, once the situation does stabilize, assuming that it does, will the army be willing to possibly rekindle the fire by allowing Jewish “settlers” to build in Hebron? Why didn’t they let us build before the deterioration in security?
In addition, who is the person with the authority to make the decision? His name is Uzi Dayan, General, Commander of the Central Region. Yitzhak Mordechai has placed all the responsibility in his hands. Who is Uzi Dayan? He was one of the major architects of Oslo. He sat in Washington drinking coffee with the Syrians, planning Israel’s abandonment of the Golan Heights. His life’s philosophy is somewhere left of Shimon Peres. HE is the person Netanyahu’s government has empowered to decide WHEN we build in Hebron. When will he allow it? NEVER! He doesn’t want us to build in Hebron - he doesn’t want us to be in Hebron!
The Israeli media is presently dealing with the major political issue in Israel: A national unity government. In case a majority of the Labor Knesset member oppose joining forces with Netanyahu, (which incidentally, is the case), a new idea has sprouted: Shimon Peres will join the government independently, even without approval by the Labor party.
So, what direction are we going in? It is totally unbelievable. Our Prime Minister is very seriously considering returning the most dangerous person in Israel today, who is, more than anyone else, responsible for the calamity called Oslo, to a position of power and decision-making. Totally unbelievable. What can we do about it?
There is already talk of a ‘different’ candidate for Prime Minister for the next elections. Several names are being thrown around: Benny Begin, Natan Sharansky, Uzi Landau, and Limor Livnat. This past Shabbat, while touring Hebron with some very important guests, they asked me, “If you could chose anyone you want, who would you want to be Prime Minister.” They told me that they asked several of my colleagues the same question. So I queried, what did they say? They told me, answer first. I thought for a few minutes and then shrugged my shoulders in frustration. Seeing me, they told me, “your friends answered the same way.”
I think that we have to spend less time looking for a Prime Minister. Rather, we have to decide how we want to rule - how are we going to make decisions. Are we going to continue to live according to America’s decrees and Arafat’s dictates, or, according to the way we are supposed to live, as Jews, in Eretz Yisrael. Do we have to live behind fences, walls, and electric gates in Hebron, like we lived in the European ghetto, or proudly, as Jews, living freely in OUR COUNTRY - IN OUR LAND?
As we approach the holiday of Passover - the holiday of freedom - our national birthday - we must remember one thing. There are two kinds of liberation: physical and spiritual. Physically, we are, more or less, independent. But spiritually, we are still enslaved - enslaved to the mentality of a besieged people ruled over by others. We still aren’t used to the fact that WE ARE A FREE, INDEPENDENT PEOPLE - LIVING IN OUR COUNTRY - IN OUR LAND. When there is a national consensus that we must assert ourselves as does any independent, autonomous people, in our land, we won’t have a problem finding a Prime Minister, because he will have the full backing of his people, sharing with him responsibility for his decisions. Unfortunately, today, our ‘leaders’ are always looking over their shoulders, protecting themselves for the next ‘committee of inquiry.’ It is impossible to ‘lead’ without self-confidence -without knowing that what you are doing is right. That is what is happening today. Our task today is to return our national pride to our people. Because today, our so-called leadership is nothing more than a bluff, afraid of its shadow. We too were fooled by the bluff, we thought that Bibi would be different. It is time to see through the bluff and reach out to the roots of the problem. When that is solved, the rest will follow.