Thursday, June 5, 1997

30 Years Later - Facing the Future

30 Years Later - Facing the Future
Hebron Day, 5757
June 5, 1997

On January 17, 1997 the Hebron Press Office posted the following:
At ten minutes after six this morning, the last officer left the Hebron Military Compound and handed the keys to his Arab counterpart. Leaving the compound, this act completed abandonment of 80% of Hebron to Arafat. Arab soldiers were deployed throughout the areas evacuated by the Israeli army. Thousands of Arabs, many of whom spent the night outside the compound, began chanting,"With blood, with fire, we will liberate palestine."
Over four months have passed since that fateful day, when the State of Israel executed the unthinkable - abandonment of over eighty percent of Hebron-City of the Patriarchs. Immediately Arafat’s army, euphemistically labeled ‘palestinian police’ filled the vacuum. Presently, armed terrorists occupy an overwhelming majority of Hebron. The question must be addressed: Is there a future for the Jewish Community of Hebron?
How do Hebron’s Jewish residents deal with the present situation? Are they packing their bags and leaving? No - the opposite is true. For example, Uri and Shelly Karzan were among the original families settling Tel Rumeida, almost 13 years ago. They lived, with their children in a 45 meter caravan, similar to a mobile home. Two years ago they finished construction of a new home in the Harsina neighborhood of Kiryat Arba. After having spent 10 years in such primitive conditions, they moved to their new house. However, almost everyday Shelly and Uri found themselves in Hebron - visiting their friends, praying at Ma’arat HaMachpela, bringing their children to play with their old neighbors. Finally, they had enough. After two years in their new spacious residence, they moved back to the tiny caravan at Tel Rumeida.
That is the secret of Hebron’s Jewish population. People do not live here for any material benefit. In theory, there aren’t any tangible incentives for those living in the City of the Patriarchs. The homes are small and the families large. Armed Arabs surround the Jewish neighborhoods. Large contingents of security forces are perpetually visible. So, why - why should we stay in Hebron?
However, for those living here, the dividends are palpable. Living in the City of Abraham, the ability to pray daily at Ma’arat HaMachpela, reading the Scroll of Ruth at the Tomb of Jesse and Ruth, this is our reward. Hebron does not belong to us - Hebron belongs to all the Jewish People throughout all the generations. We are the ‘keepers of the keys’ - we literally hold the fort. If there is no Jewish Community in Hebron, there are NO Jews in Hebron - AT ALL! It is our responsibility, and our Jewish communities of Hebron and the obligation, representing the ancient future residents of this Holy City, to ensure an enduring Jewish presence here - forever!
Many times journalists and tourists, seeing so many children and young residents in Hebron, ask, how is it possible to bring children into such a dangerous place, like Hebron. They ask if we don't worry about them. I recently told a group of reporters from the US that our goal in Hebron is not constant conflict - it is, rather, to live normal lives, just as people do throughout the world. A normal life includes families - men, women and children. How can one live a normal life without children. What should we do with them after they are born - send them elsewhere? 
In essence, the opposite is true.The children pictured in this article - they are our future - Hebron’s future, and the future of all the Jewish People. These children, seen here in Purim garb, are the seeds sprouting with the spiritual vitality to lead the Jewish People in the years to come. They live and breathe a vibrant ideal, enveloping their existence. This is the very fortitude necessary to guide us through the challenges of the next generation. Hebron’s youth, imbibed with the spiritual energy necessary to withstand the pressures of antagonistic neighbors, are the future of Hebron and of Israel. With G-d’s help, together, we will succeed in our task.

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