Friday, April 10, 1998

Thirty Years Ago - On A Silver Platter

Hebron-Past, Present and Forever by David Wilder Thirty Years Ago - On A Silver Platter
April 10, 1998
14 Nisan 5758

Wanted: Families or singles
to resettle ancient city of Hebron
For details contact Rabbi M. Levinger

This unassuming newspaper advertisement captured the attention
of many Israelis in 1968. The euphoria of the Six Day War had
subsided, Judea and Samaria were in Jewish hands, and yet, no
Jews had made their homes this area. Rabbi Moshe Levinger and
a group of like-minded individuals determined that the time
had come to return home to the newly liberated heartland of
Eretz Yisrael.

As their first goal, the group decided to renew the Jewish
presence in the Jewish People's most ancient city, Hebron.
Word of the decision spread quickly and soon a nucleus of
families was formed. Their objective: to spend Pesach in
Hebron's Park Hotel. Hebron's Arab hotel owners had fallen on
hard times. For years they had served the Jordanian
aristocracy who would visit regularly to enjoy Hebron's cool
dry air. The Six Day War forced the vacationers to change
their travel plans. As a result, the Park Hotel's Arab owners
were delighted to accept the cash-filled envelope which Rabbi
Levinger placed on the front desk. In exchange, they agreed to
rent the hotel to an unlimited amount of people for an
unspecified period of time.

The morning of Erev Pesach, April, 1968 saw the Levinger
family along with families from Israel's north, south and
center packed their belongings for Hebron. They quickly
cleaned and kashered the half of the hotel's kitchen allotted
to them and began to settle in. Women and children slept three
to a bed in the hotel rooms, while the men found sleeping
space on the lobby floor. At least Ya'akov Avinu had a rock to
place under his head, remembered one of the men in dismay.

Eighty-eight people celebrated Pesach Seder that night in the
heart of Hebron. "We sensed that we had made an historical
breakthrough", recalls Miriam Levinger, "and we all felt
deeply moved and excited".

Two days later, Rabbi Levinger announced to the media that the
group intended to remain in Hebron. Dignitaries, Knesset
members and Israelis from far and near streamed to the Park
Hotel to encourage the pioneers.

Defense Minister Moshe Dayan was anxious to remove the
pioneers from the hotel. He suggested that they move to the
military compound overlooking Hebron. A heated debate ensued.
There were those who felt that moving to the compound would in
effect, strangle the project. Others saw in Dayan's suggestion
official recognition, albeit de facto, of their goal.

Six weeks later, the pioneers moved to the military compound.
Rabbi Levinger insisted on accommodations for 120 people even
though they numbered less than half at that time. Rabbi
Levinger was accused of being an unrealistic dreamer. Within a
few short weeks however, he was proven correct. The 120 places
in the military compound could not accommodate the hundreds of
people who wanted to be part of the renewed of Jewish life in
Hebron, city of the Patriarchs.

"We received Eretz Yisrael on a silver platter in 1967",
explained Miriam Levinger. "It was an honor and a privilege to
be among the first people to make the dream of return a

In Hebrew, the number 30 is represented by the
letter Lamed, equalling thirty. "Lamed" is composed of three
letters, which also form the root of the Hebrew word which
means to learn, (Lilmode) and to teach (lilamed).

Over the past 30 years we have had to do much learning. Since
the elation of the miracles of the Six-Day War we have
undergone a tremendous amount, much too much to enumerate
here. When we will be able to look at this time period in the
perspective of history, perhaps the most important and
miraculous event was the modern recurrence of the exodus from
Egypt - that being the arrival of our brothers and sisters
from the late Soviet Union. This was truly an emergence from
darkness and slavery into light and freedom. As we say tonight
at the beginning of the Hagadda - 'in the beginning, shame
and in the end, praise.

Present day Israel is still in a learning phase - a stage in
an identity crisis plaguing us for many years. We have come
home from a two thousand year Galut, but we still haven't been
able to, as a nation, determine, or perhaps admit, who we are.
Those ancient Israelites needed 40 years in the desert to
eradicate the impurities of 210 years in Egypt. The
contamination of a 2,000 year old Diaspora undoubtedly takes
time to purify.

Thirty years ago we began a new level in our national
rediscovey - we returned to the foundations of our existence -
we came home to Hebron and Jerusalem. There are those who
still don't understand the significance of this event - but
eventually they will - that is assured.

When we say, twice a day, Shema Yisrael, the last letter of
the first word, Shema (Ain) and the last letter of the last
word, Echad (Dalet) are enlarged. Together, these letters
spell the word Aed - meaning witness. The numerical value of
Aed is 74. The Hebrew letter Lamed, when spelled out - Lamed,
Mem, Dalet - (Lamed = 30, Mem = 40, Dalet=4) 74, is the
equivalent of Aed = witness = seventy four.

Each and every one of you can find significance in this - I
will give you my short interpretation: Our thirty years in
Hebron and Jerusalem bears witness to the well known phrase -
"Netzach Yisrael lo Yishaker" - "The Eternal Israel cannot be
falsified." In 1967 the Israeli government pleaded with King
Hussein of Jordan not to get involved in the Six-Day War.
Hussein ignored them and started bombing Jerusalem. As a
result, Israel 'had no choice' but to return to East
Jerusalem, Hebron, and the rest of Judea and Samaria - the
heart of the Land of Israel.

Our comprehension of this is equivalent to our saying "Shema
Yisrael" - which is our acceptance of G-d and His Will.

On Sunday, we will celebrate, together with tens of thousands,
our 50th Independence Day and the 30th anniversary of the
renewal of Hebron's Jewish Community. From darkness to light -
so it was, and so it will be. It isn't a chance occurrence the
first major Independence Day celebration, sponsored by the
official Jubilee Committee, is taking place in the first
Jewish city in Israel, in the first city in Judea and Samaria
to be resettled following the Six Day War. Nothing could be
more appropriate. I'm sure that our Patriarchs and Matriarchs,
together with the generations of "Netzach Yisrael" will be
there too, celebrating with us in spirit - celebrating our
true national identify, on our national birthday. In Hebron we
have learned, and we are also trying to teach, by means of
example, the real value of being a free people, in our land.
For this is our true identity. With G-d's continued help, our
success will be the success of all Israel.

Chag Sameach - Happy Passover.
(The first part of this article was written a number of years
ago by someone in Hebron. It mirrors the account by Rabbinit
Miriam Levinger, videoed and available to all viewers on the
Hebron Web Site.)

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