Monday, June 8, 1998

Happy Endings

I have received a number of responses to my last article, "May 10, 1999." Those responses relate to the "overly optimistic" conclusion of the essay. Therefore, I would like to clarify:
The article was written as a result of questions put to me relatively frequently in Hebron, by tourists and journalists alike. I suppose others also pose the question to themselves, if not to me or others in a similar position. That question is, very simply, what is the alternative, i.e., if this 'peace process' is not to your liking, what do you suggest?
This question may or may not be intelligently answered. But one point which must be dealt with is NOT 'what is the alternative' but rather, what are the consequences of our present actions? If the outcome is likely to be fatal to the continued existence of the Jewish state, or is likely to bring the Jewish People to its knees, it makes no difference if there is or is not an alternative. The present process must be stopped at all costs, before it is too late.
The scenario depicted in the article is, unfortunately, only one of many which could actually transpire should the 'peace process' continue, leading to establishment of a Palestinian State in large areas of Judea, Samaria and Gazza. Saddam Hussein, or Haffez Assad of Syria for that matter, could effortlessly amass troops on the Kalkilya - Kfar Saba - Petach Tikva - Tel-Aviv - Jerusalem - State of Israel, border. There would be little in the way to stop them. Katushas or other short range missiles could easily target in on any and every Jewish population in Israel from Shechem and Yericho. The possibility of nuclear conflagration is not beyond the realm of possibility.
How any of these, or other imaginable possibilities, would conclude is your guess as well as mine. The ending I supplied is, I suppose, a result of the need we in Hebron have to always be optimistic. Perhaps it is a little deeper than that. Perhaps it also has something to do with faith - for without faith all is truly lost.
I am not so naive as to believe that the 'not-so-optimistic' ending could also be a reality. I face such endings on a fairly frequent basis. For example, two weeks ago, in the early afternoon, an older man walked into my office with a younger woman. He introduced himself as Shlomo Goldshmidt, and his daughter. He told me that he had been born in Hebron almost 75 years ago. He was four and a half when the massacre began on Shabbat, the 17 of Av, in 1929. His mother ordered him and his sister to hide under the bed, which they did, petrified. His father, Moshe Goldshmidt, the community Shochet, or ritual slaughterer, was himself slaughtered. His mother was badly hurt after being stabbed, but recovered.
Shlomo Goldshmidt described to me how his father, a Chabad Hassid, had been in Jerusalem with the Rebbi, then visiting in Eretz Yisrael. He was very close to the Rebbi and never left his side. However, on Thursday, Shlomo Goldshmidt told the Rebbi that if he didn't return to Hebron, there wouldn't be any meat for Shabbat in the community. So he left Jerusalem and returned to Hebron, to his death at the hands and knives of Arab murderers.
Moshe Goldshmidt, and his daughter, married with a family of her own, went with me to the ancient Jewish cemetery, to recite some prayers at the grave of their father and grandfather - a father Moshe barely remembers. His daughter had never before been in Hebron, and she was very moved. We later visited Beit Hadassah and the memorial room for the 67 Jews killed in the massacre. There, Moshe found a picture of his father among the other martyrs. Far from being a happy ending.
On the other hand, when we were standing in the Tel Rumeida neighborhood, looking at the caravans which house the seven families living there, I mentioned that one of the community's distinguished residents is Rav Shlomo Ra'anan, Rav Kook's grandson. Mr. Goldshmidt then remarked that one of his cousins is a Dean at Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav, Rav Kook's yeshiva. When I asked him who, Mr. Goldshmidt answered, "Rabbi Melamed." I exclaimed, "Rabbi Zalman Melamed?!" and he responded affirmatively. So I left Moshe Goldshmidt waiting for a few moments, while I called Rabbi Melamed's daughter to come see her cousin. Because she just happens to live right there, in Tel Rumeida. Her name is Naomi Horowitz, and she is married to Rav Hillel Horowitz, one of the director's of the Hebron community.
Not only is it a small world. Rather here is a classic example of a complete circle: A few hundred meters from the cemetery where the murdered Shlomo Goldshmidt lies, his offspring are living, raising a family, presently with seven children, in the renewed Jewish Community of Hebron. Needless to say, it was a very emotional moment. And something of a happier ending.

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