January 18, 1999
It was exactly 730 days ago, two years ago, when the State of Israel willingly
and intentionally abandoned 80% of Hebron to Arafat and the terrorists. It was
such a terrible Friday morning when the military commander of the Hebron
Brigade, Lt. Colonel Gadi, walked out of the Israeli military compound on a
hill overlooking much of the rest of the city, entered his jeep and drove a few
minutes 'over the border' into the "Israeli" side of the city.
It was not unexpected. The 'Hebron Accords' had been signed and then ratified
by the Israeli cabinet only days before. That agreement, coming on the heels of
the cursed Oslo accords, had almost fallen through. Here in Hebron, together
with Jews around Israel and throughout the world we had worked day and night
for months on end, attempting to prevent implementation of the decree. Cabinet
ministers and Knesset members visited Hebron in order to 'learn the subject'
from up close. As a matter of fact, on the very day that the accords were voted
on in the cabinet, Minister Natan Sharansky made a special trip to Hebron, to
once again see with his own two eyes, and hear from the Hebron leadership, the
situation which would be created as a result of the agreement. Hebron was not
new to Sharansky - he had been here before, for the same purpose. And he also
believed, as he had said here on a previous visit, that 'signed agreement's
must be honored but not at the expense of Jewish lives and security.'
Concluding his mission here, he returned to Jerusalem, where he expressed his
doubts and fears to his friend, the Prime Minister. Netanyahu allayed
Sharansky's qualms, assuring him that 'Hebron's Jewish Community would have
full security and not be in danger.' Later that day Sharansky voted in favor of
the Hebron Accords.
That same cabinet decision also guaranteed 'to substantiate" Hebron's Jewish
community. A half a year later the community received permits to begin
construction of a new - six family building in the Avraham Avinu neighborhood.
Following the murder of Rabbi Shlomo Ra'anan, five months ago, Netanyahu agreed
to allow permanent housing at the Tel Rumeida - Tel Hebron neighborhood.
However this work cannot begin until archeological excavations are completed at
the site, excavations which have not yet begun. Last week, after another
shooting attack against Hebron nursery school teachers, construction finally
began on Beit HaShisha, for an additional 6 families. By the time the elections
roll around this government will have agreed to 'substantiate' Hebron's Jewish
community of 54 families with an additional 20 families, in Israel's most
This is the way it has been for the last two years, surrounded by hills filled
with armed terrorists who shoot at us, throw hand grenades, firebombs and
rocks. So, the question must again be asked How can we stay here?
I'd like to tell you about three people, three very different kinds of people
who, together with so many others, give us the strength to stay, despite all.
Groups continue to visit Hebron. Sometimes large, others smaller, but almost
every day, another group arrives. As a representative of the Hebron community,
I speak to many of these people, explaining the present situation and answering
questions. Yesterday one such group sat in the Avraham Avinu Shul, listening to
me describe how, for 700 years, Jews could not enter the 2nd most holiest site
to our People, Ma'arat HaMachpela - The Tombs of our Forefathers. Only since
our return in 1967 are we again allowed to pray at this sacred place. As I told
them that only because of our presence in Hebron is this site still accessible
to us, I noticed that one of the women in the group was wiping her eyes. I
wasn't saying anything out of the ordinary, but she continued to cry quietly
for about 20 minutes, until I had finished. I later found out that she had to
be convinced to visit Hebron, because originally she was afraid to come.
Afterwards, meeting the person who had convinced her to make the trip, with
tears rolling down her cheeks, and not being able to speak, she hugged her.
Last week we had a number of very distinguished guests. One of them, a
Christian, is an influential Congressman from New York, Mr. Michael Forbes. I
had the honor to spend some time conversing with the Congressman, and was
utterly amazed, not only by his comprehension of what is happening here, but
also by his emotional reaction and attachment to Hebron and its community.
While visiting the caravan house of a family with twelve children I could
literally see the light in his eyes, light of wonder and admiration. Upon
hearing that this neighborhood was the home of Abraham, and later, King David,
I could literally feel that his soul was filled with awe. Sitting with Mrs.
Chaya Ra'anan, widow of the murdered Rabbi Shlomo Ra'anan, the hurt and pain in
his eyes was tangible.
Here is an American gentile politician, who not only has the time to
investigate parts of Israel which few actually get to see, but also exhibits a
true, unbreakable bond between himself and a small group of Jews living in one
of the most controversial locations in the Middle East, if not in the world. I
was truly impressed and touched by his genuine interest and desire, not only to
know more, but more importantly, to assist in any way possible.
The last visitor I'll tell you about is actually not one person, rather, they
are a couple Dr. Irving and Mrs. Cherna Moskowitz. Much ado was made
concerning their visit to Israel and their involvement in Israeli politics.
What is perhaps less well known is that on their final day in Israel, the
entire group, led by Dr. and Mrs. Moskowitz, charted four six-seater airplanes
and flew to Kiryat Shmona, on Israel's northern border. There, they met with a
woman who had lost twin fetus' due to a katusha missle attack a few weeks ago.
And later, when meeting with the city's mayor, Dr. and Mrs. Moskowitz presented
him with a check for $100,000, for the city of Kiryat Shmona.
The Moskowitz's can only be described as 'Tzadikei HaDor" - the righteous of
the generation. They don't talk - they do; they do what they believe in, be it
Hebron, Jerusalem or Kiryat Shmona. Standing at the entrance to the Avraham
Avinu neighborhood, surrounded by dancing children, the love and warmth
radiated by Dr. and Mrs. Moskowitz was palpable. Dr. Moskowitz took Hebron
children in his arms, dancing with them to the tune of Hebron-Meaz u'letamid -
HebronFrom then and forever. Later, while bidding them farewell, and thanking
them for all they have done, Dr. Moskowitz, with true sincerity and humility
replied, "I couldn't do it if you weren't here."
These are three, but only three examples, of the over 600,000 people who have
visited Hebron in the past 730 days. This is what gives us the strength to
continue, come what may. For in all actuality, our reality is not that of 730
days - it is a reality of almost 4,000 years - a reality not of Netanyahu and
Barak, but rather a reality the likes of Mike Forbes, the Moskowitz's and a
women weeping while hearing about the people of Hebron. Seven hundred and
thirty days out of four thousand years - right now it's not so easy, but in the
end it will be like a single grain of sand on the beach, a grain washed into
the ocean of our heritage and tradition, beginning here in Hebron.