Monday, June 11, 2001

To Visit or Not to Visit

To Visit or Not to Visit
By David Wilder

A few hours ago thousands attended he funeral of five month old Yehuda Shoham, killed when a huge rock was hurled through the windshield of his parent’s car a week ago, hitting him in the head, and crushing his skull.
We all know what Ariel Sharon’s response should be. I would like to address what should our response be? What should your response be?
Over the past few weeks, a new subject has made headlines in the Jewish world: Should we, or shouldn’t we – Should we visit Israel, or shouldn’t we visit Israel? Is it too dangerous? Can we take That kind of responsibility? For ourselves, for our children, for anyone???
I’d like to discuss this from several vantage points:
First, and most importantly: Eretz Yisrael belongs to the Jewish people, whether Jerusalem or Tel Aviv, whether Hevron or Beit El – ALL  of Eretz Yisrael – and that gives us a right to be wherever we want, whenever we want. If I want to take a hike in my back yard, or a mile away from my home, who has the right to stop me?!
Perhaps more significantly though, is not the right we have, but rather the obligation we have - the obligation to walk the land, to travel the land, to build the land – to be part of the land. That’s what G-d said to Abraham almost 4,000 years ago – Lecha Lecha – Go – Walk, – from north to south, from east to west, all the land. If you walk the land, if you dwell in the land, that land is yours. If you ignore the land, if you abandon the land, someone else will undoubtedly fill the vacuum.
I know what some of you are asking: What’s the red line. When the risks reach the stage where our lives may be in danger, how far must we go?
Practically speaking, no one must commit suicide. That is not the goal. The aim is to LIVE on the land. Today, for example, Hebron residents do not wander around on the Arafat-controlled part of the city, because, regrettably, at the present, that may be tantamount to suicide. The day will come when that will change, but for the moment, that’s the reality we have to live with.
On the other hand, what about the road from Hebron to Jerusalem?  Unfortunately, over the past weeks and months, a number of people have been killed traveling this road, others have been wounded, and still others have been attacked, and thank G-d, were not injured.
So, do we travel the road, or not? I personally face that question frequently.  For example, two weeks ago, in order to attend the funeral of Mrs. Sarah Blaustein, HY”D, who was murdered on that very road. The funeral began after dark in Efrat, about 25 minutes from Hebron. Before leaving the house I told my wife, “If we don’t continue to travel the roads, how can we continue to live here. We cannot allow ourselves to be trapped in our homes, without being able to even travel to Jerusalem or Gush Etzion, whenever we need to. If the road isn’t ours, it’s theirs. And we must not allow this to happen.”
Is this suicide? No. We are involved in a war, a war in which our enemy is trying to take our land away from us. Our response is clear: we will not let them control our lives – we will not play into their hands. We will continue to use the roads, we will shop in the malls, and our children will continue to play in the playgrounds. We will not let our enemies stop us from living.
So you ask, what if…
A few weeks ago a woman visited us for Shabbat from New York. She contacted me and asked to come to Hebron for Shabbat. She has 9 or 10 children at home and was in Israel for her sister's wedding. During one of the meals I asked her how her family let her come to Hebron and she answered, "There were those who tried to talk me out of it, telling me how dangerous it is, but HaKadash Baruch Hu knows my number. If my time's up, it doesn't matter if I'm in Hebron or New York or anywhere else.
I’ll add on to that. Again, we are at war. In war, unfortunately, there are casualties. However, if we do not fight back, for fear of casualties, what will be the result? Where would the Jewish world be today if the allied countries had continued with the policies of the British and Neville Chamberlain? Can we allow ourselves to be scared out of our land? If we can be chased out of Yehuda, Shomron and Gazza for fear of being injured, or G-d forbid, killed, we all know what’s next on the list – a list which ends in the Mediterranean Sea.
The question is, I think, not “how can we send our children to Israel.” The question you must ask is, “how can we not send our children to Israel” – “how can we ourselves not visit in Israel.” All Jews outside of Israel should be asking themselves: “They are at war, they are being attacked, they are our brethren. How can we stand by and do nothing? How can we stand on the sidelines without giving them some kind of support?
That support, first and foremost today – is to be here, to visit here, to prove to the entire world, be it the Israeli government, the American government, and the entire Arab world – YOU CANNOT DEFEAT US BY SHOOTING AT US – WE JEWS ARE ALL TOGETHER – WE WILL CONTINUE TO ROAM OUR LAND – YOU CANNOT STOP US!
Looking forward to seeing you here soon,

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