Monday, February 17, 2003

Quenching Our Thirst

Quenching Our Thirst
February 17, 2003


Following the terror attack here three months ago, when twelve men were killed, the Israel Defense Forces, in concert with other security forces, decided to clear out and widen segments of the road leading from Kiryat Arba to Ma’arat HaMachpela in Hebron.  

Walking from Kiryat Arba to Hebron via the town’s south gate, one first hikes down a hilly road, called in Hebrew, “Tzir HaMitpallelim,” or “Worshiper’s Way.” The distance from beginning to end is, at most, five minutes. It was just off this road, very close to Kiryat Arba, where the 12 men were attacked and murdered. It was on the west side of this road that Hebron-Kiryat Arba residents formed a new neighborhood after that fatal attack, a neighborhood later ordered destroyed by the Sharon government.

At the end of  “Worshiper’s Way” is a small intersection, which is crossed over diagonally, to reach another small pathway, called in Hebrew “Simtat Erez,” or the “Erez Path.” This road leads directly to the Machpela Courtyard and Ma’arat HaMachpela. Here too, from beginning to end, is, maximally, a five minute walk. 

This path, resembling an alley more than a road, is very narrow, and treacherous. It is called the Erez Pathway in memory of Erez Shmuel, a student at the Kiryat Arba yeshiva, who was killed on this path late one Friday afternoon, ten years ago. Two Arab terrorists hiding behind a stone wall jumped on Erez, one holding him and the other stabbing him to death. Other Jews have been periodically attacked here over the years. The last such assault occurred exactly one week after the twelve men were killed. That Friday morning a bomb exploded on the Erez path. It had been timed to blow up later, on Friday night, when again, worshipers walking to and from Ma’arat HaMachpela would have been victims. Fortunately, the explosion took place earlier than planned, when the area was deserted. It should be noted that the bomb was somehow placed there while the Arabs in Hebron were under total curfew.

Simtat Erez is surrounded on two sides by ruins - crumbling buildings constructed decades ago. Some of the structures were built one to two hundred years ago. They are dually dangerous: Buildings are liable to collapse, with stones literally falling on passersby; but much more perilous is the chance of a terrorist hiding behind an ancient stone wall, or a bomb implanted underneath a mound of rubble.

In between the debris are a few Arab families, living in rebuilt houses amongst the ruins.

Following the terror attack, the IDF decided that the time had come to clean up the Erez pathway, thereby removing a serious threat to Jewish lives in Hebron. The few Arabs living there, led on by the Israeli left, petitioned to the Israeli Supreme Court against the impending measures. At the court hearing, lawyers for the left spouted rancorous words of hatred against the ‘settlers’ and ‘their evil plots.’ Lawyers representing the IDF made it clear that the government and the defense ministry, and not the Hebron settlers, were demanding radical changes at the Erez pathway.  They then presented a list of terror incidents occurring in and around the location under discussion, attacks taking place over tens of years.

Following oral arguments, the supreme court justices informed defense ministry attorneys that the security reasons presented were not cause enough for allowing destruction of the ruins or the Arab homes. The attorneys were told to bring back other, more serious grounds. In other words, Jewish blood is cheap.

A few days ago at another hearing, the court requested that the army ‘reconsider’ its plan to widen the road. This, despite grim warnings of the consequences of continued inaction.

This morning two newspaper headlines caught my eye.
First, this afternoon the new Knesset is to be sworn in. And second, the water level of the Kinneret has risen above the red line.

In ways which are, perhaps, more than symbolic, I think these two events are related.

What should we look for in the new Knesset? Of course, the clichés normally espoused: Honesty, integrity and objectivity. However, this Knesset contains an element sorely missing in Israel’s parliamentary body for many years. That is, a clear-cut mandate. The Israeli electorate has spoken twice in two years, leaving no doubt as to the will of  the people. Sharon’s two landslide victories, the demise of the left, and the overwhelming rejection of Oslo enable the Knesset to enact far-reaching decisions, choices which will literally determine whether Israelis live or die. The Knesset can and should undertake legislation curbing the enormous powers of the Supreme Court, powers not determined by law, rather usurped via judicial osmosis. The Knesset can and should undertake legislation giving priority to Jewish lives by declaring the ‘death of Oslo’ thereby voiding any and all Israeli responsibilities or obligations undertaken as a result of that cursed ‘peace treaty.’ The Knesset can and should undertake legislation annexing Judea, Samaria and Gaza, declaring to ourselves and to the entire world, that Eretz Yisrael not only belongs to Am Yisrael, but is a legitimate element of the Jewish state of Israel. Such legislation is the only true response to continued Arab terror, whose goal is the eradication of the State of Israel.

How is this related to water in the Kinneret? Simply. The lack of rainfall over the past few years brought the Kinneret’s water line down, way past the red line. This red line signified disaster, and the real possibility of major water shortages, not only for agricultural use, but also for drinking water. Dire predictions of thirst and famine were not far from the headlines. Already, water costs were skyrocketing. However, much to the meteorologist’s surprise, this year has turned their prophecies around. The water level, though still far from being optimal, is rising steadily, and hope is in sight.

So too it must be with Israel. We’ve been under the red line for almost a decade. The last two plus years have seen us drowning, not in water, but in our own blood. There may have been those who thought that all was lost, that we were past the point of no return. But it’s not so. The Israeli people have made their voices heard, and the moment has arrived. We have the ability to bring about an end to our famine – to our useless actions, and to quench our thirst, that is, to express our love for our land, the Land of Israel. Just as the Kinneret is returning to itself, so too, we must return to ourselves, to rise above the red line, so far up that we will forget that a red line ever existed.

With blessings from Hebron,
This is David Wilder 

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