Thursday, May 29, 2003


May 29, 2003

Why cry over spilled milk’ Repetition of these tales is not an act of simple story-telling. As a matter of fact, these accounts are indicative of just about everything that has occurred in Israel ever since. And is still occurring today.
From David Wilder

This end of this week marks Jerusalem Day and Hebron Day ‘ the thirty-fifth anniversary of the liberation of these two cities, as well as the emancipation of all of Judea, Samaria and Gaza (Yesha) from foreign occupation. The story of the Jewish return to these sacred lands is well-known - but there are several factors which are less known, and must be publicized.

I recently attended a lecture given by Rabbi Yisrael Ariel, who was one of the warriors who partook in the freeing of Jerusalem. A couple of the lesser known elements of those historic days:

The battles had commenced. Eastern Jerusalem, including the Rockefeller museum, opposite the Old City of Jerusalem, was in Israeli hands ‘ many Israeli soldiers had died to unify Jerusalem for the first time in 2,000 years, under Jewish control. Israeli fighters waited tensely for the orders to reenter the Old City, to liberate the Kotel, the Western Wall, the Holy of Holies, site of the First and Second Temple,
 Beit HaMikdash. 

The Israeli cabinet, a national unity government, including opposition leader Menachem Begin, sat through the night, on the verge of an historic decision. The question: whether or not to enter the Old City. A proposal had been suggested: to declare the Old City of Jerusalem an ‘international city’, and to leave without liberating it. This idea was discussed all night and only as dawn lit the eastern sky was a decision reached to retake Jerusalem. According to Rabbi Ariel, two of the predominant factors in the final decision were Menachem Begin and Rabbi Shlomo Goren, Chief Rabbi of the Israeli Defense Forces.

Rabbi Ariel repeated other telling conversations:

1. Standing on Temple Mount, Chief Rabbi Goren suggested to Paratrooper Commander (later Chief of Staff) Mota Gur (known for his immortal words
 ’Har HaBayit b’yadenu.’ ’ ‘The Temple Mount is in our hands.’) that the Israeli soldiers killed during the liberation of Jerusalem be buried on the Mount of Olives, overlooking Temple Mount and considered to be the holiest burial site in Israel. Gur responded, ‘What are you talking about’ We’ll be leaving here soon ‘ we have to bury the soldiers on Mt. Herzl so their parents will be able to visit them.’

2. Rabbi Goren urged General Uzi Narkiss, one of the senior ranking officers in the IDF, then present on Temple Mount, to blow up the mosque located over the ‘Holy of Holies’ of the
 Beit HaMikdash, the Temple. Narkiss refused, saying that if Israel destroyed the mosque, the State would be required to rebuild it, bigger and better than it already was. Rabbi Goren told Narkiss, ‘You’ll be able to destroy it today; tomorrow will be too late.’ Narkiss walked away, telling Rabbi Goren (a general), ‘If you broach the subject again, I’ll throw you in jail.’ (This episode was published following the deaths of both Rabbi Goren and Uzi Narkiss.)

These stories come against the background of Israel’s attempts to prevent Jordan from entering the war. Prime Minister Levi Eshkol sent Golda Meir to meet King Hussein, pleading with him not to open an additional combat front, promising him that Israel had no intentions to attack the Old City. Hussein’s response was to start shelling Jerusalem, leaving Israel little choice but to fight back. The result of Hussein’s decision was the liberation of Jerusalem and Gush Etzion on the 28th of Iyar, Hebron the next day, and shortly thereafter, all of Judea and Samaria.

Jerusalem was not the only victim of massive incompetence. Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, visiting Hebron and
 Ma’arat HaMachpela, met the mufti of Hebron, Sheik Jabbrai. Jabbrai, a leader of and participant in the 1929 Hebron riots and massacre, handed Dayan the symbolic keys to the Tomb of the Patriarchs, saying, ‘Now the holy place belongs to you.’ Moshe Dayan gave the keys back to the Mufti, saying, ‘what are you talking about, the keys belong to you.’ Later, Dayan ordered that an Israeli flag, hung on Ma’arat HaMachpela by Rabbi Shlomo Goren, be removed, that a Torah scroll and holy Ark placed in the Ma’ara by Rabbi Goren be removed, and ordered that all Jews entering the structure remove their shoes, because ‘it’s a mosque.’

Why cry over spilled milk’ Repetition of these tales is not an act of simple story-telling. As a matter of fact, these accounts are indicative of just about everything that has occurred in Israel ever since. And is still occurring today.

Whenever I repeat the story of Dayan and the keys to visitors and tourists in Hebron, the first reaction is one of shock and disgust. The immediate response is ‘Why’’ My usual answer is, ‘Education.’ However, that answer is incomplete. The real reason is much deeper. It is the result of two thousand years of
 galut ’ 2,000 years of exile from Israel. But the answer is not single-faceted ‘ rather it is double-faceted: one, because the Jewish people were not in Israel, and two, because the Jewish people were dispersed amongst the nations of the world. Both of these factors played a decisive role in shaping the overall character of Am Yisrael, of the Jewish people. We are today witnessing, perhaps, the climax of the disease called Galut, an infirmity diametrically incongruous with its opposite, Geula, or redemption.

The State of Israel was born, technically, on two votes. On May 12th, 1948, the ‘provisional government’ met to reach a final decision. The British mandate was to conclude only two days later. Jewish leader David Ben-Gurion favored immediate declaration of a State. Moshe Shertok (later Moshe Sharett) favored delaying the formal declaration. By a six to four vote, Ben-Gurion was victorious. The state was born.

Several days ago, by one vote, our murderous Arab neighbors were granted legitimacy by another Israeli government. True, the vote in favor of the road map, i.e., recognition of a palestinian state, was 12 to 7. However, there were four abstentions. (In my eyes, there is no greater cowardice than a minister abstaining. A minister, by his or her very position, is a decision-maker. Not only minuscule decisions, but also big, important, significant, historic, decisions. A minister who ‘cops out’ has no business being a minister, and probably should not be in politics at all.) The four ministers who abstained were certainly not in favor of the road map plan, but they feared voting against Sharon, for whatever reason. In all actuality, there were eleven votes against the road map, against Israeli acceptance of a palestinian terror state. One vote ‘ one vote made all the difference.

Why did twelve Israeli ministers vote to abandon our land and grant our enemies another base from which to attack us’ For the same reasons that Mota Gur expected Israel to immediately withdraw from the Temple Mount and eastern Jerusalem, for the same reasons that Uzi Narkiss refused to destroy the mosque, for the same reasons that Moshe Dayan relinquished the keys, for the same reasons that the 1967 Israeli government dared question liberating Jerusalem, for the same reasons that four people out of ten voted to delay declaration of the State of Israel in May 1948:

Because they were afraid to look in a mirror, standing tall and proud, as Jews, not of France or England, Poland or Germany, Morocco or America, but as Jews of
 Eretz Yisrael, Jews of the Land of Israel.

In Hebrew there is a word
 cheshbon ’ literally, it means ‘account’ ‘ for our purposes, a personal accounting , or reason, behind certain actions. Perhaps synonymous with ‘excuse.’ Arik Sharon’s cheshbon for agreeing to the road map was: 1) economic ‘ we cannot improve our economy until the war is over; 2) humanitarian ‘ we cannot rule over 3.5 million Arabs; 3) American pressure ‘ we cannot say no to Bush. 

There is, conversely, another
 cheshbon. The considerations of the 1967 Eshkol government fell; Jordan attacked; the Old City, Temple Mount, Judea and Samaria were liberated. Dayan renounced the keys, but Ma’arat HaMachpela is in our hands, and Jews live in Hebron. Ehud Barak attempted to dump Jerusalem ‘ where is Barak and where is Jerusalem’ 

As tonight we celebrate Jerusalem Day, and on
 Shabbat, Hebron Day, we revel not only in our return to our sacred cities, to our holy lands. We revel in a Divine Cheshbon, a decision to bring the Jews home, back to their land. This is a cheshbon of Geula, of redemption. Those Jewish leaders who have insisted on ignoring this DivineCheshbon, who adamantly refuse to accept Jewish dominance in their land, whose hearts and souls are still inGalut, are erased from the present, deleted from history. 

There are illnesses treated by medicine. The more serious the disease, the more difficult the cure. The present ‘Oslo war’ is the medical equivalent of massive chemotherapy treatment, which will lead to the full eradication of the malignancy attempting to eat us from within and from without. Sometimes chemotherapy succeeds, sometimes it fails. But, believe me, when G-d administers an intravenous dose, it works. But it hurts. And it does hurt.

But when we look towards
 Har HaBayit ’ the Temple Mount, when we observe the Jerusalem skyline, when tens and hundreds of thousands walk the streets of Hebron, when, in the midst of war, communities continue to spring up throughout Yesha, against all odds, it is obvious that the tumor is being hit from all sides. True, there are regressions, but nothing can stand in the way of reality. And the Divine reality, the true Cheshbon, will bring all Jews to all of Eretz Yisrael, in peace and security, forever.

Monday, May 26, 2003

Reserved for Arik

Reserved for ArikMay 26, 2003

Dear Emma and Abba,
It’s time that I again fill you in. Yesterday, you cannot imagine what happened here. I’ve been here for over two years, but you know, time here isn’t like time where you are, there’s so much more. But yesterday, what a ruckus, what noise, what bewilderment. Everyone was running around, even in and out of the holy throne room, it was unprecedented. 

Maybe you noticed, yesterday morning in Hebron it rained, on and off, several times during the morning. Do you know why? Someone brought in a copy of the newspaper Yediot Achronot, passing it around. Then came the command to bring it into the holy throne room. The Prime Minister of Israel, the hero of our People, he said that the time has come to divide the Land, to abandon parts of Eretz Yisrael to our enemies, to the people who killed me and so many others, to give it to them. And when He read it, He cried. I’m told by the elders that this is the first time, in maybe two thousand years, that G-d cried. When word spread, others wept too. And those tears, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, Leah and Rachel, together with His tears, it rained in Hebron.

And you know, from here I can see things that you can’t. You know what I saw – I saw so many people sitting together, Arabs, leaders of the murderers, and you know what they were doing – they were laughing. Oh, how they enjoyed it. They were smoking big cigars, drinking whiskey, shaking hands, and laughing and laughing. One of them, Abu something, he was laughing the loudest, and  he kept saying, “we did it, we did it”. “Just a little more time, a little more patience, and it’s all over.” Someone whispered in his ear, “should we continue killing them?” and he shook his head, up and down, again and again, answering, “of course, of course, you see, it works, the more we kill them, the more they give us.”

Another one, Mohammed something, chuckled, “did you hear him – the Jews will always have security. I guarantee the Jews in Israel eternal security.” “Ha – how long does he believe he’ll be the Israeli Prime Minister – he is 75 years old, soon he will not be able to lead – and whoever replaces him – we will wipe up the floor with him and wipe all the Jews into the sea.”

Yesterday afternoon a short man with white hair, pacing up and down, kept yelling at a short woman with gray hair, “what fools they are, didn’t they learn anything? How can they make a decision like that?” She too, “We’ve gone through this before – a Palestinian state – what palestinians? Don’t they understand what is going to happen?” Both of them collapsed in tears.

I heard a couple of men speaking in a corner. They were in shock. One of them, they called him Gandhi,  exclaimed, “what, they’re staying in the coalition, Rabbi Benny, and Avigdor, Effie, I don’t believe it. I’m going to request special permission to go down and speak with them – I resigned when the army pulled off of Abu Sneneh in Hebron – now there’s a decision to accept an enemy terrorist state, to uproot communities, and they are staying in the coalition? I just don’t believe it.”

Emma, Abba, I have to read you something, tell me what you think:
It's clear beyond all doubt that the government has disregarded the warnings and alerts from all those in charge of our security. These warnings have made not the slightest impact.

Whatever is being done now - and it's relatively little, and not necessarily what's needed - could have been done before the latest wave of terrorist attacks erupted. It might have been possible to prevent it, or at least some of it.

What lessons must we learn now which couldn't have been absorbed before?

But the flock of sheep pays the price, and drifts back into its routine.

The government proclaims it will act wisely and responsibly, and regularly announces: "Whoever tries to harm Israel will be punished right away."

And "We'll draw conclusions…But the grass-eaters hear what's happening, and stay silent. They just go on chewing the cud.

This is an article called “AND THE SHEEP GO ON CHEWING,” authored by ARIEL SHARON, appearing in the Jerusalem Post on March 22, 1996

I have to tell you, there’s a man here, he crouches in a corner, sort of sitting on a little stool, they say he hasn’t moved in almost two thousand five hundred years. He is surrounded by tears, by his tears, he has never stopped crying. His name is Gedalya, and he was that last governor of Israel, after the destruction of the first Temple. Way back then his friends came to him and warned him that an evil man name Yishmael ben Nesania was going to kill him. He refused to listen, rejecting their counsel, unwilling to accept slander. The day after Rosh HaShana, when Yishmael ben Nesania arrived at his home, Gedalya welcomed him. But when Gedalya turned his back, Yishmael murdered him. Our sages teach that Gedalya was a righteous man, but is labeled as a righteous fool. He was forewarned, yet took no precautions, and the last governor of Israel was killed, leaving the land leaderless until the return from the Babylonian exile. Every year, since then, Jews fast on the day Gedalya was murdered.

There are things I’m not supposed to tell you, but I’ll tell you anyhow. There is another stool, next to Gedalya’s. Nobody ever sits there because there’s a small sign on it, which says, ‘reserved for Arik.’

Emma and Abba, I’m so happy to see that I have two sisters. I’m just sorry that I never had a chance to play with them. And I miss you.

Your loving daughter,

Monday, May 19, 2003

The Inner Core

The Inner Core
May 19, 2003

There are weeks when I ask myself, what are we going to talk about tonight. And there are weeks when there is so much to say, too much to say.

Friday night, rather than pray at Ma’arat HaMachpela, over 100 people worshiped outside Beit Hadassah, in the street. It was 23 years ago, on this Friday night, when terrorists opened fire on men dancing and singing outside Beit Hadassah, killing six and injuring twenty. Only days later, the Israeli cabinet, meeting in special session, reacting to this murderous attack, finally decided to reestablish a Jewish community in Hebron, a community destroyed by Arab murderers in 1929. The building now adjacent to Beit Hadassah, Beit HaShisha, the house of the six, is named in memory of these six men whose spilt blood led to the renewal of the oldest Jewish city in Israel.

So it was then, in 1980. Jewish blood flowing through the streets of Hebron. Less than twenty-four hours later, again. I had just finished afternoon prayers and was on the way upstairs for the traditional third Shabbat meal, when an explosion shattered the peace and quiet of the waning day. It was quickly apparent that, not far away, a bomb had been detonated. I made my way down the street to Kikar Gross, the Gross Square, only five minutes from Beit Hadassah. There, I witnessed emergency medical personnel trying desperately to save the lives of Gadi and Dina Levi, residents of Kiryat Arba, walking through the streets of Hebron. Paramedics initially arriving at the scene originally thought that there was a third victim, until IDF officers clarified the situation, because the terrorist suicide bomber looked very much like a Jew.

Unfortunately the attempts to save the couple’s lives failed – again, another husband and wife, wiped out by Arab terror. It was only weeks ago when Rabbi Eli and Dina Horowitz were murdered in their home, also in Kiryat Arba.

Very late Saturday night Hebron-Kiryat Arba leaders met with high-ranking military officers, an almost automatic ritual following such murderous attacks. As the discussion began, one of the men looked at the officers and said, “I feel like we’ve done this before. You’ll give us an account of exactly what happened and how you will react, we will tell you what we think should be done, maybe voices will be raised, we will let off steam, we’ll all shake hands, leave, and meet again after the next one.”

We all looked at each other and shook our heads in agreement. And that’s exactly what happened. Of course, the officers tried to dispel our skepticism, assuring us that our comments and remarks are taken seriously and passed on to even higher authorities. Maybe yes, maybe no, who knows?

I must relate another event I participated in earlier today. Last year the Kiryat Arba Ulpana women’s high school sponsored a special art exhibition, which was organized by a number of the institution’s students. The exhibits were beautiful, illustrating real talent. One of the first visitors was the Commander of the Hebron region, Colonel Dror Weinberg. He spent over an hour at the exhibit, carefully examining each piece of art, asking questions, expressing his opinion as to the importance of such an art show.

Colonel Weinberg was one of the twelve men killed during the infamous November attack, at the entrance to Kiryat Arba. This year the high school decided to present a second exhibition, this time dedicating it to Colonel Dror Weinberg’s memory. This morning I was privileged to attend a reception, opening the exhibition. Among the guests were General Moshe Kaplinsky, Commander of the Central Region and Mrs. Hadassah Weinberg, Dror’s widow. Hadassah was the event’s concluding speaker, relating her murdered husband’s emotional description of last year’s event. Mrs. Weinberg participated with the rest of the guests, hearing explanations about the various exhibits and viewing a sketch of her husband, drawn by one of the high school students.

Pictures from the reception:

Another speaker was Rebbetzin Esther Lior, wife of Hebron-Kiryat Arba Rabbi Dov Lior. Addressing General Moshe Kaplinsky, she said, “I must take advantage of the moment, and express my gratitude to the army for all its hard work. But I must add, with all our thanks, you are not doing enough. We are drowning in blood and tears.”

And even now, as I write these words, Israel radio is broadcasting live from Afula, where a short time ago a terrorist exploded, killing and injuring more Israelis.

Tonight we will celebrate the holiday called Lag b’Omer, the day on which Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai passed away, almost two thousand years ago. Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai was the author of the Zohar, the esoteric work which is the pillar of what is known as “Jewish mysticism,” the most deep and profound element of Jewish study.  In honor of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, it is an accepted practice to light bonfires throughout Israel, and then to sing, dance and study by the shadowy light, through the night.

This is how we are living, with shadowy light, in the night. Sometimes the shadows overcome the light and the night seems even darker. Sometimes the light overpowers the darkness, and sometimes they seem to battle each other, the light, the shadows, the darkness, leaving us in a kind of murky uncertainty, not really here, not really there, like a big question mark.

That’s sort of how I feel today. Yet, the light is still stronger than the darkness. Hadassah Weinberg, speaking about her heroic husband, said, “Dror used to say, ‘I am temporary. I’m here in Hebron, for a year and a half or two years, and then I leave. Those who are the real soldiers, without whom I wouldn’t be here, are those living in Hebron and Kiryat Arba, keeping it for all of us.’” She continued, “I think that the climax of Dror’s career was reaching his position in Hebron, and the pinnacle of that culmination was that terrible night that he was killed. That was his life.”

That is our life – an eternal bonfire, light, mixed with shadows, mixed with darkness, the light breaking through, revealing the inner core, the light of the Jewish people.

With blessings from Hebron,
This is David Wilder

Monday, May 12, 2003

Rejoicing in Our Land

Rejoicing in Our Land
May 12, 2003


Yesterday Arab terror stole its 768th victim of the Oslo War, fifty two year old Tzion David, father of six, including an eight year old son, who will never ever again play with his daddy.

In today’s newspapers we are treated to the theatre of the absurd, pictures of a smiling Tzion David, a smiling Colin Powell, a smiling Ariel Sharon, a smiling Abu Mazen and a smiling Mohammed Dahlan. I can understand why the latter two are grinning; they have what to be happy about. First of all, there is one less Jew in Israel. Secondly, they have again managed to pull a rabbit out of a hat. Where else in the world would the American Secretary of State agree to meet, shake hands with, and talk to international gangster-terrorists?

I can understand why Colin Powell is all cheery. He is, he thinks, on his way to fulfilling the age-old dream of the American State Department, and that is, a plan to bring about the annihilation of the State of Israel.

What I find very hard to comprehend or stomach, is Ariel Sharon’s obvious delight. His show of joy is equivalent to that of a ten year old who is elated, when, after having walked out of school, is jumped by the neighborhood bullies, punched in the face, kicked, spit on, and then, just so that he should really understand, is, and you will please excuse me, urinated on. Any kid who would be pleased after such an attack needs not only a good trainer, but an ever better psychologist.

That’s the way it is with our Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon.

To add a cherry to the icing, Israel radio reported this morning that David’s murderers hole up in Arafat’s Mukhatta headquarters in Ramallah. From there they strolled off to kill another Jew, and where they returned following the execution.

These same people also killed twenty seven year old Gideon Lichterman on the eve of Independence Day.

It goes without saying that killers originating from Arafat’s headquarters are not acting behind the boss’s back. Yassir knows exactly what’s going on, because he’s giving the orders. Yet Sharon and company just keep on smiling, everything is fine.

How sick it is!

Many people have turned to me, asking what they can do. First, credit where credit is due. There are a number of groups, in Israel and around the world, working very hard to torpedo the current suicide plan, called the “road map.”  I’m always afraid to start mentioning specific groups, or people, for fear of leaving someone out and offending them. So, this list is not inclusive. Two Jewish organizations in the United States, the Zionist Organization of America, led by National President Mort Klein and Executive Director Robert Jancu, and AFSI, American Friends for a Safe Israel, led by Chairman Herb Zweibon and Executive Director Helen Friedman, are working tirelessly, day and night, to right the wrongs of the ‘piece plan.’ Many Christian groups, amongst them the Christian Coalition, led by Roberta Combs, are working hand-in-hand with Senators and Congressmen in Washington, to prevent George W. Bush from pressuring Israel. Here in Israel such groups as the “Matot Arim,” in English, ‘the city’s committee’ led by Susie Dym, working with various political lobbying groups, are trying to twist Sharon’s arm, preventing him from tearing apart Eretz Yisrael and established a Palesterror State in our backyard. 

It is of the utmost importance that people like yourselves, wherever you are, keep the pressure on, making sure that your political representatives know that you care, keeping them on their toes. It really does make a difference. Work with these organizations, they need volunteers to strengthen the ranks. Make your voices heard.

People ask me how we keep our sanity – how do we keep our heads above water, despite everything that’s going on. I can only relate a personal example – it’s really quite simple. Last week we marked two special days, two days in a row. First, Memorial Day, remembering those no longer with us, killed in war, wiped out by terror. It’s a very difficult day, especially when so many of the people we remember were killed in the past few months and years, friends, family, loved ones. It is an emotionally draining twenty four hours, peaking the pain of the past six months.

And then, almost literally with the stroke of the clock, we commence Independence Day celebrations. Fireworks, festive music, barbeques, events seeming diametrically opposed to the sentiments of the past twenty four hours.

Are the two events really contradictory? Is the ache of Memorial Day suddenly forgotten, erased, as if it didn’t exist? No, of course not. So how is it possible to make such a drastic transformation from mourning to celebrating?  These two days exemplify the abnormality of our era, the anomaly of the Jewish people. We made it through two thousand years of galut, centuries of persecution, exile and death, culminating with the greatest of all crimes against humanity – a holocaust, leaving over six million of our brethren dead. Yet, three short years later, we found ourselves with a state, independence, a new lease on existence. And now that we have come back home, there are those among us who still don’t want to come home, and there are others, who, having come back home, want to literally give our homeland away, to our enemies, who want nothing more than to again evict us from our land. So many opposites, so many contradictions.

We returned to Israel on the coattails of the victims of Nazi Germany. We established a State on the coattails of those who fell in War. And today, we are holding on to our Land by the tips of our fingernails, at the cost of hundreds of dead and thousands of maimed. Were we to give up, their sacrifices would be in vain. So, we have no choice but to push the pain aside, and celebrate, when it is time to celebrate. And that is how we continue to live, day after day, doing whatever must be done, crying, laughing, struggling for our land, and rejoicing in our land. That is the only way to remain sane.

With blessings from Hebron,
This is David Wilder

Monday, May 5, 2003

Walking Alone

Walking alone
May 5, 2003


Tonight begins Yom HaZikaron, Israeli memorial day. Bituach Leumi, the Israeli version of Social Security, announced that in the past year two hundred and eighteen Israelis were killed in terror attacks with over five thousand five hundred injured. Amongst those killed were ‘the twelve heroes’, three Kiryat Arba civilians, belonging to the town’s emergency security squad, and nine police, soldiers and officers, including Hebron commander, Colonel Dror Weinberg. Last night I was privileged to attend a very moving, emotional ceremony during which special certificates were presented to all members of the Kiryat Arba and Hebron Emergency squads who participated in that ill-fated Friday night battle. Included in the over thirty people receiving citations were the families of the Kiryat Arba fighters killed that night, as well as  two security officers from Hebron, Yoni Bleichbard and Eliyahu Libman, who commanded the forces following the death of Colonel Weinberg.

The program itself incorporated several short speeches and distribution of certificates. The words spoken by Rabbi Dov Lior, Kiryat Arba Mayor Tzvi Katzover, Brigadier General Amos Ben Avraham, commander of forces in Judea, and Yossi Levy, a member of the Kiryat Arba security squad commended the IDF for recognizing the contribution of the emergency security squad, and while also recognizing the selfless dedication of the men involved.

Photographing the event, I had an opportunity to look closely at the people attending, and two distinct images caught my eye. Sitting in the first row on the left side of the hall was the Tzvitman family – Leonid and Faina, Lada and her son Eyal. Grandparents, a five year old, and his mother. One person was missing – Alex – little Eyal’s father, Lada’s husband, Leonid and Faina’s son. Alex was one of those three brave Kiryat Arba residents who lost their lives, killed when a terrorist’s hand grenade exploded next to him, killing him and the two others instantaneously. Alex’s father received the citation, which reads, “to the soldier Alex Tzvitman, of blessed memory, who fell in the battle “Worshipers Way” on the tenth of Kislev 5763, shoulder to shoulder with Israeli soldiers and border police, demonstrating valor during battle, in an attempt to make contact with the enemy, with a commitment to provide security for all the residents in the Hebron region. With gratitude, Amos Ben-Avraham, Brigadier General, Commander, Judea.

The family looked lost, the little boy not understanding why he was sitting there in the audience. He probably also didn’t understand why his father had never come home again, after leaving the house that Friday night. The most wonderful father in the world, his father, simply disappeared.
My wife is a speech therapist in a center for child development in Kiryat Arba. She told me how, periodically, Alex Tzivtman would appear, out of nowhere, with toys and games for the institution’s children. That was the kind of person Alex Tzvitman was.

When the ceremony concluded, as all stood to sing our national anthem, HaTikvah, Alex’s mother stood and wept, not being able to hold back her pent up emotions.

Right behind the Tzivtmans sat the Buanish family, Rivka and her children, the family of Yitzhak Buanish, head of Kiryat Arba security, who also fell in the line of duty. Rivka and one of her younger sons accepted the certificate from the General ben-Avraham. Later, when the other men were introduced, accepting their awards, I couldn’t help but notice that Rivka Buanish almost enthusiastically joined the rest of the audience in clapping and smiling, showing too her appreciation for the work they had done, for their dedication, for their courage. The only difference between her family and the others was, of course, that their fathers and husbands lived through that night. Hers didn’t. What inner strength she must have, to sit there and almost cheeringly applaud those other men, so wishing that her beloved husband was among them.

And I’ll conclude with yet a third story, the story of a man who wasn’t at last night’s ceremony. Not because he fell, and not because he refused to attend.

Last week the Israeli weekly newspaper Makor Rishon called and requested that I photograph Kiryat Arba resident Baruch Desta. Desta, 29 years old, born in Ethiopia, moved to Israel when he was seven. Together with his parents, four other siblings, and 5,000 other Ethiopian Jews, he traveled for two and a half weeks to get to Sudan, where they were met by an Israeli ship which secretly brought them to Eretz Yisrael. Within a year the family lived in Kiryat Arba. A born leader, Desta was later an officer in the IDF and then joined the Israeli police, working as a special investigator. Being a policeman wasn’t enough for Baruch Desta – he joined the Kiryat Arba emergency security squad. On the night of the attack Baruch was injured in both legs, his chest and his head. One of his legs was partially amputated. He suffered from severe infection which threatened his life. But last week, when I visited him in his home, Baruch Desta was able to walk outside to the front lawn without any aid, with any crutches, without my hand. He walked alone.
Tomorrow night, at the official state celebrations marking the commencement of Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israeli Independence Day, Baruch Desta will be one of those select few who will light a traditional torch in Jerusalem, a flame symbolizing the light of the existence of the Jewish people in their homeland. Yesterday, instead of receiving his certificate in Kiryat Arba, Baruch was participating in a dress rehearsal for tomorrow’s festivity. Baruch Desta, representing Hebron and Kiryat Arba, representing those who lived and those  who died, representing Jews who trekked on foot for hundreds and even thousands of kilometers to reach Eretz Yisrael, the State of Israel, representing Yitzhak Buanish, Alex Tzivtman and Alex Duchan, Baruch Desta has come a long way from his Ethiopian birthplace. He truly symbolizes what Israel is all about.

With blessings from Hebron,
This is David Wilder