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

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