Sing We Will
August 11, 2003
August 11, 2003
Today is only Monday, and already it’s a difficult week. Yesterday a fifteen year old boy was killed by a Hizballah-shot missile. Haviv Dadon, living in the north Israeli city Shlomi, was the latest victim of Arab warfare against Israel. The Israeli reaction was virtually nil. Par for the course.
This morning we were informed that a young Hebron resident was under arrest for ‘threatening to kill the Prime Minister.” A wonderful way to start the day. After much media hysteria and headlines, the 18 year old man was released, without charges being filed against him. What happened was that last night two Hebron men were in Jerusalem, hanging posters near Ariel Sharon’s official residence, for an upcoming Hebron event. The Prime Minister’s security personnel showed up to examine the merchandise and struck up a not very pleasant conversation with the two men. One of the men allegedly commented, “Sharon murdered my friend and a next-door neighbor. I wouldn’t have any problems killing him.” A short time later he was apprehended and taken in for questioning. Later in the afternoon he was released.
If the event occurred as reported, the remarks were not only uncalled for, they were stupid and damaging. Of course, I have no doubt, knowing him and his family,
that he had no intentions of attempting to carry out his verbal threat. But that aside, there are some things that should not even be alluded to, including any kind of threat, be it direct or indirect, against the life of the Prime Minister, or anyone else, for that matter. We may have many differences with Sharon and other politicians, but we also have frameworks and platforms from which we can voice our disagreements and try to force changes in government policy. But bloodshed is certainly not one of them. That is clear.
However it’s also very unfortunate that the Israeli press, both radio and internet, saw fit to make the issue headline news, but neglected to report the man’s release, without any charges being filed against him. But this too, is normal Israeli press coverage.
At the end of this week we will mark two occasions, neither of them particularly happy. Friday is the 17th day of Av, the 74th anniversary of the beginning of the 1929 riots and massacre which left 67 Jews dead in Hebron, and over 70 injured. The brunt of the massacre occurred on Saturday morning, but the first man killed, Shmuel HaLevy Rosenhalz, was murdered on Friday evening, at the onset of Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath. Haj Amin el-Husseini, later a Nazi activist, incited against the Jews of Eretz Yisrael claiming that they were trying to “conquer Temple Mount and that Arab blood was flowing through the streets of Jerusalem.” Of course this was a lie, but that made no difference. Rioting commenced that Friday and spread throughout the country. Jews were killed in Jerusalem, Tsfat, Motza and other places, but the hardest hit was Hebron. Those riots led to the expulsion of the community’s surviving population, bringing about an end to Hebron’s Jewish presence for the first time in almost a thousand years. A small group of Jews returned in 1931, only to be evicted again in 1936, again, due to Arab incitement and violence.
Last year, history seemed to replay itself. At almost the same time that Shmuel Rosenhalz was murdered 73 years earlier, Hebron resident Elazar Lebowitz, on the eve of his twenty-first birthday, was driving a young couple, married only days before, to Hebron for a festive weekend celebration. Several miles outside of Hebron Arab terrorists opened fire, shooting and killing Elazar, only minutes after having murdered three members of the Dickstein family from Psagaot.
On Sunday, Elazar was laid to rest at the ancient Jewish cemetery in Hebron, only meters away from Shmuel Rosenhalz. This Thursday we will mark the first anniversary of Elazar’s murder. At three thirty in the afternoon a series of lectures and Torah lessons will be given at the Gutnick Center, adjacent to Ma’arat HaMachpela, the Tomb of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs. Later in the evening at six thirty, a special performance will be held at Tzomet Ziff, the Ziff junction, the site of the shooting, in the Southern Hebron Hills. The event is called, “Songs That Elazar Loved.”
I asked Elazar’s father, Yossi, why the family chose this way to commemorate Elazar’s death. He told me, “Elazar left a will, asking that at his funeral people should not mourn, rather they should sing and be happy. This led to the production of a special music CD, released earlier this year, full of songs that Elazar loved. Now we are trying to continue his legacy. It is not necessarily easy for us. We want the event to be suitable, not just a songfest get-together. But, with G-d’s help, it will work out the way we want, and the way Elazar would have wanted.”
So, on Thursday night, Hebron residents, together with Elazar’s many friends, and others from all over Israel, will gather at the site where four Jews were murdered exactly one year ago and sing, sing to the memory of Elazar. Buses will leave Binyanei HaUma in Jerusalem, across from the Central Bus Station at 5:00 and will return following the event. Participants are requested to register by calling 058-693724.
At 10:00 on Friday morning, friends and family will hold a short memorial service at Elazar’s grave. On Sunday, at the same site, we will remember the 67 Jews murdered in Hebron in the Hebrew year of Tarpat, 1929.
Several years ago, on the 70th anniversary of the riots I published an article called The Lessons of 1929. It seems that those lessons have yet to be learned. All the mistakes we made then, and all the mistakes we’ve made since, still seem to plague us. Yet, despite the horrors of the past and those of the present, despite the mistakes and the lessons unlearned, the Jewish people are still in Eretz Yisrael, they are still in Jerusalem and they are still in Hebron. True, there are good days and bad days, good weeks and bad weeks, even good years and bad years. But perhaps, as Elazar Lebovitch seemed to know in his short life, you must never give up, you just have to keep singing. And sing we will.
With blessings from Hebron,
This is David Wilder