The seventh year is known to be one of rest, allowing for study and introspection, looking back at the past, learning from it, drawing conclusions, while amassing strength and looking to the future.
So the time has come to look back. Exactly seven years ago Israel signed and implemented the Hebron accords – ceding over eighty percent of the city to Arafat and the Palestinian Authority.
December 30, 1996-News from Hebron: Several members of the Jewish Community of Hebron met with Prime Minister Netanyahu for over half an hour early yesterday afternoon. None of the problems raised by the Hebron residents were resolved at the meeting.
When asked about the continued renovations in the Kasba behind the Avraham
Avinu neighborhood, the Prime Minister admitted that he knows the buildings are
to be filled with terrorists. But he said that the buildings belong to the
Arabs, and "they can populate them with whoever they want."
When questioned about the Jewish property to be transferred to Arafat and the
PA, Netanyahu claimed that this is a "pandora's box" that must not be opened.
When asked about other security issues, Netanyahu told his visitors to 'trust
him.' Asked about the possibility of terrorist attacks and car bombs on King
David Street (Shuhada), Netanyahu gestured that he was aware of the problem,
but did not suggest any solution.
January 14, 1997- From “Moments of Truth” by David Wilder: Tonight not only is Hebron on the chopping block. Tonight almost all of the land area of Judea, Samaria and
Gazza is up for grabs. In addition to abandoning Hebron, Netanyahu has agreed to part with close to 70% of Yesha by September 1, 1998. Netanyahu is not only beheading
The Jewish Community of Hebron. He is castrating the Land of Israel… abandonment of land in Israel is contrary to our very existence. We came back to Eretz Yisrael to settle the land, to live on the land - not to divide it and hand it over to our enemies, to terrorists. The direction of the present `moment of truth' is clearly negative. But eventually, this will change and the crossroads we are turning down now will reach a dead-end, and we won't have any choice but to turn around, come back, and turn the other way. Whatever the cost, we must know this, and live accordingly.”
January 17, 1997-News from Hebron: “At ten minutes after six this morning, the last officer left the Hebron Military Compound and handed the keys to his Arab counterpart. Leaving the compound, this act completed abandonment of 80% of Hebron to Arafat. Arab soldiers were deployed throughout the areas evacuated by the Israeli army.
Thousands of Arabs, many of whom spent the night outside the compound, began
chanting, "With blood, with fire, we will liberate palestine."…The initial stone-throwing attacks by Arabs in Hebron, and the IDF's unwillingness to arrest the perpetrators is far from encouraging. The distance between throwing rocks, or throwing hand grenades, or shooting, is very short…Concession to American pressure will only lead to more and more capitulation. Concession to terrorism will only lead to further terror. Arafat has proven his ineffectiveness in preventing terror attacks.”
January 17, 1997-From ‘Rest in Peace’ by David Wilder: Last night Prime Minister Netanyahu, speaking at a press conference, told viewers that "Israel is not withdrawing from Hebron, rather is resituating in Hebron." There are those who have written Hebron off - they expect Hebron's Jewish community to leave. They have
declared: Hebron - Rest In Peace. For some reason they really believe that we are in the midst of a peace process. They also believe that a Jewish presence in
Hebron is provocative and unnecessary. But, they are wrong. Only true peace brings true rest. Hebron will not rest, surely not as part of this false peace. The lie
called Oslo will not allow us peace and quiet. Much to the contrary. The more we concede, the more trouble we will have. Hebron has been transformed into a `piece' -
the exact opposite of its true essence, which is total unity.
The immediate future will be very difficult - of that I have no doubts or illusions. If the Jewish People were able to overcome the results of a Holocaust that left one third of our people murdered, and in spite of that were able to create a viable state only three years after the furnaces were extinguished, we can overcome anything. It will not be easy, but we will persevere.”
So, you ask, what has changed? The words all sound the same – then and today. Most of what I wrote then I could rewrite today, just changing the date. Ideas that I thought to develop concerning Sharon I found already written, about Netanyahu. It's enough to want to make you cry. Except for one small change:
January 20, 1997 – Letter-Response to questions: There are presently 54 Jewish families in Hebron. The population is 540 There are over 200 children and over 200 yeshiva students. At the moment there are no vacancies - we are beginning to build to make room for more people.
January 20, 2004 – 7 years later: There are presently 80 Jewish families in Hebron. The population is over 800. There are over 300 children and over 300 yeshiva students. At the moment there are no vacancies – we are building to make room for more people.
In the past seven years people have been killed in Hebron, soldiers and civilians. Rabbi Shlomo Ra’anan, Shalhevet Pass, Shlomo Shapiro, Gadi and Dina Levy, to name a few. Others were wounded. Many many escaped only due to Divine miracle. Hebron suffered two years of constant shooting attacks, perpetrated from the hills Bibi handed to Yassir on a silver platter. We were badgered by the Israeli left, by the police, by foreigner observers and interveners.
Yet, Hebron’s population has risen from 540 to 800. Then there were fifty four families – today 80 families. Then 200 children, today 300 children. Then 200 yeshiva students, today 300 yeshiva students. Then, no room for new families, today no room for new families.
In the past seven years we built new apartment buildings in the Avraham Avinu neighborhood and next to Beit Hadassah. A new building is going up in Tel Rumeida. The old ‘Arab market’ is now filled with young Jewish families. Almost no one has left Hebron in the past three years. And the waiting list of families wanting to live in Hebron still exists.
Why? Because the Jewish people believe in Eretz Yisrael – the Jewish people are not willing to abandon their homeland, their cities, their roots. Four years ago over 500,000 people visited Hebron annually. Of course, during the years of the “Olso War” those numbers dropped. However, in 2003, they rose back to over 300,000. People come from all over the world, Jews and gentiles alike, to see, to feel, to experience Hebron. Despite the problems, the dangers, the ‘situation.’ According to the schedule sitting on my desk, this week alone we have some twenty buses of visitors touring Hebron.
True, the politicians still haven’t learned and there are those amid us who are still, for one reason or another, blind. But amongst many, in Israel and around the world, the spirit still exists, the spirit of love for our people and our land.
My friends, this is the power of Am Yisrael – this is the power of Eretz Yisrael.
I will conclude as I did on January 15, 1998, in an article “Next year without Oslo:”
I can only but bless all of us that in a year from now I'll be able to write about how finally all Israel woke up, putting an official end to the curse called Oslo. We will then began to live again as proud Jews in our G-d - given Homeland - holding our heads high, doing what we know is right - in Hebron, Jerusalem, in all of Eretz Yisrael. Amen
With blessings from Hebron.