Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Never Lose Hope

March 30, 2004

A few days ago, journalist David Bedin put out a press release that says as follows: “According to reliable sources, Sharon is preparing to announce in Washington his willingness to remain in three ‘settlement blocks’ only: Gush Etzion, the Ariel block, and Ma’ale Adumim. The significance of this is that Israel will abandon the rest of Judea, Samaria and Gaza, including the southern Hebron hills communities and Hebron.”
Yesterday Sharon declared that if his disengagement proposal should not pass a cabinet vote, he would reshuffle his government, forming an alternative government within one day.
Today’s Ma’ariv daily newspaper headline heralded, “Arbel (Prosecutor) leak torpedoed national unity government: PM reached agreement with Labor on a national unity government but talks were frozen when Arbel recommended indicting Sharon.” The story (http://www.maarivinternational.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=article&articleID=5400) revealed that Sharon offered Labor six ministerial posts, including the foreign ministry, (for Shimon Peres).
Tonight, at the Likud convention, Sharon proposed a public referendum to determine the fate of his “disengagement plan,” with the participants being 200,000 Likud members in Israel.

In the meantime, preparations for the April 14 Bush-Sharon meeting in Washington continue. This week three top American diplomats, Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs William Burns, Deputy National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, and Eliot Abrams, a senior director of National Security Council who is responsible for Middle East affairs, are scheduled to arrive in Israel for top-level meetings concerning Sharon’s proposals and continued ‘progress’ of the ‘roadmap.’ Ariel Sharon is preparing them a hearty welcome. How better a way to greet them than by handing them the ruins of a destroyed ‘illegal outpost’ on a silver platter. That is precisely what Sharon is planning on doing.

On the outskirts of Kiryat Arba, just outside the west gate, which leads down into the city of Hebron, is a 20 square meter tent. This tent was pitched almost three years ago, following the murder of two men, David Cohen and Hezi Mualem. Cohen was killed while sitting in his car, next to the Kiryat Arba gate. That evening, the Kiryat Arba town council held a spontaneous demonstration not far from the site of the murder. Terrorists opened fire on the group, killing Mualem and injuring another man. Thus the name, Hazon David (which literally means “David’s vision,) – Hazon for Hezi Mualem and David for David Cohen.

Since its inception the tent has served as a synagogue, a place of worship, and a place of Torah study. Classes are frequently conducted for youth and adults, in Hebrew and Russian. The tent is small, and bothers no one.

Well, almost no one. No one, except the Americans and Ariel Sharon. Hazon David was declared to be ‘an illegal outpost’ and orders were issued for its destruction. Over the past few months, numerous appeals to Israeli courts delayed execution of the decree. Recently Deputy Defense Minister Ze’ev Baum visited the site. Worshipers and others penned letters to various government ministers, including Defense minister Shaul Mufaz and the Prime Minister. Seemingly to no avail. Last week Supreme Court judge Moshe Heshin rejected a request for a second Supreme Court hearing before an extended panel. That ruling paved the way for implementation of Sharon’s orders: Destroy the synagogue!
Last night, following a farewell party for the Nahal Brigade officers and soldiers, who have served in Hebron for the past seven months, word leaked out that tonight’s the night – the forces are on their way to demolish the tent synagogue. Emergency calls went out to Kiryat Arba-Hebron residents, and within a short time hundreds of people, adults and youth, were swarming towards Hazon David. There, they met some of the same officers they had only minutes before honored and thanked, at the farewell gathering. The long night-the long wait, began. Officers and soldiers, police and other security forces came and left. But the civilians didn’t budge. “We are staying,” they announced. “We will not abandon our synagogue, we will not abandon our city, we will not abandon our land.” “And be well aware, even if you should succeed in knocking down this tent which has served us for the past three years, we will pitch it again, and next time it will be bigger and stronger. You will not defeat us!”

Senior officers at the site were surprised. They obviously weren’t prepared for such massive resistance, expecting to be able to tear down the tent without any effort. As a result of the hundreds of demonstrators, they backed down, and the eviction was postponed. For how long, we still don’t know.

People spent the entire night at the synagogue, and after a couple of hours sleep, returned to the site in the late morning. Rumors of impending expulsion brought hundreds out again, in the early afternoon. Most people will probably spend the night there tonight, and for as long as necessary, until Sharon announces an end to the madness.

This is the beginning of the price Ariel Sharon is willing to pay. The question is, for what. According to most sources, George W. Bush opposes the unilateral disengagement from Gaza and several Samaria communities. Most probably Ariel Sharon is hoping that continued implementation of left-wing policies will delay his indictment for accepting bribes and other alleged crimes he is accused of. However, this will not help him. The decision to press charges against him, now in the hands of the new Israeli attorney general, is only weeks away. Ariel Sharon, the politician, will then be an item of the past.
Hebron-Kiryat Arba residents are determined to stick it out, as long as it takes, to prevent destruction of the memorial synagogue, in memory of David Cohen and Hezi Mualem. Destruction of the site will be a victory for terror and the very opposite of “David’s vision” the victory of Zionism, the triumph of good over evil. And should the worst come to pass, we will not give up. The synagogue will be rebuilt, an eternal remembrance to two brave men who were cut down there by Arab terrorists. We will never lose hope.

With blessings from Hebron for a happy Passover.

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