Monday, April 18, 2005

Following on the same Path

Following on the same Path
April 18, 2005


In a few days we will all be celebrating the holiday of liberation and redemption, the conclusion of Israel's exile in Egypt.

The Passover holiday is a really bright star on the Jewish calendar. It represents the end of our cold winter and the commencement of spring and summer, bringing with them the warmth so longed for during the rainy season.

But the enthusiasm sparked by Pesach is more than a corporeal comfort. It also represents the birth of a people, physically and spiritually. We are taught that Israel's deliverance from Egypt was literally a birth process, the very creation of the Jewish people, having progressed from a 'family clan' led by our Forefathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to to a full-fledged people, including over 600,000 men, meaning that the total population was in the millions.

As we all know, a new-born is created with a body and also a soul, two integral elements of a living being. So too, the fledgling Jewish people were begotten with a physical and spiritual being.  Am Yisrael, as a whole, has a body and a soul, just as does an individual.

The very first experience of this infant nation was that of 'geula' – of redemption, from hundreds of years of bondage, to freedom, as a people of G-d. This path, from darkness to light, lies in the very essence of our existence. It is the spiritual energy from which our spiritual roots will feed for eternity, as we say so many times, on so many different occasions, 'zacher l'yitziat mitzraim' – a remembrance of the redemption from Egypt.

And all the more so on the first night of Passover, when we repeat annually, not that we only remember redemption from exile, but rather that it as if we are actually living that redemption today.

History has shown just how true and necessary this concept is. How many times have the Jewish people faced total blackness – a darkness with seemingly no end – no light at the end of the tunnel. The destruction of the First Temple and exile, the destruction of the Second Temple and exile – an exile which lasted almost 2,000 years. We suffered exiles within exiles, from so many countries in Europe, expelling Jews as if they were nothing more than bugs; from France in 1182, from England in 1290, and most notably from Spain in 1492, when some 200,000 Jews were evicted from their homes, and host country. How many thousands were tortured and/or burned at the stake by Father Tomas de Torquemada, the Hitler of his day.  And 60 years ago: Aushwitz, Treblinka, Bergen-Bensen. Six million.

What do these events have to do with Passover? Very simply, without the roots of Passover, without the inbred hope and knowledge that from within the darkness there is always light, that redemption is always around the corner, even when that corner is hidden and not yet visible, without this promise, how could any people survive such cataclysmic occurrences over thousands of years? 

This is the essence of the Jewish people.

If we desire, we can go back a little further, to the days of the first Jew, and see in him the same faith later to be instilled in all the people. Abraham was commanded by his Creator to take his beloved son, Isaac, 'to the place which I will show you.' And there Abraham was ordered to take a butcher's knife and slaughter the one person who was to continue in his footsteps. Abraham did not hesitate, not even for a moment, believing with all his heart and soul, that whatever G-d commanded was to be implemented – after all, who was he, a mere human being, to question the Almighty? That seed of faith sprouted the Jewish people, who survived 210 years in Egypt and two thousand years of exile at the hands of so many Torquemadas and Hitlers.

So many people ask how we Jews in Hebron, today numbering close to 900, can live with, and deal with the overwhelming animosity which surrounds us. For instance, another 'hate article' appeared in HaAretz newspaper, comparing Jewish Hebron to "old Harlem" or the "Sadr section of Baghdad." []

This article is based upon the problems we are presently having in the Avraham Avinu neighborhood, centering around the "Sharabati House," an Arab home jutting into the neighborhood.

First, some background about the house. According to Yehuda Abushdid, who lived with his family in Hebron in 1929, the elder Sharabati, (who died a few years ago) participated in raping and murdering Jews during the 1929 riots and massacre.

Some six years ago, a Sharabati son jumped from his house into the Avraham Avinu courtyard with a knife, in an attempt to kill someone. When apprehended he claimed that he wanted to 'kill an Arab.' In response, the Israeli authorities turned him over to the 'palestinian authority police,' who promptly released him.

Homemade bombs were twice hurled into the Avraham Avinu playground. They cannot be directly attributed to the family, due to lack of solid evidence. However, it is more than likely that they had a hand in the terrorism they know so well.

Almost five years ago, at the beginning of the Oslo war, when the Hebron's Jewish neighborhoods came under daily shooting attacks, the IDF removed the Sharabatis from their home and did not permit them to return, for security reasons.

Some time later the house was searched and a number of articles identifying them with Arab terror organizations were discovered. []

Recently the IDF decided to allow the Sharabati family to return to their home. Their homecoming is to be preceded by major renovations of the decrepit building, which is falling apart. Hebron's Jewish community voiced vehement opposition to this decision because the security situation is still explosive. An Arab family, living directly above our courtyard and playground is a lethal threat. Our cries went unheard. Almost two weeks ago the security forces literally invaded the neighborhood, declared the courtyard, playground, and kindergarten a 'closed military zone' and proceeded to build the "Hebron Wall," separating the Arab house from the rest of the neighborhood.

Since then border police have been stationed next to the wall, (which is several meters high and very thick), as well as on rooftops of Hebron resident apartment buildings. Unfortunately not all of these border policemen have received modern cultural training: they have urinated on the rooftops (above people's homes), and have broken equipment and caused damage to property. One woman found a bottle of urine on her porch.

The Ha'Aretz newspaper account also relates to a spontaneous protest upon arrival of the state Attorney General, Manny Mazuz. For those of you not familiar with Mazuz, he made the decision not to indict Ariel Sharon for any of the corruption crimes he committed in the past, thereby allowing him to continue with the eviction of almost 10,000 people from their homes in Gush Katif and the northern Sinai. I can assure you, if any of us had been suspected of the same crimes, with the same evidence available, there is no doubt that we would have been indicted. So why not protest against him?

The article also refers to the Avraham Avinu neighborhood as a 'ghetto.' Once upon a time, almost 500 years ago, it was a ghetto. That's when Jews, previously exiled from Spain, arrived at the site.  Today, thank G-d, anyone with eyes in his head sees that it is no longer a ghetto. Perhaps this was one of the reasons for construction of the 'Hebron Wall,' to justify Ha'aretz' account of the neighborhood.

The article is, of course, extremely negative, attempting to blacken Hebron's name. However, it is essential to understand who wrote this article: Zvi Bar'el. Just who is Bar'el?

I heard the following account from Kiryat Arba-Hebron resident and artist, Baruch Nachshon: "I think it was 29 years ago. We were conducting a 'Brit Milah' for our newborn son in Ma'arat HaMachpela – the Tomb of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs. Bar'el was then the deputy governor of Hebron. He came into the room in Ma'arat HaMachpela just as we were about to begin the blessing over the wine. Bar'el took the cup of wine from the person who was holding it, and with a smile on his face, poured the wine onto the floor. He then took my hat from my head and used it to wipe the floor, with his foot. We all stood there, totally stunned."

This is the same Zvi Bar'el, who almost 30 years later, continues to spout the same hate he expressed so grossly during a ritual circumcision ceremony at the second holiest site to the Jewish people, in the entire world.

What more could we expect from him? Hebron=Old Harlem, or Sidr, Baghdad?
In his view, we are worse.

Despite such horrid attacks upon such a holy city, and the people trying to follow in the footsteps of our ancestors, Hebron's lights continue to glow. How? For the very reasons I enumerated at the beginning of this article, because we know, without any doubt, that the light is just around the corner. Or perhaps it is already glowing; we only need open our eyes to see it.

So too it is with our belief that Gush Katif and the northern Shomron will be saved – their land will not be abandoned, their residents not expelled from their homes. Sharon will not be allowed to follow in the footsteps of the French, English and Spanish, who brutally drove tens and hundreds of thousands of Jews from their residences.

How will salvation appear? In truth, I really don't know. But then again, neither did Abraham when commanded to kill Yitzhak. And neither did Moses, when ordered to take the reins, to lead the Jewish people out of Egypt.

But, both did as they were told, and the results are self-evident. We are only following the same path that they showed us, and with G-d's help, we too will witness success and redemption.

With blessings from Hebron for a very happy Passover holiday.

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