Friday, August 29, 2008

Ten years without Rebbi Shlomo

Av 28, 5768, 8/29/2008

Ten years without Rebbi Shlomo

Tomorrow, Shabbat, it will be ten years. Ten years ago, Thursday, the eve of the first day of the last month of the Hebrew calendar. Ma'arat HaMachpela, the tomb of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs was fully open to Jewish worship. In early evening Rabbi Ovadiya Yosef arrived in Hebron, the first time he had visited the city and holy site in many years. At about 11:00 PM, as he concluded speaking to the hundreds present, beepers started buzzing. A terrorist had infiltrated the Hebron neighborhood of Tel Rumeida. Very quickly Ma'arat HaMachpela emptied and Hebron residents started making their way to Tel Rumeida. Details started to filter out: the victim was Rabbi Shlomo Ra'anan, sixty three year old grandson of Israel's first chief Rabbi, Rav Avraham Yitzhak HaCohen Kook. The terrorist had stabbed him. Walking/running from the Ma'ara in the direction of the neighborhood I called a friend, a neighbor of the Ra'anans and also a paramedic. "What's his condition? " I asked. David answered me, in a voice barely audible: "There was nothing we could do, we couldn't do anything to save him. He died."
Soldiers at the bottom of the hill leading up to Tel Rumeida attempted to prevent us from climbing the hill but I was not about to give in to their demands. Running, crisscrossing the street, I escaped their outstretched arms and continued to the top. As I arrived Rebbetzin Chaya Ra'anan, Rav Shlomo's widow, was being placed in an ambulance. It wasn't clear if she too had been injured but she surely looked in shock.
Inside the neighborhood there was a smell of recently extinguished fire. The terrorist, following the murder, tossed a Molotov cocktail inside their caravan home, hoping to burn it to the ground. Fortunately neighbors were able to extinguish the fire before it spread to other caravan homes. Rabbetzin Chaya had managed to pull her dying husband outside before the living room went up in flames.  Only minutes before she had been involved in a tug-of-war with the terrorist, with her fatally injured husband in the middle, being pulled by both of them. However the terrorist had a knife and continued to stab his victim, puncturing his heart, killing him. He then jumped out a window and ran across the street, only meters away, into the Arab-controlled zone of Hebron, abandoned to the PA only a year before. According to the Hebron accords, Israel security forces were forbidden to enter that area and search for the killer. As a result, that same terrorist perpetrated a second attack on Yom Kippur, some six weeks later, injuring over twenty soldiers. Still not apprehended, a few weeks later he made his way to Beer Sheva, hoping to toss some hand grenades at civilians in the city's central bus station. Only then was he captured and eventually imprisoned.
The dead rabbi was lying on the ground outside his home, covered by a blanket. A little while later he was moved into a home, his body surrounded by candles. I spent the night in the office, looking for a photo I'd taken of him not too long before. The next morning the funeral  began there in Tel Rumdeida, and continued to Jerusalem, where he was buried at Har HaZaytim – the Mount of Olives, next to his illustrious grandfather and uncle, Rabbis Avraham Yitzhak HaCohen Kook, and Zvi Yehuda Kook.
My reaction was almost instantaneous: I'd been negotiating for an empty apartment in Hebron. No more negotiations, no more demands: a week later my family moved from Kiryat Arba, where we'd lived for 17 years, to Beit Hadassah. I'd already been working here for four years, so it was sort of a closure. I felt like I'd come home.
Why? Very simply: the terrorists use murder and other types of violence in an attempt to force us to leave. The only appropriate reaction is to do the opposite; not to leave, rather to move in. That's exactly what we did.
Yesterday, marking the 10th anniversary of the Rabbi's killing, a large group of people gathered at the Gutnick Center, outside Ma'arat HaMachpela. Only meters away, thousands were visiting that holy site; being the eve of the new month of Elul, the entire building was open to Jewish worshipers.  Exactly as it was that fateful Thursday, ten years ago.
For a few hours several important Rabbis delivered words of comfort and words of Torah to those present, including members of the Kook-Ra'anan-Shlissel families, and many others who came to pay their respects to the Rabbi and family. Those speaking included Rabbi Eliezer Waldman, Rosh Yeshiva of the Kiryat Arba Nir Yeshiva, Rabbi Hananel Etrog, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Shavei Hevron, at Beit Romano in Hebron, Rabbi Doron Avichzar, Dean of the Netivot Dror Torah Academy at the Telem community, and Noam Arnon, who MC'd  and also spoke about the connection between Rabbi Kook and Hebron.

However, the most important speaker, in my opinion, was  Rav Michael Hershkovitz, Rabbi of the community Neria in the Binyamin region, and a teacher at Yeshivat Merkaz HaRav in Jerusalem.  The theme of his dvar Torah was quite fitting: Learning Torah is important, but no less important is doing, implementing what you learn. He spoke at length describing how Rav Shlomo Ra'anan did just this: living in a caravan in the Hadar Adar community and following that, moving to another caravan at the Tel Rumeida neighborhood of Hebron.
For years the Rabbi studied and taught the value of settling the land of Israel, Eretz Yisrael. But realizing that words are not enough he followed in the footsteps of the teachings of his grandfather and uncle, not only talking, but also doing. This is Torah.

It's not easy living in small caravan homes. Tel Rumeida, somewhat isolated from the other neighborhoods of Hebron, is not the easiest place to live. Every morning, rain, snow or shine, the Rabbi would walk down the hill by himself to pray early morning prayers with a 'minion,' a prayer quorum of ten men. Every day he travelled back and forth to the Merkaz HaRav Yeshiva in Jerusalem, where he participated in Torah study and instruction.  Not easy for a man in his late 50s, early 60s. But the Rabbi always had a smile on his face, knowing all of Hebron's children by name, always ready to help, with an easygoing personality humbly concealing his Torah genius.
Concluding his remarks, Rabbi Hershovitz added, "Rebbe Shlomo, I just want to let you know, even though you probably know from where you are, that your extended family has continued in your footsteps, following your example of Torah and deeds, settling the land, Eretz Yisrael Israel, just as you did."

Rebbetzin Chaya, sitting with her daughter Tzippy, both of whom today live in Tel Rumeida, only meters from where the Rabbi  was murdered,  despite the pain, couldn't help but smile, knowing that the direction she and her husband had taken was being continued by their offspring.
The Rabbi's presence could definitely be felt amongst the participants, but for sure, all still feel the pain of his death and the vacuum his murder left, for his family, for his friends and neighbors, and for all of Am Yisrael.  Zechar Tzadik l'vracha  - HaShem Yikom Damo.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Shabak Shalom

Shabak Shalom
Sept. 25, 2008

There are some events that can be overlooked. Others, well, you have to be out of your mind to ignore them. So it is with the attack last night against Professor Zeev Sternhell in Jerusalem. 

Before continuing, 2 points:

1. (To keep me out of jail) – I do not believe in leaving bombs in the homes of people I disagree with.
2. Zeev Sternhell, rather than being awarded the Israel Prize, should have been convicted for incitement. In an article in HaAretz on May 11, 2001 wrote, "There is no doubt regarding the legitimacy of the armed resistance in the territories themselves. If the Palestinians had a bit of sense, they would concentrate their struggle against the settlements…


"Fascism cannot be stopped with rational arguments. This can be stopped only by force, and when there is willingness to risk a civil war. When necessary, we shall have to forcibly deal with the settlers in Ofra or in Elon Moreh. Only a person who is willing to advance against Ofra with tanks will be capable of curbing the fascist drift that threatens to inundate Israeli democracy."
- Zeev Sternhell, Davar newspaper, April 1988

This is nothing less than incitement to kill, legitimizing murder of Jews living in Judea, Samaria (and then, Gaza). The place for people who incite murder is behind bars.

That said, last night's events must be carefully examined. A pipe bomb was left at the entrance to Sternhell's house. When it exploded, he was injured by shrapnel in his legs. Later, a poster was found near his home offering over a million shekels to anyone killing leaders of Shalom Achshav (Peace Now).

What were the immediate reactions: The police (according to the newspaper/internet headlines) concluded, within a minuscully short time that the 'extreme right' was responsible for the attack, in reaction to Sternhell's left-wing opinions.

The chain reaction continued, with interviewees and commentators reminiscing about the Rabin assassination and 'right-wing incitement' against the left. Etc. etc. ad nauseam.

Now, let's stop for a moment. What happened yesterday, or perhaps even the day before, that would make any good right-wing extremist wake up and decide that the time had come to 'take care' of the good professor? Anything?


So, what happened? Why did a 'right-wing extremist' suddenly take the law into his own hands and attempt to murder an old man?

I'll tell you what my guess is: It wasn't the extreme right.

Let's play a guessing game.

Who might really be the culprit?

Who would be interested in causing an uproar geared at smearing the right? (Keep in mind that not too long ago the Hebron police chief publicly stated that the extreme left is more dangerous than the extreme right.)

Why would anyone be interested in smearing the Israeli right?

When was the last time a major attempt was made to blacken the Israeli right?

Last first:

Delegitimizaion of the right in preparation for continued abandonment of Eretz Yisrael and expulsion of Jews from their homes or
In expectation of Oslo War – Round three – and guess who's to blame?

The Israeli Government (shades of Avhshai Raviv!!!)

and to conclude – who might really have done it?

My friends, this is a classic Shabak (Israeli intelligence) kindergarten exercise: Let's make the other side look bad. Leave a small bomb at his home, causing little damage but making a 'big bang' (remember – Srak srak), and then let the Rottweilers (Israel radio, television, internet, etc) out of their cages

And then let public opinion gobble up all those nasty right wingers

And then…. Israel will continue playing 'let's make a deal,' without anyone to disturb the game.

And now, the punch line:

Which Israeli 'leader' worked for a couple of years with Israeli intelligence?

No, not Olmert
No, not Mufaz,

Ah, yes, The First Lady - the new Golda, Ms. Tzippy.

Shabak Shalom! 

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Miracles and more miracles

Miracles and more miraclesSept 21, 2008

A block landed next to her and literally bounced over her, leaving her unharmed.
OK, with everything that's going on, let's get off the politics for a minute and talk about bigger and better things.

Around this time of the year, as we approach the end of one year and the beginning of another, new year,  many thoughts run through your head.  With so many issues facing us, it's easy to forget about all the good, all the positive, and speaking from Hebron, the wondrous miracles that are so much a part of our everyday lives that we almost take them for granted. 

It was just this time of the year, eight years ago, when the Oslo War started (called by others, the 2nd Intifada). I cannot begin to count the number of bullet holes in people's homes and cars, that 'missed by an inch.' And those could conceivably be measured. But what about people walking down the street who were fired upon - sometimes they never even know just how close those bullets came to hitting them. 

As so it's been, over the years. Never a dull moment, but also, never a moment without a miracle.

So too it was today.

Here, at Beit Hadassah, where I live, there is a big courtyard outside. Part of the area contains a large playground for the kids. On the other side are a couple of swings and benches. On most nice days, in the afternoon, while the kids are playing on their side, the mothers and babies are on the other side, sitting, chatting and enjoying the afternoon weather. 

Today was no exception. Lots of women and babies were relaxing downstairs, when suddenly stone blocks started raining down on them. The Beit Hadassah building is connected to the street outside by a large stone bridge which stretches above the courtyard. For some unknown reason, huge stone blocks from the side of the bridge broke off and fell, exactly where all the women and babies were. One woman, miraculously, had just taken here six month old son out of his carriage when, boom, a stone block landed where he had been lying, only seconds before. Another woman's six-month old was lying on the ground. A block landed next to her and literally bounced over her, leaving her unharmed. Talk about miracles. Wow!

Other stones landed on the path to a family's apartment. Fortunately, no one was walking there at the time. 

This is one small example of what we have to be thankful for, as we approach the new year. Sometimes you see the miracles and sometimes you don't, but they are always with us, and we have much to be thankful for. 

Perhaps in Hebron these kinds of miracles are more tangible than elsewhere. I know that there is a G-d in heaven who looks down at us wherever we are, watching over and protecting us. And despite all the problems, we must never forget to show gratitude for all the good He does for us, and to take joy that we have the privilege to be here, doing what we're doing, in the holy city of Hebron.

Monday, August 18, 2008


Av 17, 5768, 8/18/2008


This afternoon a group of people gathered at the ancient Jewish cemetery in Hebron to participate in a memorial service on the anniversary of the killing of Hebron resident Elazar Leibovitch six years ago. Murdered at the same time were three members of the Dickstein family- the mother, father and young son.

Elazar Leibovitch was murdered, by the Hebrew calendar, on the 17th day of the month of Av. On the same date, at almost the identical hour, Shmuel HaLevy Rosenhaltz, nicknamed “the Matmid’ or perpetual student, was the first victim of the 1929 riots and massacre in Hebron. The next day, another 66 men, women and children were killed. Tomorrow a group of people will gather at the same cemetery, only a few meters from Elazar’s grave, and mark the 79th anniversary of that horrific event.

This week the Israeli government decided to commemorate these two events in a unique way. They decided to release 200 terrorists, as a ‘good-will’ gesture to Holocaust denier, Abu Mazen, presently head of the palestinian authority. In order to express support for one Jew-hater over another Jew-hater (Hamas), the Israeli government is freeing 200 terrorists from prison. Not only isn’t Israel getting anything in return; they didn’t even bother asking for anything in return. What could Israel dare request? Perhaps little things, like Abu-Mazen’s full cooperation in successfully achieving the release of Israeli POW Gilad Shalit. But no, that would be too much to ask for. This time Israeli has to give something for nothing, thereby showing Abu-Mazen’s supporters and not so much supporters just how good he is, just how strong he is, just how much he can twist the long arm of the Zionist enemy and get murderers released from jail. Without paying any price.

Of course, in their opinion, this isn’t enough. All prisoners must be released, unconditionally. But, this is a good beginning, a step in the right direction.

This is how the Olmert administration is marking the 79th anniversary of the 1929 riots, instigated and initiated by Amin el-Husseini, who later met with Hitler in Berlin, formed the Muslim Brigades, and had plans to annihilate all the Jews living in Eretz Yisrael when they expected Rommel to invade during World War Two. Amin el Husseini’s direct successor was Abu-Mazen’s predecessor, Arafat. Abu-Mazen is trying hard to follow in his footsteps.

However, the government’s decision was not enough to mark the current occasion. They had to go just one step further, stick the knife in just a little deeper.

The common rule of prisoner releases over the years has been to refrain from freeing terrorists with ‘blood on their hands.’ In other words, those that just helped, or attempted to kill but didn’t succeed, and the like, they’re ok to set free. But those who actually pulled the trigger, they’re another story.

That’s the way it was, until today. For the first time, the Israeli government decided to release a couple of ‘real terrorists,’ those who went all the way, and did the dirty act to its fullest degree.

So, who’s being released, in celebration of the anniversary of the killings in Hebron? One of the two is Ibrahim Mahmoud Mahmad, who twenty years ago murdered Yehoshua Saloma, a young Yeshiva student studying in the Kiryat Arba Yeshiva. Saloma, a new immigrant from Sweden, who came to Israel alone, had walked into Hebron from Kiryat Arba to buy some dried fruits for the upcoming Tu B’Shvat holiday. While making his purchase in the Hebron Kasba, he was brutally murdered from behind by Ibrahim Mahmoud Mahmad. Saloma is still dead. Mahmad is still alive.
And if Olmert et al have their way, he will soon be free. This is the message to the world that Israel is making on the days when Hebron is marking the murders of 68 other Jews by Arabs: 67 in 1929, and Elazar Lebovitch, 6 years ago.

Yehoshua Saloma hy"d

It’s interesting to note: Yehoshua Saloma was the first Jew to be killed in Hebron since the 1929 riots. His murderer is about to be freed by the Israeli government. Can you image Israel releasing a few of the barbarians who butchered Jews during those few hours on a summer Saturday in 1929? What’s the difference between the barbarians of 79 years ago, the barbarians of 20 years ago, the barbarians of 6 years ago, or the barbarians of today?

Ah, what’s the difference you ask? Very simple. In 1929 we could (rightfully) blame the British. Today who do we have to blame? We need only look in the mirror and point a finger at the image we see.

But, then again, it’s only a gesture.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Abbas wants his troops in Hebron

"Abbas wants his troops in Hebron"
Sept  17, 2008

The Israeli internet news site, ynet
(ynetnews-) posted an article

"Abbas wants his troops in Hebron"

According to the article's author, Roni Sofer, " Israel is examining the possibility of expanding the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority's security forces to include Hebron, this following a request made by the PA. The move would correspond with a measured decrease in IDF activity there."
The reasoning behind the request is to 'prevent Hebron from falling into the control of Hamas.'
Hebron has learned, numerous times, the price of placing the security of Jewish lives in the hands of our enemy.

The Israeli reaction, as reported by Ynet: "…diplomatic officials have yet to outright reject the proposal, saying parts of it were essentially positive. The sources expressed their support of Fayyad's intention to ratchet up the pressure on Hamas."
Almost 12 years ago Israel abandoned over 80% of Hebron to the 'palestinian authority." As a result, the Hebron Jewish community  came under enemy gunfire for almost two years. Rabbi Shlomo Ra'anan was knifed to death, Shalhevet Pass was shot and killed. Others were wounded. People's homes and automobiles were shot into. All this, while Hebron was under PA control.
Numerous recent murders, including Achikam Amichai and David Rubin from Kiryat Arba, and Ido Zoldan from the Shomron, were perpetrated by Tanzim terrorists, i.e., Fatah-based terrorists.
Removal of Israeli security forces from almost all of Hebron endangers not only Hebron residents and visitors. Terrorists from Hebron have perpetrated attacks and killed scores throughout Israel, as a result of removal of Israeli security forces from the city.
At present, the Israeli political scene is in turmoil. Olmert will soon cease to be Prime Minister. It is unclear whether his immediate successor with be able to form a new coalition or whether within a few months Israelis will again be going to the polls. Clearly, this is not the time to again start experimenting with people's lives.
Hebron has learned, numerous times, the price of placing the security of Jewish lives in the hands of our enemy. In 1929 we lost sixty seven Jews and the survivors were expelled from the city. Following signing and implementation of the Hebron accords in January, 1997, Hebron came under immediate attack. At that time the primary weapons were rocks and fire bombs. From October 2000 thru Passover 2002, the Hebron became a war zone, with almost nonstop shooting attacks, in and around the city. Only when Israeli forces returned to all of Hebron did the attacks cease.
It goes without saying that the Hebron community vehemently opposes the proposal outlined in the Ynet report and will take any and all actions necessary to insure that it is not carried out.