Over the past month and a half, some 100,000 people visited Hebron. These numbers speak for themselves.
The past few weeks have been extremely busy. So much so that finding time to put down a few words on paper has been almost impossible. But now, with the holidays over, with life returning to some kind of normalcy, the time has come.
One of the more important stories coming out of Hebron lately was the revelation that Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak gave a green light to allow close to a thousand additional armed terrorists in uniform, aka 'palestinian police' into the H1 – Arab-controlled zone of Hebron.
Flashback: The Year: 1996 – The United States is frenetically pressuring Israel to immediately sign and implement the 'Hebron Accords,' a direct continuation of Oslo, dividing Hebron into two, very unequal zones: H1- fully controlled by Arafat's PA, with a full Israeli withdrawal from that side of the city, comprising some 80% of Hebron, and H-2 – to be under Israeli security control but PA administrative control, comprising about 20% of the city.
Included in the deal are the hills surrounding the Jewish neighborhoods of Hebron as well as Ma'arat HaMachpela: Abu-Sneneh to the south and Harat a'Shech to the north.
During an immense media campaign to attempt to prevent the abandonment of most of Hebron, the Hebron Jewish Community releases a film in Hebrew and English, titled, "Hebron in Danger." Released and screened at a press conference in Jerusalem the short video predicts the results of transfer of the city and the hills to the Arabs: massive shooting attacks at the Jewish neighborhoods in the city.
Israeli press and politicians sneeringly labeled Hebron's residents as 'hysterical' and 'panicking.' When community leaders climbed the Abu-Sneneh hills with Knesset members and government ministers to show them the danger first-hand, then Hebron Commander Col. Gaddi Shamni (now a full general, commander of the Central Region) would give his own explanation: 'of course there could be danger if there wasn't peace, but now Israeli is in the midst of a peace process – with peace there shouldn't be any danger to Hebron's Jewish residents.'
Flashback: The eve of Rosh HaShana – the Jewish New Year, 2000: Massive gunfire erupts from Abu-Sneneh and Harat a'Shech towards the Jewish neighborhoods in Hebron; gunfire which continues for almost two years.
Flashback: The Avraham Avinu neighborhood, March 26, 2001 at about 4:00 in the afternoon: An Arab sniper shoots and kills 10 month old Shalhevet Pass. Shalhevet was shot in the head; her father, Itzik was shot in legs; her mother, standing next to them, is uninjured.
Flashback: November 15, 2002: Worshipers Way, between Hebron and Kiryat Arba: Following the terror in Netanya and the Adura community outside of Hebron, Israel retook security control of all of Hebron. Following the Succot holidays in 2002, then Defense Minister Binyamin Ben Eliezer again withdrew all Israeli forces from the H-1 zone in Hebron, leaving that side of the city under total Arab control. On Friday night, Nov. 15, three terrorists attacked Jews walking back to Kiryat Arba from Ma'arat HaMachpela. The ensuing battle left 12 men dead, including three civilian members of the Kiryat Arba emergency security squad and 9 officers and soldiers, including the commander of the Hebron region, Col. Dror Weinberg. The attack was a direct result of the abandonment of 80% of Hebron.
Fast forward: October, 2008: Defense Minister Ehud Barak gives the OK to again allow armed terrorists in uniform, under the auspices of PA president Abu Mazen, to patrol in Hebron, with a massive reduction of Israeli troops in the H-1 zone.
Fast forward: 2009 - ???????
A few days ago I was up on Abu Sneneh with a small group from Hebron, and Likud MK Gilad Ardan. Looking down at the Avraham Avinu neighborhood, Beit Romano, and Ma'arat HaMachpela, I had trouble conceptualizing that the Israeli government was about to make the same mistake again, thereby placing not only the lives of Hebron's Jewish population, and the thousands who visit Hebron in jeopardy, but also Jews throughout Israel, who will again be endangered by terrorists leaving Hebron, to explode in cities all over the country.
What is Hebron's response?
Of course, Hebron's leadership is in contact with various public officials to attempt to pressure Barak to cancel his permit allowing more armed terrorists back into Hebron. MK Ardan demanded that the attorney general, Manny Mazuz, prevent such a fateful decision from being implemented, arguing that a 'transitional government' doesn't have the legal authority to enact such a decision.
However, the authentic reaction is not political. Last week, during the Succot holiday, over 50,000 Jews visited Hebron. Over the past month and a half, some 100,000 people visited Hebron. These numbers speak for themselves.
Last Thursday, the day of the Hebron music festival, thousands upon thousands packed the Ma'arat HaMachpela courtyard, participating in the joyous celebration. Hundreds of children rode on donkeys and participated in an arts and crafts festival behind the Gutnick Center. Tourists visited all Jewish neighborhoods in the city, including the Kasba and the Cave of Otniel ben Knaz. Again, Am Yisrael did not disappoint: the street were packed with visitors from all over Israel and around the world, showing their overwhelming support for Hebron and the city's Jewish community.
True, much more work is necessary, to bring more Jews not only to visit Hebron, but also to live in Hebron, and to keep additional terrorists far, far away. But fifty thousand in one week is certainly a very good start. The is the true Hebron response – to continue to keep Hebron and Ma'arat HaMachpela open, not only for the Jews, but for those of all races and religions, allowing all to experience the wonder of the city of Abraham and Sarah.
And B'ezrat HaShem, with G-d's help, this will help to keep the terrorists away. At the very least, it will proclaim loud and clear: We are here to stay. Hebron- Now and Forever.