Thursday, December 31, 2009

Rabbi Meir Chai HY"D: A story that must be told

Rabbi Meir Chai HY"D: A story that must be told
December 31, 2009

A few days ago one of my sons visited the Chai family in Shavei Shomron. He lived in that community for a number of years and knowing the family wanted to pay a condolence call. At their home he heard the following story, which he later related to me. I've also seen it in print, and it's true.
Twelve years ago a man was involved in a very serious automobile accident, and was determined by the doctors to be clinically dead. However, miracle of miracles, somehow they managed to prevent his death. He eventually woke up, and following a lengthy hospitalization, fully recovered and was sent home.
After his recovery, this man told his family the following: In fact, I was dead, and was sent to the next world. There, I cried before the holy court, telling them that my wife had just given birth to a son, and how could I leave them now, my wife a widow and my son an orphan. I told them that I wanted to learn Torah with my new son.
After a while they came back and notified me that my request was accepted. I would be able to return to this world, for twelve years.
That man was Rabbi Meir Chai. Last week, today, he was killed, exactly twelve years to the day of the auto accident, over a decade ago. He was on his way home to the birthday party for the son born to him 12 years before.
Rabbi Chai's father-in-law was in Uman, at the Tomb of Rabbi Nachman from Breslov when the murder occurred. Speaking at the funeral, he told that he'd gone to Uman to try to have the decree annulled, but that he hadn't succeeded. His son-in-law, Rabbi Meir Chai, returned to 'the next world' exactly as he'd been told he would, twelve years earlier.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A light extinguished, peace violated, a life lost

A light extinguished, peace violated, a life lost
December 24, 2009
Many years ago, when my oldest son, now 28, was in his first year of high school, he woke up one morning only to hear that one of his teachers had been murdered the night before in a terrorist attack. He never forgot that teacher, and named his first son in his memory.

An hour ago my youngest son, now in his first year of high school, called us and said that one of the other boys in his class had just been notified that his father was killed in a terrorist attack near his home in the Shomron.

The terror victim, Rabbi Meir Avshalom Chai, 45 years old, father of seven, had been a neighbor of my oldest son, when he lived in that community, Shavei Shomron.

It’s been quite some time since I experienced the sensations I presently feel, but as they return, so do the black memories of years of killing and bloodshed. It’s a horrible feeling, and it’s hard to shake the premonition that ‘it’s starting again.’ But if, as may very well happen, 1,000 terrorists are released for Gilad Shalit in the next few weeks, may G-d have mercy on all of us.

We’ve been through it before, after other terrorist swaps, and it is far from being pleasant. To the contrary, it’s a recipe for major warfare against Jews in Israel, be they in Tel Aviv, Hebron, or Haifa.

I work with many different kinds of groups, and spend hours answering questions about ‘human rights for palestinians’ in Hebron and other places in Israel. What my interrogators rarely discuss is the right of Israelis, of Jews, to live. To live, period! They tend to ignore the Arab terror, or equate it to graffiti, rock-throwing, or security measures implemented to protect Jewish lives, to prevent killing.  But the right of Jews to simply live, to raise their families, to watch their kids get married, to play with their grandchildren, that is all mundane, of no significance or importance.

Yesterday a young woman, a Jewish woman from New York, tried to convince me of the supremacy of non-violence. Even someone attacked shouldn’t hit back – all the world’s problems can and should be dealt with and solved passively.

Tell that to my son’s classmate.

It’s difficult for me now even to write. Here I am, sitting at home, enjoying my children and my new grandchildren, knowing that a family has just been destroyed, that those seven kids won’t ever celebrate the joy of a birthday, Bar or Bat Mitzvah, a wedding or any other event, with their father; that this man, taken so abruptly and barbarically, will never have the ‘nachas’ the pleasure, of playing with his grandchildren – only because he was a Jew, living in his land, doing his best for his family, for his people, for his G-d.

I only hope that where he is now, he will stand before the L-rd, praying for his children and his widow, for his people, for his land, that they should be comforted. Meir means to radiate light, AvShalom, means the father of peace, Chai means life. This man radiated light, peace and life. He not only radiated – he taught, as does a Rabbi. Rabbi Meir Avshalom Chai – a light extinguished,  a peace violated, a life lost. So sad, so tragic, so unnecessary.

It is our job to ensure that his light is rekindled, that his life never forgotten and that the goals he set for himself, his family and his people, be fulfilled. And so we will. May his memory be a blessing, HaShem Yikom Damo - may G-d avenge his blood. 

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Hanukkah Chronicles - The Wilder Way - Blogs - Israel National News

The Hanukkah Chronicles - The Wilder Way - Blogs - Israel National News

‘(After the war) …the Jewish leaders strengthened Jerusalem and refused to allow the enemy to raise his head. When the enemy leader saw that the Jews were strong, he feared them and began moving his large army. The Jewish leaders suspected the enemy and also began moving his army too. When the enemy saw the huge Jewish army he decided to act utilizing deception. He sent representatives with kind words, promised not to harm them, and invited them to a meal with him. The Jewish leader believed the deceptive promises, sent his soldiers home, and arrived with little protection. The enemy leader entrapped him, captured him, and after a few days, murdered him and his sons.

This was the tragic end of the Jewish hero who was victorious in war but was slain when he believe the deceptive words of his enemy’.

Who is this tragic Jewish leader, felled by words and promises of peace? Sounds very familiar, no? We’ve been hearing these deceptions for how many years now? This could be written and titled the ‘annals of Oslo.’ But no, this story is slightly older than Oslo, Rabin, Peres, Sharon, Olmert, Livni and the others. The above paragraph is an approximate translation from Dr. Haggi Ben-Artzi’s publication called the Scroll of Hanukkah, based upon the “Books of the Maccabees” The leader, murdered by the Greek Tarifon, was none other than Yonatan, one of the five sons of Mattetayhu, who liberated Beit HaMikdash and Eretz Yisrael from the Greeks. This truly heroic warrior feel for the trick. He believed the call for peace. But after it happened then, well over 2,000 years ago, why do we, Am Yisrael, continue to fall prey to the same exact scenario? The only factors that have changed are the names and the nationality of the enemy. Otherwise, the situation is virtually identical. Yet we continue to send home the soldiers, only to be stabbed in the back.

Yesterday we all read Ehud Olmert’s ‘peace plan, offered to today’s Tarifon, called Abu Mazen or Mahmud Abbas, so-called president of the Palestinian terrorist organization. Thank G-d, just as in Egypt, God hardened Pharoh’s heart, so too, with Abu Mazen, who rejected Olmert’s offer, which included expulsion of tens and tens and more tens of thousands of Jews, and destruction of places such as Hebron, Kiryat Arba and many more communities in Judea and Samaria. There are no words. It is totally unbelievable, incomprehensible.

This week, the week of Hanukkah, the holiday of revealed miracle, we witnessed other such disasters, such as Barak’s frontal attack on religious Judaism (shades of Hellenized Jews). Another example of anti-Jewish, selective law enforcement happened here in Hebron, only two days ago. Kiryat Arba resident Ofer Ochana was detained by police and interrogated because he dared to play Jewish music from loudspeakers atop the Gutnick Center, outside Ma’arat HaMachpela. Following the interrogation he was warned that should he again sound music from the loudspeakers, he would be immediately arrested.

The organization for Human Rights in Yesha, led by Hebron’s Orit Struck, wrote a letter to police officials and others, questioning this action, accusing them of ‘selective law enforcement: “For years Jewish worshipers at the Cave of the Patriarchs have complained about the unreasonable and illegal noise of loudspeakers sounding the Muslim calls to prayer into the area assigned exclusively for Jewish worship, and in the Machpela courtyard. There is no need for this because these areas are not used for Muslim prayer (excepting 10 days a year). Two years ago a professional examination was carried out in order to measure the noise level compared to conventional criteria. The results, delivered to the Hevron DCO reported that ‘if the regulations to prevent hazards (unreasonable noise) from 1990 were applied in this case, the noise levels recorded very highly exceed permissible levels….Your action yesterday can only be defined as selective law enforcement, represents serious denial of freedom of expression and freedom of worship, and only encourages violent reactions. I ask you to explain why this extreme step was taken and, why you do not enforce the law equally, allowing freedom of expression and worship equally to the two religions.” (See full text )

Let’s keep in mind that the building atop the caves of Machpela was built by Herod some 600 years before Muhammad was born, but that makes no difference to a confused Hellenized Israel leadership, who prefer to not to follow in the footsteps of the Maccabees. Such a decree is preposterous.

Then again, there are miracles today, as there were then. Today, the eve of the last night of Hanukkah, 20 year old Tzviya Sariel was released from jail, after being held for over 45 days because she refused to identify herself and cooperate with the ‘authorities’ following expulsion from an ‘illegal settlement’ outside Migron in the Binyamin region. When the judge ordered her release the state appealed to a Municipal court – releasing this little terrorist is unheard of! – but the judge overruled the appeal and tonight, finally, she’ll be able to participate in candle-lighting with her family. A true Hanukkah miracle.

This week in Hebron we witnesses another kind of Jewish hero. Visiting with us was Dmitiry Salita, a 27 year old Russian born Jew, presently living in Brooklyn with his new wife Alona. Last week Salita competed for the World Boxing Association’s welterweight championship. (It was the first match he ever lost.) A Ba’al Tshuva (a Jew returning to observant, orthodox Judaism) at the age of 14, Dmitiry began boxing a year earlier and is today, one of the best in the world. True, it is unusual to find Jewish boxers, especially orthodox ones, but when I asked him about this he said, ‘G-d gives people different talents. This is mine and through boxing I can, in my way, further Israel and Judaism.’ Salita’s boxing trunks are adorned with a Magen David, a star of David. (The interview with Dmitiry Salita can be seen at: together with a sparring match here in Hebron.

I’m not sure I’d ever want to be a boxer, or get into the ring with Dmitiry Salita, but seeing a Jew with no fear, willing to get into that ring, leaves me with a feeling of pride and honor.

Hanukkah is a holiday of light and faith. A little light pushes away a lot of darkness. A little faith displaces much doubt. One last miracle. Lately the ‘human rights’ organization, B’tzelem, has requested that a representative from Hebron speak with groups they bring into the city. (That, in and of itself is a miracle!) I spoke with one of those groups not too long ago, for about 25 minutes, answering their questions. One of the women on the group was kind enough to record the conversation and transcribe it. The transcription isn’t 100% accurate, but, relatively speaking, it’s not bad. The last question I was asked dealt with whether or not we, in Hebron, had failed in achieving our goals. My answer, as she transcribed it:

Look, success and failure are very relative. If you’re asking me, do I think we’ve failed? No, I don’t think we’ve failed. The fact that I live here today, as far as I’m concerned is a success. The fact that there are things we haven’t succeeded to do, there are ups and there are downs, we’ve been exiled from Israel for the last 2000 years, Hebron for the last 700 years. It’s very difficult to get everything. There are problems and there are issues we have to deal with, sometimes you’re able to achieve what you want, sometimes it takes long to achieve what you want. I think that most of the goals you’re trying to achieve, you eventually will achieve. I don’t believe that God brought us back after 2000 years to throw us out again.

I know it sounds weird but I think our presence today in Israel everywhere – in Hebron, in Tel Aviv, in Haifa or Be’er Sheba is a miracle, it’s also a miracle, because if anybody here had been behind the fences in Auschwitz in 1944 and someone came and poked you on the shoulder and on one side there’s chimneys and smoke and the other side of that there’s fences, and somebody says ‘you know something, don’t worry about it, everything’s going to be ok, in another 40 years we’re going to have a Jewish state and there are going to be people that come and invade us, and we’re going to win’, then the guy would look at you and say ‘you’re nuts, you’re out of your mind, you need to wake up! This is the fence and we can’t get out and there’s the smoke and that’s it’. And we’re here today. And if that’s not a miracle, nothing is. 1967 was a miracle, 1973 was a larger miracle and – I don’t have time now – but I can give you miracles that happen here in Hebron one after the other after the other. You know, it’s tangible, you can touch it.

Do I think that we have problems? Of course we have problems. There are things we haven’t succeeded, we haven’t succeeded perhaps in explaining ourselves well enough. But in order to be able to express yourself you have to have a form in which to express yourself. We know where the media is, the Israeli media and the world media and that’s one of the ways I ask you also... And I do thank you very much for this opportunity because in most cases groups like this that come in aren’t interested in even hearing what the other side have to say and I think it’s very praiseworthy that despite differences of opinion that are huge there’s a willingness at least to allow people to hear a little bit of another side and I think that’s important and significant and so I thank you for that. But do I think I’ve failed. It’s difficult but whether I call that failure, no. []

Wishing all of you continued light, enabling you to see the miracles that occur all the time, even after Hanukkah is over.

With blessings from Hebron.

No more music at Ma'arat HaMachpela?//Ma'arat HaMachpela: Audio levels don't top legal limits

No more music at Ma'arat HaMachpela?
December 20/21 2009

Ma'arat HaMachpela
For the first time in years - probably as a result of a direct order from the new Commander of the Central Region, it will be forbidden to play Jewish prayer music at the Ma’arat HaMachpela courtyard.

For years, Jewish visitors arriving at the Ma’arat HaMachpela have been greeted by  Jewish music, played from loudspeakers atop the Gutnick Center, outside Ma’arat HaMachpela. The lyrics of all the songs are taken from the Jewish liturgy, changing from time to time depending on the time of year: the Ten Days of Repentance, Elul – Selichot, holiday prayer melodies, Shabbat songs and so on.
Yesterday, for the first time in years, these prayer melodies were banned: Ofer Ochana a resident of Kiryat Arba, was summoned by the police, interrogated, and charged with  a criminal offense.

Following the investigation he was warned that if he dared to again play music over the speakers - would be arrested immediately. From information we received, this is probably a direct order of the new Commander of the Central region, who also demanded that the police carefully examine the law and find a criminal offense that could be attributed to Ochana. After tedious searches the police discovered several laws relating to noise being publicly broadcast via a business in a residential neighborhood. Ochana, who also directs a store and a banquet hall inside the building, was summoned, interrogated and warned. His speakers were disabled, and the music which delighted the hearts of the many visitors to Hebron, was silenced.

As a result of these baffling measures, the organization Human Rights in Yesha contacted regional police commander Itzik Rachamim, in a letter titled: Selective law enforcement regarding loudspeakers in the vicinity of Ma’arat HaMachpela.

The letter reads as follows:
"For years Jewish worshipers at Ma’arat HaMachpela have complained about the unreasonable and illegal noise of loudspeakers sounding the Muslim calls to prayer into the area assigned exclusively for Jewish worship, and in the Machpela courtyard. There is no need for this because these areas are not used for Muslim prayer (excepting 10 days a year.) Two years ago a professional examination was carried out in to measure the noise level compared to conventional criteria. The results, delivered to the Hebron DCO reported that "if the regulations to prevent hazards (unreasonable noise) from 1990 were applied in this case, the noise levels recorded very highly exceed permissible levels." Despite these official inquiries, nothing was done to stop the daily disturbances which greatly impaired daily Jewish worship at the site. This, despite the fact that the Supreme Court recognized the right of prayer as one the foremost human rights

In light of this, it is very puzzling why Mr. Ofer Ochana is being invested for playing Jewish prayer music from the speakers (with far less intensity than the Muslim prayer calls), from the Gutnick Center, an area allocated for Jewish worship with the specific goal of creating an atmosphere of Jewish worship. Much graver is the threat that he would be arrested immediately if he dared to again play Jewish music in this area while no similar criminal steps were taken towards the Arab muezzin. If the criterion which you utilize to examine the decision whether to conduct a criminal investigation and threaten detention is a suspicion of "breach of peace" (the language of Section 194 (a) of the Penal Code) - then there is enough to push the public Jewish worshipers at the Ma’arat HaMachpela to take steps which will be understood to reveal that their welfare and tranquility have been violated by the muezzin’s call to prayer. Is unadulterated strength the way in which you think law should be enforced? Your actions yesterday can only be defined as selective law enforcement, and represents serious denial of freedom of expression and freedom of worship, and encourages violent reactions. I ask you to explain why this extreme step was taken and, why you do not enforce the law equally, allowing freedom of expression and worship equally to the two religions."

A Copy of this letter was sent to the Minister of Religious Affairs, other ministers and Knesset members.

Ma'arat HaMachpela: Audio levels don't top legal limits

Hebron police today requested that the Environmental Protection Ministry perform noise measurements in the vicinity of  Ma'arat HaMachpela, the Tomb of the Patriarchs.

When the ministry inspectors arrived, Ofer Ochana was asked to begin broadcasting music over loudspeakers from the roof of the Gutnick Center in order to perform the tests. It should be remembered that only a few days ago he was warned that he would be immediately arrested should he broadcast the music, defined as 'public noise.'

The examination concluded that the audio levels do not exceed the legal limitations.
On the other hand, the intensity of the sound produced by speakers of the Arab muezzin, also tested by the Environment Ministry, was found to exceed the limits permitted by law.
As a result it is expected that the Hebron police will reach two important decisions:
1. The Arab muezzin should be immediately detained, commencing a criminal investigation against him
2. The Jewish songs will be allowed to continue playing, as has been customary for many years.
Today, Shas MK Rabbi Haim Amsalem sent a letter to Minister of Public Security Yitzhak Aharonovitch on this matter:
MK Amsalem's letter stated:
For years Jews have complained about the unreasonably loud audio sound from the mosque loudspeakers directed straight into the area allocated to Jews at Ma'arat HaMachpela.
Two years ago a professional examination to measure the noise level was carried out, and found that the speakers exceed permissible levels by a very large rate. To this day nothing was done to stop the phenomenon, although the High Court recognized the right of prayer as one the foremost human rights (HCJ 466/06, 10356/02 , 10497/02)].
In light of this, the police action to stop the Jewish prayer melodies, broadcast from speakers of the Gutnick Center, within the Jewish area of the Ma'ara courtyard, thereby enforcing the law only against Jews, is a very serious.
The steps taken by the police against Mr. Ofer Ochana represent selective law enforcement, and is a serious breach of freedom of expression and freedom of worship.
I request that you order the police to immediately annul this unfair decision.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Modern Miracle called Hebron

The Modern Miracle called Hebron
November 16, 2009

The Modern Miracle called Hebron
Most people view miracles as 'one-time' events, such as the parting of the sea during the Exodus from Egypt, or the sun standing still at Givon. But I have news for anyone who so thinks: there are miracles that are continuous acts of G-d.
A number of examples come to mind, but at the present, the phenomenon at the forefront of my thoughts is none other than: Hebron.
A few months ago we marked the eightieth anniversary of the 1929-Tarpat riots and massacre which decimated Hebron's age-old Jewish community. A small group which returned in 1931 was expelled by the British in 1936. Who could have imagined that Jews would ever return to this holy city, especially following the Jordanian occupation during the War of Independence?
Even in the midst of the Six Day War the Israeli government attempted to prevent Jordanian participation in the battles, but Hussein, carried away by is own propaganda, began shelling Jerusalem. The result was Israel's liberation of the Wall, Temple Mount and all of the holy city, as well as Judea and Samaria, the heartland of the Jewish people.
Who would have believed that an ancient city such as Hebron could be repopulated by Jews, a city left vacant of Jews following the horrid 1929 massacre? But it happened.
At no time in the history of the world has a people been able to literally 'return home' following a 2,000 year old exile. No people has ever been able to gather in the exiled, from the four corners of the earth. No people has ever been able to reestablish an ancient language, the tongue of the sacred, the letters and words of the Torah. This is not only renewal. It is rebirth. It is a stage in the revival of the dead.
But the miracle does not stop there. After all, an infant does have life, an infant can breath and eat, but little more than that. An infant must also survive, living long enough to grow, learn, and develop, physically and mentally. That can be more difficult than the birth itself.
But so it has been. No lack of difficulties, acting as stumbling blocks, have stood in the way of advancement. A plague, a disease called anti-Semitism, an inbred hate of Judaism and Israel, struck immediately, attempting to stamp out the newborn life at its very inception. Yet that affliction was unable to wipe out the inner yearnings that had lived within the souls of the almost lifeless body called Israel. Israel's essence refused to yield, breaking through the eggshell of infancy to being a full-fledged global presence.
Despite attempts, again and again, of that potentially fatal affliction, Israel overcame. And it was only natural that the sign of triumph not only be progressing forward, but also, no less important, reaching back to the beginnings of our existence, to the roots of our collective soul, from which we evoked the strength to keep alive for thousands of years, from which we were able arouse the inner fortitude to negate the deadly viruses attempting to destroy us.
It was only natural that the Jewish people would return to Hebron, to Ma'arat HaMachpela, to the original city of David, to the cradle of civilization, to the foundation of our existence.
Over the years attempts continue to cut off, or renounce those roots. To no avail.This past Saturday over 20,000 people compressed themselves into one huge body of Am Yisrael, in the holy city of Hebron, to take part in 'Shabbat Hebron,' when we read in the Torah how Abraham paid Efron the Hittite 400 silver shekels ($750,000 today) for a field and a cave at the edge of that field.
It is no small feat to host 20,000 people for 24 hours, but residents of Hebron and Kiryat Arba, working together, did just that. And these 20,000 people joined the over 150,000 Jews and gentiles who visited Hebron during the holiday season. And these tens of thousands joined the half a million who visit Hebron each year.
But the trials continue. We can never stop and rest, not even for a moment. The infectious bacteria are still at work. Next Saturday night Hebron's US affiliate, the Hebron Fund, is hosting its annual dinner event in New York. This year's occasion has taken a unique turn, being held at Citi Stadium in Queens, new home of the New York Mets. For the past few weeks germs have been eating away at the Mets front office, trying to convince them to cancel the event. However those courageous people refuse to kowtow to them and call off the dinner.
But that is not enough. We must ensure that hundreds and hundreds show up at Citi Stadium, next Saturday night (call 718-677-6886 now for details or click here ) to prove to those still trying to delete us from the map: Hebron is here to stay!
A friend asked me how we can associate with the Mets; after all, they are 'losers.' I had two responses: first of all, I remember the 1969 Mets, the Miracle Mets with Tom Seaver, Buddy Harrelson and all the others, who took the World Series in 5 from Baltimore. With them I can certainly relate.
But much more importantly, the Mets have proven that they are the real 'winners,' denying attempts to prevent Hebron from celebrating at their stadium. Moral victories are much more impressive than 'games won.'
The Mets have had their miracles, and so has Hebron. Together, with all of you, we will unite to continue to prove to the world: Hebron, Meaz u'leTamid – Hebron, Now and Forever.
See you Saturday night at Citi Stadium!
**Correction:Please note the following corrections dealing with my article posted last Thursday night, titled: Hebron: The Dream and the Reality: Naomi Paiss, from the New Israel Fund- Adalah-New York has no relationship at all with the civil rights group Adalah in Israel. The New Israel Fund does not give a penny to Adalah-New York, we have no relationship with them at all. We do fund Adalah in Israel, which has won many victories on behalf of an Arab minority that, by the Israeli government's own admission, has been discriminated against since the birth of the state. And from another reader: Adalah-NY is not related in any way to Adalah, the legal center for Arab minority rights in Israel, the organization referred to by NGO Monitor. 

Friday, November 13, 2009

Hebron-Shabbat Chaye Sarah: The Dream and the Reality

Hebron-Shabbat Chaye Sarah: The Dream and the Reality
November 13, 2009

Sometimes the past and the present really blend together. As right now, the eve of Shabbat Hebron – the Shabbat when we read during the weekly Torah portion about Abraham’s purchase of Ma’arat HaMachpela almost 4,000 years ago.
How so?
A few weeks ago a fascinating explanation about Hebron and Ma’arat HaMachpela come to my attention. Usually when speaking about this site to visitors, I refer to it as the 2nd holiest site to the Jewish people in all the world, second only to Temple Mount in Jerusalem. This is, by all means, the truth. However, in Judaism, there can be defined two different kinds of sanctity. The first is as we find in Jerusalem and in the area of Temple Mount, where the ‘holiness’ has actual significance. For example, the sanctity of Temple Mount is so intense, that there are areas where it is forbidden for people to access. During the days of the first and second Temple, the Kodesh haKodeshim, the holy of holies, was totally off-limits excepting one day of the year, that day being Yom Kippur, and then it was accessible to only one person, that being the “High Priest” – the Cohen HaGadol. And it was known that should he even think impure thoughts while inside the Holy of Holies, he would not exit alive. For that reason, before entering this inner sanctum of the Temple, a rope was tied on to his body, which could be used to pull him out should he die inside.

On the other hand, there is a sanctity such as in Hebron; a holiness that does not have such actual implications, but spiritually can be conveyed of as ‘holy.’

So I thought. However, Israel’s first Chief Rabbi, Rav Avraham Yitzhak HaCohen Kook, wrote differently. In a book titled “Shmuot HaRaiya” he presents the following thought:
He defines two types of holiness or Kedusha; the first being actual and the other, potential. Of course, he goes into some detail explaining these terms and exemplifying them. But the bottom line is quite clear. When HaShem told Abraham to ‘get up and walk the land, the length and width of it, Abraham quickly makes his way to Hebron, because here was revealed the potential holiness of Eretz Yisrael. Rabbi Kook says, “Eretz Yisrael was not sanctified ‘in potential’ except by the bodies of the Forefathers and their burial, and by interring Sarah in the beginning in Eretz Yisrael, the potential sanctity was established and this holiness established the sanctity of Eretz Yisrael for eternity.”  Of course, the ‘actual’ sanctity is developed and found in Jerusalem at the site of Beit HaMikdash, the Temple.

This is why David began his reign in Hebron, for seven and a half years,  first to immerse himself in the roots of the potential Kedusha, prior to actualizing this holiness in Jerusalem.
Rav Kook’s principle student, Rav Yaakov Moshe Harlap, in the first chapter of his classic work Maayanie HaYishua, writes that the value of the expectation of salvation (potential) is greater that the (actual) salvation itself because the expectation, in potential, is never-ending, whereas the actual salvation itself, at each stage, is limited.

In other words, the holiness of Hebron is real, and no less significant than that of Jerusalem. We know that these two cities are intrinsically bonded. Temple Mount was declared off-limits in 1267 by Marmaluk emperor Bibers, as was Ma’arat HaMachpela, by the same person at the same time.

In 1929 we lost Hebron. In 1948 we lost the old city of Jerusalem and with that, access to the Wall. In June, 1967 we liberated Jerusalem and the next day, Hebron. Hebron was divided in 1997; ever since, Israeli Prime Ministers have offered to divide Jerusalem. Only by the grace of G-d has this been prevented.

How does this fit into today’s reality?

Next Saturday night Hebron’s United States organization, the Hebron Fund, will hold its annual dinner reception in New York. This year, as a change of pace, rather than conduct the event at  a Manhattan hotel, the dinner will be hosted at Citi Stadium in Queens, new home of baseball’s New York Mets. A week or so ago a group of left wing American organizations, led by Adalah-New York, an Arab-loving, Israel-hating organization, began a campaign to have the Mets cancel the Hebron event at their stadium.

Who is Adalah? According to its web site, they are the “Coalition for Justice in the Middle East” They “began organizing actions in response to the escalation of Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip at the end of June and the subsequent Israeli war on Lebanon in July 2006. Adalah-NY has carried out numerous street protests and educational forums focusing on Israel's assault on Gaza and war against Lebanon, the US' threatened attack on Iran, …It is a grassroots strategic alliance of concerned organizations and individuals in New York, formed to demand an immediate, unconditional, and permanent end to U.S. and U.S.-sponsored Israeli aggression in the Middle East. In response to the continuing injustices committed by the U.S. and Israel, which constitute gross violations of international law, Adalah-NY stands with the people of the Middle East in their demands for justice, equality, democracy, and respect for human rights.”

Together with Gush Shalom in Israel, Jews against occupation in the US, and other rabidly anti Israel groups, Adalah New York   and others are making a major effort to prevent Hebron’s annual event next week. But they have failed. The Mets have heroically decided not to bow to these racist demands to cancel Hebron’s dinner.

What does this have to do with all the above-related material? Why are these groups so anti Hebron? Why do they classify Hebron’s Jewish population as being almost synonymous with monsters? Very simply, they can sense the Keddusha, the sanctity that emanates from this holy city.  They know that the key to all of Eretz Yisrael lies with the roots, site where it all started, where the potential for continuous Jewish settlement in all of Israel is never-ending, somehow understanding that the path to Jerusalem runs through Hebron.

A Cohen, a priest in the Temple would, early every morning, climb high and look south. His compatriots would ask, has the sun yet risen, even as far away as in Hebron? If he answered affirmatively, the day’s activities could commence. However, if not, they had to wait. In other words, if it is dark in Hebron, it is dark in Jerusalem. If it is light in Hebron, it is light in Jerusalem. And the light shining forth from Jerusalem, radiates throughout the entire world. And should G-d forbid, it should be ‘dark’ in Jerusalem, that darkness permeates throughout all of mankind.

It is those forces of evil, those forces of darkness, who so desire to extinguish the lights of Hebron and the lights of Jerusalem and the lights shining throughout the world. But it is not to be. From the month preceding Rosh HaShana, the Jewish New Year, through the month and a half holiday season, over 150,000 people flocked to Hebron. Tomorrow we expect to host some 25,000 people in Hebron and Kiryat Arba, coming to participate in reading how Abraham paid 400 silver shekels (today valued at $750,000!) for the Caves of Machpela from Efron the Hittite, where it happened, almost 4,000 years ago. Each and every one of these people is another light, a flame emitting a beam of eternity, embodying the potential holiness that begin with Sarah’s burial, some four millennium ago.

That potential still exists today, and is being actualized by the continued flow of Jews to Israel, to Jerusalem, to Hebron, and throughout the rest of the Land. This is our potential; this is our actuality. This is our dream, and this is our reality. Happy Shabbat Hebron.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Ma'arat HaMachpela: Jewish Roots

Ma'arat HaMachpela: Jewish Roots

Published: Thursday, November 12, 2009 5:54 PM
A connection between Jerusalem and Hebron.

The Torah teaches us that Avraham, sitting outside his tent following his Brit Milah, seeing three men approaching, ran to fix them a meal.

When he entered the sheep pen to prepare fresh meat, a calf ran away. As Avraham chased the calf, the animal suddenly disappeared. Continuing to search, Avraham saw a cave in the distance and approached, thinking that 
Where did Avraham learn the trait of chesed?
perhaps the calf had run inside. Arriving at the cave and peering in, Avraham saw a bright light glowing from deep within. Entering to investigate, walking deeper and deeper into the cave, Avraham discovered the tombs of Adam and Eve, the first man and woman. He also smelled fragrances from the Garden of Eden.  

How did Adam and Eve arrive at this site? It is written that following their exile from the Garden of Eden they wished to return, but they had no idea where it was. They searched and searched until they reached a point where they could smell the exquisite fragrances of that unique place. There, the first man began digging and dug a cave within a cave, until a voice from the heavens forbade him to dig further. There he buried his wife Eve and later he too was interred there (according to the Zohar).

Realizing the sanctity of the site, Avraham left the cave, desiring to purchase it. According to the Midrash (Pirkei d'Rebbi Eliezer), he approached the Jebusites and requested to purchase from them the cave. (The Midrash specifies that the Jebusites and the Hittites were both from the same tribe, Paleshet.) They answered Avraham, "We know that your future offspring will try to conquer our home city (Jerusalem). If you agree to prevent them from conquering Jerusalem, we will sell you the cave."

Avraham agreed and signed a contract which was hung on statues outside the gates of Jerusalem. There are commentators who hold that Joshua did not conquer Jerusalem when he entered Israel due to Avraham's agreement. Centuries later, King David purchased the Temple Mount from the Jebusites only after he destroyed these statues.

Did Avraham really agree to relinquish Jerusalem for Hebron? No. Avraham realized that in order to attain the sanctity of Jerusalem, it was necessary to begin at the foundations of civilization, at the point which joins this world to another world, to the Garden of Eden. Starting here, at the cave, the foundations of the world, they could then progress slowly, until finally reaching the holiness of Jerusalem. This is similar to "Jacob's ladder", of which it is written that the top of the ladder reached the heavens but the legs of the ladder were firmly entrenched on the ground.

Where is a connection between Jerusalem and Hebron, site of these caves discovered by Avraham, called Ma'arat HaMachpela? The Talmud says, in the tractate Yoma, that every day, before beginning work in the Beit HaMikdash, the Temple, the priests would look out and ask, "Has the sun yet risen in the east, even as far as Hebron?" If the answer was positive, work would commence. If not, if it was still dark in Hebron, the priests in Jerusalem would have to wait.

Very likely, the merit by which Avraham earned discovery of Ma'arat HaMachpelais due to his desire and willingness to fulfill the positive precept of hachnasat orchim, "hosting guests", despite the very hot weather and the pain he experienced three days after his Brit Milah. This reflects Avraham's primary trait, that of chesed, or total, unrelenting loving-kindness.

Where did Avraham learn the trait of chesed? It would seem, from HaShem, from G-d Himself. In our prayers, which we repeat three times daily, we say, "the great, strong, awesome G-d, the supreme G-d." What would we expect to follow? Perhaps, 'the G-d who created heavens and earth', or 'who created Man'? No. We continue, "[G-d] who practices fine chesed and remembers the chesed of the Forefathers." This is what Avraham learned from
Each site has levels within levels.
HaShem. And this is the pillar of Ma'arat HaMachpela - chesed.
This is Avraham's primary trait, that of chesed, as it is written, "He bestowed chesed to Avraham." Why especially to Avraham? It is written, "A world of chesed will be created." In other words, creation of the world was dependant on total chesed, without any restrictions. Later, rules were established and thechesed was limited, borders were implemented. (So it is that Yitzhak's trait isgevurah, which represents the ability to live with restrictions, an enclosing, an implementation of constraints, and the opposite of chesed.)

Why was Avraham's trait chesed? His existence in the world and his revelation of one G-d was as the recreation of the world anew, the seeds of the birth of Am Yisrael, a time necessitating total chesed, as was during the time of Adam and Eve. And so it was that Avraham was merited to be the first person to discover their final resting place, the entrance to the Garden of Eden.  

There are different levels of revelation and of recognizing HaShem. There is a superficial recognition, but also a deeper appreciation.

In Israel there is Jerusalem and Hebron - Beit HaMikdash and Ma'arat HaMachpelaBeit HaMikdash, the Temple, is open to all, high upon a hill. Ma'arat HaMachpela is a cave, hidden from all eyes, inner. Beit HaMikdash extends outward. Ma'arat HaMachpela extends inward. One to the heavens and one to the depths of the earth. 

One bursts out and the other, directed towards our roots.  

Of course, each site has levels within levels. Beit HaMikdash has a section called Kodesh, "holy" and a more restricted area called Kodesh HaKodeshim, "the Holy of Holies". Ma'arat HaMachpela has two caves, an outer cave and an inner cave. 

Why then is the supreme holiness in Jerusalem and not in Hebron? This is the way of the world: "In the beginning G-d created the heavens and the earth, and the earth was filled with tohu v'vohu ('confusion')." The Torah continues with incidents 'on earth,' that which is revealed. The heavens remain 'hidden' and untouched.

With that, it should be noted that the final goal, the full redemption, is return to the era of the Garden of Eden, before Man's original sin. 
All may view that which is revealed, but revelation of the hidden is dependant on G-d, on His chesed, His willingness to allow entrance into 'the arena of the hidden'. In other words, Avraham's discovery of Ma'arat HaMachpela is an example of how chesed begets chesed (i.e., an example of mida k'neged mida - "an attribute begets an attribute"). 
We know of four couples buried at Ma'arat HaMachpela: Adam and Eve, Avraham and Sarah, Yitzhak and Rivka, Ya'akov and Lea. However, it is written that there are actually five couples buried at Ma'arat HaMachpela, three 'revealed' and two 'hidden'. The 'revealed' three are the Patriarchs and Matriarchs. The 'hidden' are Adam and Eve and Moshe (Moses) and Tzipporah (attributed to Sefer HaTemunah in the name of Rabbi Nechunia HaKana and Rabbi Yishmael Kohen Gadol).

What is Moshe's connection to Ma'arat HaMachpela? The Torah writes that Moshe was very humble; he was most humble of all men. Humility is a trait reflecting selflessness and concealment. Moshe brought Torah to the people of Israel and received no reward. He was as a slave and suffered, despite his efforts on behalf of the Israelites. This reflects the trait of chesed. What person would be more suitable to unify with his roots than Moshe?
This is the secret of Ma'arat HaMachpela.

In the Torah it is written (in Hebrew) Ma'arat Sde HaMachpela ("the cave in the field of Machpela"). The initials of these three words (in Hebrew), Mem, Shin and Hay, combine to spell Moshe. Jerusalem and Hebron blend and unify. Torah - the rules, the boundaries - and the tablets of the Ten Commandments, are found in Jerusalem. Gevurah - the trait of Yitzhak; Akedat Yitzhak occured on Har HaMoriah, site of Beit HaMikdash.

The chesed, the full loving-kindness without restriction, the trait of Avraham, is in Hebron. The lights of Hebron and the lights of Jerusalem merge to create a unity of spirituality which imbues the Jewish people (Ya'akov-Yisrael - the unity ofchesed and gevurah), the revealed and the hidden, this is the secret of Ma'arat HaMachpela, a unity which cannot be, and never will be, 'disengaged'.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A crocodile's dessert

A crocodile's dessert
Nov 27, 2009

Another hour and a half and it will be Shabbat. The Sabbath starts early this time of the year.
I’ve been thinking back. A week ago today I was in New York, staying with friends in Queens, getting ready for our annual Hebron Fund dinner. Shabbat there was very pleasant; a quiet and holy atmosphere, nice people, and of course, great food.

Saturday morning I spoke in a neighborhood synagogue. The people were very warm and the Rabbi’s introduction almost left me with little to say.  But, spokespeople, as it goes, always have  something to say, and so I did. But the ‘interesting’ part of the prayer service, as far as I was concerned, wasn’t my speech. Rather it was what the wise Rabbi mentioned to me after my ‘aliyah,’ making the blessings over a portion of the Torah reading.

According to Jewish law, when a person has survived a ‘dangerous event’ he or she recites a special blessing of thanksgiving, called “HaGomel.”  Plane trips, being over a great distance, also require recitation of this blessing, upon arrival at one’s destination, when receiving an ‘aliyah.’ So following the final blessing over the Torah portion, I dutifully repeated that particular blessing, thanking G-d for my safe arrival in New York.

When I returned to my seat and shook hands with the Rabbi, smiling he said: “you, who live in Hebron, and walk the streets of Hebron every day – here in New York you have to give thanks to G-d for your safety!?

That certainly is an interesting way to view our lives, and in truth, we don’t even pay attention to that thought of  ‘walking the streets of Hebron’ and the seeming ‘dangers’ involved. After all, that’s our life.


Last week in New York, and yesterday, ‘covering’ a terrorist attack at the entrance to Kiryat Arba, at the gas station where I fill up every time my tank gets thirsty. An Arab stepped out of a taxi, holding a knife, and according to some reports, also an axe, starting screaming, not ‘HaGomel,’ rather Allah HuAkbar – and started slashing. Only true Divine miracle prevented anyone from being killed.

That kind of event brings a person back to ‘everyday reality’ very quickly.

But, thinking back is not only yesterday or last week. This Shabbat, exactly seven years ago, three terrorists attacked Jews outside the south gate of Kiryat Arba, leaving 12 dead, including 3 civilians from Kiryat Arba’s  emergency squad, and nine officers and soldiers, among them, Col. Dror Weinberg, commander of the Judea Brigade, the highest ranking officer killed during the “Oslo War,” aka the 2nd intifada. Thinking about, not only those men we lost, but the bravery of those who stood and fought, and finally killed the terrorists, still sends chills down my spine.

Several of those heroes are from Hebron, but the person I remember most was a Druze officer name Siach, who drove over two and a half hours from his home in the north of Israel to Hebron to take part in the mission. Arriving and hearing that the last terrorist was still hiding on the roof of a house, he climbed up by himself, all alone, and faced off with the terrorist, killing him before the Arab killed him. Courage and faith so strong; it’s beyond my human comprehension.
And yet, with the terror, past and present, we continue to live ‘normal lives.’ The dinner last week on Saturday night at Citi Field in Flushing Meadows was a tremendous success, and in some ways, even an answer to terror. How so?

I don’t just measure the success only in terms of dollars and cents, or number of people attending. Of course, both are important; that cannot be denied. And in these respects I think the event was also successful. However, at least this year, success had another aspect – that being, the very fact that dinner took place, where it took place. American and Israel left wing organizations, Jewish and Arab, worked very hard to have the event cancelled. They wrote letters to the NY Mets, owners of Citi Field, initiated media events and protests, demanding that the event not take place, at least not at the home of the Mets. Newspaper and internet accounts, in Israel and in New York, were publicized.

To no avail. The Mets and the major league baseball commissioner refused to kowtow to these cowardly demands, and this is, in my opinion, part of the overwhelming success of the event.
It would be nice to see others, especially here in Israel, learn from the Mets, and refuse to accede to these types of terror. Like maybe our own Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu?! Last night minister Limor Livnat stated in no uncertain terms that the Israeli government has fallen on ‘an awful American administration’ and that the Prime Minister is  going through heavy hardships and is ‘under a lot of pressure’ from the Obama administration.

So, what to do? To stand up, as did a soldier yesterday who shot the axe-wielding terrorist, and as did Siach 7 years ago and say “NO” – we will not accept this, and do something about it, or to cave in, to surrender, to declare a ‘construction freeze’ and again acquiesce to diplomatic terror?

I know what the answer is, as did those 12 men seven years ago, who gave their lives for Am Yisrael, for the people of Israel. As did all the people who today filled up their tanks at that same gas station where yesterday an Arab wounded two, attempting to murder them. You cannot run away, you cannot hide your head in the sand, you cannot make believe that ignoring it will only make things better. As someone said to me today, it’s like feeding the crocodile, hoping that if you feed him long enough he won’t eat you.

It doesn’t work that way because in the end, you wind up being the crocodile’s dessert.

Advice to Bibi: take note of Obama’s big teeth and hearty appetite.

Rambam Day in Hebron

Rambam Day in Hebron
October 27, 2009

In 1165 Moshe ben Maimon, known as Maimonides or the Rambam, visited Eretz Yisrael. In the preface to his commentary on the Talmudic tractate of Rosh Hashana he writes of his visit to Hebron.
"And on the first day of the week, the ninth day of the month of MarCheshvan, I left Jerusalem for Hebron to kiss the graves of my forefathers in the Cave of Machpela. And on that very day I stood in the Cave and I prayed, praised be G-d for everything. And these two days, the sixth (when he prayed on Temple Mount in Jerusalem) and the ninth of Mar-Cheshvan I vowed to make as a special holiday and in which I will rejoice with prayer, food and drink. May the Lord help me to keep my vows…At the edge of the field is the house of Abraham, And it is forbidden to build a home there, in respect to Abraham."
Eight hundred and forty four years ago today, one of Judaism's greatest scholars arrived in Hebron, following his visit to Jerusalem. One can only imagine his excitement, standing next to the caves of Machpela, worshiping adjacent to the graves of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs. Perhaps we can sense a little of his exhilaration through his words, by vowing to mark his visit to Temple Mount in Jerusalem, and Ma'arat HaMachpela in Hebron, as an eternal, personal holiday.
Reading the Rambam's account, and feeling some of his awe, I ask myself, do people today, eight and half centuries later, still experience the same wonder when visiting such holy sites such as Temple Mount and Ma'arat HaMachpela.
A couple of weeks ago a friend of mine told me the following story:
Several years ago a famous Rabbi visited Hebron with many of his disciples. Upon arriving, he told his Hebron host, "I almost didn't come." When asked why, what was the problem, the Rabbi answered: "When the famous holy Rabbi Chaim ben Atar (known as the Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh) traveled to the city of Meron (in the Galil) to the tomb of Rashbi (Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, renowned Jewish scholar and mystic who lived during the Talmudic era, author of the Zohar), he first imposed upon himself many hardships and suffering, by fasting, by rolling in the snow, and other physical afflictions, in order to purify himself before approaching the holy Rashbi's cave. Then, when he reached Meron, he crawled on his hands and legs to the site itself, out of fear and awe."
The Rabbi continued: Knowing this, how could I dare allow myself to visit the caves of Machpela, the tomb of our Patriarchs and Matriarchs?!"
His host looked at him and asked, "but you are here – you came anyhow."
The Rabbi answered, "Yes, I did come. I decided that it is permissible to visit your father and mother, even if your clothes are stained and dirty."
A poignant story, but with a very profound message. Ma'arat HaMachpela - Hebron, is not only the home the founders of our people, the roots of Judaism and all monotheism, the beginning of modern 'civilized' civilization. Hebron is the home of our mothers and fathers, Mom and Dad, Grandma and Grandpa – that simple, that deep. Mommy and Daddy will always welcome their children home, notwithstanding anything!
I have the honor and privilege to work with many different people and groups, Jews and gentiles, youth and the elderly, people from all over the globe. My tours are fairly standard; I try to express the same values and information to everyone; it makes little difference to me who they are or what the represent. The material to be imparted is not only 'information' – it is much more that that – it is the essence of our very existence.
There are those people have heard some of it before. Others know almost nothing. But when they leave, almost undoubtedly, their lives have changed.
Not too long ago an Israeli man in his 40s visited here. He came in with a friend, and told me that he'd never been to Hebron, despite it only being an hour and a half from Tel Aviv. He also admitted that he didn't know why he had bothered to come. But, after two and a half hours of touring, he told me, 'now I'm starting to understand what's going on. I'd never understood it before.'
What did he understand? I'm sure some of the 'political issues' that always make the news had suddenly come alive. But his words didn't just reflect politics; they reflected an inner spiritual awakening: Hebron- this is me!
Earlier today I toured with a group of teenagers from a youth organization. About 18 years old, these kids all knew they were Jewish. But most of them didn't know a whole lot more that that, especially about Hebron. As we starting touring it was very difficult for them to listen to me; they were more interested in talking to each other. I found it frustrating and irritating, and numerous times asked them to either stop their private conversations or leave the group.
But by the time we'd reached the Avraham Avinu neighborhood they were starting to pay attention. And when we arrived at Ma'arat HaMachpela, our last stop, they were listening. I knew that something had clicked when, telling the story of how, in 1981, a group of Jewish men were able to actually enter the authentic Machpela caves themselves, one of the young women, her mouth open and her eyes sparkling, mouthed, 'wow!'
I don't know how much she knew about Hebron and Machpela before this trip, but I have no doubt whatsoever that the few hours here left an indelible mark on her soul.
That is, I think, what the Rambam so succinctly expressed in the paragraph quoted at the beginning of this article.
This is one of our major goals in Hebron – to bring Hebron alive and to the masses, to make this holy city and these holy sites accessible to all people. Many are able to actually visit these sites; others can 'virtually attend,' via our website. This is one of our goals: to bring Hebron and Ma'arat HaMachpela to as many people as possible throughout the world, to bring everyone home to Mom and Dad!
People frequently ask how they can be a part of our mission. Presently, I have two answers: We've begun a project allowing people to become honorary citizens of Hebron. We request a minimum donation of $50. All new citizens will receive a beautiful personal certificate and updated information about Hebron. Details can be seen at
In addition, in less than one month the New York-based Hebron Fund will host its annual Dinner. The funds raised at this event allow Hebron's Jewish community to continue to work on behalf of the Jewish people, keeping Hebron and Ma'arat HaMachpela accessible to anyone and everyone. Details can be found at: If you can attend, great! If not, you can still select a 'Scroll of Honor Dedication" and contribute to the continued growth and development of the Jewish Community of Hebron.
Happy Hebron-Rambam Day!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Kol HaKavod to the IDF's Healthy soldiers

Kol HaKavod to the IDF's Healthy soldiers
October 23, 2009
Arutz 7 in Hebrew [] screened a short video showing yesterday's swearing-in ceremony of soldiers from the Kfir infantry brigade at the Kotel in Jerusalem. Such ceremonies are usually very emotional, with family members and friends attending, as the new soldiers complete their basic training.
Such a ceremony is very symbolic, with the new soldiers proclaiming their willingness to give their lives for their people and for their country. However, in recent years soldiers have been called on to betray their land, Eretz Yisrael. Such orders given to expel Jews from their homes and their land are still being issued and implemented. Recently soldiers from the Shimshon unit of Kfir have been ordered to expel Jews from Homesh 10 times, including on Shabbat, Rosh HaShana Eve, and Yom Kippur Eve.
Yesterday, the newly inducted warriors declared their allegiance, not only to the State of Israel, but also the Eretz Yisrael and to G-d, by waving banners, during the ceremony, which read, "No to expulsions from Homesh." Family members and friends in the attending audience also waved such banners, which were forcibly taken by police and security forces at the site.
Thank G-d for such brave, healthy young men, who understand the value of Eretz Yisrael and the value of saying 'no' to such illegal commands, ordering expulsion of Jews from their land and home. Yesterday's act was particularly significant, taking place at the Kotel, adjacent the the holiest place in the world, Har HaBayit - Temple Mount and the Holy-of-Holies.
It's no secret the previous Prime Ministers have offered this very site to our enemies, who claim it as their own. These soldiers have made it clear: We will not have any part of expulsions, evictions, or other such immoral actions, in Homesh, Jerusalem or anywhere else.
The army is threatening to dismiss these soldiers from the IDF following 'suitable punishment.' What a waste! These are our true fighters, motivated and talented, willing to give their lives for their land, their people and their
G-d.  This is the real IDF.
Kol HaKavod!!!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

It's starting again!

Tishrei 11, 5770, 9/29/2009

It's starting again!

On Sunday, Yom Kippur eve, Arabs again started hurling rocks at worshipers at the Western Wall from Temple Mount above. Rock-throwing and fire-bomb attacks are continuing in Ir David - the city of David. Similar attacks are continuing on other roads throughout Judea and Samaria. 

Rocket are falling in the south, initiated from terrorist-held Gaza.
And now, again, we receive news of a terror shooting in the Binyamin region, not far from the Shilo community, between Shvut Rachel and Achiya. An Israeli was 'moderately' injured, with a bullet hitting near his elbow. 

It was only a few weeks ago in Bethlehem when the 'moderate' Abu-Mazen terrorist force, Fatah "retained the armed struggle as a strategy in order to liberate the whole of Palestinian and eliminate Israel...calling for ‘the liberation of Palestine completely and the elimination of the state of the Zionist occupation economically, politically, militarily, and culturally’. And ...calling for ‘establishing a sovereign democratic Palestinian state on the entire Palestinian territory’. So clarifies the Jewish Center for Public Affairs (JCPA)

Knessent member Ahmad Tibi, said that the palestinian territory should be “cleaned” of Israeli settlers

In other words, armed struggle is certainly still part of their game. Only a couple of days ago Jibril Rajoub, former PA Hebron chief, and now a leading member of the Fatah committee, was quoted as saying, "Israel won't live securely until occupation ends."

These are the moderates. And the violence is starting again. This is clearly a reaction to Netanyahu's refusal to kowtow to King Hussein's demands for a total 'settlement freeze.' The king wants at least a year. Netanyahu refused, offering 'only' nine months.  King Hussein's Cairo speech and that in the UN make it clear as day: he's backing the Arabs against Israel. 

With that kind of support, why should the enemy wait. After all, following Goldstone, they figure that Israel won't dare retaliate in any drastic fashion, no matter how many rockets fall on southern Israel. 

Israeli leaders must stop the 3rd intifada before it takes off. This intifada will include rockets from the south, and very possibly from the north, as well as terror throughout Israel. It seems that a green light is about to be turned on, signaling commencement of a third wave of killing.

Israel has the ability to stop the terror, even before it begins. In the past, Israeli leaders, for whatever reason, refused to act decisively until many too many Israeli were dead and injured. This is inexcusable. As Israel prepares to deal with Iranian nuclear threat, it cannot ignore the immediate danger to its citizens from hate-filled Arabs close to home, whose only desire is to kill as many Jews as possible and bring about the destruction of the State of Israel. 

Bibi and his government must hit back now, and hit back hard.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Avraham Avinu Synagogue: Miracle past and present

Tishrei 7, 5770, 9/25/2009

The Avraham Avinu Synagogue: Miracle past and present

This place, where previously there had been a goat shed, which had symbolized our disgrace and humiliation, was magnificently renovated and the ancient synagogue was at its center
(A short Hebron selichot video appears at the end of this blog entry)

On one of the pillars inside the Avraham Avinu synagogue is a plaque, with the cover page and introduction of a holy book, titled Emek HaMelech, meaning the Valley of the King. This book was authored by Rabbi Naftali Hertz Bachrach and published in 1648. It's subject matter is Kabbalah, known popularly as "Jewish mysticism."
Towards the end of Chapter nine of the author's introduction is a short paragraph, short in quantity, but quantitatively, immeasurable.

The story is well known. Exactly 490 years ago, the year 1619, in Hebron:
The paragraph, as it is written, in Emek HaMelach:

A wondrous event on Yom Kippur, know that in Hebron there aren't always ten for public prayer, only on Shabbat and holy days, when villagers gather there and pray with ten and more. But all the residents of Hebron are pious.

And it was on the eve of Yom Kippur, and there were only nine men, and they waited for the villagers to arrive, but not even one came, because they had all gone to Jerusalem, which is a quarter of a day's walk. And they were greatly saddened that on Yom Kippur they would pray individually and they wept much, and the sun was setting and daylight was disappearing. And they lifted their eyes and here was an elderly man, in the distance, and they were overjoyed to see him. And when he arrived they offered him a final meal, but he blessed them and said that he had eaten on the way. And they worshipped on the holy day and honored him greatly. And the next night they began discussions, because all of them wanted to host the guest in his home. And they compromised and conducted a draw, and the prayer leader (Chazan) was selected, he was a holy man who had wondrous dreams and night visions. And the Chazan led the guest to his home, with the guest walking behind him. And when he arrived at his home, the Chazan turned to honor the guest, that he should enter first, and he saw that the guest was gone. And they searched the entire courtyard, but didn't find him, and all were greatly saddened, thinking that the guest had left already that night, and did not want to enjoy anything from them. And that night the old man appeared before the Chazan in a dream and told him that he was Avraham Avinu, who had come to complete the minyon because he had seen that they were so upset about having to pray individually. And they were very happy and blessed the Great G-d, who had done wondrous things, Amen, May it be His Will:
From then on, the synagogue was known as the Avraham Avinu synagogue.
When Jews returned to Hebron following the 1967 Six day war, the ancient shul was gone. A sheep sty and public bathroom occupied the place where the shul had stood for over 400 years.

Due to the dedication and determination of one man, Professor BenTzion Tavgar, zt"l, the area was eventually cleaned out and the shul rebuilt.
This year, as every year, Yom Kippur prayers will be heard from this beautiful holy place.
Prof. Tavgar, prior to his death, wrote a book called "My Hebron" which was published a few years ago in Hebrew. It was recently translated into English and is now available. The following paragraphs, dealing with the rededication of the Shul and its ancient Torah scrolls, are from the book.
While I was in the Synagogue, waiting for the Torah Scroll to be brought in, I looked around once again at the walls of the building. The Synagogue was now splendidly built, more or less approximating its original form, before the Arabs had destroyed it in the 1950s. There might have been a few minimal changes here or there, and perhaps not everything had been completed and it was still necessary to fix something or other, but on the whole, the Synagogue now looked beautiful, it appeared splendid. One could even say that it was impressive, though not very modern.

I let my eyes wander around the interior of the synagogue. I had time to think and recall its previous state, five or six years ago, and thought of the sequence of events that had transpired. When I first came here, the place had indeed gone by the name of “Avraham Avinu Synagogue”, but its name had seemed completely disconnected from its essence. Nothing about it had indicated that it was a synagogue. It had been used as a goat shed. On its eastern side there had been a familiar, or rather, a notorious structure – the public latrine – which had been erected for the use of those who frequented the adjacent Arab wholesale market, and the rest of the site was used as a garbage dump.
This place, where previously there had been a goat shed, which had symbolized our disgrace and humiliation, was magnificently renovated and the ancient synagogue was at its center. We can pray in it! This is not something insignificant! It is a great thing, but it is not the conclusive thing, at least not from my point of view. When I had begun to dig here I had not set a goal for myself only to renovate the synagogue and not even the entire Jewish Quarter. My aim had been to change the atmosphere that had enabled the entrenchment of a state of affairs wherein on the site where a synagogue had once been standing in full glory, suddenly three “magnificent” establishments are standing: a goat-shed, a public toilet facility and a garbage dump. According to documents, the functioning of the goat shed within the synagogue had been approved by the Israeli authorities. Someone had signed the leasing contract with the Arab who was using the structure to house his goats. Someone had signed and others had agreed to it, or had turned a blind eye, while on the other hand, there were Jews whose soul had desired to clean the Synagogue, to prepare it and restore its original function, and to turn it once again into a place of prayer.
How had this happened? How had such a disgraceful process come about? The Military Administration had been assigned to guard there. The goat-shed, the public toilet and the garbage dump were being guarded by soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces. The government had assigned guards to attack me, with the aim of perpetuating this terrible disgrace. Another thing, possibly even worse, because I find it hard to imagine anything worse, was the judicial persecution, the utilization of the force of the law against me and against others. How many times had they submitted indictments against me?! They had trumped up those indictments. And what were the charges? I am ashamed to say... Sometimes, the “facts” written in the indictment had actually been libelous and impertinent lies completely divorced from reality. Jews had lied with barefaced audacity in order to keep the goats in place of the Synagogue. Many times the trials had been held in military courts. There is no greater shame than to see a scene where the judges, the prosecutor and the witnesses are all wearing the uniform of the Israel Defense Forces, all joining hands to convict you in a field court, without your even having the right to appeal.
In any case, I felt very festive during the ceremony and was completely overcome by joy.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Tit for Tat

Elul 27, 5769, 9/16/2009

Tit for Tat

At times we are forced to pay for our misdeeds; G-d takes account of our sins and, sometimes, treats us accordingly.

At first glance, it seems ironic that the author of the scathing report dealing with Israeli 'war crimes' during the Gaza war, is a Jew. And not just any Jew. According to Goldstone's daughter, in an interview published by the Jerusalem Post, Richard Goldstone "is a Zionist and loves Israel."
As the proverbial saying goes, 'with friends like that, who needs enemies?!'
Goldstone reportedly slept during accounts of rocket attacks on Sderot, in south Israel. So related Sderot resident and media expert Noam Bedein on Israel radio this morning. However such accounts are totally irrelevant. When it comes to Jews, only one truth is viable. Jews may be attacked in any manner as the attacker deems fit; however, Jews may not dare to defend themselves, be it preemptive, during or post attack. Why? Because that's why Jews exist; for the world to blame for all problems, and later to take their frustrations out on them.
This simple truth has existed for at least two thousand years, if we prefer to ignore Biblical accounts of the Egyptian slavery over 3,300 years ago. Certainly since the advent of Christianity Jews have been a worthy scapegoat and have paid a price continuing thru the present: expulsions, forced conversions, mass murder, and more. Who today remembers the slaughters perpetrated by the crusaders, or the inquisition, pogroms in Eastern Europe? Of course, today, talking about the holocaust is almost considered to be trite or redundant. After all, how much can you keep saying about it, bringing it up at every opportunity, enough!
The state of Israel serves as a wonderful target for continued Jew-bashing. Perhaps one of the best examples, today so relevant, was Israel's attack against Saddam Hussein's mass killing machine, destroying his nuclear missile facilities in June, 1981. The United States blasted Israel for this attack. The United Nations Security council unanimously passed UN Resolution 487 which “strongly condemns the military attack by Israel in clear violation of the Charter of the United Nations and the norms of international conduct.”
This rule is playing out in front of our eyes, as international policy concerning the Iranian nuclear threat demands 'negotiations' and 'sanctions' prior to any attempts to physically destroy Ahmadinejad's weapons of mass destruction before they are activated and live. By that time, of course, it may be too late, but again, who cares? After all, it's only Israel's existence that seems to be at stake!
The Goldstone Report is only a continuation of an international principle which allows Israel to be attacked, and refuses to accept Israel's right to self defense.
And here is a BIG BUT.
I believe that the drama unfolding before our eyes, such as the Goldstone report, is not the fault of the international community. It is, quite clearly and simply, our fault, the direct responsibility of the state of Israel and a direct result of Israeli policies.
How so?
Exactly nine years ago, tomorrow night, what is known as the '2nd Intifada' aka the Oslo War began, here in Hebron. Just after midnight Arab terrorists started shooting at the Jewish neighborhoods in the city. The source of the gunfire were the hills surrounding these neighborhoods, hills 'transferred'/abandoned to the Palestinian authority in January, 1997 with implementation of the 'Hebron Accords.'
The shooting also started in other areas of Judea and Samaria. Jerusalem's southern neighborhood, Gilo, came under attack from Bethlehem and Beit Jala.
The shooting continued for over two years, with the Barak/Sharon administrations refusing to properly defend its citizens against sustained, incessant attacks. Had the government ordered the army back into the areas and cities handed over to the PA the attacks would have ended immediately. Instead, the state's leaders watched as almost 1,500 Jews were murdered in cold blood by Arab terrorists. And the shooting continued.
But it should be remembered that, prior to this war, Gush Katif communities came under mortar fire day and night, for years. Thousands of mortars were shot at civilian and military populations. With virtually no effective answer from those who were elected to keep Israelis safe, wherever they were.
It also should not be forgotten the missile attacks against Kiryat Shmona and cities in the Israeli north, attacks which remained unanswered for years at a time.
And finally, how many rockets were shot into Sderot before the abandonment of Gush Katif, and how many following catastrophic expulsion and destruction of those communities. Thousands and thousands and thousands.
And let it not be said that the government didn't know, that they weren't warned. Only last week, at the lecture in Netanya: "A secret IDF Intelligence (AMAN) assessment warned as early as 1993 that the Oslo Accords would likely end with rocket attacks on Ashkelon, according to former AMAN Maj.-Gen. Yaakov Amidror. The politicians, however, were not interested.  According to Amidror, who headed the IDF's Research and Assessment Division responsible for preparing the National Intelligence Assessment, the decision to go ahead with the Oslo agreements between Israel and the PLO terrorist organization was made without taking into account the military implications. The Rabin government "completely ignored" IDF assessments, Amidror claimed" .
Writers, myself included, warned, year after year, of the deadly implications of Oslo, Hebron, Wye, Gush Katif. To no avail. But they knew, and did nothing.
In other words, Israel allowed itself to be attacked, without offering any real defense, any true attempt to stop the terror. That being the case, when, at long last, much too late, Israel finally decided to take action, our enemies, enemies from without and enemies from within, raised a red flag imprinted with a huge question mark: What happened – why now? What happened to you Jews? You know you're not allowed to defend yourselves. You know better. Don't you dare start now!
The state of Israel had withheld for so long, had restrained itself, had decided strategically not to protect itself, its citizens, and its cities, that any such action was viewed as bizarre and uncharacteristic. And with this, a great international outcry, coming on the heels of thousands of years of defenselessness. How dare you!!!
Approaching the holy days of Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur we try to take stock of the events of the past year, to determine how to correct our errors in the future. At times we are forced to pay for our misdeeds; G-d takes account of our sins and, sometimes, treats us accordingly.
We are taught that one of the ways G-d deals with us human beings is, in Hebrew, 'mida c'neged mida.' Translated this means something like tit for tat. You get back the same as you gave. Ehud Barak, presently Defense Minister, nine years ago Prime Minister, fled from Lebanon and offered Arafat almost all of Judea and Samaria, including Jerusalem. He claims that the Goldstone report encourages terror. Tit for tat Mr. Barak. You did nothing to stop terror. To the contrary, you encouraged it by doing nothing about it, you let Jews die and tried to appease the terrorists by offering to abandon more of Eretz Yisrael.  Now you're getting it back in the face in the form of another Jew, blaming you for trying (and, by the way, not succeeding) to stop the terror, much too little, much too late. Mida c'neged mida.