Monday, October 7, 2002

The Eternal Gandhi

The Eternal Gandhi
Oct. 7, 2002


There was a time, years ago, when marking the annual remembrance day of the murder of a Hebron resident, or someone I knew personally, I would make it a point to speak about them, especially on the first anniversary of their death. Over the past two years so many people have been taken from us that it is virtually impossible to do so. I would have no choice but to eulogize terror victims on almost a daily basis.

However, there are exceptions to this rule.

It was exactly one year ago that Arafat-terrorists murdered Gandhi – Minister Rehavam Ze’evi HY”D in cold blood in Jerusalem. Since Gandhi’s killing I’ve dedicated at least two Arutz 7 broadcasts to him, and I feel a responsibility to speak about him again.

This afternoon we dedicated two new Torah scrolls, written in Gandhi’s memory, at Ma’arat HaMachpela, the Tomb of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs in Hebron. Following an emotional ceremony when the Torah scrolls were completed at Beit Hadassah, hundreds participated in accompanying them to their new home. Singing and dancing with the scrolls through the streets of Hebron, I could almost feel Gandhi’s presence, as if he was really there with us.

The picture of Gandhi entering Hebron during the 1967 Six Day war is quite well know, accompanied by then Defense Minister Moshe Dayan. Yesterday, while searching through our archives, I discovered pictures of Gandhi in Hebron again, this time in 1974, then General Ze’evi, at the conclusion of his service as Commander of the Central Region, which included Hebron.

As he told it, Gandhi always had a deep affinity for Hebron, and for him, serving here was the fulfillment of a dream. As commander of the central region, Gandhi ordered that the eastern steps leading up to Ma’arat HaMachpela, be destroyed. This pathway was infamously known for only one of its steps – the seventh step. It was at this point where Jews were forbidden to continue – as is well known, that for seven hundred years Jews were not allowed to enter this most holy of sites.  These steps – and the seventh step in particular, represented a disgraceful period in the history of our people, an era which deserved to be blotted out, and those stairs, as so ordered by General Rehavam Ze’evi, were blown up.

In later years Gandhi authored a volume called Tevach Hevron. This book highlights another dark moment in the annuls of the Jewish people and Hebron – the 1929 riots and massacre, occurring in the Jewish year 5689 – otherwise known as Tarpat.  In his introduction to the book, published in 1995, Gandhi writes, “ The 1929 Hebron riots, when 67 Jews were murdered in the City of the Patriarchs, ended a continuity of its Jewish community, until its return and renewal following the Six Day war. This book is a memorial to those butchered and a remembrance to the living. The events of 1929 in Hebron and other places in Israel teach us that we cannot abandon our security to foreigners; (the British High Commissioner viewed the riots against Jews in 1929 as “a confused situation and violent, unlawful events,”) and that the Arabs will take advantage of every opportunity to uproot us from our homeland, the land of our life, and will say that this is “a Jewish enigma ” and deny that the events ever took place.

Gandhi’s comprehension of history, of the Arab mind, and of his love for Eretz Yisrael and the Jewish people led him to a single conclusion: Jews and Arabs will never be able to live together in one land. As long as there are Arabs and Jews in Eretz Yisrael, the Arabs will do anything and everything to remove them, leaving no stones unturned until they succeed. Thus Gandhi adopted a publicly unpopular ideal – the removal of Arabs from Eretz Yisrael, expressed in a single word: Transfer. Transfer articulated the backbone of his party’s name – Moledet – Homeland. Put in simple words, our land, Eretz Yisrael, can not be the Moledet of more than one people. It is either them or us. And Gandhi chose us.

Ignoring seeming reality, disregarding public disdain, Gandhi pushed forward relentlessly, accomplishing a perceived impossibility – Rehavam Ze’evi, conceiver of transfer, led a major Israeli political party and participated in a national unity government, seated and recognized at the same cabinet table with the antithesis of his stated goals, Shimon Peres.

As has happened in the past, notably following the murder of Rabbi Meir Kahane HY”D, the Jewish public and the Israeli public are slowly starting to accept Gandhi’s philosophies, albeit posthumously.

Why honor Gandhi’s memory with Torah scrolls in Ma’arat HaMachpela. Rehavam Ze’evi was a deeply religious person. I am not aware of his own level of observance, but it is widely known that he prayed with Tefillin every day. His love for Eretz Yisrael was not platonic. Gandhi’s entire life was dedicated to settling Eretz Yisrael and returning the ancient glory of our people, following a two thousand year exile and a catastrophic Holocaust.  Only a person with the neshama of a tzadik, with a righteous soul, could live the life of a Gandhi.

Just as a person’s body is temporal, so his soul is eternal. So too, a Torah is eternal. Two Torahs, located in the holy city of Hebron, at the resting place of our fathers and mothers, at the very roots of Jewish existence, is the essence of eternity. Torah scrolls, in memory of Rehavam Ze’evi, at Ma’arat HaMachpela in Hebron is the embodiment of the eternal Gandhi.

With blessings from Hebron,
This is David Wilder

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