Monday, January 30, 2012

It will not be easy, but we will persevere.

A few days ago, January 20, was the fifteenth anniversary of the implementation of the Hebron Accords, which divided our holy city into two unequal zones. Jews today have access to 3% of Hebron, while Arabs access some 97% of the city.
Yesterday we posted an interesting, important and timely article by Noam Arnon (in Hebrew) marking this ill-fated act, which led to so much violence and tragedy. I decided to also write about this, not with a ‘new article,’ rather using words of the past, clips from articles I authored fifteen plus years ago. They speak for themselves.
Clearly, should Israel continue on the same path in the future, the results won’t be any different. It is essential to learn from the errors of the past, in the hope that they will not be repeated in the future. History’s virtue lies not in names, dates and places. Rather it should be a tool, with which we can examine what occurred, why it occurred, and its implications for the future.

Years ago, all of us, realizing the developing catastrophes, many of us made the same predictions. And we were right on the mark. Oslo, and the Hebron Accords, led to massive terror, and then the Oslo War, aka the ‘second intifada.’ The massive expulsion from and abandonment of Gush Katif led to some ten thousand missiles shot into Israel and to a war in Gaza. Since Oslo, over 1,500 Israelis have been killed in cold-blooded Arab terror attacks. Tens of thousands wounded, physically and emotionally.

As for peace, this morning’s headline in HaAretz newspaper says it all:
Palestinians: Peace negotiations with Israel have ended. Except that again they lie. Those negotiations never ever really began.
Perhaps prior to future, prior to such fateful decisions, decision-makers should pay a little more attention to us?
(These articles, in their entirely, can be viewed at

We dwell in Hebron not out of benevolence but as a right. Hebron belongs to the Jewish people eternally as a result of our right and as a result of our strength, our strength of faith, our strength to stand up for what is legitimately ours...We must protect the foundation of Eternal Israel. Hebron is ours, Jerusalem is ours, the entire Eretz Yisrael is ours. Benyamin Netanyahu, December 7, 1994
…Jerusalem isn’t yet on the chopping block – but unofficially...- and anything that the present junta can get away with in Hebron will seem like child play if and when they move on - to the Golan, Jerusalem... June 08, 1995
Netanyahu:"The Jewish settlement will remain in Hebron permanently, if someone tries to take it away, my friends and I will be here, and they will have to take us away as well". 
“It will be a fatal mistake to bring hundreds of armed Palestinian policemen here, and there will be a small area where the Jews can pass and where the police and IDF can operate. If there will be a conflict, the IDF will not be able to function and will quickly collide with the Palestinian forces. This is a prescription for tragedy"
Netanyahu said he is worried about a time when there will be an attack in one of the alleys, and the attackers will run to the area under Palestinian control. Netanyahu said it is impossible to divide responsibility for security in Hebron: 'There is one body responsible, and that has to be the IDF". September 7, 1995
Rabbi Shlomo Ra'anan - murdered in his Hebron home, Aug. 1998, as described above.
However, the real danger is not in Hebron. It is in Jerusalem, Tel- Aviv and other Israeli cities. Hebron will become a breeding ground, a nest of Hamas terrorists. The attacks will be planned in Hebron, and the city will serve as a refuge following perpetration…He said, "I fear the results of an IDF withdrawal from Hebron. We have lists of hundreds of Hamas supporters living in Hebron who have signed written statements, agreeing to commit suicide attacks throughout Israel. As long as we are in Hebron, we have some control over them. Once we leave, it will be that much more difficult to prevent them from carrying out their missions." May 1996
… plans by Hamas and the Islamic Jihad to renew suicide terrorist attacks within Israel…these groups have reached a decision to once again wreak havoc inside Israel, AFTER THE REDEPLOYMENT IN HEBRON. Of course, it goes without saying, that the terrorist attacks will be much easier to plan and carry out after Israel abandons 90% of the city to Arafat.
Husni Mubarach's declaration: that "if Israel insists on continuing a policy of resettlement in Judea and Samaria, the intifada will be renewed. And this time, IT WILL NOT BE LIMITED TO THROWING STONES."

September 22, 1996

Why then, can't Jews and Arabs live together in Hebron? The answer is, of course, because the Arabs aren't interested in peace. They are interested in `piece' - taking Israel apart, piece by piece…Why must Hebron's Jews pay the price of a cowardly accord, which is already a failure? Rather than introducing peace and coexistence, it is paving the road to extermination. 
November 12, 1996

(Journalist) “What will you do the morning after?”

"I suppose we will get up in the morning, the way we get up every morning. We will go to morning prayers, eat breakfast, - the kids will go to school and we will go to work."

"That's it!?" he queried, "life as normal?" His voice sounded incredulous.

"Yeah, I suppose so." What else is there to do? We aren't planning on leaving, if that's what you are alluding to."

"But life as normal?"

"Look, our goal was, and still is, to live as normally as possible, within the given
circumstances. True, things will change - they will change drastically. Unbelievable amounts of soldiers and police will wonder the streets and rooftops in the areas still controlled by Israel. We don't really want to live feeling like we are embedded inside a military camp - but we don't have too much choice."

"Our security, in spite of the military presence, will have been compromised. No amount of soldiers can prevent sniper fire from the hills surrounding us. We know that, and will have to find a way to live with it." 
November 13, 1996

The most anti-Zionist answer possible to any terrorist action is to rely on our arch-enemies to provide security for Israel. Anyone with eyes in his head can see, and knows, as clear as day, that the Arabs know that they have one, and only one responsibility. That is, of course, to annihilate the Jews living Israel and transform the State of Israel to the State of Palestine. 
December 13, 1996

Netanyahu is planning on implementing an agreement, geared around expulsion of the Jewish community, while promising to leave the Jews in Hebron, with `the same security that we presently have,' in spite of the allowance of what will eventually be, thousands of armed Arab terrorists patrolling in and around the city. In other words, he is contradicting himself. He is trying to implement a suicide pact and remain alive, even after firing the bullet into his brain. And it just doesn't work. If you shoot yourself in the head, you die, like it or not. December 27, 1996

Tonight not only is Hebron on the chopping block. Tonight almost all of the land area of Judea, Samaria and Gaza is up for grabs. In addition to abandoning Hebron, Netanyahu has agreed to part with close to 70% of Yesha by September 1, 1998. Netanyahu is not only beheading The Jewish Community of Hebron. He is castrating the Land of Israel…Today it was reported that the army has been stockpiling emergency medical supplies at each of the neighborhoods in Hebron, including IVs, resuscitation apparatus, and battlefield operating-room equipment. 
January 14, 1997

There are those who have written Hebron off - they expect Hebron's Jewish community to leave. They have declared: Hebron - Rest In Peace. For some reason they really believe that we are in the midst of a peace process. They also believe that a Jewish presence in Hebron is provocative and unnecessary. But, they are wrong. Only true peace brings true rest. Hebron will not rest, surely not as part of this false peace. The lie called Oslo will not allow us peace and quiet. Much to the contrary. The more we concede, the more trouble we will have. Hebron has been transformed into a `piece' the exact opposite of its true essence, which is total unity.

The immediate future will be very difficult – of that I have no doubts or illusions. If the Jewish People were able to overcome the results of a Holocaust that left one third of our people murdered, and in spite of that were able to create a viable state only three years after the furnaces were extinguished, we can overcome anything. It will not be easy, but we will persevere. 
January 17, 1997
September, 2011

Last: Towards the end of 1996 we released a film called “Hebron in Danger.” It predicted, quite accurately, the results of the division of Hebron. Click to view.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Rabbi Dov Lior - A Quintessential Jewish Patriot

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Last night a very special event took place at the Hurva synagogue, in the “Old City” of Jerusalem. Hundreds gathered to honor Hebron-Kiryat Arba’s chief rabbi, Rav Dov Lior.
Rav Lior is, most simply put, a Torah giant, a genius whose Torah scholarship is second to none. Together with his brothers, he escaped the Nazi holocaust and has lived in Israel for many decades. A première student of Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook, Rav Lior has served as Hebron-Kiryat Arba’s chief Rabbi, as well as being the Rosh Yeshiva (Dean) of the Kiryat Arba Nir Yeshiva, is the head of the local Rabbinic Court, and is Chairman of the Rabbinic Council of Judea and Samaria. He is accepted as one of the most learned Rabbis of the generation, whose Judaic legal rulings are requested and accepted internationally.

A number of years ago, one of Rabbi Lior’s students, himself a learned Rabbi, Rav Yitzhak Rodrig, began a Torah organization in Kiryat Arba called the Institute for Community Rabbis. This organization is comprised of various Torah scholars, many of whom serve as Rabbis, community leaders and teachers in their respective towns, throughout Judea.  Over the years this institute has published numerous books dealing with many aspects of Jewish life and law.

Their initial  publication, the first in a set of books, called ‘Melilot’ printed in 1997, is a series of research articles dealing with various topics, including medicine, security, damages, Shabbat, synagogues, and more.  This series has already produced three volumes of over 1,200 pages of Torah erudition on diverse issues and subjects.

Other books include: The embryo in Jewish lawParchment, Purity at the field of Machpela, the Environment, Laws of Mourning, several books dealing with Jewish teaching and education, and many more. (A complete list (all in Hebrew) can beviewed here.  In fifteen years the institute has published some thirty books.

Several years ago Rav Rodrig began publishing arguably the institutes’ most important volumes: Legal decisions rendered by Rav Dov Lior. These books, printed in the traditional format of questions and answers, known as responsa, provide rulings about every subject that can be imagined, be it Shabbat and holidays, kashrut,  family matters, as well as legalistic topics concerning intricate details of Jewish jurisprudence.
Last night, many of Rav Lior’s peers and students met to honor the Rabbi on the publication of the fourth and fifth books in this series, titled “Dvar Hebron” – (the Sayings of Hebron). One of these two books continues to deal with questions of traditional Jewish law, per se. However the second book is unique, in that it deals with ‘outlooks’ or ‘views’ (hashkafa) and faith (emunah). As such, this volume deals not with the kashrut, that is, food ritually suitable to eat by Jews, and does not deal with what may or may not be done on Shabbat, or how to build a Succah. Rather it examines: the value of Torah and Torah study; education; the mitzva (precept or commandment) of living in the Land of Israel, mitzvot  conditional on the land of Israel, Jerusalem, War, War ethics, Independence Day, Redemption, Am Yisrael (the Jewish people) and more.
Rav Dov Lior at Ma'arat HaMachpela - Hanukkah, 2011
Photo: David Wilder

The last chapter of this amazing book is a summary of the subjects dealt with. Ten examples:
1.       The image of a Rabbi in IsraelA Rabbi must prepare in Yeshiva. Additionally, he must have general knowledge and develop his virtue. Besides issuing rulings and teaching Torah, he must give direction to correcting societal shortcomings, and to show the public how both private and public happiness is found in Torah.
2.       Agriculture and construction in Israel: All work that develops Eretz Yisrael (agriculture,building, etc.) is a mitzvah.  It is also a mitzvah to preserve the beauty of the land.
3.       Abjudication of the mitzvah to settle Eretz Yisrael because of danger to life (pikuach nefesh): ...the public is obligated to fight for the land even if there is danger involved. At present, when we have a government, army, and police, we are obligated to fight for Eretz Yisrael despite the danger, and it is forbidden to transfer land from Eretz Yisrael to foreign powers because of threats to life.
4.       Prohibition to surrender Land of Eretz Yisrael to foreigners: It is forbidden to surrender parts of Eretz Yisrael to foreigners. This prohibition includes all Eretz Yisrael, according to the borders of the arrivals from Egypt. And in reality, relinquishment of Eretz Yisrael will not bring peace…
5.       Refusing orders to destroy communities in Eretz Yisrael:  It is obligatory to follow military orders, but if the order contradicts the mitzvot of the Torah, and this includes destruction of a community in Eretz Yisrael, it is forbidden to obey them.
6.       The importance of visiting (going up to) Temple Mount:  People should go up to the place of the Temple in the areas where it is permitted, following the necessary preparations, to prevent continuation of the Waqf’s (Moslem religious trust’s) rule on Temple Mount. It is forbidden to fly above certain holy areas (Machane Shechina).
7.       Harming a civilian population during a war for Eretz Yisrael:  During a war, a civilian population should not be arbitrarily harmed but it is prohibited to endanger our soldiers in order not to harm civilians, during warfare.
8.       Establishing a day of thanksgiving at the present:  It is a mitzvah to establish a day of thanksgiving for the miracles happening in our days. …for the miracles done for the Jewish people (Klal Yisrael), we must say Hallel (Psalms of Thanksgiving) with a blessing, and for the establishment of the State of Israel, which is the beginning of the sprouting of our redemption, this is a miracle done for Klal Yisrael, we must recite the blessing Shechichiyanu (a blessing of thanksgiving) prior to reciting Hallel.
9.       Sanctifying G-d’s name with the establishment of the State of Israel:  Following the tremendous desecration of G-d’s name that happened during the Holocaust, the rise of Israel in its land is a sanctification of G-d’s name.
10.   Serving in the armed forces:  The existential danger that hovers over our very existence obligates us to serve in the armed forces, but it is forbidden to follow orders contradicting Torah.
Rav Dov Lior is not only a Torah scholar; he is quintessential Jewish patriot, whose allegiance is pledged fully to G-d, Torah, the People and the Land. His courage in speaking the truth is undeniably tangible, without regard for any public controversy or dispute.   All his books, but especially this one, should be required reading throughout Israel.
This book, as well as Rav Lior’s other responsa and of course, all of the Institute’s publications, can be viewed via their web site:

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Old Young Israel

Yesterday my wife and I spent Shabbat in Jerusalem with some friends. They made Aliyah a year and a half ago and invited us to spend the day with them in the “Holy City.”
After arriving at their apartment in the Kiryat Shmuel neighborhood of Jerusalem, I asked what time they leave the house to pray on Saturday morning.  I was a little taken aback when the response was ‘6:30.’ But not for long.  We don’t often go out for Shabbat, but when we do, I try not to let anything faze me.  “Ok, 6:30, fine. But where are we going?” “To the Old City, to the Moslem Quarter. It’s about a 35 minute walk from here.”

So, 6:30 it was. We left on time, Ken and I, with two of his children.  The Jerusalem winter air was crisp, cold and clear. Just as I remember it, from when I first lived in Israel, in Jerusalem, some 37 years ago.  You might expect that at that hour of the morning, on a Saturday, the streets would be empty. But they weren’t. Not that they were full either. But there were others, like ourselves, making their way by foot to a synagogue somewhere in the city. 

We walked outside just as the sun rose, lighting up the sky with a seeming sanctity that might only be sensed in the holiest city in the world.  Our half-hour walk was a stroll though a time tunnel. Leaving the home I searched carefully for another apartment building in the neighborhood. Our host’s apartment is on Rav Haim Berlin Street. I lived on that same street thirty seven years ago, while attending Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

Only two buildings from theirs – and there it was. I haven’t been there in quite some time, but easily recognized the three porches jutting out towards the street. Ours was on the top floor. We were five guys, in Israel for a year, mostly juniors in university. Walking past brought back a flood of memories, from way back when, then a kid, 20 years old.

But I didn’t have too much time to reminisce. We walked briskly down the street, onto Aza Road, and then down Agron. Crossing the main street we entered an area I’d never visited, that being the Mamilla promenade.  It is really a combination of the old and the new. Externally it has a kind of quaint atmosphere, but the storefronts are far from old-fashioned, selling anything and everything you can imagine, at  prices I’m sure aren’t from the middle ages.  But it is picturesque, an interesting addition of Jerusalem’s diverse cultures.

The walkway led to narrow stone stairs, directly in front of Jaffa Gate, leading into the Old City. As was crossed from the twenty-first century into a time warp going back about 2,000 years, I recalled the first time I’d crossed that threshold, back then. The day after we arrived, it was probably late Friday morning, I stood outside that huge stone wall, waiting for all the group to arrive, so that we could all go in together. I remembered the excitement, the anticipation, knowing that in a few moments we’d be marching to the Kotel, the Western Wall, in the Old City of Jerusalem.

It’s a little different today. The ‘gate’ is no longer there, just a big opening, like a hole in the wall. But walking through an almost empty Arab market, down the smooth stone stairs, under arches people are used to seeing only in pictures, it was quite a feeling. Like, here I am, back home again.

We didn’t make a right turn, as did other Jews like ourselves,  towards the Kotel, to pray at the Wall. Rather we turned left, into the so-called Moslem Quarter. We walked past a memorial to  Elchanan Atali, a young yeshiva student murdered there some 21 years ago. And then, on the left side of the road, a door with a sign hanging on the wall, “Chazon Yechezkel Synagogue – Young Israel of the Old City of Jerusalem.”

Many may not be familiar with the name ‘Young Israel.’ ‘Young Israel’ is an association of Orthodox synagogues, located primarily in the United States. There are too, some here in Israel. This ‘Young Israel’ is located about 5 minutes from the Kotel, in the Old City of Jerusalem.

Walking in, up the stairs in what must be a fairly old building, I came to the sanctuary, a small ‘haimish’ (homey)  room, with a few people already in attendance. It was then about 7:10. Standing in the middle of the room, by the pulpit, was an older, scholarly, but kindly looking man, studying the weekly Torah portion. I introduced myself, telling him that we have a mutual friend living in Chicago. He asked if I was from there too; I told him that I’m from Hebron. He told me that he has a son there. I responded that his son was my youngest son’s teacher in the Yeshiva High School in Kiryat Arba.

Then I sat down and listened to his weekly Torah class.

Rabbi Nachman Kahana really is a great Torah sage. He has authored well-know books, is an accomplished speaker and a leader of the Jewish
presence in the Old City, and here, in the ‘Moslem Quarter,’ where the Jewish presence has grown in  leaps and bounds over the past years, thanks to people like Rabbi Kahana. And if the name rings a bell, yes, he is the brother of the murdered Rabbi Meir Kahana, who too was a Torah scholar.

One theme repeated itself in Rabbi Kahana’s talks on Shabbat, that being the need for Jews to live in Israel. Most of the people attending the Rabbi’s synagogue are ‘former Americans’ who came to live in Israel from the United States, some many years ago, and others, more recently. There were some young men also in attendance, who perhaps hadn’t yet made that fateful decision to stay in Israel, rather than return to live in the US. I’m sure his words, which he spoke in English and Hebrew, to make sure everyone understood, didn’t fall on deaf ears.

Of course, the prayer service was spiritually awakening, and the ‘kiddush’ afterwards, included some of the best of Jerusalm’s ‘kugel,’ (noodle pudding) prepared by the Rabbi’s wife. Leaving the shul, some five hours after arriving, I felt like again, I was walking through time, and what a time it was.

My friend Jack, from Chicago, whenever he’s in Israel, usually turns down my invitations for Shabbat, saying that he prefers to be with Rabbi Nachman Kahana in the Old City. Now I know why. It’s an unbelievable experience, and highly recommended in anyone in the area. And if you’re not planning in the area, I suggest you change your plans and try it out. You won’t be sorry.

Actually, the Young Israel of the Old City isn’t really so young; rather it’s a segment of the chain of Jewish history, culture and Torah, adjacent to the holiest place in the world, Temple Mount. Rabbi Kahana and his congregation are helping to ensure that this site will remain Jewish forever.