Friday, May 31, 1996

Gratitude beyond words

Gratitude beyond words

The Jewish Community of Hebron extends its deepest gratitude to all the 
thousands and thousands of Jews and gentiles alike, around the world, who have 
shown overwhelming support for Hebron and the Jewish Community of Hebron.
The miracle happened.  By the grace of G-d, the People of Israel, having the 
opportunity to voice its opinion, sent Peres and his government home with a 
resounding NO - rejecting the OSLO PIECE ACCORDS, rejecting the abandonment of 
Hebron and Jerusalem.

Your support and encouragement, whether by visiting Hebron, by sending letters, 
by participating in rallies, by praying, or in any other way possible, played 
an integral role in allowing us to reach this wonderful day.

I must add an personal note.  I know that I've written it before, but feel no 
choice but to repeat.

This morning, I toured Hebron with visitors from the US.  After visiting 
Ma'arat HaMachpela, we drove up to Tel Rumeida.  Our first stop was the ancient 
Jewish cemetery.  I try to take all visitors to the cemetery - it has 
tremendous significance to the Jewish community - both for past history and the 
There is a set of five graves in the new section:
Mordechai Lapid, Shalom Lapid, Raphael Yairi, Nachum Hoss, Yehuda Partush

I've taken hundreds of people to the cemetery - Together with the other plots andstories, they all see these graves. 

Today, knowing that finally, those people directly or indirectly responsible 
for their deaths have been rejected by a majority of Jews in Israel, I found it 
very difficult to stand there and look at their graves.  Only with a very great 
effort was I able to explain to the visitors where we were without breaking 
down in tears.

I hope and pray that the needless bloodshed, the needless loss of life, the 
terror that has plagued us throughout Israel, will come to an end.

There are no illusions - those who hated us still hate us.  But now, we won't 
continue to run away.  Now, I hope and pray, we will stand strong, stand up for 
what is rightfully ours, acting as Israelis should, not with shame, but with 
pride, for our People, our Land, our Religion.

No one should ever again be able to speak of  "sacrifices for peace." 

With blessings from the city of the Patriarchs,
Expecting to continue to hear only good news,

Tuesday, May 28, 1996

Day of Judgement

Day of Judgement

May 28,  1996

We have been waiting for tomorrow for four years.  Since Israeli TV 
commentator Haim Yavine uttered one word, at 10:00 pm, almost four 
years ago - MAHAPACH!  Mahapach, meaning reversal - upset, a change 
in government.
     Since that instant we have been waiting for the opportunity to turn 
the tables upside down - to once again hear that magic word:MAHAPACH!

     So much has happened - too much to begin to enumerate.  But I 
feel an obligation to mention some of those who, four years ago, were 
here with us, and now, are not: Mordechai and Shalom Lapid, Raphael 
Yairi, Nachum Hoss, Yehuda Partush, Hava Wacksberg, Sarit Prigal, 
Ephraim Iubi, Rav Shimon Biran, Rav Ami Ulami, HY"D.

    The list isn't inclusive - there are many many more - these are 
only a few I remember from memory.  By right, they, along with 
hundreds of others, should still be here with us today.  But they are 

    Tomorrow is a day of Judgement - a Day of Awe.  It is a day when 
the Israeli People must make a choice - one of the most, if not the 
most, important, critical, fateful decisions made by a public body, a 
Jewish body, ever.  Most decisions are made by a small group of 
people, in the heat of a crisis.  Who decides war or peace, who 
decides life and death?  Usually a few leaders, if not only one - who 
sits alone, pondering the future of his people, weighing the lives of 
his soldiers, the fate of his county, of the world.  

    Elections may generally be important, but usually, the outcome, 
in spite of differences between the candidates, is not 
earthshattering - it doesn't have an immediate effect on the 
existence  of a People, on the future of a Land.  

    Tomorrow, in Israel,  without trying to be overly 
melodramatic, the truth is, that this is exactly what we are facing. 

     Does this mean that if Peres is reelected 'we are done for?'  No 
- of course not.  Nothing or nobody has been able to eradicate the 
Jewish People and nothing or nobody ever will.  Israel is eternal.  

The prospects for the immediate future will not be easy regardless of 
the results of the election.  If Peres wins, he will continue on his 
chosen path until the bubble bursts - until the Arabs have so much 
that even he will have to say stop - and by then it will be too late. 
The resulting war will be barbaric and bloody, but it will have to be 
fought and won.

    And if Bibi wins, - we mustn't live under any illusions.  The 
policies of the last four years have left us with problems that will 
be very difficult to solve.  Last night Faruk Ashara, Syrian Foreign 
Minister, all but announced a declaration of war should Bibi be 
elected.  Arafat's terrorists have been given thousands of weapons, 
and they will not hesitate to turn them upon us.  The nations of the 
world, led by the United States, will apply pressure which may be 
close to unbearable, trying to force a Likud government to continue 
capitulating to Arafat's demands.  That may also lead to war.

     Don't be surprised, even after a Peres defeat, if he attempts to 
withdraw the IDF from Hebron, completing the 'long-awaited' 
redeployment in the city.  Legally, until a new government is formed, 
Peres can do whatever he wants, including abandonment of Hebron.

   Where does this all lead?  Is our future all black?  Almost all of 
the reporters who arrive in Hebron ask me the same question: "What 
will you do if Peres wins?"  There is only one reply: Hebron existed 
before Peres and Netanyahu.  Hebron will continue to exist after 
Peres and Netanyahu.  We are staying in Hebron, regardless of who 
wins the elections. That is our right and our obligation.  
"And what if...  what if... what if..."

There are so many hypothetical possibilities, it is impossible to 
prepare contingency plans for them all.  We hope and pray that 
most all of them will never materialize, that we will never have to 
worry about them.  And if and when IT should happen - we'll worry 
about it then.  We have to do what we know and believe is right, not 
for us, but for the Jewish People, of past, present and future.  

    That is, of course, a tremendous responsibility.  But if we have 
been so privileged as to be where we are, when we are, we trust in 
G-d that He will give us the tools to make the right decisions at the 
right time.

    Such it is, not only with Hebron, but with all of Israel - the 
Land and the People.  We don't live in easy times.  But we, the 
citizens of the State of Israel,  have been given the privilege to participate 
in the dream of the Jewish People, to be a part of the return to 
Israel after a 2,000 year exile.  We believe with all our hearts that 
we weren't brought back here only to be thrown out again - and we 
won't be.  How the dice will fall, how it will all work out, is a 
great unknown - but in the end, it will work out.  There may be 
different directions to go in, there may be easier routes and more 
difficult ones, but in the end they all lead to the same place.  

    So tomorrow's Day of Judgement isn't a question of survival or 
destruction - it is rather the road we will take to ensure our 
survival - whether it will be easier or harder.  We have, to some 
degree, the possiblity to determine our own future. But regardless of 
the results we will survive - in Hebron, in Jerusalem and in Eretz 
Yisrael - forever.

Friday, May 10, 1996

Does Murder Pay Off?

Does Murder Pay Off?
May 10, 1996

Sixteen years ago I lived in Jerusalem suburb Meveseret
Yerushalayim.  Lag B'Omer was on Sunday.  The preceding
Friday night was a normal spring Shabbat evening.  Except
for the helicopters flying south of us,  in Jerusalem, in
the area of Hadassah hospital.  A friend of mine, taking
an after dinner stroll with his wife turned to her and
exclaimed, "something happened."

     One year before, shortly after Pesach, 1979,
Rebbetzin Miriam Levinger, along with nine other women
and forty children, left Kiryat Arba in the middle of the
night for Hebron.  Their destination - Beit Hadassah.
Beit Hadassah, a beautiful structure in the heart of
Hebron had stood empty for fifty years.  Originally built
in 1893 with funds contributed by Algerian Jews, Beit
Hadassah served as a free medical clinic for anyone
needing medical care - Jew and Arab alike.  The clinic
was so popular that in 1920 an additional floor was
added.  It was then that the well-known facade was
constructed.  Managed by the Hadassah Organization, Beit
Hadassah served the entire  Hebron community.

     Following the 1929 massacre Beit Hadassah turned
into a  vacant deserted shell, waiting for her children
to return home.  Even  after the return to Hebron in 1968
and the founding of Kiryat Arba in 1971, Beit Hadassah
remained barren, uninhabited.  But not for long.  The
father of resettlement in Yesha, Rav Moshe Levinger,
along with other Kiryat Arba citizens, decided that that
time had come to return home, to return to Hebron.

     Shortly after Pesach in 1979, a group of 10 women
and forty children, led by Rebbetzin Miriam Levinger,
moved into Beit Hadassah.  Entering the building via its
back windows, just above the original 1893 entrance, the
group hadn't really expected to succeed.  But to their
great surprise, no one discovered the clandestine
midnight rendevous in Hebron.  By first light the group
had set up house in Beit Hadassah.  They came with
provisions for only a few days.

     The discovery of the Beit Hadassah women took the
Begin government by surprise.  Not wanting to forcibly
evict women and children, Begin placed the building under
siege.  Surrounded by Israeli soldiers, no one was
allowed in and anyone leaving was not allowed to return.

Originally Begin planned to starve them out - he wanted
to deny them even the basic necessities of food and
water.  However, after being approached, Begin agreed to
allow them food, water and medical supplies.  He was
convinced after it was pointed out to him that following
the 1973 Yom Kippur War, when Israeli forces surrounded
the Egyptian Third Army, the enemy army was provided with
elementary living supplies.  Begin was asked, "If we gave
food and water to our enemy, who only days before had
killed our soldiers, mustn't we at least provide the same
thing to Jewish women and children in Hebron?"

     The women and children lived in Beit Hadassah for
over a year. One of the women, Shoshana Peretz was
pregnant.  During an hepatitis outbreak in the building,
brought on by almost nonexistent sanitary facilities,
Shoshana's friends begged her to leave, rather than risk
contracting the disease.  But Shoshana refused.  "If I
won't be allowed back in, I wont' leave."  As her due
date approached, the other women didn't believe their
ears.  Shoshana planned on giving birth inside Beit
Hadassah, rather than go to a hospital.  Only after
receiving promises that she would be allowed to return to
the building, did she agree to give birth in the
hospital.  The Peretz family named their new daughter
Hadassah, and Shoshana returned to Beit Hadassah.

     Shabbat evening was very special.  Yeshiva students,
studying at the Hesder Yeshiva in Kiryat Arba prayed in
Ma'arat HaMachpela.  Following conclusion of the prayer
service, the boys would sing and dance from the Ma'ara to
Beit Hadassah.  They would continue to sing and dance in
the street in front of the building, say Shabbat Kiddush
for the women, and then return to Kiryat Arba.

     Friday night - Erev Lag B'Omer 1980.  The Yeshiva
students sang and danced in front of Beit Hadassah, as
they did every Friday night.  Suddenly shots rang out.
Hand grenades flew through the air.  The singing turned
into a battle for survival.  From the rooftop on the
building opposite Beit Hadassah Arab terrorists attacked.
Six men were killed: Gershon Klein, Ya'akov Tzimmerman,
Hanan Kurthammer and Shmuel Marmelstein - all Kiryat Arba
Yeshiva students, Zvi Glatt, from Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav
in Jerusalem, and Eli HaZe'ev, from Kiryat Arba.  Many
others were wounded.

     That same evening a number of Arabs, responsible for
inciting, were deported, including Mayor Mustapha Natshe.
The next morning the building from which the attack took
place was blown up.  The Hadassah women and children were
allowed to reunite with their husbands in Hebron.  Beit
Hadassah became the first Jewish neighborhood in Hebron.
But the price for their return was extremely high.

     That was sixteen years ago - fifty one years after
Beit Hadassah's residents had been slaughtered by
Hebron's Arabs.  Today the Beit Hadassah Complex houses
25 families, a pictorial museum of the history of Hebron
and a memorial room for the victims of the 1929 massacre.

     Tonight I will attend a special Shabbat service in
front of Beit Hadassah, a memorial for the six men
murdered sixteen years ago.  The memorial service is an
annual event, but tonight's service has special

     Last week a reporter asked me if we have learned
anything from the Arabs.  My immediate reply was, "Yes -
we've learned that murder pays off.  Arafat the terrorist
used murder to reach his goal - he is now accepted by the
international community as a legitimate leader of his

     And tonight, as I sit with my children in the street
outside Beit Hadassah, listening to Rav Dov Lior and Rav
Eliezer Waldman speak of what was, 16 years ago, I will
ask myself again, will the Israeli people, in three weeks
time, really give murder its victory, will the Rabin-
Arafat-Peres triumvirate receive a stamp of approval-
will the Israeli electorate justify the murder of the
Beit Hadassah Six - along with the killing of so many
others since then?

     That is the question - does cold-blooded, terrorist
murder pay off?

Wednesday, May 1, 1996

NYC Rally Statement

Hebron-Past, Present and Forever
by David Wilder
NYC Rally Statement
May 1, 1996

Shalom from Hebron.
First, I must thank you for coming this evening to show your
solidarity with the Jewish Community of Hebron. Hebron does not
belong to those of us who live in Hebron-Kiryat Arba. Hebron belongs
to all the Jewish People, thoughout the ages. In spite of the fact
that your are in NY and we are here in Israel, Hebron is as much a
part of you as me.
This morning at 10:00, as we were getting ready to leave for
Jerusalem, Kiryat Arba's ambulance sirens began shrieking. Within a
few minutes the reason was clear. Seventy two year old Nisim Gudaei
was stabbed in the back by an Arab terrorist in Hebron. The
butcher knife was still sticking out of his back when he was taken to
Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem.
Nisim Gudaei, still fighting for his life as I write, is a
brilliant man, a first class Torah scholar, having studied at the
Ponevitch Yeshiva. He was the secretary of the Tel-Aviv Rabbinic
Court, learned and taught in Kiryat Arba's Hesder Yeshiva, speaks
many languages, including fluent Arabic, and it a frequent visitor to
the Arab shuk in Hebron. All the Arabs in the Kasba know Nisim - he
buys from them for years, speaks their language, and is simply, a
very nice person. He cannot be called an extremist, or a problematic
trouble-maker, even among the Arabs.
So why should an Arab choose to stab him in the back? Because he
is a Jew, living in Eretz Yisrael, residing in Kiryat Arba, walking
the streets of Hebron. It is, in the words of a friend of mine, just
like reliving 1929.
We left Kiryat Arba-Hebron to protest the planned
abandonment of Hebron. We then traveled to the Knesset, where a special debate took
place. Reporters asked my, "Why bother - what do you accomplish by
standing here in the hot weather, with all your families - men, women
and children?" My response is quite simple: We cannot just stand by
and watch a 3,700 year old Jewish city be abandoned. It is the
democratic right to protest. We are fulfilling that right. But it is
not only a right, it is an obligation. If someone tried to break into
your home, and then claim that it belongs not to you, but to him,
wouldn't you have an obligation, not only to yourself, but to your
family, to prove him wrong? That is our obligation. Our home is
being taken from us, and our family is the entire Jewish People. We
must not let it happen.
Later in the afternoon we went to the Kotel. where we prayed
before the Master of the Universe, at the holiest site to the Jewish
People. Unfortunately, Temple Mount and the Western Wall are also on
the terrorist's list. If we will succeed in preventing the fall of
Hebron, the chances are good that Jerusalem will remain united. If,
chalila, Hebron should fall, we all know what is next.

Later on we continued to a demonstration in the center of
Jerusalem. We spent an entire day protesting, before the people of
Israel, before the people of the world, before our L-rd in Heaven:
Hebron, the city of Abraham, the lifeblood of the Jewish People must
not be turned over to Arafat.

In 1929 the Arabs massacred us, leaving 67 dead. The British
expelled the remaining survivors. We waited almost 50 years to
return. Is is possible that a Jewish government will continue where
the British left off? No - it cannot be, and we will do all in our
power to prevent it.
Today, this morning, the attempted murder of Nisim Gudaei brought
back shadows of 1929 to haunt us - the Arabs haven't changed. They
will still take any opportunity to try to kill us. It makes no
difference if we are 'their friends' or not.
In a month the Israeli People will go to the polls to make perhaps
the most important decision since the founding of the State. We
will have to decide if we want an Israel with Judaism or without
Judaism, with Hebron or without Hebron, with Jerusalem, or without
Jerusalem. If any of you have Israeli citizenship, do your utmost to
be in Israel on election day. Every vote counts. Everyone must do
what they can - If not now - when?
It would be very easy, after today's events, after the terrorist
attack, after hearing Yossi Sarid promise to 'not only withdraw from
Hebron, but also remove all its Jewish residents', to feel total
despair. However, I conclude, not on a note of despair, but rather on a note of hope,
of optimism. The road before us will not be easy, but we have faith
that we weren't brought back to Israel, after a 2,000 year exile,
only to be exiled again. Thousands of people participated in
today's protests, and there are hundreds of thousands more, all over
Israel, who will not agree to see Hebron fall, at the hands of a
Jewish government.
The army offered us, in Hebron, different forms of protection,
most of which resembled ghettoization. We refused. We will not,
under any circumstances, return to a ghetto. We have come back to
Israel, we have come back to Hebron, we have come home, to live as a
free people should live, in their home. Our home is not a ghetto.
Our home is the oldest Jewish city in the world, the roots of the
Jewish People, the beginnings of the Kingdom of Israel - the home of
David Melech Yisrael. The eternity of Hebron, as is the eternity of
Israel, is not a man-made gift - it is Divine. And in spite of the
seeming darkness, the seeming pit we are falling into, we will rise
up, as we have in the past. Eternity is a long time, eternity does
not lie and with the help of G-d, - we will not fail in our mission.
Your solidarity with Hebron, Hebron, coming from the word l'chaber, to join
together, unites us - we are one - going forward for one cause - and
we will succeed.
Thank you again.

I look forward to seeing all of you as our guests in the Jewish
Community of Hebron in the very near future.
With blessings from the city of the Patriarchs,
David Wilder