Tuesday, May 20, 1997

The Mystery of the Tomb of Avner ben Ner or Understanding Uzi’'s Whims

The Mystery of the Tomb of Avner ben Ner or Understanding Uzi’s Whim's
May 20, 1997

Avner ben Ner was King Saul’s Chief of Staff. He was killed in Hebron by Yoav following Saul’s death. King David buried him across from Ma’arat HaMachpela - the Tomb of the Patriarchs. This location has been a site of Jewish worship through the generations.

The tomb has been closed for the past three years. Jews have been told that they may not enter the site because it is adjacent to the entrance used by Moslems into Ma’arat HaMachpela. However, we were told that during the ten days that the entire building is open to Jews, we might be able to pray and visit also at the Tomb of Avner. As a result, on every occasion that the Ma’ara is completely open to Jews, a request is placed with the appropriate authorities concerning the Tomb of Avner. We have yet to receive a positive reply.

Prior to Pesach we met with General Gabbi Ofir, commander of Judea and Samaria. This subject was brought up and he promised to recommend that our request be fulfilled. However, he noted that the final decision is in the hands of someone else. We also submitted written requests. On Sunday, prior to Pesach the director of the Religious Council in Kiryat Arba received notification to prepare the Tomb of Avner for visitors on Wednesday and Thursday of that week, the second and third days of Pesach, when the entire Ma’ara was to be open only to Jewish visitors. He proceeded to do so, and advertised the opening of the site to Jews on those two days.

On Wednesday morning, the first day of Chol Ha-Moed - the intermediate days of Passover, General Uzi Dayan, Commander of the Central Region, visited Hebron. He met with the director of the Kiryat Arba Religious Council in Hebron. Seeing that the Tomb of Avner was not open, the director asked General Uzi Dayan the reason for the delay. Dayan’s answer: Hebron’s Jewish Community refuses to meet me - I will not open the Tomb. I will not change the status of the Tomb of Avner.

Following Pesach we received a reply to our requests to open and visit at the Tomb. The ‘official’ answer was that because the Tomb was in poor condition, it would endanger anyone entering it.

MK Naomi Blumenthal of the Likud received a similar letter directly from Minister of Defense Yitzhak Mordechai.

However, the Tomb underwent renovations a year ago, financed by the Department of Defense, in order to rectify its dilapidated condition.

In other words, the official reason enumerated by the Defense ministry is unfounded - the building was long ago renovated to allow visitors to enter it. The decision to allow us to worship there is made by one individual - General Uzi Dayan. And he refused, because the Jewish Community of Hebron prefers not to meet with him.


In early May, Central Region Commander Uzi Dayan requested a meeting with Hebron’s leadership on the 14th of the month. As a result of this request, the following letter was sent to him:

Honorable General,
For over three months, since the withdrawal from Hebron, the Jewish Community of Hebron has been facing a deteriorating situation, which is a direct result of your lack of implementation of the government’s policy decisions. The following list exemplifies some of the more prominent instances:
You refuse to issue building permits to the Jewish Community of Hebron, in spite of government decisions permitting construction in Hebron. In addition you issued orders halting construction of Beit Nahum v’Yehuda, and most unfortunately, even the memorial for Rabbanit Menucha Rachel in the Ashkenazi plot of the ancient Jewish cemetery.

You told us that the IDF would line the H1-Arafat controlled - H2-Israeli controlled border and would enforce a strict buffer zone between the two areas. Nothing could be farther from the truth. You won’t even allow the army to fight back and rebuff the Arab rioters who reach the doorsteps of our houses. There is no buffer zone, in spite of the fact that according to the Hebron Accords it is your right and your privilege to enforce the separation. The Israeli negotiating worked very hard to attain the buffer zone. Your security policy erases this achievement, endangering our lives and the lives of our soldiers. A prime example of this was the erection of the 12 meter fence, located in the center of H2. This allows you to permit continued rioting within H2, on the other side of the fence.

You don'’t allow the Israeli police to enforce the Hebron Accords: "Israel retains all authority and responsibility for internal security and civil order in H2." In spite of the rioting within H2 the police do not arrest the perpetrators, and do not investigate or prosecute them. On the other hand, you gave orders to the police to implement an iron fist policy against the Jews of Hebron.

You showed negligence and acquiescence when Tel Rumeida was isolated from the rest of the community during construction of the "Shuhada Road project." You broke all the government orders concerning the reciprocity of the accords when you allowed continued work during the battles next to Beit Hadassah, (when both soldiers and civilians were injured.)
You instructed the IDF to retreat from the hills surrounding the Jewish Community of Hebron by canceling the joint patrols. The "improved" Hebron Accords promised a permanent IDF presence in these areas because from these areas, shots can be fired directly into our homes. Additionally, if snipers can shoot directly at our children, inside our homes and within our playgrounds, why should we use a bullet-proofed vehicle for transportation?

You refuse to allow those responsible for ‘law and order’ to demolish the illegal building in the Kasba, buildings illegally renovated. This is contrary to the order you issued, forbidding renovation of these buildings, for security reasons. (This is unhappily written following your actions at Yitzhar.)

You continue to apply pressure on us, to force us to use a bullet-proof vehicle, without accepting our opinion and without honoring our rights as citizens of Israel to live as a free people. You demand we use a bullet-proof vehicle without efficiently solving Hebron’s security problems by distancing the source of danger, as we have previously written.
In other words, we have already made it clear many times that transporting our children in bullet-proof vehicles is asking the terrorists to point their weapons at other vehicles, both ours, and those of the tens of thousands who visit Hebron and Ma’arat HaMachpela annually.

We wish to point out that the ministers who supported the Hebron Accords, did so after receiving pledges from the Prime Minister and following a cabinet decision guaranteeing our full security and our ability to live in and develop the Hebron Jewish Community Unfortunately you have violated this cabinet decision. You were entrusted with fulfilling the government’s decisions. Since the signing of the Hebron agreement, we have met with you a number of times and nothing has been accomplished.


Noam Arnon - Chairman, The Jewish Community of Hebron
Rabbi Hillel Horowitz - Director, The Jewish Community of Hebron
Avraham ben Yosef - Chairman, Hebron Municipal Committee

In response to this letter, Uzi Dayan canceled the meeting.

This is why Jews from Israel and around the world may not visit and worship at the Tomb of Avner ben Ner.

Tuesday, May 6, 1997

The Honey and the Sting, the Bitter and the Sweet

The Honey and the Sting, the Bitter and the Sweet
May 6, 1997

The Honey and the Sting
For the honey and for the sting
For the bitter and the sweet
For our baby daughter
Guard over, my good L-rd.
For the burning fire
For the pure water
For the man returning home
From far away.
For all of these, for all of these
Please guard over, for me, my good L-rd
For the honey and for the sting,
For the bitter and the sweet.
Please don’t uproot the planted
Don’t forget the hope
Return me and I’ll return
To the good Land.

These lyrics, in Hebrew, along with the music, written and composed by Naomi Shemer, are over 15 years old. They became something of a anthem and still bring tears to many eyes. The song became an anthem 15 years ago, when Israel abandoned Sinai and uprooted numerous communities and destroyed the city of Yamit. Fifteen years ago today the last Israeli left the ruins of Yamit in Sinai, and turned the area over to Egypt. Today, are we on the road to another version of ‘the bitter and the sweet?’
Yesterday it was reported in the Israeli media the Arabs have declared death on anyone selling land to Jews. The Arutz 7 account reported "that Freih Abu Middein, responsible for the Justice portfolio in the Palestinian Authority, said that the PA will impose the death sentence on any Palestinian involved in selling land to Jews or Israelis. The Palestinian Legislative Council voted last week to authorize the PA to strengthen security and judicial frameworks in order to crack down on such land sales." Can you image both the Israeli and world responses should the Knesset pass a law, or even suggest a law forbidding Jewish land sales to Arabs. As a matter of fact, a minor example is taking place before our eyes.
Each year a number of Israelis are honored with the Israel Prize on Independence Day, usually for outstanding contributions to Israel during their lifetime. This year two journalists were selected for their work: Chaim Yavine, anchorman of Israel’s TV evening Channel One news since its inception, and Shmuel Shnitzer, an eminent columnist who has written thousands of articles over decades. These two men also represent, to a great degree, two polarities. Yavine is known for his very left-wing opinions and tendencies. Shnitzer is decidedly right wing.
After the announcement of these two recipients of Israel's most prestigious prize, an Ethiopian Labor Knesset Member charged Shnitzer with bias and prejudice because of an article written a number of years ago, which he claimed offended Ethiopians. The issue was actually taken before the Israeli Supreme Court, which ruled that the committee which decides who receives the prize must reconsider its decision. The committee then reversed its original decision and will not award the Israel Prize to Shnitzer.
What about Chaim Yavine? He has used the TV studio as a stump to preach his philosophies for years. He, along with most other Israeli radio and television journalists literally campaigned for Peres during the campaign last year. He has never said anything to offend anyone in Israel? And finally was this really an issue relevant to a Supreme Court decision?
Has Israel caved in to terrorism? Yesterday terrorist Abu Marzouk was released from an American prison where he had been held for almost two years. Who is Marzouk? He is a PR specialist for Hamas. He raises money to support Hamas terrorist attacks against Israel. He was taken into custody in July 1995 and Israel requested his extradition. The US courts agreed to ship him over here, until Israel changed its mind. The Netanyahu government reversed the extradition request for fear of retaliation by Hamas during and after Marzouk’s t trial and expected conviction in Israel.
Is this the same Netanyahu whose brother Yoni was killed leading the 1976 raid in Entebbe? Is this the same Netanyahu who writes about never succumbing to terrorism - the Netanyahu who specialized in combating terrorism? Abu Marzouk ‘promised’ not to carry out terrorist attacks against Americans or Israeli civilians in return for his release and plane ticket to Jordan. Did he denounce terrorism? Are Israeli soldiers any less valuable than Israeli civilians? Yet, now Abu Marzouk is a free man, and you can be sure that in a very short time he will be back in the business he knows so well.
Next week Israel celebrates its 49th birthday. What kind of birthday present is Bibi giving the Israeli people? Perhaps today’s actions are a good hint. Three structures, sitting on a hill top in the Israeli community of Yitzhar in the Shomron were destroyed, by order of Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai. The houses were built three years ago, and according to Mordechai, they were illegally constructed, without the proper licensing. Yet, the previous Rabin-Peres administration saw no need to remove them. For some reason, it didn’t bother them. But it bothered the Likud Defense minister. After a year in office. After they have been standing for three years.
So the Israeli riot squad went at it again. Their leader, Effie Havivian is on trial for police brutality, having beaten three Hebron women in Jerusalem after police arrested their daughters. This time the targets were Yitzhar citizens, protesting the destruction of the buildings. The riot squad did its job. Anybody in their path was battered - men, women and children. And the goal was achieved - the buildings were torn apart.
Why did Yitzhak Mordechai choose today? Very simply. Tonight President Ezer Weitzman met with Arafat to try and revamp the ‘piece talks.’ The Yitzhak barbarism was to an act of conciliation - a ‘gesture’ of good will. Yitzhar’s three buildings and their residents were ‘sacrificed’ to appease Arafat.
Tonight I was interviewed on a San Francisco radio station, live from Jerusalem. The speaker before me was MK Yael Dayan, Moshe Dayan’s leftist daughter. She said, "we don’t have to trust in G-d, rather only in ourselves, in our might, in our economy, in our soldiers.’ Bibi seems to be going in the direction of Yael - he is collapsing. Fifteen years ago, as Camp David, the precursor of Oslo, (not only in time, but also as a curse), led to the abandonment of Sinai, we sang Naomi Shemer’s tune, and pleaded: Please don’t uproot the planted, Don’t forget the hope. Then we were still able to speak, not only of the sting, but also of the honey, not only of the bitter, but also of the sweet. This time around the song might be different. The sting has grown and seems to be overtaking the honey, and the bitter is swallowing up the sweet. The only thing that is left is ‘the good L-rd" to watch over us - and in spite of what Yael Dayan thinks, we really do need His help.

Friday, May 2, 1997

Sticks and Stones

Sticks and Stones
 May 2, 1997

Again today the rocks flew, pelted from different directions around Beit Hadassah.  The security forces in the area are virtually useless - little, if anything, is done to prevent the attacks, and a paltry response is typical. A couple of days ago two firebombs were pitched at Beit Hadassah - one of them bounced next to the army outpost in back of the building and landed next to the window of a family who found a rock in their baby’s bed two weeks ago.
                There are many questions that should be raised, but the most obvious ones are: how long will  this go on, and what is next?
                The latest events don’t really bode well  for the near future. Armed Palestinian police continue to show up where they are not allowed, according to the Hebron Accords. Their presence in areas where Hebron’s Jewish citizens travel is extremely dangerous. Two nights ago armed palestinian police stopped and harassed two Hebron residents on their way to Tel Rumeida. When one of the car’s occupants photographed a ‘policeman’ with a gun, he was forced, at gun point, to turn the film over to the Arab. Only the quick arrival of Israel security forces prevented what could have developed into a very nasty situation.
                Construction on the road to Tel Rumeida was supposed to have been finished by May 1, according to the Hebron Agreement. However, one of the engineers working on the street told officials this week that he has no idea when it will be completed - maybe in a month.  Next week the section of the road directly in front of Beit Hadassah will also be torn up - causing not only great inconvenience, but also an exceptionally precarious security predicament.
                We shouldn’t forget that according to the original Oslo-Hebron agreement, three months after ‘redeployment’ discussions begin concerning the future of Ma’arat HaMachpela.  Three months are up.
                And the problems aren’t only in Hebron. Today, at Kever Yosef in Shechem, Arab police threatened Jewish worshippers, with loaded weapons.
                So, it looks like this may go on for quite a while, because precious little is being done to stop it. What’s next?  Well, a couple of days ago a reporter from Texas told me about a conversation he had with a Hebron Arab earlier in the week.  Pointing at the 12 meter fence a near Beit Hadassah, the Arab was quoted as saying, “Look at this fence. Now the stones won’t do any good. Now we have to get out the guns and RPGs (Rocket-propelled grenades).” It sort of makes you feel good, no?
                But the truth is, this is not unexpected. It is exactly what we warned of numerous times, before Oslo was signed, and again before the Hebron Accords were finalized and implemented. What is so unexpected is the total lack of reaction by the Israeli government. Bibi Netanyahu is frightened beyond belief by his shadow’s shadow. I’m  told that he no longer looks back over his shoulder - he has a ‘rear-view’ mirror hooked up like a pair of glasses. But you know what happens when you are always looking in the rear-view mirror - you stop looking at what’s in front of you. Our Minister of Defense has also abandoned all semblance of normal security measures.  He too it scared out of his wits that another ‘September’ might arise,  for which Israel would undoubtedly be blamed. After all, we are the obstinate obstacle to peace.
                (On that note, I have an obligation to add, if you haven’t already noticed, that ALL media coverage is distorted and convoluted beyond belief. Not only in what is reported, but just as much, if not more so, in what is NEGLECTED. If any of you readers can correct me, I will thank you, but last week, after the two Israeli women were killed by Arab terrorists at Wadi Kelt, both CNN and MSNBC internet news sites totally ignored the murder. I did not find the killings mentioned once on both of those sites, which are perhaps the major internet news sources. What do you think would have been the reaction had it been two Arab women found dead, say, in Hebron?)
                When Menachem Begin became Prime Minister in 1977, one his major errors was to leave all officials appointed by his predecessors in office, and not replacing them with people of his own choosing. It was to be expected that, the Likud, having learned from their past mistakes, would have corrected any number of appointments when Bibi came into office. Dream on. Bibi refused to turn responsibility for radio and television over to Minister of Communications Limur Livnat, who definitely would have corrected some of the extreme left  biases that permeate the media. A few nights ago the evening news interviewed Yossi Beilan for at least 10 minutes about his proposed plan to ‘save the peace talks.’  Kol Yisrael radio, especially the morning talk program hosts, continue to play on the Bar-On affair, squeezing it for everything they possibly can, to badger the government.  And how is it the Defense ministry has left General Uzi Dayan commander of the Central Region? Dayan is a leftist politician of the worst sort, who assisted in cooking up Oslo and nearly handed the Golan to Syria.  Why is he still wearing a uniform in the Israeli army, holding one of the most important and sensitive positions in the country?
                You may assume from the tone of this article that I am feeling down, or that pessimism is winning over. If you do assume so, you are wrong. I am writing this because it is very important that you know and understand what is going on over here. However, when I look at what is happening, my perspective is much wider that the narrow events I have described. I also take into account the 25,000 people who came into Hebron last week, over Pesach. I take into account the groups arriving daily, visiting, touring, praying, and linking themselves, physically and spiritually, to the City of the Patriarchs. I see the support Hebron receives from people around the world. I look at the results of one year ago - of the last election, when an overwhelming majority of the Jews in Israel voted, not for what Netanyahu is doing today, but for what he promised that he would and wouldn’t do. I look at the mood of Hebron’s residents - resolute and sturdy - always looking forward - planning for a brighter future.
                But still, some may ask, with matters as they have been illustrated, what can we do?  There are those who may be concerned that the situation is hopeless.  It is not - we, as Jews, know that no situation is ever hopeless. We have to do whatever we can - whatever is in our power to influence, and shape our lives.  But we must also know that there are things that are not in our hands - that we don’t have any control over. 
                I have written before, and I will stress it again: those souls barely existing in the camps in 1944 and 1945, could they have dreamed or imagined that in 1948 the State of Israel would be declared, fighting off all the Arab armies attempting to erase Israel from the map?  On Monday we commemorate Yom HaShoah - Holocaust Day. One of the most important lessons we must learn from the Shoah, from the Holocaust, is that we must never, ever despair, even during the deepest, darkest moments, when it seems that all is lost. 
                The children’s rhyme, ‘sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me’ must be expanded on a little. Sticks and stones, and other assorted apparatus may appear to break the body - but the spirit, the spirit is never broken. And if the spirit doesn’t break, then in the end, the body holds up too.