Wednesday, July 30, 1997

Machane Yehuda

The "Judah Camp" - English for Machane Yehuda. Situated in downtown
Jerusalem, between the Central Bus Station and the Jerusalem city center,
Machane Yehuda serves the City of Gold, as well as the surrounding
suburbs. It is commonly known as the `shuk' - the fruit and vegetable
market. But anything else, be it food, meat, dry goods, paper products -
a potpourri of whatever you might want is found here.

In truth, Machane Yehuda is much more than a shuk - much more than a
shopping market. Machane Yehuda is an experience. I know people who, when
coming to visit is Israel, make a pilgrimage to the shuk, not because they
need any food, but rather to absorb a little bit of native Israel. The
aroma of fresh fruits in abundance, the sight of hundreds of men, women and
children, some walking, others running, pulling small carts or carrying a
`sal' a small shopping bag, looking, comparing, weighing, paying. Here and
there a good word - sometimes an argument, a worker pulling a heavy wagon
packed with goods for another vender, pushing through the mob, `selicha'
`tazuzu' - excuse me, move aside. There is a fresh fish store - the
children gather around to stare back at the huge-looking fish eyes glaring
at them. Cake, cookies, sweets, even a coconut - for all who want.

On a small side street, between the two main streets of the market an old
man sells cloth to sew clothing. Another has a wide selection of
brooms and dustpans. Or perhaps some shoelaces. Can-openers, cups and
saucers, electric appliances - or some spices for Saturday night
`havdalah' the ceremony ending the Jewish Sabbath.

Perhaps the main attraction though, are the people. A profession
`people-watcher' can spend days and days watching. Religious men and women,
dressed in traditional garb, young secular couples, anyone and everyone -
searching for the best buy, lugging weighted packages, climbing on the next
bus, or carrying the load to the car, parked a few blocks away.

This is Amcha - Am Yisrael - coming from near and far - to do the weekly
shopping, especially towards the end of the week - preparing for Shabbat.

In the midst of the hustle and bustle - two suited men, wearing black
jackets, sporting neckties, with an attache case in hand - or perhaps they
had two each, get out of the parked car and walk into the shuk. One goes
one way, the other moves in a different direction. Standing about 30
meters from each other they wave and pull on a cord.

Chaos - panic - BOOM. The regular, orderly confusion of the market explodes
into flying nails and screws. Again, it has happened, again in Machane
Yehuda, a terrorist bomb has murdered and maimed.

At first some don't realize what is happening. Perhaps it was only the
sonic boom of a plane flying overhead. But then the screams, the shrill
shriek of agony, an unmistakable sign - it isn't a sonic boom - terrorists
have hit again. Some start moving in the direction of the blast - hoping to
assist the injured.

And then again - only seconds later - yet it seemed like an eternity - but
really only seconds later - again - B O O M. A second detonation - more
lives lost, more blood spilled, more cries of pain and anguish.

The police arrive, as do the ambulances, doctors and medics, volunteers, TV
cameras and news crews - the evacuation begins. The grisly task of
gathering dismembered limbs, and other body parts - searching for more
wounded, for more dead.

Machane Yehuda is transformed into a Machane Mavet - A Camp of Death.

Tomorrow the smells of the fruits and vegetables will once more permeate
the air. Shoppers will return, as they have in the past, as they do every
time. But tomorrow there will be at least 13 less people who will ever
again inhale the perfume of tomatoes and cucumbers, peppers and celery.
Tomorrow 170 others will be recovering from the wounds inflicted by the
killers. And hundreds, or perhaps thousands will ask themselves, should I
go to the market, or make do with the supermarket across the street from
the house. And others, they will wander the streets of Machane Yehuda,
looking at others like themselves, asking themselves, "who is he?" - "will
I be next?"

The fragrance of the market will be intermingled with the wretched
heartache of pain, of those missing, never to return, to Machane Yehuda.

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Friday, July 18, 1997

Uncle Muhammad

Uncle MuhammadJuly 18, 1997
The following was posted early last week over several internet lists:

The following are excerpts from the weekly Friday sermon delivered by
Palestinian Authority [PA] appointed "Mufti of Jerusalem and Palestine"
Sheikh Ekrima Sabri, at the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount in
Jerusalem on July 11, 1997.

The sermon was broadcast on the PA's official radio station, Voice of

"Oh Allah, destroy America, for she is ruled by Zionist Jews...

"Allah will paint the White House black! Clinton is fulfilling his
father's will to identify with Israel...

"The Muslims say to Britain, to France and to all the infidel nations that
Jerusalem is Arab. We shall not respect anyone else's wishes regarding
her. The only relevant party is the Islamic nation, which will not allow
infidel nations to interfere...

"The homes the Jews are building will become Arab property, with Allah's

"Allah shall take revenge on behalf of his prophet against the colonialist
settlers who are sons of monkeys and pigs....Forgive us, Muhamad, for the
acts of these sons of monkeys and pigs, who sought to harm your sanctity."

A few weeks ago a 26 year old Russian immigrant named Tatiana Susskin came
into Hebron from Jerusalem and started pasting small self-drawn pictures of
a pig, labeled in Arabic `Muhammad' on Arab storefronts in the Arab part of
the city. This resulted in an international outcry against Hebron's
`militant inciting settlers.' There were those, including Israeli
politicians, who again called for the forced expulsion of Hebron's Jewish
population. The international `peace-keeping' observer force, TIPH, issued
a report blaming Israel for the `escalation of violence' in Hebron,
resulting from the pig posters. This, in spite of the fact the the violence
was renewed for the who knows how many time, two days prior to the pig
poster incident.

Ms Susskin has been indicted for inciting for racism, insulting Islam,
supporting a terrorist group (Kach) and endangering lives by throwing a
stone at an Arab driver. The Israeli prosecution has demanded that she be
held in prison through the end of her trial because she is `dangerous to
the public.'

Palestinian Authority [PA] appointed "Mufti of Jerusalem and Palestine"
Sheikh Ekrima Sabri is still broadcasting his poison to whoever wishes to

I could continue in the same vein, speaking about the palestinian police
Colonial stationed in Shechem who, it was discovered this week, organized
other PA police and other terrorists to commit terrorist attacks against
Israelis. Israel has demanded his extradition following the shooting at and
attempted killing of an entire family near Shechem last week. Arafat is
ignoring the incident. Or I could write about the armed uniformed PA police
who were arrested last night by Israeli security forces not far from Gush
Etzion, under total Israeli control.

However, this is irrelevant. What I would like to know is why we haven't
heard any reaction from the American powers-that-be, or by the same Israeli
leaders, including the Prime Minister, the President of the State and the
Chief Rabbi, condemning the Arab Mufti of Jerusalem. Why hasn't Arafat
called up both the American president, as well as American Jewish leaders
and Israeli Rabbi's apologizing for the insults against the United States,
Israel and Jews? Why hasn't the world media, including CNN, who today
reported that Ms. Susskin shows no remorse for her deed, screaming about
Islamic incitement. Perhaps they don't believe, or accept the verdict
blaming Islamic fundamental terrorists for blowing up the World Trade
Center and planning other acts of violence against Americans in the United
States. Or perhaps they have forgotten. Or just don't want to remember. It
is easier to always blame the Jews, rather than upset the Arabs.

In a feature story about Hebron on page 9 of today's Jerusalem Post,
correspondent Jay Bushinsky writes, "In their (Palestinian observers)
opinion, it would not have mattered whether the Jewish settlers were
militant Orthodox nationalists or apolitical haredim. `The Arabs reject the
presence of the Jews in any case.'"

The time has come, once and for all, that Americans, as well as Israelis
realize that the rejection of Jews is not limited to a presence in Hebron -
it includes any Jewish presence everywhere in Israel. And the time has come
for the Western world to realize that fundamental Islam rejects any and all
organized religions which do not accept Muhammad. In other words, all Jews
and Christians fall into the category of infidels. The `sons of monkeys
and pigs' spoken about by the Mufti includes not only Jewish settlers - it
includes all who read, and all those who refuse to read these words.

The hypocrisy expressed by American, so blatantly apparent, is eventually
going to boomerang and fly back into the face of America. Fundamental Islam
is making unbelievable headway in the religious freedom of the United
States. But Americans should all know that fundamentalists look to the
Jerusalem Mufti as their leader too - the fact is that no one is refuting
his words.

The Mufti of Jerusalem, in 1929, was Amin el-Hussania - Fiesel
el-Hussaini's uncle. His incitement led to the massacre of 67 Jews in
Hebron, and the expulsion of the survivors from the city. Dozens of Jews
throughout Israel were killed and wounded that same August day, as a result
of the Mufti's incitement, of his call to murder.

Sheikh Ekrima Sabri, today's Mufti, is widening his borders. He is inciting
against the President of the United States and the American population. He
wants to paint the White House black.

"Oh Allah, destroy America, for she is ruled by Zionist Jews..."

Oh America - Beware of Uncle Muhammad!

Thursday, July 10, 1997

True Justice

True Justice
July 10, 1997

This is a true story. It is also a personal story because it involves, not only myself, but also my wife. It is sort of cute - I thought you might enjoy it.
Four years ago - the days, weeks, months following the initial meetings with the terrorists, with the signing of the original Oslo agreement - an accord signed in blood. Rocks and firebombs accompanied the terrorist murders which were taking place nonstop on Israeli roads. I was working in Jerusalem - going back and forth every day. It’s only an hour drive, but at that time, the anxiety was so great that after arriving home at night, I couldn’t move.
One spring evening I arrived home and heard that at 8:00 p.m. a small demonstration was to take place outside the main Kiryat Arba gate, protesting the constant rock and firebomb attacks on cars going back and forth to Jerusalem. The organizers had an unofficial agreement with the police to allow us to demonstrate from 8:00 until 9:30. I was exhausted but felt an obligation to participate, at least for a little while. So my wife Ora and I, with five of our children took a short walk to the main Kiryat Arba gate. I told Ora, we’ll go for a half hour, and then return home.
We found about 50 people present, on the street - most of whom were teenagers and children. There were about 15 adults congregating on the road. That road is particularly quiet at night, with little to do except stand there. At about 8:45 the fun started. All of a sudden the deputy commander of the Hebron region, an officer named Schmeal showed up, with more soldiers than there were demonstrators. He climbed up on his command car and announced: "This area is a ‘restricted military zone.’ You have five minutes to get inside the gates of Kiryat Arba or we start arresting people." With that he jumped down off the car and walked over to a friend of mine, standing a few meters from myself and Ora. He said to him, "You have 7 seconds to get inside." The man responded, "But it will take me longer than 7 seconds to get inside the Kiryat Arba gate." So Schmeal retorted, "OK - you’re under arrest. Get into the police vehicle."
Having seen this, I turned to my wife and told her, "if this is the way they want to play, we go all the way." With that I took my then year old daughter in my arms and watched as Schmeal approached me. "You have seven seconds to get out of the street and into Kiryat Arba." "But why?," I asked. "You have seven seconds." "But I live here," I answered. With that he yelled at me, "You are under arrest. Give the baby to her mother." "No," I said. "Give the baby to her mother," again. "No." So Schmeal put his arm around my head, pushed by head back and held me that way for about five minutes. We had an interesting conversation: "Get rid of the baby." "No." Until he finally told me to take the baby with me into the police van. So I collected her diapers, bottle and pacifier and joined my friends who had already been apprehended. We had a good time singing and clapping hands.
After about a half hour a bus showed up, to take us to jail. I was the last one on. Climbing up the steps I suddenly stopped, and exclaimed, "what are you doing here?" Because, in front of me, I found sitting on the bus my wife and three more of my children. Ora smiled and told me that she too had been told to leave the street. She told the officers that she refused to move before receiving back her husband and baby. So they arrested her too. With three more of our kids.
We were taken to the Kiryat Arba-Hebron police station, questioned and held until 2:30 in the morning, when we were finally sent home.
One year later Ora received an indictment in the mail. Together with eight others. I wasn’t charged, but she was. The charge was illegally demonstrating. The trial went on for THREE YEARS. The judge, twice, suggested to the prosecution that they close the case against five of the defendants, (including my wife) because there wasn’t any case. They refused. Schmeal, who had long since left the army, admitted to performing illegal procedures. He filled in all the forms necessary to declare a land area ‘restricted military zone’ and had them signed AFTER the declaration and arrests. According to the law, that has to be done before the declaration. When asked what land area was off-limits he spoke of an area about 30 miles long. For a group of 50 demonstrators. When asked if he knew that the police had allowed the demonstration to take place he answered, "If Rabbi B... says they had an agreement, I believe him."
A video camera, which had been used to film the demonstration was confiscated by the police. When it was returned to the owner, the cassette was missing. It remained missing, permanently. And the case went on, and on, and on, and on - FOR THREE YEARS.
CHAPTER THREE - The Verdict and Sentencing
A few weeks ago the judge announced the verdict. His decision was extremely critical of the officer Schmeal, saying that until he showed up everything had been very quiet, and maybe if he had handled the event differently, the results would have been different. He criticized the police for the vanishing cassette. Etc. etc.
But, it was an illegal demonstration (the oral agreement with the police isn’t binding) and that cannot go unpunished. So, his decision was to refrain from convicting the defendants, but he ordered them punished. (There is some kind of quirk in Israeli law that allows court-ordered punishment without conviction.) He informed the guilty parties that they would not receive a jail term, but rather be required to do community volunteer work. The minimum time allowed by law is 60 hours. So my wife together with the other guilty parties were sentenced to 60 hours of volunteer work as a result of a demonstration against attacking Jews, four years ago.
True Justice.

Friday, July 4, 1997

Why Lior Cohen was burned and nearly killed by an Arab Pipe Bomb

Why Lior Cohen was burned and nearly killed by an Arab Pipe Bomb
July 4, 1997

Point number one: The soldiers serving in Hebron are wonderful people who do whatever they are allowed to do to provide security in the city.

Point number two:  When an Arab tosses a bomb at an Israeli, the responsibility is his. There may be a chain of command - he might be ‘following orders,’ be they direct or indirect. But the immediate accountability is that of the perpetrator.   

But we all know that life is not so simple. The buck doesn’t stop there. The following story is not a fable or fairy tale. It is true. I am not divulging the full names of the people involved for reasons of security, but the rest is a real-life narrative:

Last Saturday the rioting in Hebron reached the porches, patios, and windows of buildings in the Beit Hadassah Complex. Beit Schneerson, Beit Hadassah, Beit Castel and Beit Hasson were bombarded for a good part of the day. As was reported by the Hebron Press Office, IDF security forces were refused permission to react in any way, shape or form until the ‘high command’ realized that Hebron’s Jewish residents were about to initiate self-defense procedures. Only then were the soldiers allowed to respond, in a dwarfed manner.

The next day one of Hebron’s leadership (called here A) attempted to speak with one of the IDF command officers (called here Colonel G) in Hebron, to clarity the reasons for the army’s lack of response, in the face of real danger to both the civilian and military persons in the city.  The particular officer sought out was unavailable. So, Hebron’s A called a much higher official, with overall responsibility for Hebron, as well as other areas in Judea and Samaria. This official (let’s call him General O) was astounded at the question. He said he know nothing about abnormal or serious rioting in Saturday, but would check it out. The next day, after the bomb blast injured three Israeli soldiers, General O was in Hebron and met Hebron leader A. The general had harsh words for A: “My investigation shows that nothing happened. You are making up stories.”  Hebron’s A requested that Colonel G join the conversation, and he affirmed the general’s allegations.  So Hebron’s A asked the general if he knows Hebron resident, Rabbi M. General O had only words of praise for the rabbi. “So,” said A, “you can rely on what he says - you know he doesn’t exaggerate?” General O shook his head in full agreement. The three men, two officers and Hebron’s A, walked over to speak with Rabbi M. Rabbi M was very busy at the moment, but agreed to put aside his immediate business to deal with the matter at hand. Hebron leader A requested that the Rabbi (who lives in Beit Hadassah) depict exactly what he had experienced on Saturday. As the Rabbi described the blatant attack on Beit Hadassah, on the danger, and the inaction of Israel’s security forces, General O’s complexion turned to a shade of green, similar to the uniform he wears. He finally turned to Colonel G and asked, “What’s going on here?” Colonel G opened his diary, checked the date in question and answered, “that’s not the report I received. It should be looked into.” With that the conversation ended.

In other words, the true account of what actually happened in Hebron on Saturday was filtered out. The general, with overall responsibility for Hebron didn’t know what had gone on, because he wasn’t told. Colonel G simply didn’t tell him. When the subject was investigated Colonel G lied.  Only when the Rabbi related the day’s events did the General realize that he had been deceived. 

It is most important to know that the buck doesn’t stop here either. Colonel G shouldn’t be in charge of a Hebron command  - he is a liar. General G also has responsibility - he has to be assured that he KNOWS exactly what is happening in Hebron. But the buck goes higher up - much higher.  It reaches up to General Uzi Dayan and Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai because they are issuing the direct orders forbidding the IDF to take action against the rioters. Colonel G may be a liar, but his orders to his soldiers to stand like wooden statues in the face of rocks, fire bombs, and pipe bombs arrive on his desk from the office of Uzi Dayan and Yitzhak Mordechai. Colonel G should, under the circumstances, take off his uniform and refuse to accept such orders. Abandonment of soldiers is not only morally wrong. It is criminal. But the direct responsibility is that of Dayan and Mordechai. These two men have intentionally decided that soldiers in the IDF are a necessary ‘sacrifice for peace.’ After all, if the natives get too restless, all hell might break loose. So, it is preferable that a few soldiers get hurt, burned, blown-up, or maybe even killed, rather than rock the boat by stopping the daily violence in Hebron (and Gazza, for that matter.)

Today, after an ultimatum was issued to the PA by the Defense Minister, Israeli soldiers took an unparalleled measure - they apprehended a few of the rock-throwers. The result - the rioting stopped. A special unit was used to implement the capture of the perpetrators, and the consequences were immediate. Of course, the question might be asked - why didn’t they do this a month ago? That however, might be too difficult to answer.

Uzi Dayan - an instigator of Oslo and one of it’s prime authors, should be court-marshaled and thrown out of the army. Any general who abandons his soldiers is a contemptible.  Yitzhak Mordechai should either change his decision-making priorities real fast, or vacate his office for someone who cares about his soldiers, more than he cares about Yassir Arafat. And Colonel G should be made a private and sent to do guard duty - maybe he could handle that.

Finally, if the point hasn’t been made clear enough, Lior Cohen’s injury was the direct result of criminal negligence. The fact the he was stationed in the path of Arab terror, without being afforded the opportunity to stop it before it struck , the fact that no precautions were taken to allow him or his brethren to defend themselves was clearly and definitely caused by the inaction of his superiors.  This is inexcusable and unacceptable.

Israel’s soldiers are not sacrifices on the alter of peace. They are in a tough position and deserve all the support possible.  Israel’s leaders are supposed to be granting them that  - not abandoning them.  Those who aren’t capable of guaranteeing our soldier’s lives, as much as possible, don’t deserve public support, either in the military or the government. I hope both General Dayan and Minister Mordechai get the message fast, before anyone else is hurt.