Thursday, January 15, 1998

Next Year Without Oslo

Hebron-Past, Present and Forever
by David Wilder
Next Year Without Oslo
January 15, 1998

Exactly one year ago the Fink family was honored in Hebron. The Finks, living today in Tel Aviv and Belgium, donated Beit Fink, a two family residence and nursery school in Hebron. Located behind Beit Shneerson, Beit Fink stands as a living symbol of faith. How many people are willing to literally put their money where their mouth is in present-day Hebron. Potential contributors have voiced doubts, such as, 'what will happen if the building I donate becomes property of Arafat and the terrorists'? Serious philanthropists must have tremendous inner strength and faith, knowing that what they are doing is not only right, but indispensable if we are to remain, not only in Hebron, but in all of Eretz Yisrael.
The Fink family is instilled with this very faith, the same convictions adhered to by our ancestors 4,000 years ago - Avraham, Yitzhak and Ya'akov. Last year, exactly a year ago today, I attended the dedication celebration held at the Gutnick Center, upon completion of Beit Fink. Leaving home for the party, the festivity seemed to be double - the talks between Israel and Arafat for Hebron were on the brink of failure. America's representative to the negotiations, Dennis Ross, was on his way to the airport. The State Department had already announced that this was the last chance - if the talks broke down America was backing out of the picture. As far as I was concerned, there could be nothing sweeter.
The Beit Fink celebration was a never-to-be forgotten affair. The speeches were emotional and the dancing joyous. At about 12:30 AM, after returning home, a new reality hit. And it hit hard. Kol Yisrael - the Voice of Israel radio reported that, finally, agreement had been reached and the accords signed. Eighty percent of Hebron was to be abandoned to Arafat. Two days later, on Friday morning, January 17, 1997, it actually happened.
Over the past few days reporters have been visiting and calling, all asking the same question: How has life in Hebron changed over the last year? They are all looking for a kind of 'before and after' picture of events.
My response, by now, is fairly standard. Of course, security has deteriorated. The hills surrounding us are rampant with armed terrorists. Beit Hadassah and army outposts have been shot at. Over 1,000 firebombs have been hurled - more in one year than during 10 years of Intifada. Rocks were found inside baby's cribs - pipebombs exploded in the Avraham Avinu playground.
In spite of the agreements in the Hebron Accords holy sites are still closed to Jews. The Cave of Otniel ben Knaz is off-limits, as is the ISRAELI-CONTROLLED casbah and the tomb of Avner ben Ner. It is virtually impossible to visit the ancient Elonei Mamre site. Jibril Rajoub has over 1,000 'secret police' terrorizing Hebron. Hebron's Arabs can stroll freely throughout all of Hebron, including the Jewish section. Israeli's are forbidden to enter the 'Arab-Arafat side,' under threat of arrest.
Arafat has not, and will not, ever, comply with his obligations under the Hebron Accords. Arabs in Hebron, elected PNC representatives, still say, as they did a year ago, that 'as long as the settlers are in Hebron, there will not be peace.'
This is our first year of peace.
Today, when we tried to walk to the Cave of Otniel ben Knaz, the first Judge in Israel, located on the Arafat-side of Hebron, of course, we were stopped. When we quoted the official Hebron Accords, as signed by Israel and Arafat, to the Israeli soldiers, the Arab soldiers, and the gathering Arab horde, we heard shouted back at us, 'What accords - There are no accords - There is no peace.'
True peace, at last.
In my opinion, the reporters aren't asking the right question. The question is not - how has life changed in Hebron? The question is - how has life changed in Israel - throughout the entire country? The question is - has Israel learned its lesson?
Last night at the rally in Tel-Aviv, attended by over 30,000 people, MK and former minister Benny Begin was one of the speakers. One of his major points was:
"There are those who say, what can we do? - there is nothing we can do - we have no choice but to continue, even if what we are doing is wrong. But they are wrong - there is a choice -and it is in our hands. We can make the difference."
Begin is correct - one hundred percent. A person has to be totally deaf and blind to not see the writing on the wall. Hebron was supposed to be, not only a test, but an example of peaceful coexistence. It was supposed to show Israel and the world that Oslo can really work. What the Hebron Accords have proven is exactly the opposite. It hasn't worked, and it never will. You cannot cooperate with a people whose only desire is your own cessation. If Hebron was supposed to be a litmus test, then after a year, one can only come to the conclusion that the results are in - TOTAL FAILURE!
The terrorist attacks have not ended. Israelis are still being killed by terrorists, spurred on by Arafat and his top cronies, including his police chief Razi Jabali. A few days ago a major bomb factory was uncovered in Shechem, under Arafat's nose. It was closed by the PA only after Israeli intelligence provided them with all the information concerning the factory and demanded that they act. Being that Arafat will meet with Clinton next week, they had no choice. But for the last week Israel radio has been reporting that the Israeli security services are issuing high-alerts because of suspected terrorist activities throughout Israel.
So, what more will it take until the lesson isn't only learned, but also enforced? Why should any other Israeli community have to live with and deal the same kinds of afflictions incurred by Hebron's Jewish residents and guests?
Not that there should be any mistake. Hebron's Jewish community isn't going anywhere. Not only are we staying - we are growing. Four children have been born to Hebron families over the past three weeks. We are building a new apartment building - and it won't be the last building either. Yeshivat Shavei Hevron is on the verge of completing three additional floors in Beit Romano which will allow a growth in student population from TWO HUNDRED to FIVE HUNDRED. Shortly a new hotel will be constructed in Hebron. And other projects are in the works.
I can only but bless all of us that in a year from now I'll be able to write about how finally all Israel woke up, putting an official end to the curse called Oslo. We will then began to live again as proud Jews in our G-d - given Homeland - holding our heads high, doing what we know is right - in Hebron, Jerusalem, in all of Eretz Yisrael. Amen.

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