Thursday, April 16, 1998

150,000 - In The Right Direction

150,000 - In The Right Direction
April 16, 1998

This week somewhere in the vicinity of 150,000 Jews visited
Hebron. Yes, ONE HUNDRED FIFY THOUSAND. Over 80,000 arrived
for the Jubilee festival on Sunday, celebrating Israel's 50th
Independence Day and The Jewish Community of Hebron's 30th
anniversary. But the crowds didn't stop then. Monday, Tuesday
and Wednesday witnessed a continuous flow, streaming into
Ma'arat HaMachpela and touring Hebron's neighborhoods and
sites. Needless to say, it really was an amazing week.

I would like to share with you some of the special moments I

The first was the sight of Hebron decked out in Israeli flags.
From the entrance to the city, all the way up to Tel Rumeida,
blue and white filled the air. Thirty-two years ago, this was
more than a dream. It was fantasy. Yet today it is reality.
True, more than once during the week Arabs ripped down some of
the flags, stomped on them, and even burning some of them.
This is their way of saying, "we want to stamp out The Jewish
Community of Hebron and State of Israel." This week, Am
Yisrael again answered: "You can walk all over a piece of
cloth or plastic, but you cannot walk all over us."

On Sunday a reporter asked me for my reaction to all the
'settlers' visiting the city. I heard the same terminology on
the radio - 'settlers' coming to Hebron. I find this to be
very special because many many of those arriving came from Tel
Aviv, Haifa, Ranana, Beer Sheva, and other cities in Israel.
In other words, people coming from anywhere in Israel are
automatically 'settlers' if they visit or support Hebron's
Jewish presence. Judging from the results of the last
elections, well over 60% of Israel's Jewish population are

The most emotional moment for me took place in the midst of
the festival program on the huge stage, next to Ma'arat
HaMachpela. Children from Hebron and Kiryat Arba participated
in a play called 'Passing the Torch - The History of Hebron.'
Beginning 3,700 years ago the children acted out Hebron's
illustrious and moving past. They passed a paper torch from
one to the other. Each child represented a time in history -
the Patriarchs and Matriarchs, King David, through to today.
At one point all the children on stage turned their backs to
the audience and lowered the torch - for it had extinguished.
From 1936 to 1967 Hebron's light was doused. But then, a man
in an IDF uniform appeared - Rav Shlomo Goren - the first Jew
to freely enter Ma'arat HaMachpela in 700 years. The last
figure to emerge was a tall, thin, bearded man - responsible
for rekindling Hebron's torch - Rav Moshe Levinger, father of
modern Hebron.

Watching these children was so emotional, not just because
they acted out Hebron's history, but because they are making
Hebron's history. They are not just passing the torch - they
are holding today's torch. Without their courage and
persistence Hebron's light would long ago have snuffed out.
During the Gulf War children from the Tel-Aviv area came to
Kiryat Arba and Hebron, fleeing Saddam Hussein's missiles.
Hebron's children have had to live with rocks, firebombs,
bullets, hostile police, etc. etc. - yet they keep holding the
torch high, for all to see, for all to feel, for all to
experience. They are quite literally on the stage of Jewish
history. Perhaps 70 years from now, when Hebron's Jewish
citizens celebrate the 100th anniversary of our return to
Hebron, these children will be represented in a play, as those
responsible for Hebron's continued Jewish presence.

One other event - Seeing Dedi Graucher sing anywhere is an
experience. Watching him sing 'Hebron, Ir HaAvot' (Hebron-City
of our Forefathers) in front of Ma'arat HaMachpela is really
special. But the best moment was when he previewed his new
song - which expresses in music all our thoughts: Lo lo lo, lo
nazuz mi po, shelanu Eretz Yisrael - NO - NO - NO -WE WILL

Shalom Achshav - Peace Now, tried to keep the throngs from
Hebron. On Sunday they closed the Jerusalem-Hebron road for
almost three hours- but in the end they didn't succeed -
because they cannot succeed. No one will succeed in cutting
Hebron off from the Jewish People. This week 150,000 helped
us show all the Jewish people and the rest of the world that
we are moving in the right direction. Our past is also our
future - and our roots will continue to provide our
nourishment. That is why we say: Hebron- Past, Present and
Forever. Chag Sameach.

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