Monday, January 18, 1999

A Grain of Sand

A Grain of Sand
January 18, 1999 

It was exactly 730 days ago, two years ago, when the State of Israel willingly

and intentionally abandoned 80% of Hebron to Arafat and the terrorists. It was
such a terrible Friday morning when the military commander of the Hebron
Brigade, Lt. Colonel Gadi, walked out of the Israeli military compound on a
hill overlooking much of the rest of the city, entered his jeep and drove a few
minutes 'over the border' into the "Israeli" side of the city.
It was not unexpected. The 'Hebron Accords' had been signed and then ratified
by the Israeli cabinet only days before. That agreement, coming on the heels of
the cursed Oslo accords, had almost fallen through. Here in Hebron, together
with Jews around Israel and throughout the world we had worked day and night
for months on end, attempting to prevent implementation of the decree. Cabinet
ministers and Knesset members visited Hebron in order to 'learn the subject'
from up close. As a matter of fact, on the very day that the accords were voted
on in the cabinet, Minister Natan Sharansky made a special trip to Hebron, to
once again see with his own two eyes, and hear from the Hebron leadership, the
situation which would be created as a result of the agreement. Hebron was not
new to Sharansky - he had been here before, for the same purpose. And he also
believed, as he had said here on a previous visit, that 'signed agreement's
must be honored but not at the expense of Jewish lives and security.'
Concluding his mission here, he returned to Jerusalem, where he expressed his
doubts and fears to his friend, the Prime Minister. Netanyahu allayed
Sharansky's qualms, assuring him that 'Hebron's Jewish Community would have
full security and not be in danger.' Later that day Sharansky voted in favor of
the Hebron Accords.
That same cabinet decision also guaranteed 'to substantiate" Hebron's Jewish
community. A half a year later the community received permits to begin
construction of a new - six family building in the Avraham Avinu neighborhood.
Following the murder of Rabbi Shlomo Ra'anan, five months ago, Netanyahu agreed
to allow permanent housing at the Tel Rumeida - Tel Hebron neighborhood.
However this work cannot begin until archeological excavations are completed at
the site, excavations which have not yet begun. Last week, after another
shooting attack against Hebron nursery school teachers, construction finally
began on Beit HaShisha, for an additional 6 families. By the time the elections
roll around this government will have agreed to 'substantiate' Hebron's Jewish
community of 54 families with an additional 20 families, in Israel's most
ancient city.
This is the way it has been for the last two years, surrounded by hills filled
with armed terrorists who shoot at us, throw hand grenades, firebombs and
rocks. So, the question must again be asked How can we stay here?
I'd like to tell you about three people, three very different kinds of people
who, together with so many others, give us the strength to stay, despite all.
Groups continue to visit Hebron. Sometimes large, others smaller, but almost
every day, another group arrives. As a representative of the Hebron community,
I speak to many of these people, explaining the present situation and answering
questions. Yesterday one such group sat in the Avraham Avinu Shul, listening to
me describe how, for 700 years, Jews could not enter the 2nd most holiest site
to our People, Ma'arat HaMachpela - The Tombs of our Forefathers. Only since
our return in 1967 are we again allowed to pray at this sacred place. As I told
them that only because of our presence in Hebron is this site still accessible
to us, I noticed that one of the women in the group was wiping her eyes. I
wasn't saying anything out of the ordinary, but she continued to cry quietly
for about 20 minutes, until I had finished. I later found out that she had to
be convinced to visit Hebron, because originally she was afraid to come.
Afterwards, meeting the person who had convinced her to make the trip, with
tears rolling down her cheeks, and not being able to speak, she hugged her.
Last week we had a number of very distinguished guests. One of them, a
Christian, is an influential Congressman from New York, Mr. Michael Forbes. I
had the honor to spend some time conversing with the Congressman, and was
utterly amazed, not only by his comprehension of what is happening here, but
also by his emotional reaction and attachment to Hebron and its community.
While visiting the caravan house of a family with twelve children I could
literally see the light in his eyes, light of wonder and admiration. Upon
hearing that this neighborhood was the home of Abraham, and later, King David,
I could literally feel that his soul was filled with awe. Sitting with Mrs.
Chaya Ra'anan, widow of the murdered Rabbi Shlomo Ra'anan, the hurt and pain in
his eyes was tangible.
Here is an American gentile politician, who not only has the time to
investigate parts of Israel which few actually get to see, but also exhibits a
true, unbreakable bond between himself and a small group of Jews living in one
of the most controversial locations in the Middle East, if not in the world. I
was truly impressed and touched by his genuine interest and desire, not only to
know more, but more importantly, to assist in any way possible.
The last visitor I'll tell you about is actually not one person, rather, they
are a couple Dr. Irving and Mrs. Cherna Moskowitz. Much ado was made
concerning their visit to Israel and their involvement in Israeli politics.
What is perhaps less well known is that on their final day in Israel, the
entire group, led by Dr. and Mrs. Moskowitz, charted four six-seater airplanes
and flew to Kiryat Shmona, on Israel's northern border. There, they met with a
woman who had lost twin fetus' due to a katusha missle attack a few weeks ago.
And later, when meeting with the city's mayor, Dr. and Mrs. Moskowitz presented
him with a check for $100,000, for the city of Kiryat Shmona.
The Moskowitz's can only be described as 'Tzadikei HaDor" - the righteous of
the generation. They don't talk - they do; they do what they believe in, be it
Hebron, Jerusalem or Kiryat Shmona. Standing at the entrance to the Avraham
Avinu neighborhood, surrounded by dancing children, the love and warmth
radiated by Dr. and Mrs. Moskowitz was palpable. Dr. Moskowitz took Hebron
children in his arms, dancing with them to the tune of Hebron-Meaz u'letamid -
HebronFrom then and forever. Later, while bidding them farewell, and thanking
them for all they have done, Dr. Moskowitz, with true sincerity and humility
replied, "I couldn't do it if you weren't here."
These are three, but only three examples, of the over 600,000 people who have
visited Hebron in the past 730 days. This is what gives us the strength to
continue, come what may. For in all actuality, our reality is not that of 730
days - it is a reality of almost 4,000 years - a reality not of Netanyahu and
Barak, but rather a reality the likes of Mike Forbes, the Moskowitz's and a
women weeping while hearing about the people of Hebron. Seven hundred and
thirty days out of four thousand years - right now it's not so easy, but in the
end it will be like a single grain of sand on the beach, a grain washed into
the ocean of our heritage and tradition, beginning here in Hebron.

Friday, January 8, 1999

Clucking Away

Clucking AwayJanuary 8, 1999

This morning, on my way into a Kiryat Arba supermarket, I was greeted in a most unusual manner. Two men, speaking outside, saw me and started yelling at me: "You really f….. this one up good, didn't you Wilder!? Now, instead of Netanyahu, we are going to get Ehud Barak and Yossi Beilin."

I looked at them, somewhat surprised, and asked, "Me, I brought Netanyahu down?"

"Yeah, you and those others in Hebron and the leadership of the right - you always said, Bibi must fall. Now see what you've gotten us into."

So, what's the answer? A friend told me the following story:
A king's son once decided that he was a chicken. He took off his clothes, got down on his hands and knees under a table, and starting eating crumbs off the floor. The king brought all his doctors to try and convince his son to stop being a chicken. To no avail. Finally a famous doctor arrived from a far away country. He promised the king that he could cure his son. The king promised him rewards of gold and silver should he perform such a miracle. With that, the doctor removed his clothing, stooped down on his hands and knees under the table, with the king's son, and too, began eating crumbs. The king's son looked at his companion and asked him, "who are you?" "I too am a chicken," said the doctor, and for several days they ate together crumbs from the floor.

After some time the doctor suddenly put on his pants. "And what is this?" asked the king's son. "Oh, don't you know. There are chickens who wear pants." The king's son mimicked the doctor's actions. After a few more days the doctor put on his shirt, as did the king's son, and so it went until one day the doctor sat in a chair, saying that there are chickens who sit in chairs, and a few days later began eating with a fork and knife. So, in the end, the king's son remained a chicken, but he acted like a human being.

What is the moral of the story? A few years ago a man named Binyamin Netanyahu proclaimed, "I represent the Israeli right." A little while after being elected Prime Minister he shook hands with Arafat, saying, "the right too can shake hands with Arafat." Then he abandoned 80% of Hebron, saying, "the right can give away Eretz Yisrael too." Then he went to Wye continuing to say, "the right can be like the left, but still be the right." And there is no doubt that given the opportunity, under the circumstances, he would have continued implementing Wye right down to the last comma and period.

How can we be so sure where this government would go? A few nights ago on Israeli television's Channel 1 news, it was reported that secret negotiations are underway between Israel and Arafat concerning reopening of the Arab market outside the Avraham Avinu neighborhood and the total reopening of "Shuhada" - King David Street, leading from the Avraham Avinu neighborhood to Beit Hadassah. This, in order to receive assurances from Arafat that our Arab neighbors will not 'cause disturbances' as a result of the new construction at Beit Hadassah and Tel Rumeida.

In any other language, this is called a bribe. The Arabs say, "we won't break the law, riot, shoot, throw firebombs, or knife anyone because you are building. Just give us the marketplace and the street." This, coming after another terrorist attack in Hebron earlier this week, which left two women injured, one critically. And Netanyahu and his Defense Minster are willing to pay the bribe?!

This is the Netanyahu administration. This is the reason Binyamin Netanyahu had to fall.

No, Bibi Netanyahu - we will not follow your act - you do not really represent us. You are not a true lover of Eretz Yisrael - you have proven that you are not a genuine representative of the Israeli right. We will not follow you wherever you go.

So, where do we go now. There is an ideal, and then there is practicality. Ideally, the Prime Minister should not be Netanyahu. Practically, we may get him back. We may even have to vote for him, if not the first time around, then during the run-off election. We may hold our noses and try to keep from being sick when we cast our ballots, but there won't be any choice.

What will be the secret ingredient that may bring us victory? One word: unity. Whichever of the two major blocks, left or right, succeeds in unifying, they will win. If the Israeli right, today led by Benny Begin forms a block, including Moledet, the NRP and other rightwing factions, thereby receiving a large number of mandates in the next Knesset, they may very well determine the policy platform of the next government, regardless of who is elected Prime Minister.

So far it is a free-for-all. The left is divided. So is the right. Meridor, Shahak, Barak, all represent the same political ideology. But the right has yet to make an intelligent move to pull the forces together. Next week Dr. Irving Moskowitz, leading a large delegation including Dr. Joseph Frager, is arriving in Israel to study the situation and help pull the right together. (See Jerusalem Post article: If Dr. Moskowitz and his delegation succeed in impressing the heads of the major political factions that they have no choice but to work together, there is a VERY GOOD chance that we will be victorious.

The truth is that we really don't want Barak, Beilin, or Shahak. However Bibi must know that if he wants to be a chicken, eating crumbs off the floor, he cannot disguise himself, claiming to be something else. If he wants to cluck around, that is his prerogative. But he cannot make believe that his clucks are actually intelligent speech and try to sway us to act accordingly. Arafat is Arafat, Eretz Yisrael is Eretz Yisrael, and Hebron is Hebron. Nobody, however hard they try, will ever be able to persuade us otherwise.