Monday, December 23, 2002

A Perfect Example

A Perfect Example
Dec. 25, 2002


These days it’s not difficult to be upset. We have a Prime Minister who’s talking about a Palestinian State. The other candidate for Prime Minister is talking about uprooting over 30,000 people the first year of his premiership, including all of the Gaza-Gush Katif communities, as well as Hebron and Kiryat Arba. The killing continues, and, as happened here in Hebron, rather than punish the terrorists, a new neighborhood, the most suitable response to the deaths of 14 people, is destroyed.

But things are not all bad. Sometime perhaps, we put the wrong emphasis on various activities, or even miss what is going on around us. Tonight I’d like to give you one example of what’s good, what can pick our spirits up.

Hebron’s Avraham Avinu neighborhood originated in the middle fifteen hundreds when a group of Jews made their way from Spain and Turkey to Hebron. The Jewish Quarter, as it was known, housed Jews for almost four hundred years, until the 1929 riots and massacre. 

The Jewish Quarter was fully destroyed by Hebron Arabs with the assistance of the Jordanians in the late 1950s. When we arrived back in Hebron following the Six Day War, the neighborhood was in total ruins.

Outside the neighborhood, Arabs built a market. Several buildings were constructed on Jewish land, and transformed into the city’s vegetable shuk. And so it remained, even after the Israeli return to Hebron.

For years the market place was a serious thorn in the side of Hebron’s renewed Jewish community. It posed a great security risk, as the area was full of cars and trucks, and a daily mass of Arabs.

About eight years ago the wholesale market was closed for security reasons, but the retail market remained open until about two years ago when Arab terrorists threw a booby-trapped teddy bear into the market, hoping that a child would pick it up to play with. Fortunately soldiers in area discovered it before anyone else. When they saw the wires coming out of the teddy bear they realized it was a bomb and it was soon dismantled. That’s when the army finally closed the market.

To ensure that these buildings, built on Jewish land, would never be returned to our enemy, we began transforming the vegetable stalls into apartments, and over a year ago young couples began moving into these tiny homes. This was true redemption of the land.

In one of the market structures the community decided to build a couple of apartments for larger families. The work took quite a while but slowly the apartments started to take shape. A few weeks ago the Schlissel family, with eight children moved into their new home, in the former Arab market.

Rabbi Yisrael and Tzippy Schlissel are not newcomers to Hebron. Tzippy is the great grand daughter of Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak HaCohen Kook, and the daughter of  Rabbi Shlomo Ra’anan who was killed by Arab terrorists in his Tel Rumeida home four and a half years ago. His wife Chaya remained in their caravan house, while giving one room of her dwelling for establishment of a Torah Study Center in memory of her murdered husband. The dean of that study center, called “Ohr Shlomo,” or “The Lights of Shlomo” is Tzippy’s husband, Rabbi Yisrael Schlissel.

For several years Rabbi Schlissel drove back and forth from his home in the Horesh community in Binyamin, north of Jerusalem. Not too long ago, on his way to Hebron, an Arab terrorist opened fire on his car. Miraculously one of the bullets ricocheted off the side-view mirror and only scratched him. The fact that he wasn’t badly hurt or even worse was an act of Divine providence.

The Schlissel family waited for a long time to move into their new apartment in Hebron. Rabbi Schlissel was even willing to forgo his position as Rabbi of his community in order to live here. This year one of their daughters began school in Kiryat Arba, living with her grandmother in Tel Rumeida. Finally, even though construction wasn’t 100% complete, they decided that the time had come. During the Hanukkah vacation they moved to their new apartment in the one-time ‘banana market’ outside the Avraham Avinu neighborhood in Hebron.  Incidentally, or perhaps not so incidentally, the site of their apartment was once a famous Yeshiva initiated by Hebron Torah scholar, Rabbi Eliyahu Manni.

When it started raining heavily a couple of weeks ago, water started dripping from the Schlissel’s ceiling. The stairs leading from the ground floor to the upstairs bedrooms are still makeshift. When they moved in, the water and electricity had yet to be hooked up. But when I visited their new home, I didn’t find any dejected children. I didn’t find Tzippy or Rabbi Yisrael sitting around griping about the raindrops falling inside their house. Rather, I found a radiating happiness and warmth, the kind of which cannot be counterfeited. I found a family exalting in the joy of living in Hebron.

One might ask, following such tragedy, as was the murder of Tzippy’s father, Rabbi Shlomo Ra’anan, why would the family still want to come live here? Why wouldn’t they take Rebbetzin  Chaya and flee? The answer is very simple. The most fitting way to commemorate Rabbi Ra’anan’s memory is to carry on where he left off, to follow in his footsteps. Rabbi Yisrael and Tzippy Schlissel waited over four years to finally have a house to live in, in Hebron, but now, here they are. The Oslo war didn’t scare them away. Two years of shooting at Hebron’s apartments and residents didn’t keep them from fulfilling a dream.

And so, my friends, even when events around us are liable to drag us down into the dumps, it’s important to know that, in reality, the ideals haven’t faded or disappeared. There are those who like us to believe otherwise, but as the saying goes, ‘it just ain’t so.’ And Rabbi Yisrael and Tzippy Schlissel and their eight children and the perfect example.

With blessings from Hebron,
This is David Wilder

Wednesday, December 4, 2002

Illuminating the Truth

Illuminating the Truth
December 4, 2002

Hanukkah is known as the festival of lights. A little illumination certainly wouldn?t hurt. 

Recent headlines told us that Israel?s UN ambassador, Yehuda Lancry, expressed Israel?s willingness to accept a ?two states for two people? policy. Prime Minister Sharon and Foreign Minister Netanyahu quickly repudiated the statement. It was also publicized that Defense Minister Mofaz was considering again withdrawing Israeli security forces from Bethlehem, in honor of Christmas. Mofaz denied this. Hebron?s Jewish community issued a letter saying, ?during the funeral of Colonel Dror Weinberg, we heard statements from the head?s of Israel?s security forces to the effect that there is no longer any reason to trust Palestinian security forces, and there is no longer any reason to place the security of Israeli citizens in their hands. After the last withdrawal from Bethlehem, a bus blew up in Jerusalem, killing and wounding dozens. The price we paid for the withdrawal from Hebron was catastrophic. Any decision to again withdraw will be a security fiasco and undoubtedly lead to further Jewish bloodshed.?

Subsequent headlines announced that Israeli Army Chief of Staff, Moshe ?Bugi? Ya?alon, speaking to a think-tank forum in Washington, admitted that ?a majority of the settlements would have be evacuated.? Ya?alon denied the remarks, explaining that he had said that ?the Palestinians thought that Israel would be willing to evacuate most of the settlements, but still refused to reach a peaceful solution with us.? And again, in the next day?s newspapers we were graced with the good news that the IDF is planning on destroying ?15 palestinian houses? between Kiryat Arba and Ma?arat HaMachpela in Hebron, in order to provide protection for those walking back and forth on the road. Of course, the objective is not only to pull down ruins that have lined the pathway for years, but also to build a so-called protective wall, all the way from Kiryat Arba to Hebron.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has labeled this latest plan for Hebron a sharvul, a sleeve. For the Jewish community in Hebron, the word "sleeve" has dire connotations. In Sharonolgy, "sleeve" means "wall." Loosely translated into everyman's lingo, "wall" means ghetto. Simply put, Sharon plans on reinventing an 800-year-old creation. The last official western European ghetto, in Rome, was abolished in 1870. Hebron, too, knew a ghetto. The Jewish Quarter, today called the Avraham Avinu neighborhood, was established in 1540 when Rabbi Malchiel Ashkenazi led Jews expelled from Spain in 1492 from their temporary residence in Turkey to the center of Hebron. That neighborhood, surrounded by a high wall, was essentially a ghetto. At that time, Hebron, as well as all of Eretz Yisrael, was governed by the Ottoman Empire. However, for all intents and purposes, the city was ruled by Arab sheikhs. The Jews were greatly outnumbered. There was no State of Israel. There was no Israeli army. There weren't any Jewish security forces. The community was at the mercy of the city's strong man. Thus the necessity of a protective ghetto.

Hebron's Jews started moving out of the ghetto in the early 1800s, spreading out throughout the city, living with, and among, their Arab neighbors. The relationship had its ups and downs, but for the most part, they lived peacefully together. Until the bubble burst during the 1929 riots and massacre, leaving 67 dead and 70 wounded. The Jewish survivors were expelled by the British military government.

When the Hebron Accords were signed and implemented almost six years ago, the concept of Hebron walls was revived. Politicians, military leaders and the Israeli civil administration cooked up numerous plans for a renewed ghetto. Hebron leaders asked the initiators of various proposals why walls were necessary. After all, Israel had just signed a "peace accord" with the "chosen partner," promising peace, quiet, and normalcy in Hebron. What they received by way of response was questioning looks, bordering on disbelief. The proposals were rejected out of hand by the Hebron leaders. Jews did not come back to Hebron to live in a ghetto, they reasoned. Jews left eastern Europe to escape the ghetto, to live in Israel as "a free people in our land", to quote the national anthem,Hatikva.

During the past two years, Hebron's neighborhoods have been attacked by terrorist gunfire from the surrounding hills. Virtually every day, for more than a year and a half, Jewish homes were the target of murderous attacks from the Abu Snena and Harat a-Sheikh hills. Ten-month-old Shalhevet Pass was one victim of Arafat-initiated terror. Others were injured, including children. The near misses are too numerous to count. But Hebron remained open - no walls, no fences, and no artificial boundaries. The result of the Hebron community policy was not an abandonment of the city. This past Succot, more than 40,000 Jews visited Hebron. Thirty thousand flocked to the city following the murder of Shlomo Yitzhak Shapiro. A few weeks ago, some 25,000 Jews participated in theShabbat reading of the weekly Torah portion describing Abraham's purchase of the Tomb of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs, at that very site. How many of these Jews would have dared visit Hebron knowing that the city's permanent residents lived only behind walls?

A wall symbolizes fear. A wall in Hebron, constructed in the midst of a war, signifies a terrorist victory, showing our enemies that they have instilled panic. The implications are clear: Continued terror will increase fear and eventually lead to the evacuation of the city. When has a wall ever been proven to be an effective deterrent to terror? Furthermore, today is not 1540. The State of Israel exists. It has an army. It has security forces. Why punish the victim of terrorism by ghettoizing him, while leaving the aggressor free?

Following the recent Hebron massacre, in which 12 soldiers and civilians were ambushed and killed, Sharon is recommending a "solution" to terror in Hebron. However, a walled-in Hebron is effectively a "short sleeve" - a short-term solution. What is needed is a "long sleeve," a long-term response to Arafat's declaration of war. A ghetto is not the answer. 

Monday, November 18, 2002

A Field of Life

A Field of Life
November 18, 2002
Exactly two years ago, early on a Friday morning, Rina Didovsky and Eliyahu Ben Ami were shot and killed, just outside Hebron. I distinctly remember returning to the office after having visited the scene of the murder feeling numb. It?s the kind of sensation I experience only after such dreadful kinds of events. For the past couple of days I?ve felt numb ? not just my body, but also my mind and my soul. The happenings of Friday night are indelibly inscribed on my being for as long as I?ll live.

We had sat down to our weekly Shabbat evening meal when, at about seven o?clock, heavy gunfire could be heard, not too far outside of Hebron. I ran downstairs to see what was happening and saw some of our emergency medics flying down the road in our ambulance and other vehicles. One of my friends, panting, managed to tell me that the gunfire originated somewhere near Kiryat Arba and that injuries were reported. That was as much as I knew for the next couple of hours.

Later on word started filtering back. The terror attack occurred outside Kiryat Arba, near the south gate. People had been killed. Slowly we started hearing numbers. They varied, but were somewhere near ten or eleven. Ten or eleven dead.

Then a little bit later, some of the Hebron emergency crew returned, pale, tired and very upset. The news they brought us was tragic. Colonel Dror Weinberg, the thirty-eight year old father of five, commander of the Hebron brigade, was among those ambushed, shot and killed. Not too long after that we received word that three men from nearby Kiryat Arba had also been murdered, including the town?s security officer, Yitzhak Buanish.

The next morning we found out that a total of 12 people were dead and another fourteen wounded, some critically. Nine soldiers, officers and border police and three men from the Kiryat Arba emergency squad. All cut down by two Arab terrorists, who successfully ambushed them in an alley, just outside Kiryat Arba.

Yesterday was spent going from funeral to funeral. Beginning in Kiryat Arba, three coffins, one next to another. Alex Duchan, father of four, who came to Israel from France. Alex Tzvitman, from the Soviet Union, father of a five year old son. And Yitzhak Buanish, head of Kiryat Arba security, who celebrated the marriage of his oldest daughter just two weeks ago, father of seven. The funeral procession left for Jerusalem, where thousands waited at the Har HaMenuchot cemetery, paying respects to these three men who left their Shabbat tables to try and aid Israeli soldiers wounded by the terrorist gunfire, never to return.

We left Jerusalem for Kfar Saba to attend the funeral of Colonel Dror Weinberg, commander of the Hebron Brigade. I first met Dror over 20 years ago, when he was in twelfth grade. He then participated in initiating a new yeshiva in Ophira, better known as Sharm el-Sheikh, on the southern tip of Israel. At that time, Israel was withdrawing from Ophira and all other cities in Sinai as part of the Egypt-Israel peace accords, and the new yeshiva was started as part of a protest against the planned evacuation. I remember Dror then as a quiet and intense individual, characteristics that would lead him to a distinguished career in the Israel Defense Forces.

Dror Weinberg, having served in elite army units, took upon himself a most difficult task as commander of the Hebron region. But he did a magnificent job. He was totally fearless, and he dealt with the enemy in a way in which the enemy understood with whom they were dealing. He refused to acquiesce to Arab terror, successfully maintaining security in Hebron, at least as much as was permitted by his superiors. He worked together with the Hebron community leadership, was open to ideas and suggestions, and did what he thought was right, in any given circumstance. Opposing the planned pullout from the Arafat-controlled side of Hebron, Dror spoke with his superior officers, who agreed with him. When, despite his misgivings, the army did evacuate 80% of the city three weeks ago, he warned of planned terror attacks. On Friday, only hours before being killed, while meeting with security officers in the Hebron region, he again warned that a vacuum had been created on the other side of Hebron, that the Islamic Jihad was planning a major terror attack in the area, and that it would more than likely occur very soon. Little did he know how fatally correct he was.

In a couple of months time Colonel Dror Weinberg was to take command of the Paratrooper Division, a next step up in his illustrious career. Had he lived, he almost definitely would have become a full general, and might possibly have reached the top job, that of Chief of Staff. That?s how good he was. That?s how heavy a price we?ve paid.

At the funeral, Dror Weinberg was eulogized by the Israeli Chief Rabbi, Yisrael Meir Lau, the Chief of Staff, Moshe ?Bugi? Ya?alon and the Minister of Defense, Shaul Mofaz, among others. He had requested, should anything happen to him, to be buried in Kfar Saba, where he grew up. Not far from his fresh grave lie two of Dror?s uncles, his mother?s brothers, who were killed days apart during the 1967 Six Day War. Dror?s wife Hadassah is five months pregnant with their sixth child, a child who will never have the privilege to meet his or her father. What a loss, what a tragedy.

In reaction to this catastrophe we have made a number of demands:

First and foremost, the Israeli armed forces must not only take total control of all of Hebron, but must also stay in the entire city, without any plans to ever again withdraw. Following the pullout three weeks ago, there were eleven terrorist incidents in and around Hebron, prior to Friday night?s murders. As long as the terrorists control Hebron, the terror will continue. At present, the army has moved back into all of Hebron, and they must stay there.

Secondly, the city must be cleaned up and all the terrorists either apprehended or eliminated. Anyone having anything to do with the Friday night massacre must be taken care of - the sooner the better.

Finally, we expect the government to allow a ?true Zionist response.? That is, construction of a new neighborhood, leading from Hebron to Kiryat Arba, along the same road where the attack took place. The terrorists must be forced to understand that they will never be able to accomplish their goal, which is, of course, the removal of Jews from Hebron, or from any other part of Eretz Yisrael. When they try and kill us, not only will we not leave, rather, on the contrary, we will bring in more people to live here. This is vital, and hopefully will receive the full approval of Ariel Sharon and the entire government.

At the moment there is a proposed plan, initiated by Sharon years ago, during negotiations of the original Hebron Accords, by which Hebron will be accorded full security via walls. That plan is again being tossed around and, just as we opposed it then, so we oppose it today. That arrangement calls for all of Hebron?s neighborhoods to be surrounded by walls, separating us from the Arabs around us. As I?ve written in the past, this is nothing less that a virtual ghettoization of Hebron. It is a truly repulsive idea for several reasons: A wall has never been known to provide security. It may act as a stumbling block, but is eventually overcome. Much more importantly, we did not come back to Eretz Yisrael, or to Hebron, to live in a ghetto. We left eastern Europe to get out of the ghetto and to live in Israel, as we sing in the national anthem HaTikva, ?lihiot am hofshi b?artzenu? ? ?to be a free people in our land.? And we certainly cannot be ?a free people in our land? if we are forced to live behind walls in a twenty-first century ghetto. We expect a continuous Israeli population from Hebron to Kiryat Arba, with full security, but definitely without walls. The suggested program, called the ?sharvul?, which literally means ?sleeve?, must be rejected. As a ?short sleeve?, i.e., in the short run, it might seem to be effective; however as a ?long sleeve?, it is not only worthless, it is damaging. If the Arabs see us living behind walls, thinking that they have managed to scare us into hiding from them, the terror will only increase.

As I wrote above, the events of the past weekend have left us numb. The losses, the pain and the frustration - frustration because the attacks were not inevitable, had anyone listened to us, and had the army stayed in Hebron. However, that is in the past. The hurt will stay with us for a long time to come, but that cannot prevent us from looking forward, from searching for ways to progress, thereby honoring the memories of those we have lost. None of those whom I personally knew, and I?m sure the others too, would have wanted us to stop and give up. They gave their lives for the zechut, the privilege, to live in Eretz Yisrael, for the privilege to live in Hebron. They made a supreme sacrifice, and the best and only way to commemorate them is to continue on the same path for which they lived and died. We must transform the field, adjacent to the site of their murder, from a field of death, to a field of life. Then, perhaps, they will lie in peace and we, too, will be able to be at peace with ourselves, knowing that we are fulfilling their will. May their memories be blessed, and may they be a blessing unto us, Amen.

Wednesday, November 6, 2002

Ouch, That Hurts!

Ouch, That Hurts!
November 6, 2002
I have an idea for anyone looking to win the Nobel Prize for Medicine: find a preventative medicine for aches and pains. There are lots of people over here hurting real bad. To win the prize it?s not going to be enough to find a cure for the aches and pains themselves; what?s needed is a preventative. Otherwise they?re going to be in bad shape for a long time.


This past Shabbat we celebrated the purchase of Ma?arat HaMachpela, the Tomb of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs, some three thousand seven hundred years ago. Every year we open our homes, in Hebron and in Kiryat Arba, welcoming anyone who wishes to celebrate with us. On that Shabbat we read in the weekly Torah portion about Abraham?s negotiations with Efron the Hittite, his paying the Hittite the enormous sum of four hundred silver shekels for the cave and field, known by the name Machpela. It?s really special to read this Biblical story at the actual site of the event, especially when it is so significant. This was the first land transaction in the land of Israel, in the first Jewish-settled city in Israel. The site itself is considered to be the holiest site in Judaism after the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

The two places ? Hebron and the Temple Mount - are inherently bonded. We learn in the Talmud that every morning, before beginning the daily work in the Temple in Jerusalem, the Cohanim, or priests, would look to heavens, searching for the first signs of dawn, and then ask, ?Has the sun yet risen, even in Hebron?? If the answer was positive, the work could commence. If not, they had to wait. The context of linking light and dark in Jerusalem and Hebron has consequences for us today, just as it did then. If it?s dark in Hebron, so too it will be dark in Jerusalem, G-d forbid.

This weekend is a prime example, not of gloom, but of radiance. Over 25,000 people arrived in Hebron-Kiryat Arba for Shabbat, the largest such Shabbat we have ever hosted. What a day it was. Beginning Friday afternoon, buses started rolling into Kiryat Arba. Guests made their way to an empty room or to a host?s homes. Many slept in Kiryat Arba. Others stayed in Hebron. The real festivities began early Friday night, when prayer services began at Ma?arat HaMachpela. Literally thousands of people - men, women and children - gathered, both inside and outside the two thousand year old structure, which was constructed by King Herod above the original caves of Machpela. Inside, there simply wasn?t enough room for everyone. Following prayers and evening dinner, the streets were full, with people attending lectures and discussion groups. An overwhelming majority of the guests spent the night sleeping on a piece of floor, either in someone?s house, or somewhere else. Speaking to my own guests, we had thirty people squeezed into our living room, I told them how ironic it is: I invite them, seat them like sardines around the table, without any elbow room whatsoever, put them to sleep in a sleeping bag on the floor, and then, strangely enough, they want to come back next year!

The next morning, again, Ma?arat HaMachpela was wall-to-wall full. The morning?s highlight was the Torah-reading, not just hearing it, but actually experiencing Avraham?s acquisition of the Ma?ara. All afternoon the streets were full. Group after group visited the museum in Beit Hadassah, viewed the new building site at Tel Rumeida and spoke with young couples living in the ?Mitzpe Shalhevet? neighborhood, formerly Hebron?s Arab market. Seeing all these people, feeling their vibrancy, sensing the unbelievable support for Hebron?s Jewish community, it was like spending a day in heaven.

Of course, there has to be someone who isn?t so happy about massive support for Jews in Hebron. Early Sunday morning the Israeli media initiated attacks. How is it that so many soldiers are needed to protect Jews in Hebron? Why is the Knesset allocating so much money to activities at Ma?arat HaMachpela? Why should Arabs be held under curfew because of Jewish festivities? Israel?s Reshet Bet news called up my colleague, Noam Arnon at 6:30 in the morning to interview him a few minutes later. The news producers can stay up all night long getting ready for the attack and then give us only a few minutes to prepare to respond.

Their questions really aren?t difficult. Why a curfew? First of all, that?s a military decision, not a civilian decision. However, it?s not hard to understand. If the Arabs didn?t shoot at us at every opportunity, just as happened during the Succot holiday, there wouldn?t be a curfew. We are not responsible for the fact that they try to kill us, unless our very being in Hebron is a crime. That is also why so many forces were needed to help keep so many people safe for the day.

What really stings the Left is money. So much so, that they sprout outright lies to try and convince the Israeli public how evil we are. Meretz Knesset member Avshalom Vilan claimed that millions of shekels were allocated for activities at Ma?arat HaMachpela. No one in Hebron had any idea what he was talking about. It turned out that the budget does allocate millions of shekels - to families of Arabs killed at Ma?arat HaMachpela almost eight years ago. What also bothers the Left is money budgeted for a new tayelet - a promenade - connecting Hebron and Kiryat Arba, ranging about a kilometer and a half. Spending money on beautifying the second holiest Jewish site in the world is a felony. In short, anything positive about Hebron causes them great discomfort.

This is why I suggest someone invent a medical preventative for aches and pains. This weekend we had twenty-five thousand Jews visiting us. One of these days we?ll have twenty-five thousand Jews living in Hebron!

Ouch, that hurts!

Monday, October 28, 2002

Backing Out of a Dead End

Backing Out of a Dead End
October 28, 2002


There are two reasons to use a map.  Most frequently, to know how to get somewhere, which roads to use, where to go. But there’s also a second reason: to know where NOT to go. Sometimes a map will outline back roads, which you are better off avoiding. Other times there may even be specific instructions warning travelers to stay far away.

So it is with the freshly concocted euphemism called the “Road Map,” drawn up by the cartographic Quartet, a ministerial level commission comprised of the United States, Russia, European Union and the United Nations.

As you might guess, they have plotted a most interesting course, leading Israel on a road to hell. This three-phased journey, continuing a trip begun almost a decade ago, begins with Israel proving our enemy, who has murdered over 1,000 Israelis since the expedition began, with more money, more arms and security (i.e. combat) training. Most of the ride is a one-way street. Israel will be judged by its actions. The Arabs will be judged, not by what they do, rather, by what they say.

The second phase of our joy ride begins immediately following the reelection of Yassir Arafat as president of the PA, the result of  “free, open and fair elections.” Translated into Arabic, that means, anyone who doesn’t vote for Arafat is unceremoniously dumped head first from a speeding car. It continues with an international peace powwow, serenaded by the Quartet, and concludes with ‘further action on settlements, simultaneously with the creation of a ‘provisional palestinian state.’  According to the Quartet’s timetable, this part of our travels should be completed by about this time next year, the end of 2003.

The last laps of our extended ride, lasting for about two years, will include negotiations within the framework of a second international conference, leading to negotiations and agreements on borders, Jerusalem, refugees and settlements.  By the end of 2005 we are supposed to reach the finish line. In this case, we are expected to get to the finish first. As a matter of fact, they want us to finish first. To really be finished. That’s the path of the new “road map.”

It is obvious that Israel must go in a different direction, just the opposite of that proposed by the fearsome foursome.

Let me make a few proposals for an Israeli-initiated Road Map:

1)  Given the positive examples of Usama bin Laden, John Allen Muhammad, and the fifty or so Muslim Chechnyan’s who took over the Russian theatre last week, as well as the shining stars of Fatah, Hamas and Hizballah, the Quartet should agree to allow for offsite training, whereby various European, Scandinavian, and North American countries would absorb tens, or even hundreds of thousands of ‘palestinians,’ for a beginning period of ten years. During this time, the ‘guests’ would become accustomed to real democracy, while being issued legal licenses to bear arms. Each guest would be issued a hand gun and an automatic rifle, to allow them to get used to carrying arms. Of course, the arms would not be for the guests to use, rather that they should become accustomed  to owning a gun without using it.

2) Following a year or so of bearing arms, a large number of the guests should then be incorporated into the host country’s police, armed forces and security services, including high-level intelligence. This would allow them true hands-on training.

3) Finally, the all the guests should be granted temporary citizenship in their host country, allowing them, not only to vote, but also to submit candidacy for public office.  The rewards reaped by the guests would be both invaluable and incalculable.

Of course, all schools, universities, and health-care facilities would be made available to the guests.

Only following the successful conclusion of a decade of offsite training would negotiations begin for a Middle East settlement.

This is just one side of my suggested road map. But the Israeli map must not be so one-sided. What must be expected from Israel?

For the next decade, while the others are being hosted by the fearsome foursome, Israelis must literally follow a path set out on the original map, almost four thousand years ago. Our countrymen must walk the path of our Forefathers, following the example of Abraham, who, when confronted with the command, “Lech Lecha” – Go, he walked, and when reaching Israel took a cross country hike, from north to south, from east to west, not only seeing the country, but actually sensing and experiencing the Land.

This Shabbat we will read of the first real estate transaction in Eretz Yisrael, the purchase of Ma’arat HaMachpela in Hebron. Abraham walked from Shechem, Alon Moreh and Beit El to Hebron, where he settled. Abraham too was a settler, who also had a road map, leading to all parts of his Land. This weekend thousands upon thousand will meet in the first Jewish city in Israel, a literal  gathering of the masses, coming not only from all corners of Israel, but from other parts of the world as well. Dozens of guests are arriving in Israel from the United States and guests of mine are making a special trip from Canada, solely for the purpose of being in Hebron for Parshat Chaye Sarah, when we read of the first Jewish possession in Israel.

This is the real road map, not a retreat, not a withdrawal, rather pressing forward, progressing, never moving backward.

The citizens of Israel must make a choice – following a course leading to a real dead end, or pursuing a perpetual trail, the route of the Jewish people from time immemorial. Do we really have a choice?

With blessings from Hebron,
This is David Wilder

Thursday, October 24, 2002

Setting Priorities

Setting Priorities
Oct. 24, 2002


On Saturday night Ariel Sharon participated in a very late night meeting, which concluded after two in the morning. The meeting was of such dire importance that the Prime Minister himself realized that he had no choice but to become personally involved.

Why was the Prime Minister so concerned? Who did Sharon meet with and what was the subject spoken about?

The answer to the first question, why was Sharon so concerned, is blackmail.

The answer to the second question, who did he meet with, is Amir Peretz, head of the Histadrut, Israel’s contradictory and labor union monopoly.

The answer to the third question, what was involved is Money and Garbage.

That’s right. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, responding to Amir Peretz’ stranglehold, doing what he does best, squeezing the life out of the State of Israel, had to sit down and talk, and agree to compromise. Why? Because Israel’s little children couldn’t attend nursery school because their teachers were on strike. Why? Because Israel’s streets stunk sky-high, because the garbage collectors were on strike.

Following this late night meeting Peretz agreed to reduce the strike for three days and Sharon pledged to again personally intervene should the monetary issues at stake not be resolved.

It doesn’t make any difference that Israel’s financial situation is catastrophic. The two year old Oslo War has taken a tremendous toll on our economy. It makes no difference that the world-wide fiscal woes have had a negative impact on Israel too. It makes no difference that Israel’s coffers are empty. What does make a difference is that Amir Peretz can close up the country just by snapping his fingers. He’s done it in the past, closing the airport, stopping radio and television broadcasts, implementing anything that comes to mind, and it’s all considered to be justifiable, because it’s about money. The Israeli left, many of whom are considered to represent Israel’s financial elite, would never even conjure up in their wildest dreams any negativisms concerning the right to strike, and literally close up the country.

But when it comes to Eretz Yisrael, when it comes to small new communities founded in the midst of a war, when it comes to Hebron, well, that’s another story. Years ago Israeli land dealer Moshe Zar purchased land in the Shomron. Following the murder of his son Gilad, Zar and his family decided to construct a small agricultural farm on some of this land, in Gilad’s memory.  Gilad’s brother Itai and his wife Bat-tzion and their children have lived there for over a year. Yet, according to Defense Minister Binyamin ben Elizer Havat Gilad, or the Gilad Farm, is an illegal settlement.

Last week the farm was in danger of imminent destruction. On Tuesday night, in the middle of the night, together with many others from Hebron, I ventured to this ma’ahaz, or small community. Arriving at about 2:00 in the morning I found there over 1,000 people, who too, were very concerned about ben Eliezer’s threats to dismantle the farm. Through the early morning rumors were rampant. What was going to happen? In the early afternoon we learned that a compromise solution had been reached. The farm would still be worked during the day, but at night no one would live there. The few structures that had been constructed would be left there.

Over one thousand people then left the farm, not liking the compromise, yet accepting it.

On Saturday afternoon, just a few days later, hundreds of soldiers, some of them religious, were forced to desecrate the Shabbat, and were transferred to the farm. On Saturday night, following orders, they began to destroy the remaining structures at the farm, despite promises to the contrary. That night, and for most of the next day, the Gilad Farm could be called the scene of a battle: those trying to save what had been built, and those trying to destroy those structures, according to the orders of the Defense Minister (see last week’s article “Declaring War on Eretz Yisrael). The end result was massive destruction of the ma’ahaz. Yet the Zar family has undertaken to rebuild the farm.

Prior to the Succot holidays, following the abandonment of Bethlehem to Arafat’s terrorists forces, the Defense Minister decided to again abandon Hebron by transferring 80% of the city to the same terrorist forces who were responsible for almost two years of shooting at the city’s Jewish community. Due to considerable pressure applied by senior IDF officers, this move was averted. Until today. Yesterday the Defense Minister, sitting with the Prime Minister, the Chief of Staff and other high-ranking IDF officials, decided to again move Israeli troops out of the previously Arafat-controlled part of the city. They decided that due to the ‘relative quiet’ in the city, Arafat’s forces should be given another chance.

What is relative quiet? Well, only one person, 48 year old Shlomo Shapira, was murdered and his three children injured, during the Succot holidays. Tel Rumeida has only been shot at two or three times over the past month, with bullets barely missing Hebron residents, including a five year old girl.

And why is there ‘relative quiet?’ Anyone with any brains understands that as long as the Israeli armed forces are present, patrolling the city, the terrorist’s ability to function is severely limited.  But now that it’s ‘quiet,’ why not give it back to them? Right?

What’s the compromise? Israeli forces will stay in the hills surrounding the community’s Jewish neighborhoods, Abu Sneneh and Harat a’Shech. But already Israel is getting ready to enter negotiations with Arafat security officers on the other side of the city, trying to convince them to protect us – to provide Jewish residents of Hebron with security by foiling terror attacks. This, in direct contradiction to Sharon’s promises that no contact would be made with PA security forces in Hebron before a discussion in the cabinet on the ministerial level, a discussion which, needless to say, never occurred.

So, there you have it. Ariel Sharon’s priorities. He prefers to negotiate with Amir Peretz about money and garbage, while decreeing death to Israeli settlements and relinquishing security in Hebron to the terrorists. In other words, if you have the ability to blackmail the government and close up the country, you get what you want. Otherwise, forget it.

Arik Sharon’s priorities are a little off.  Whatever anyone says, Eretz Yisrael is still more important than money, and Hebron is more important than garbage pickup. And it’s not blackmail, - rather it is our right to live freely in our country, in our land.

Arik: Stop playing games and set your priorities right.

Monday, October 14, 2002

Declaring war on Eretz Yisrael

Declaring war on Eretz Yisrael
Oct. 14, 2002


Tonight we are going to play the game: “Who said it?”
Who said, “Run, grab hills?”

Let me give you a hint. The statement wasn’t made yesterday. It was made in a speech almost exactly four years ago, on November 16, 1998.  In an article appearing in the Jerusalem Post, correspondent Margot Dudkevitch wrote, “In a speech, ‘he’ said settlers should "run, grab hills" to establish facts on the ground before a pullback takes place.”

So, who is the ‘he’ in this quote?

Don’t know? OK, anyway, time’s up. The famous speechmaker as none other than Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s Foreign Minister – do you remember who that was – Ariel Sharon.

Our present Prime Minister was offering free advice to good, lawful, Israeli citizens: Make sure Eretz Yisrael stays in Israeli hands. Don’t let the Arabs get their hands on it. It belongs to us, it doesn’t belong to them. “Run, grab hills!”

The next day, Dudkevitch reported, “It took less than 24 hours for settlers to implement Foreign Minister Ariel Sharon's recommendations they establish facts on the ground and take over hilltops. By noon yesterday several mobile homes had been set up on a hilltop near Nahal Te'enim, west of Kedumim.”

So it was then. Where does Arik stand today?

Lately Sharon has been keeping his mouth shut concerning hilltop settlements. But it seems that he’s been allowing another mouth to talk for him, namely, his Defense Minister, Binyamin ben Eliezer. Fuad, as he is known, has made it quite clear that all of the twenty-four hilltop settlements will be forcibly removed in the near future. The Prime Minister’s silence is a sign of passive agreement. If Sharon didn’t agree, he would surely prevent this planned disgrace.

Two of the oldest of the twenty four communities have special significance. Both are over a year old, and they were settled in memory of people murdered during the Oslo War. On January 29, 2001, fifty-five year old father of four and grandfather of four, Arye Hershowitz was shot and killed not far from his Ofra home, just north of Jerusalem. Just over three months later, on May 1, 2001, his thirty year old son, Assaf, father of two, was shot and killed at virtually the same location where his father was gunned down. Just over a year ago friends of Arye and and Assaf Hershkowitz founded Givat Assaf, or the Assaf Hill, at the site of the two murders. This settlement, or “ma’achaz,” as they are known in Hebrew, is on Fuad’s chopping block.

The other ma’achaz slated for demolition is call “Havat Gilad” or the Gilad Farm, in the Shomron. Only twenty eight days following the killing of Assaf Hershkowitz, forty one year old Gilad Zar, father of eight, was gunned down by terrorists in the Shomron. Gilad’s family, including his widow and his parents, founded “Havat Gilad,” in memory of Gilad Zar. A few days ago the Defense Minister held a meeting of senior, ranking IDF officers in the Shomron, close to the Itamar community home of the Zar family. Gilad’s widow, Hagar, made a special request to meet with ben Eliezer, to speak to him about “Havat Gilad.” Fuad ignored her request. “Havat Gilad” is also scheduled for obliteration.

There was a time in Israel’s short history when the name of the game was Zionism. Israeli leaders really believed in settling the Land of Israel, believed in populating the Land, believed in participating in helping the Land flourish. When Arabs killed Jews, the “Zionist response” was to initiate a new community. After all, the goal of Arab attacks was to drive us out of our land – the proper response was to do exactly the opposite, to bring in more people, to encourage more people to settle the land, to build Eretz Yisrael.

Today, in the minds of many, Zionism has died. Settleing Eretz Yisrael is no longer a goal. To the contrary. At the present the left is running a race to determine who can destroy Eretz Yisrael the fastest. Two of the candidates to replace Binyamin ben Eliezer as leader of the Labor party and to run for Prime Minister in next year’s election, Haifa Mayor Amnon Mitzne and MK Haim Ramon are definitely ahead in that contest. They are both closer to the Meretz camp, led by opposition leader Yossi Sarid, who has spouted hatred for communities in Yesha for decades. Fuad ben Eliezer cannot afford to let the pack speed too far ahead of him, so he is taking advantage of his position to play politics with Eretz Yisrael, threatening to eradicate these small communities, which represent the true Zionist response to Arafat-ordered bloodshed. And Ariel Sharon, the same Ariel Sharon who exclaimed, “run, grab hills” has lost his tongue.

Why? Merely because he prefers ben Eliezer to Mitzne and Ramon, and he knows that in order to ensure Fuad’s victory over his rivals, he must prove that he too knows how to be a leftist. So Sharon is allowing Fuad to wreck Israeli communities in Eretz Yisrael, in return for a political triumph.

In joining forces to allow destruction of the ‘ma’achzim’, Fuad and Sharon  are abandoning their homeland. And what is worse, they are actually cooperating with Arafat. After all, the goal of the Oslo War is to drive us out of Eretz Yisrael. That is exactly what Sharon and ben Eliezer are doing, by destroying these new, small settlements, in the midst of a war. Our own leaders are aiding and abetting the enemy. The are effectively declaring war on Eretz Yisrael.

Ariel Sharon: Don’t allow your Defense Minister to wreak havoc with Eretz Yisrael.  Allow your fellow countrymen to practice what you preached, to fight a Zionist war, to let us, as you yourself said, “Run, Grab hills.”

With blessings from Hebron,
This is David Wilder

Monday, October 7, 2002

The Eternal Gandhi

The Eternal Gandhi
Oct. 7, 2002


There was a time, years ago, when marking the annual remembrance day of the murder of a Hebron resident, or someone I knew personally, I would make it a point to speak about them, especially on the first anniversary of their death. Over the past two years so many people have been taken from us that it is virtually impossible to do so. I would have no choice but to eulogize terror victims on almost a daily basis.

However, there are exceptions to this rule.

It was exactly one year ago that Arafat-terrorists murdered Gandhi – Minister Rehavam Ze’evi HY”D in cold blood in Jerusalem. Since Gandhi’s killing I’ve dedicated at least two Arutz 7 broadcasts to him, and I feel a responsibility to speak about him again.

This afternoon we dedicated two new Torah scrolls, written in Gandhi’s memory, at Ma’arat HaMachpela, the Tomb of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs in Hebron. Following an emotional ceremony when the Torah scrolls were completed at Beit Hadassah, hundreds participated in accompanying them to their new home. Singing and dancing with the scrolls through the streets of Hebron, I could almost feel Gandhi’s presence, as if he was really there with us.

The picture of Gandhi entering Hebron during the 1967 Six Day war is quite well know, accompanied by then Defense Minister Moshe Dayan. Yesterday, while searching through our archives, I discovered pictures of Gandhi in Hebron again, this time in 1974, then General Ze’evi, at the conclusion of his service as Commander of the Central Region, which included Hebron.

As he told it, Gandhi always had a deep affinity for Hebron, and for him, serving here was the fulfillment of a dream. As commander of the central region, Gandhi ordered that the eastern steps leading up to Ma’arat HaMachpela, be destroyed. This pathway was infamously known for only one of its steps – the seventh step. It was at this point where Jews were forbidden to continue – as is well known, that for seven hundred years Jews were not allowed to enter this most holy of sites.  These steps – and the seventh step in particular, represented a disgraceful period in the history of our people, an era which deserved to be blotted out, and those stairs, as so ordered by General Rehavam Ze’evi, were blown up.

In later years Gandhi authored a volume called Tevach Hevron. This book highlights another dark moment in the annuls of the Jewish people and Hebron – the 1929 riots and massacre, occurring in the Jewish year 5689 – otherwise known as Tarpat.  In his introduction to the book, published in 1995, Gandhi writes, “ The 1929 Hebron riots, when 67 Jews were murdered in the City of the Patriarchs, ended a continuity of its Jewish community, until its return and renewal following the Six Day war. This book is a memorial to those butchered and a remembrance to the living. The events of 1929 in Hebron and other places in Israel teach us that we cannot abandon our security to foreigners; (the British High Commissioner viewed the riots against Jews in 1929 as “a confused situation and violent, unlawful events,”) and that the Arabs will take advantage of every opportunity to uproot us from our homeland, the land of our life, and will say that this is “a Jewish enigma ” and deny that the events ever took place.

Gandhi’s comprehension of history, of the Arab mind, and of his love for Eretz Yisrael and the Jewish people led him to a single conclusion: Jews and Arabs will never be able to live together in one land. As long as there are Arabs and Jews in Eretz Yisrael, the Arabs will do anything and everything to remove them, leaving no stones unturned until they succeed. Thus Gandhi adopted a publicly unpopular ideal – the removal of Arabs from Eretz Yisrael, expressed in a single word: Transfer. Transfer articulated the backbone of his party’s name – Moledet – Homeland. Put in simple words, our land, Eretz Yisrael, can not be the Moledet of more than one people. It is either them or us. And Gandhi chose us.

Ignoring seeming reality, disregarding public disdain, Gandhi pushed forward relentlessly, accomplishing a perceived impossibility – Rehavam Ze’evi, conceiver of transfer, led a major Israeli political party and participated in a national unity government, seated and recognized at the same cabinet table with the antithesis of his stated goals, Shimon Peres.

As has happened in the past, notably following the murder of Rabbi Meir Kahane HY”D, the Jewish public and the Israeli public are slowly starting to accept Gandhi’s philosophies, albeit posthumously.

Why honor Gandhi’s memory with Torah scrolls in Ma’arat HaMachpela. Rehavam Ze’evi was a deeply religious person. I am not aware of his own level of observance, but it is widely known that he prayed with Tefillin every day. His love for Eretz Yisrael was not platonic. Gandhi’s entire life was dedicated to settling Eretz Yisrael and returning the ancient glory of our people, following a two thousand year exile and a catastrophic Holocaust.  Only a person with the neshama of a tzadik, with a righteous soul, could live the life of a Gandhi.

Just as a person’s body is temporal, so his soul is eternal. So too, a Torah is eternal. Two Torahs, located in the holy city of Hebron, at the resting place of our fathers and mothers, at the very roots of Jewish existence, is the essence of eternity. Torah scrolls, in memory of Rehavam Ze’evi, at Ma’arat HaMachpela in Hebron is the embodiment of the eternal Gandhi.

With blessings from Hebron,
This is David Wilder

Monday, September 30, 2002


Sept 30, 2002


Tonight I’d like to speak to you for a few minutes about a subject, which on the face of it, is very dull and boring. That subject is, simply, words.

Having authored countless articles and news releases over the past seven or eight years, I have an appreciation for words. Anyone who follows the press knows and understands the power of words.  Unfortunately, sometimes even well-meaning people use words in unintentional improper contexts, which cause much more harm than good.

For example, our president, Moshe Katzav, who today visited Kiryat Arba and Hebron. Moshe Katzav has always been a good friend of Hebron. In the past he visited Hebron and helped in any way he could. Today he attended the opening of a new archeology museum in Kiryat Arba and later attended afternoon prayers at Ma’arat HaMachpela.  He is observant of Jewish tradition and is a pleasant good-natured individual.

This morning, in an interview on Israel radio, Katzav was asked about a Jewish presence on Temple Mount.  This is the most sacred place in all of Judaism, site of the First and Second Temple.  According to strict Jewish law, much of the Mount is considered to be so holy that Jews are forbidden from stepping foot there. But their are areas around the perimeter of the site that should be permissible to Jewish worship. Yet, all of Temple Mount has been abandoned to the Arabs and is totally off-limits to Jews.  The “Temple Mount Faithful” organization frequently appeals to the Supreme Court in an effort to receive permission to pray on the Mount. Their requests are regularly denied, due to ‘security reasons.’ A number of years ago Hebron youth were permitted to enter this perimeter region for a few minutes, but were warned in advance: You may not take a prayer book with you, nor may you pray aloud, or even move your lips, for fear of insulting the Arabs.  The Moslems have full control of Temple Mount, and the terrible obliteration of ancient artifacts, dating back to the First Temple period, thousands of years ago, is rampant. The Arab eradication of Jewish artifacts in and around Temple Mount is, of course, intentional, in an attempt to erase all signs of Jewish identity at the site. They allege that Temple Mount is holy only to Moslems and that Jewish claims are totally fictitious.  Presently there is a great fear that, due to faulty Arab construction at the site, the entire area may cave in during the Moslem month of Ramadan, when tens and hundreds of thousands are expected to worship there. It is thought that any Israeli attempt to rectify the situation ‘will cause riots.’

This morning, when President Katzav was asked about a Jewish presence, or even a Jewish visit on Temple Mount, he replied that due to the present situation, and due to Moslem sensitivity, Jews should not be allow to visit Temple Mount. He explained that any change in the status quo must be accomplished jointly with the Arabs, who will, of course, never accept any Jewish presence there. He neglected to decry the massive sacrilege caused by the Arabs at the site. He also suggested a possible compromise based upon the example of Ma’arat HaMachpela in Hebron. It seems that President Katzav is unaware that eight percent of Ma’arat HaMachpela is today controlled by the Arabs, that is they control over 3,000 square meters as opposed to Jewish accessibility to barely over 700 meters. (See []).

President Katzav must also have forgotten that the Arabs refused to allow Jews to worship inside the building atop the caves of Machpela for 700 years and that the Deputy Arab Mayor of Hebron, Kamal Dweck said in an interview in 1999 that should the Arabs ever again control all of Hebron, Ma’arat HaMachpela, the second holiest site to Jews, will be off-limits to Jews, (and Christians too, for that matter.) The present situation at Ma’arat HaMachpela is not a result of compromise, rather, it was forced upon both Jews and Moslems by the Israeli Defense Department and leaves the most important room in the structure open to Jews only 10 days a year. I think it preferable that this not be considered a viable option for a solution to a Jewish presence on Temple Mount. President Katzav must not have thought of this while being interviewed this morning.

Please do not misunderstand me. I really do appreciate and admire Moshe Katzav, and I’m forever grateful that he was elected to the office of President and not his opponent, who you may remember was Shimon Peres. But having reached the prestigious position of President of the State of Israel, Katzav really should be careful what he says. The office of President of Israel is largely a ceremonial, with little real power. However, as President, Katzav does have influence, and also the ears of media, who like nothing better than to use Katzav’s words to badger those ‘religious fanatics’ who are upset by Israel’s policies concerning Temple Mount. It might be remembered that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, was erroneously ‘credited’ with causing the present Olso War because of his visit to the Mount during the days Ehud Barak. Why did Sharon visit Temple Mount? Because at the time Barak was considering officially abandoning it to Arafat as part of a ‘final peace plan.’ If it was important to Sharon then, shouldn’t it still be important to him today?

I really don’t think that Moshe Katzav meant what he said. I think he knows and understands the true significance of Temple Mount to the Jewish people and the damage, both physical and spiritual, being caused by Israeli relinquishment of the site to the Arabs. He just said the wrong words. And saying the wrong words, especially with the microphones on, is very dangerous indeed.

With blessings from Hebron,
This is David Wilder

Monday, September 23, 2002

Succot Terror Attack

Succot Terror Attack
Sept. 23, 2002


At about 6:20 tonight an Arab terrorist opened fire on Jewish visitors in Hebron, near the Avraham Avinu neighborhood. One man was killed and two or three people were wounded, including two children who were shot in the legs and are listed in moderate condition.

During the Succot holiday, thousands visit Hebron. Today was no different. From early in the morning buses started pouring into Hebron, first for early morning prayers, including a traditional “Carlebach service” held outside in the Ma’arat HaMachpela Courtyard. Hundreds participated in this special event, which included Moshe Musa Berlin and his orchestra.

During the morning and afternoon thousands joined in touring the Jewish neighborhoods, walking the streets from Ma’arat HaMachpela to Avraham Avinu, to Beit Hadassah and also Tel Rumeida. This year several other special events were added: an amusement park for the children and tours of the Casba, which parallels the Jewish neighborhoods.

The Casba was an integral element of the pre-1929 Jewish community in Hebron. Many Jews owned homes and shops in the Casba. Following our return to Hebron, Jewish property in the Casba was not returned to its rightful owners, and many of the buildings were illegally occupied by Arabs. Since the signing of the Hebron Accords, almost six years ago, the Casba was declared off-limits to Jews, despite the fact that it is within the Jewish controlled part of the city.

For years Hebron’s leadership has demanded that the Casba be accessible to Jews and that our property be returned to us. We warned military officers and political leaders that Arafat’s forces were populating the Casba with terrorists and an absence of any Jewish presence in the Casba would lead to terror attacks aimed at the community.

Recently our efforts began to bear fruit. In coordination with the army, groups were allowed to tour the Casba once a week. This was not enough, but it was a start. Today, again, in coordination with the army, groups were allowed to tour the Casba, with a full military escort.  I myself participated in one of these half hour tours, not as a tour guide, rather as a photographer, clicking away as a group of Israelis visited the Casba for the first time.

It was an unbelievable day, with almost 10,000 people visiting us. Last year’s Succot holiday was marred by shooting attacks, which left two women wounded. We expected that this year, with the IDF back in the surrounding hills and patrolling in both sides of the city, today’s events would pass quietly.

At 2:30 in the afternoon the music festival began outside the Ma’ara. Haim Dovid began for almost an hour, followed by other talented young entertainers, performing for the masses outside in the Ma’arat HaMachpela courtyard. Everything went smoothly. Until six twenty.

A large group of people, on their way to the Avraham Avinu neighborhood passed by some soldiers, on their way to the eastern entrance to the neighborhood. A few people stayed behind to talk to the soldiers. Then, suddenly, a terrorist opened fire on them from a few meters away, from the Casba. One man was very critically injured and later died from his wounds. Several others were also wounded and are listed in moderate condition. The terrorist murderer escaped.

What is Hebron’s reaction to this atrocity. First of all, we are deeply saddened by the death of a fellow Jew, whose only crime was to be a Jew in Hebron. How is it that a person takes his family to enjoy a day during the Succot holiday and does not return home?  We convey our sincerest condolences to the victim’s family.

Just as happened last year, there are those who expect us to cancel tomorrow’s events because of today’s tragedy. However, we will do just the opposite. Tomorrow Hassidic Superstar Mordechai ben David will perform in Hebron as planned, as will other entertainers. Ma’arat HaMachpela will be open to Jewish visitors from morning till night, including Ohel Yitzhak, the Isaac Hall, opened only ten days a year to Jewish worshippers. We will not, under any circumstances, allow the terrorists to determine how we will live, what we will do, or where we will do it.

We expect the IDF and the Israeli government to take the necessary measures to ensure that no harm to come to anyone living in, or visiting in Hebron. The most appropriate action that could be taken must include the returning of all Jewish property in the Casba to its rightful owners. We must again be allowed to live, work and shop in the Casba, as in the past. The Arab terrorists who have confiscated our property must be evicted and Jews must again be at home in this section of Hebron. The Arabs must know that when they kill Jews, Jews will not give up and despair. Rather we will continue onward with extra strength and determination. So it must be in Hebron, and throughout the state of Israel.

So, if you are in Israel, the buses will be running all day, as they did today. Join us for Mordechai ben David’s concert in Hebron, and join with us in saying to our enemies: Hebron is our home. We are staying. Period.

With blessings from Hebron,
This is David Wilder