Monday, June 24, 2002

A new state in Texas

A new state in Texas
June 24, 2002

Last Tuesday morning the bus exploded in Gilo. A hell of a way to start the day.
Late Wednesday a suicide bomber exploded at the bus stop on French Hill. A hell of a way to end the day.

Early Thursday evening I mentioned to someone how nice it was, no terrorist attacks today. I spoke to soon. At 9:15 a terrorist entered the Shabo home in Itamar, leaving five dead, including a mother and three of her children.

On the way to the funeral on Friday entering Jerusalem, we drove past a small mound of flowers at the bus stop in Gilo, and a few minutes later past another small mound of flowers at the bus stop in French Hill. Flowers, everywhere.

Thirteen year old Aviya Shabo described what happened, “Emma and I were watching television on the second floor, upstairs. Suddenly we heard shooting. I turned off the television and hid under my parent’s bed. Emma went downstairs. Suddenly I heard Emma screaming, and then it was quiet. Someone came into the room and I saw his legs. I thought it was my brother, but then he started speaking in Arabic and I understood that it was a terrorist. He started shooting in the other rooms and then sat down on the bed to change the magazine in his rifle. Suddenly someone shot and the lights in the house extinguished. I heard soldiers coming, they threw a hand grenade, but nothing happened.  I was hurt in my stomach from the second hand grenade they threw. Then the terrorist left the room and went into the bathroom. The soldiers asked me if I could see him, I said no, and fled outside.”

Aviya’s brother, Asael, “My brother Avishai and I were watching television. The terrorist broke in and started shooting at us. The bullets hit Avishai and missed me. I hid under a pillow and was saved. Only when the soldiers arrived in the house did they find me.”

Actually the bullets didn’t miss Asael. He was critically wounded and doctors were forced to amputate one of his legs. His 15 year old brother Neria, one of those killed, had been shot at by a terrorist less than a month ago at the Itamar Yeshiva, where three of his friends were killed. He kept a reminder of the event at home: his bullet-pocked pillow.

During the funeral community Rabbi Natan Chai compared the initiators of Oslo to the Judenraat, Jews who turned fellow Jews over to the Nazis in the ghettos during World War Two in order to “gain time:” "Peres and Beilin and their band of wicked sages did not tremble when they gave them guns and bullets which they use to murder us," he said. "None of the Palestinians is free of guilt."

The hero was Yossi Twito, the Shabo’s next door neighbor, who headed the community’s emergency security squad. Rabbi Avi Rahnsky described Twito, a young teacher, as quiet but intensly interested in how best to offer protection to Itamar residents in the event of a terrorist attack. Following the deadly attack on the Itamar Yeshiva a few short weeks ago, an attack which left three young students dead, the emergency squad met to discuss defense. It was decided that, in the event of an attack, the goal would be to reach the terrorist as fast as possible, attempting to stop his murderous attack as soon as possible. That is exactly what Yossi Twito implemented. Thinking not of his own security, thinking not of his wife or children, hearing the gunshots and realizing what was happening, Yossi Twito ran from his house with a weapon and crashed into the Shabo home, finding himself face-to-face with the terrorist, a fatal confrontation.

The funeral, as are all funerals, was heartbreaking. Boaz Shabo, Rachel’s husband and father of Neria, Tvika and Avishai, stood next to his slain wife, looking as if unable to comprehend the scene, yet understanding it all too well. At the cemetery I stood next to a roughly dug pit, divided into four sections. A few meters over was the grave of the cemetery’s only occupant, Meir Lixenberg, who was murdered by Arab terrorists about a year ago. Next to Meir was another hole in the ground.  I found myself standing next three young children, one of whom, a little boy, stood over the as of yet empty Shabo grave. He refused to move. An older man, standing behind him, held his hand and said, “come, don’t you want to go see Abba, your father.” The little boy looked at him and asked, “he isn’t here?” “No, he’s over there, next to Meir.” With that the little boy, with a brother, sister and his grandfather, walked over to ‘see Abba’ – the freshly filled grave of Yossi Twito.

According to this morning’s media reports, tonight President George W. Bush is going to announce his plan for Middle East peace, including a provisional Palestinian state. Last week I spoke about some of the reasons why a Palestinian state is an absurdity. This week I have a few more reasons. Just flip through last week’s newspapers headlines: Wednesday: 19 Killed in Jerusalem bus bombing – Thursday: 6 Killed, 50 wounded in French Hill bombing – Friday: 5 killed in attack on home in Itamar. That’s at least 30 more reasons.

Husbands and wives, grandmothers and grand daughters, mothers and children, brothers and sisters, all victims of Palestinian yearning and longing, yearning and longing to annihilate the State of Israel. Any concession to Arafat-terror culminating in a Palestinian state, is not only a prize for terror. Concessions will prove that terrorism pays off and should be continued. Arafat, Assad and Sadaam will not be the only ones who hear the message. So will bin-Laden.

So a state is out – provisional or otherwise. Unless of course Bush and Powell are willing to experiment a little closer to home, like, let’s say, setting up a Palestinian state in Texas?

With blessings from Hebron,
This is David Wilder 

Monday, June 3, 2002

The Best of the Hebron Blues

The Best of the Hebron Blues
June 3, 2002


Tonight, it’s my pleasure to tell you a fairytale. Last September two teenagers stood on Hebron’s main street, talking to some soldiers. During the discussion one of the officers received a message stating that an Arab was complaining that someone threw a firebomb into his apartment.  The soldiers quickly made their way to the Arab’s house, with the two teenagers walking with them. When arriving at the scene, the Arab claimed that he and his mother had been sitting on the porch when the firebomb exploded, burning his mother’s face and damaging the porch. Shortly after, the two Jewish teenagers returned to their homes.

The Arab made his way to the police station to issue a complaint. Hebron’s police showed him a picture album, filled with snapshots of Hebron’s Jewish children and asked him to identify the assailant. He immediately pointed to the culprits - the two boys who had accompanied the soldiers to his home. He was emphatic, claiming that he witnessed them fleeing from the site.

Hebron’s police were not disturbed by the fact that the Arab had seen the boys standing with the soldiers next to his apartment. What the Arab says must be true. The police file against, let’s call him Chaim, asserted that he and his friend hurled two firebombs into the Arab’s house, injuring his mother and damaging the home.  The police issued an arrest warrant against the two boys but did not implement it – in other words, the boys were not apprehended.

That was in September. Six months later, in March, several Hebron boys, including Chaim, were stopped by soldiers next to an outpost leading into the Hebron Casba. The boys were forbidden to enter the Casba, as it was a “closed military zone.” During the ensuing argument one of the police recognized Chaim and tried to arrest him. A scuffle followed, including many Hebron residents. When it was over, Chaim was not arrested.

A few weeks later, just outside Jerusalem on the ‘tunnel’s road,’ police stopped a car belonging to Hebron residents. One of the police recognized Chaim and apprehended him on the spot. He was indicted for arson and intentional attack with a dangerous weapon in order to cause injury. He was imprisoned and bail refused. He spent the Passover holiday in jail.

When the trial began, Chaim’s lawyer, attorney Naftali Wertzberger claimed that Chaim had an alibi – at the time of the attack he was talking to soldiers. One of the soldiers, an officer, testified and confirmed the alibi. The state prosecutor argued that the officer was lying. The trial judge immediately released Chaim from prison, sending him to house arrest in a village near Tiberias. He was required to report to the Tiberias police twice a day.

Two weeks ago, as the trial continued, the Arab was called to testify. He contradicted himself, claiming that he saw Chaim hurl the firebomb into his home, despite the fact that at the time of the attack, he only reported to police having seen Chaim fleeing from the scene.

During the Arab’s testimony another interesting fact was revealed. The picture album shown to him contained pictures of all of Hebron’s Jewish youth, including children without any criminal record.  Judges have warned the Hebron police numerous times not to include anyone not convicted of a crime in picture albums for identification purposes. It was from this album that the Arab identified the two boys.

The Arab also claimed that his mother had been severely burned and taken to hospital in Hebron. However, a study of the medical records showed that his mother had not suffered any burns whatsoever. Eventually it was proven that the whole story was a total fabrication, and that no firebomb had been thrown at the Arab’s house. After having spend over a month in prison and then being held under house arrest, last week the case against Chaim was dropped.

The story doesn’t end there. Yesterday Hebron police arrested Chaim’s ‘partner in crime,’ the other boy with him at the time of the imagined firebomb attack, using the original arrest warrant to apprehend him. This, despite the fact that the entire episode was an Arab fantasy. The police then proceeded to interrogate, let’s call him Yitzi, for other assorted alleged offenses having nothing to do with the original charge against him.  According to Yitzi’s mother, during yesterday’s interrogation, the police beat him. He is 17 years old. Next week he is one of twelve Israeli youth from all over Israel being honored with an extraordinary award for excellence for community service. The prize, sponsored by the Education ministry, is to be presented to the youth by Israeli president Moshe Katzav as this residence in Jerusalem.

The police demanded that the court remand Yitzi in custody for an additional five days. When Yitzi appeared yesterday afternoon in court, his lawyer was busy at another hearing. The court judge told Yitzi’s parents that at five o’clock sharp he was leaving. Yitzi could either be represented by his father, or spend the night in jail. Yitzi’s father, not a lawyer, informed the judge that at 10:30 this morning Yitzi was to take his high-school matriculation exam in mathematics. The judge wasn’t interested. Yitzi’s parents called the public defender’s office, which promised to send someone over within a quarter of an hour. That would have put the time at 5:10. Exactly at five, the judge left, and Yitzi spent the night in jail. This morning, at an 8:30 court hearing, the judge released him. 

These are two miniscule examples of the constant persecution of Hebron residents by the police and prosecutor’s office. Attorney Wertzberger: “No where in the world would a minor be imprisoned so quickly, without a complete investigation of all the facts.” Hebron leader Orit Struk adds, “every once in a while the police and prosecutor’s office decide to punish Hebron residents, trying to teach us a thing or two, for no apparent reason, but only because we live in Hebron.”

And that, my friends, is tonight’s fairy tale, called “The Hebron Blues”. Sweet dreams.

With blessings from Hebron,
This is David Wilder

(Parts of this article are based upon an article by Beni Toker in the Makor Rishon newspaper, Friday, May 31, 2002.)