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

The utmost example of true faith

The utmost example of true faith
Sept. 23, 2002


 This commentary is ususally concerned with political issues, about Hebron, or Israel in general. Other times it deals with human interest stories. As we are presently in the middle of the Succot holidays, tonight, I’d like to make a switch and give a short ‘dvar torah’ or religious analysis of our High Holy Days.

Our holy days begin with the Jewish New Year, Rosh HaShana.  They continue, ten days later, with Yom Kippur and conclude with the seven day Succot holiday, and finally, at the very end, Simchat Torah.

Looking as these holidays from afar, it might seem that we have the order mixed up. Everyone knows that Yom Kippur is a day of fasting and repentance. It would seem though, that this day should begin the year, rather than follow a week and a half into the New Year. Why should we wait so long for this most sacred of days?

This is, perhaps, the explanation. Rosh HaShana, the first day of the New Year, is a time of crowning, the crowning of the King, the acceptance of G-d’s rule. Should you live in a place where there is no accepted leader, then it follows that there is no law to obey. Only when a legitimate leader is accepted, can a population be held responsible for law and order, because there is someone to legislate, and afterwards, enforce the law.

So it is in Judaism. We say, every day, twice a day, Shema Yisrael, HaShem, Elokenu, HaShem Echad. This recitation is an acceptance that G-d is King, that He rules, that His law must be accepted and obeyed. Rosh HaShana is a special time when we return to the time of creation, to the beginning of the world, and recognize G-d as King of the Universe. It is as if the entire day is one big Shema Yisrael, as if we are repeating, time after time, that G-d is King. We crown him, acknowledging Him as Creator while recognizing His law. This is how we begin the New Year.

Once a leader has been accepted, it is then incumbent on his followers to do as he says. And so it is with us. Have accepted G-d as King, we must now follow his laws, which we call precepts or Mitzvot. These are G-d’s laws, as given to us in the Torah. For the next week we must examine all of our deeds, be they concerning our relationship to our fellow man, or to G-d, and try to correct them, ensuring that they conform entirely to G-d’s commandments.

This accomplished, we enter the holiest of days, Yom Kippur, a day of total repentance and purity, a day in which we request forgiveness for all we have done which has not conformed with G-d’s commandments, and accept upon ourselves a pledge to change our ways, and to walk only in the way of the L-rd.  This is a day of such purity that no physical necessities are needed, such as eating and drinking and the like.

Having reached this level of devout awareness, it might be expected that the next step would continue up a spiritual ladder. However, no, we are told to spend the next few days building a Succah, a little booth, made of wooden walls with a roof of reeds. Then, during the Succot holiday, we are told to live in this flimsy dwelling. During prayer we are expected to hold a lulov and etrog, a palm stalk and a fruit looking like a lemon, but not a lemon. How is it, following 10 days of spiritual uplifting, that we are commanded to deal with such material and earthly objects?

Again, the answer is not complicated. G-d did not create us as angels, rather he created us as human beings. One day a year we are granted the privilege to reach such spiritual heights that we can be compared to angels. But for the rest of the year, we must be people. Our goal is not to be angels, but to be men and women who sanctify what G-d has given us, in this world. So G-d commands us, take what I have given you, the wood and the reeds, the fruits and the plants, and make them holy, sanctify them, use them for good, use them as I have commanded you to. Don’t be angels, be people, but be people who use the creations of this world for holiness and not for evil.

So, for an entire week we live and eat in a Succah, with nothing more that reeds over our heads, knowing that our faith must be, not in what seems to be the permanent dwellings of our homes, but in the permanence of G-d’s protection over us, taking the physical and transforming it into spiritual.

Then on the final day, after seven days of Succot, we move back into our homes, but for an entire day celebrate the source of our commandments, the G-d given Torah. And this day, Simchat Torah, is a day of tremendous joy, when we dance in the synagogue and through the streets with the holy Torah scrolls, again proclaiming, this is our law, given to us by G-d, our King.

On this day we conclude that annual reading of the entire Torah and begin again, from the beginning, in the beginning.

Two years ago, here in Hebron, when the war began and the shooting began, many people thought that our community was on its last legs, that the attacks from the surrounding hills would lead, G-d forbide, to our imminent collapse. However, those thoughts were one hundred percent wrong. Despite the war, the Jewish Community of Hebron has grown, new families have moved into the community and we have continued to build and expand. Over the past month and a half, literally thousands have come to visit and pray here. Over this Succot holiday, tens of thousands are flocking to Hebron, walking the streets and participating in our Succot Music festival.  This is, perhaps, the utmost example of true faith and declaration of G-d’s Kingdom, here on earth, in Eretz Yisrael, in Hebron and Jerusalem, forever.

With blessings from Hebron,
This is David Wilder

Monday, September 9, 2002

Five Hundred Meters and Five Minutes

Five Hundred Meters and Five Minutes
September 9, 2002
On September 2nd, I experienced one of the most bizarre events I can remember.

Deputy Minister of Construction and Housing, Rabbi Meir Porush of Agudat Israel, arrived to visit Hebron. Meir Porush is a very good friend of Hebron and was quite instrumental in the past, providing assistance for major building projects. Before attending a working lunch, the deputy minister toured the Jewish community of Hebron. However, this tour was set apart from other such tours because it began, not in one of Hebron's neighborhoods, rather in the hills overlooking Hebron's neighborhoods.

Our first stop was none other than the Shalhevet Hills, otherwise known as Abu Sneneh. I haven't been on top of these hills for almost six years, since Hebron was abandoned to the terrorists. Way back when, we used to take groups up on the hills, looking down on Maarat Hamachpela and the Avraham Avinu neighborhood, letting the view do the talking. The targets were crystal clear. It was just a matter of time before we became sitting ducks in a pond.

Unfortunately, of course, our fears materialized. Not because we are prophets, but only because we have eyes in our heads, eyes that are open, and we know whom our neighbors are.

The IDF has been back in the hills for the past few months, and yesterday, in the company of Deputy Minister Meir Porush, we went up to visit. And you know what? It still looks the same. With only a few exceptions, all the buildings are still there, the same roads, and looking down below, the same targets.

Following our tour of Abu Sneneh, which is just south of the community, we took a short trip to the north, and ascended the Harat a-Sheikh hills, which overlook the Beit Hadassah neighborhood, Beit Romano and Tel Rumeida. I had never before visited this part of Hebron. When we stopped and left our cars, I looked down and could not believe my eyes. Right there in front of me, maybe five hundred meters away, were the windows of my apartment in Beit Hadassah. Five hundred meters and five minutes, because that's how long it took to reach the lookout from Beit Hadassah.

Across the way sit the Tel Rumeida caravan homes, just waiting for a terrorist to take aim and fire. A good high-powered rifle with a telescope is all that's needed to easily hit these homes. And get hit they did, time after time after time.

Looking down at Beit Hadassah I had trouble keeping my composure. I could clearly see the window hit by terrorist sniper fire about a year and a half ago, gunfire that missed two of my girls literally by inches. It was astounding.

What was even more astounding was that for over a year and a half terrorists shot at us from these two hills, from Abu Sneneh and Harat a-Sheikh, five minutes from our homes, and the IDF was not allowed to do anything to stop the shooting. From these hills Shalhevet Pass was murdered. From these hills the Meshulam boys and David Struk were shot and wounded. From these hills thousands of rounds were aimed at us - from a distance of five minutes, and the IDF was not permitted to climb those hills and stop the shooting. Today, there aren't a great number of Israeli troops on the hills, but the very fact that they are there at all is enough to prevent continued attacks.

The most incredible part of our tour was the fact that there are those in the Israeli government, namely the Defense Minister and very possibly the Prime Minister, who are willing to give the hills back to the terrorists, pulling out our troops and again leaving us at the mercy of Arafat, Dahlan and the rest of the them. There are no words to express the sensations of total disbelief. It really is just -unbelievable.

I photographed the view from these two hills, and later, looking at the pictures, almost had to pinch myself to convince myself that what I was looking at was real.

But, in truth, the problem isn't here in Hebron. The problem is throughout Israel. We are caught up in a Catch 22. Why did Israel retake the cities in Yesha? Because they were being used as terror bases by the PA, used to plan attacks and later, as refuges. As soon as Israel retook the cities, most of the terrorism stopped. Now, after a couple of weeks of relative quiet, the politicians are saying, "things have quieted down, now we can leave the cities and restart the negotiations." But everyone knows that as soon as we leave the cities, the terror will inevitably start again. And when the terror starts, it doesn?t only hit Hebron, but also Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and the rest of the cities in Israel. We've been on this road before - the first time we weren't wrong, and this time we won't be wrong either.

The only answer is to stay in the cities - of course for security reasons, but more importantly, because they are an intrinsic part of Eretz Yisrael, of our homeland and our heritage.

The current 'deal' called "Bethlehem and Gaza First?, supposedly to be followed by Hebron and the rest of the cities in Yesha, is an attempt by the left to again resuscitate Oslo - to try and revive the dead. No, not to revive the over 600 people who have been killed over the past two years ? we?ll have to wait for G-d to do that. Rather they want to resuscitate the process that was the ultimate cause of these deaths.

As we approach Yom Kippur and the High Holy Days, let us hope that our leaders will take stock of what has happened and look forward to where we are going, and then, using very simple common sense, will leave Oslo dead and buried in the past rather than trying to play politics with the lives of their people in the present and future.

Shana Tova - with blessings from Hebron.