Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Tears of anger and tears of mourning

Succot, October 19, 2005


When I received information about the shooting at the Gush Etzion junction last week, my first thought was, 'where is my daughter?' Ophira was in Jerusalem and frequently comes home to Hebron, 'tramping' or hitching in Americanese, from the Gush Etzion intersection. I tried calling her cell phone, but she didn't answer. I tried a few other numbers; they too didn't help. But few minutes later she called me back, asking what I wanted. "Where are you?" I asked, and she informed me that she was still in Jerusalem. After work she had spent some time with her best friend, Ortal, who lives in the southern Hebron Hills community, Carmel.


What did I want? I told her that I'd received a beeper message about a terror shooting at Gush Etzion and wanted to know where she was. That was the end of the conversation. From my end. But she started making phone calls too, trying to find out who might have been there when the shooting started. A little while later she called me back.


"Do you have any names?" I had heard names of a group of people, but wasn't yet sure who were the wounded and who were the killed. So I didn't respond. "Why?" "Because Ortal told me that her sister was injured. Do you know any more?"  When she told me her sister's name, I knew that she was one of those hurt, and had a suspicion that she had been killed. But I wasn't 100% sure, so I didn't say anything.


Ophira found her way to the Egged 160 bus and started home.


By the time she arrived, I knew, and she knew, that Ortal's older sister, 23 year old Kinneret Mandel, was dead, the victim of terrorist bullets. Standing next to Kinneret at the intersection was her newly-married cousin, Matat Adler-Rosenfeld. Matat was married to my son-in-law's cousin. She was also a victim, killed less than three months after her wedding.

Matat had been in the army and served in Netzarim when my son was there also. She was a 'tattzpanit' – a lookout, and knew the roads and paths in and out of Netzarim and Gush Katif like the back of her hand. When she concluded her service she assisted in getting hundreds of people into Gush Katif and Netzarim, protesting the planned expulsion. She was even arrested and jailed for her efforts.


When my son called to ask if I had details of the attack I told him, 'yes, one of the critically wounded is a friend of yours, who you studied with. He has a bullet in the stomach. And one of those killed, I think you knew her too – Matat." "What," he exclaimed, "Matat was killed, she's dead?"


My daughter Ophira got off the bus in Kiryat Arba. I drove up to get her. She got into the car and started crying. I think she cried all night. When we got home, she went into her room and wailed. It was a dreadful sound. A little while later I drove her out to Carmel, where Kinneret and Matat both lived. Kinneret had just finished her degree after four years of study. She lived at home with her family. Matat lived in a caravan home, right next to her cousin, Kinneret's sister, Ortal. Kinneret's husband is an officer in the IDF. I asked Ophira, "why did she live here, her parents don't live here and most of the time her husband's in the army?"


"Because she wanted to live close to Hebron, close to Ma'arat HaMachpela, the Tomb of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs."


I went with Ophira to Kinneret's home. The living room was full of people. Kinneret's mother Rivka hugged Ophira and they cried together. A few minutes later her friend Ortal came into the room, and the scene was repeated. Ortal, Kinneret's sister, is eight months pregnant. Her husband too is a soldier.


I stood there, looking at the people, Kinneret's father and brother, still in shock, not really believing what had happened. Her father, sitting on the couch, talking to no one in particular, said, "you never really think it can happen to you."


A little while later Ortal asked me to upload some pictures of her murdered sister from her camera into the computer, and burn them onto a disc, to send out to the news media.  I didn't remember ever having met Kinneret, but asked my daughter, "do you remember, when I photographed Ortal before her wedding…" and Ophira jumped, "Kinneret was there too."


And now, sitting here in the office, looking at those pictures – outside Ma'arat HaMachpela, Ortal, in a wedding dress, together with her sister, both looking so radiant, and knowing that Kinneret will never have her own wedding day, what can  I say, it's so sad.


Kinneret Mandel and Matat Adler-Rosenfeld were buried side by side in Jerusalem's Har HaMenuchot cemetery. Thousands attended, despite the fact that the Succot holiday was to begin only a few hours later. Usually, according to Jewish law and tradition, the deceased person's immediate family sit 'shiva' after the funeral, that is, they stay at home for a week, sit on the floor, and mourn their loved one.  It could be considered to be a period of adjustment, trying to get used to the fact that someone important in your life is missing.


However, Jewish holidays supersede mourning traditions, and 'shiva' is cancelled should it collide with a festival. Being that the Succot holiday began only hours after the girls' funeral, the families were able to sit 'shiva' for only a short time, a couple of hours at most. This too, is a tragedy.


The Succot holiday is usually extremely festive. Here in Hebron, thousands upon thousands of visitors flock to Ma'arat HaMachpela and tour the Jewish neighborhoods in the city. Jews in Israel and around the world spend the week living in 'Succot' that is, simple booth-like structures, four walls of thin wood or some kind of other material, with a roof of branches. This holiday is known as 'zman simchatanu' or, in English, 'our time of joy.' However, our sages teach us that should it rain during Succot, we are in trouble. The example they give is of a servant who comes to pour a drink for his master, but instead of accepting the cup, the master throws water in the servant's face. In other words, suring Succot, we desire to perform the mitzvah (precept) of sitting in the Succah, but instead, G-d pours water on our heads. This is considered to be a very ominous occurrence.


Today, the second day of the seven day Succot holiday, it rained in Israel, from all the way up north, through to the south. Here in Hebron it poured too. As the sages taught, having the glass of water thrown into our faces.


Maybe G-d is trying to tell us something. Almost 10,000 Jews, refugees from Gush Katif and the northern Shomron, are still homeless, almost forgotten, abandoned by their country, their leaders, their people. And the enemy, he who has killed, continues to kill, due to 'easing of restrictions,' allowing them to 'live better lives.'  


So what is it? Is He giving us a warning, telling us, 'your prayers on Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur, the New Year and the Day of Atonement, they weren't enough. Words, supplication, they are fine, but deeds speak louder than words.'


Or perhaps, G-d is sending down some of His tears, tears for Kinneret, tears for Matat, tears for their families, tears for their unborn children, tears for people abandoned by their own brethren.


Or perhaps, both, tears of anger and tears of  mourning?

With blessings from Hebron.



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Wednesday, October 12, 2005

No Forgiveness, No Pardon, No Atonement?

Erev Yom KippurOctober 12, 2005
Erev Yom Kippur. There's a flyer floating around titled, "No Forgiveness, No Pardon, No Atonement." Someone wrote to me asking, " I'm confused, I'm sitting in Jerusalem, and everywhere I go, people are talking about slichot, penitence, humility... and yet there are these messages saying Lo N'Shlach.. we won't forgive -- have we changed Jewish theology? Have we decided that we humans are to sit in the place of Dayan HaEmet (the Supreme Judge)? Where is the humility? Where is the ahavat chinam? Where is the whole idea of renewal and rebirth -- for all Jews, in fact, I thought, for the whole world?"
My immediate answer, emailed back: " It's understandable that you're confused. After all, you still have a home – a place to live. You're not living out of a suitcase in a hotel, without anywhere to go. You (I hope) have a job, clothing, whatever you need to live. Today, in Israel, there are some 10,000 people that are missing all those things – they were tossed out of their homes like rag dolls -– and the personal aspect aside, our land was taken from us and handed over to the enemy – BY THE VERY PEOPLE WHO ARE SUPPOSED TO PROTECT US AND KEEP OUR LAND FOR US. How are we supposed to forgive and forget – Did you know that families in a hotel in Ashkelon had their water and electricity cut off 3 hours before Shabbat – what are they supposed to do? That's part of it, in short."
I'd like to expand a little on this subject. A couple of nights ago Rabbi Avraham Schreiber, the Rabbi of Kfar Darom in Gush Katif, spoke here in Hebron. His topic was, Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur. Towards the end of his presentation he mentioned that there are those who ask, "well, did we win, or did we lose?  Of course we cannot say that we won. Here I am, a genuine refugee, no home, no belongings, no clothing, living out of suitcases in a hotel – everyone thinks, wow, living in a hotel, what a life? Well, I can tell you, everyone is climbing the walls  - the children don't want any more 'hotel food.' No, we surely didn't win. But there is no doubt that a tremendous spirit was born and revealed, and I am sure that we, that Am Yisrael, will return to Gush Katif. It is inevitable."
What does this have to do forgiveness? Aside from their own intrinsic importance, these words are my introduction to a short story Rabbi Schreiber told. In order to clarify this account, a few minutes ago I had a phone conversation with Rabbi Yakov Savir, a resident of  Elon Moreh in the Shomron. Rabbi Savir teaches at the Elon Moreh Yeshiva, Birchat Yosef and is father to nine children, the youngest of whom is a five month old girl.
During the expulsion of Kfar Darom, Rabbi Savir was one of the dozens standing atop the community synagogue, on the roof. His presence on the roof was a protest against the planned expulsion/destruction of Kfar Darom. He was, together with many others, arrested following the group's voluntary exit from the roof. However, Rabbi Savir was charged with multiple crimes, including being the 'ringleader' and 'organizer' of the entire episode. He spent time in jail and was finally released, but placed under 'house arrest' in Elon Moreh. Not too long ago, another hearing was held and the prosecutor offered to allow him 'community arrest,' i.e., he could leave his home, but not the community. There were, however, several conditions. One was a deposit of 30,000 shekels bond, and two, that he was forbidden to ….. teach Torah at the Elon Moreh Birchat Yosef yeshiva. Why? Because he is dangerous to the public and such a danger must not be allowed to proliferate his thoughts and ideologies. Therefore, he may not teach Torah at his yeshiva.
Shades of the Romans! I remember decrees like this, two thousand years ago, when Jews were forbidden from teaching Torah to the masses. Shades of the British. I remember hearing from Rabbi Moshe Segal zt"l, who dared blow the Shofar at the Kotel, at the Western Wall, following Yom Kippur in 1931, despite the British ordinance forbidding such a criminal act.  Shades of Ariel Sharon, whose ruling junta permits such atrocities, as forbidding a Rabbi to…. teach Torah?!
Only a government which expels Jews from their homes could stand behind such a wicked decree.
By the way, according to Rabbi Savir, the case against him is virtual and has no place in reality. The trial keeps getting put off and as of yet, no judge has been appointed to hear the case. They have a fat file, with absolutely no evidence, pictures, witnesses, or anything else. What's important: Rabbi Ya'akov Savir, a dangerous element to Israeli society, may not teach Torah in his yeshiva.
Story number two – short, not sweet, and overwhelmingly sad. Yesterday night a beeper message popped up on my screen. I am quoting it, as it came in. "An additional sacrifice of the Akeda (sacrifice of Yitzhak): Yehezkel Hazani, 52 years old, a resident of Netzer Hazani for 25 years, who was as healthy as could be, collapsed and died suddenly tonight, at the Netivot shuk. He leaves a wife and six children.
He had been, together with other Netzer Hazani refugees, living for the past two months at the Hispin community in the Golan. Today, he went south to attend an army ceremony which included his son. He was one of the pillars of the moshav, a farmer, who lost all everything as a result of the expulsion, and was transformed into 'unemployed.'
The Netzer Hazani community will pray this Yom Kippur that Yehezkel Hazani's blood be registered to the debts of the Shichmim Ranch (the Sycamore ranch – Sharon's home), in addition to the expulsion."
Yehezkel Hazani was buried at 10:30 last night in Rishon l'Tzion. May be memory be blessed.
During a recent class with Rabbi Dov Lior, a question was posed: If a soldier or policeman who participated in the expulsion requests forgiveness from those he expelled, must his regrets be accepted. Rabbi Lior's response was positive, if the regret is genuine. This is the way of Torah. However, Torah demands that a request for forgiveness not only be based upon regret at that past. It is also dependant on 'acceptance in the future.' In other words, anyone who was, in any way, shape or form, a part of the expulsion machine headed by Sharon, Mufaz and cronies, who has any pangs of guilty conscience, must not only say "I'm sorry" and request 'forgiveness.' They must also say, loud and clear, that they will never, ever again participate in such an event again, irregardless of orders, job demands, or anything else. Anyone who cannot or will not agree to this condition need not be forgiven.
In all honesty, I've heard of soldiers who are 'sorry' but haven’t heard of too many who've promised 'not to do it again.' And G-d forbid, if the present prime minister remains in office, those orders will undoubtedly be issued again, and again, and again, G-d forbid.
When I look back, reflecting on what was and what wasn't, I have a feeling, way down deep inside, that tomorrow, we all have to ask forgiveness, pardon and atonement, even those of us here in Hebron, and many others like us, who worked very hard to try and prevent the catastrophe. Why? Because, in the end, we didn't do enough, one way or another. Perhaps we didn't work together, the way we should have. Perhaps our decisions were wrong, strategically and tactically, maybe we didn't pray enough, I don't know. But I do know that if we had done enough, the expulsion wouldn't have occurred and Gush Katif and the northern Shomron would still contain Jewish homes, not ruins. Gush Katif would still be in Jewish, Israeli hands, and their synagogues would not be desecrated, filled with Arab-Moslem filth.
Forgiveness must be requested from all of those we let down, some 10,000 homeless, evicted from their homes, jobs and lives. We must ask selicha from Eretz Yisrael, our holy homeland, which had limbs torn from it. Picture your arms or legs being ripped off, without anesthetic. That's what happened to our Eretz Yisrael. And we must ask atonement from G-d, for letting it happen. For not being awake enough, for not being wise enough to see the light early enough to stop it, period.
And we must accept upon ourselves, that we will do anything and everything, to never ever let it happen again.
Maybe I'm wrong, maybe you did do everything you could. Well, I can only speak for myself, pleading and hoping that the words "No Forgiveness, No Pardon, No Atonement don't apply to me too.
Gmar Hatima Tova.
With blessings from Hebron.

Monday, October 3, 2005

On behalf of the Jewish Community of Hebron/The Hebron Fund, we wish all our friends and supporters a happy, healthy New Year
The Hebron Gift Shop - can still Help Gush Katif: (see below)
Hebron/Arutz 7 Commentary

The Winners and the Losers
by David Wilder
The Jewish Community of Hebron
Erev Rosh HaShana
October 3, 2005

It certainly has been a momentous year. As the year ends, we traditionally bless the New Year, saying, 'let's leave this year and all its curses, and welcome the new year with all its blessings.' Yet is seems rather difficult to escape the year's curses.

Yesterday morning I heard a horrific story on the morning news, which, had the facts been slightly different, would have been headline news for a week or so. A group of soldiers were participating in an IEF (Israel Expulsion Forces) course dealing with 'values.' The officer instructing the course approached one of the soldiers, a religious, kippa-wearing Jew, and handed him two closed plastic bags. The soldier was told to open the bags, dump their contents on the floor without looking at it, and stamp on it, rubbing it into the floor. The soldier did as he was told.
After a few moments he looked down at the floor to see what he was stamping on, and to his shock he saw that it was a 'tallit' – a four-cornered garment with traditional fringes, used as a prayer shawl during Jewish worship services.

Army spokesmen had different excuses: - the officer had apologized several times; there wasn't supposed to be a 'tallit' in the bag, rather an Israeli flag, which the soldier was to have seen and not stamped on, explaining why not, etc. etc.

Of course, this news feature received little attention – why should anyone care if a Jew walks all over a 'holy garment?' After all, the state of Israel allowed its enemies to desecrate holy synagogues following our abandonment of our holy land to Jew killers.

But can you image the tidal waves in the Israeli and world media, had the plastic bag 'accidentally' contained a Koran, and if the instructor had been a 'religious' Jew?

It hasn't been easy preparing for the New Year because many of the preparations aren't very festive. Here in Hebron we are trying to figure out how to stop the continuing injustices aimed at our Jewish community. It's no great secret that the Israeli left, backed by international organizations, has targeted Hebron. The 'Mitzpe Shalhevet' neighborhood, formerly the 'Arab shuk,' is in danger of destruction, despite the fact that it is built, 100%, on Jewish property. Tel Hebron, otherwise known as Admot Yishai or Tel Rumeida, is another favorite objective of our adversaries. All sorts of interesting international two-legged creatures can be seen frequenting the area, in an attempt to cause intentional provocations, which can then be used to besmirch the neighborhood's Jewish residents. A week or so ago Arabs placed two caravan structures on land belonging to the Hebron ancient cemetery, and have plans to build a school there. And this morning we were notified that tomorrow, the first day of Rosh HaShana, the Jewish new year, when annually all of Ma'arat HaMachpela is accessible to Jews due to the very large number of worshipers on this holy day, the Isaac Hall, Ohel Yitzhak, will be closed to Jews, because of the beginning of the Moslem month of Ramadan.
Happy New Year!

On the face of it, not an auspicious way to start the year.

This, of course, is only a partial, or 'local' list of 'problems.' The present administration has many more plans for all of Judea and Samaria, as a few of the Dictator's principal advisors spoke of last week. Disengagement, Stage 2 – expulsion of tens of thousands throughout Judea and Samaria, again, unilaterally, should the 'peace negotiations' reach a 'dead-end.'

It's also not easy to feel good about the New Year thinking about thousands of expelled, homeless Jews – like the families from Alei Sinai, who are living in tents outside Kibbutz Yad Mordechai, and who get an hour a day to shower in a small room, 'next to the gas station.' And the hundreds of families living out of their suitcases in hotels, without work, without homes, and right now, without a clear or happy future.

It all sort of wants to make you cry.

And I'm sure that many of us, you and me, will cry tomorrow, standing before G-d in prayer, not knowing why this evil decree was brought upon us, what we could have done to prevent it and what's waiting for us around the corner. It's very very difficult to understand.

So, we may have to cry, we may have to do a lot of soul searching, we may have to grasp for something to hold on to, to keep from total collapse, but all of this, it's not enough. There's something else we have to do. We must, we have no choice, we must get up, seek out all the energy we still have, look forward, and do everything we can, on just about any and every level you can imagine. We must work for Hebron, we must work for all Eretz Yisrael, we must work for all Am Yisrael, especially here in Israel. It certainly isn't easy – but we cannot get weighed down by the events of the past summer. Because that is exactly what our enemies want – be they enemies from within or enemies from without.

It was exactly five years ago when terrorists began shooting at us here in Hebron, shooting into our homes, cars, shooting at us in the streets, everywhere. Those attacks continued for two full years. And what about the people from Gush Katif, who faced mortars, terrorists and missiles for five years. They were offered tens of thousands of dollars to leave, to escape such madness and they refused. Not only did they want to stay, but they had to be forcibly pulled out of their homes.

In Hebron too, no one left. Rather, people moved in. We built a new apartment house, we have obtained other housing, and our population continues to grow, despite the adversity.

Why? Why such stubbornness, in Hebron, and in Gush Katif. Quite simply, this land is ours - it belongs to us. If we leave it, if we abandon it, we know exactly what will happen to it – and this is what we must try and prevent, as much as we can. If we run away, we are handing our enemies their victory on a silver platter.

So it is too with fiends such as Sharon and Co., who, it seems, have yet to finish what they've started. And if we have anything to say about it, they will be finished long before us. True, we did not succeed in stopping the expulsion and the destruction, and that failure will remain a stain on Jewish history for eternity. But it's not the first stain; in the past we've had to deal with worse, be it two thousand years ago or sixty years ago. However, even in the most difficult situations, the Jewish people have always pulled through, and so too will we today. The traitors of the past will always be remembered as such, and the traitors of today will always be remembered as such. The heroes of the past will remain heroes for eternity, and the heroes of the present will also remain heroes for eternity. The traitors, those who betrayed their beliefs, their essence, their land, their people, their G-d, they are the real loses, because they have disengaged from themselves, from what they are, or from what they are supposed to be. The heroes are the real winners because they have remained faithful to themselves, to their G-d, to their people, to their land, to their essence. Nothing, not eviction, not abandonment, not destruction, not even death, nothing can change that.

The ten thousand Jews of Gush Katif and the northern Shomron, they are the real winners, they are the 'people of the year.' And just as they refused to acquiesce, so too, the rest of us must not rest, we must not fall victim to depression, apathy, and, 'what can we do, we're only going to lose anyway?!'

I've heard of people who want to leave Israel because of the expulsion. Mistake! This is what our enemy wants. I've heard of people, once considering Aliyah, who are now reconsidering, because of the expulsion. Mistake! This is exactly what our enemy wants. I've heard of people, once activists, who have 'thrown in the towel.' Mistake! This is exactly what our enemy wants.

No one can promise us victory in all our worldly struggles, but we can be assured, that regardless of the seeming outcome, 'we' will always be 'winners' and 'they' will always be losers. For that is the essence of eternal Israel. We will never, ever, give up.

Shana tova, - Happy New Year.

With blessings from Hebron.

IF your heart is aching for the families of Gush Katif. Most of them will be spending Rosh Hashana in tents and other temporary residences. Those families went through so much sacrifice for the sake of our nation. The least we can do is let them know how much we care, respect,love and admire them. You can give them a hug of support by purchasing this package to be personally sent to families of Gush Katif. (the packages will be distributed by people who are in touch and know the whereabouts of all the uprooted families)
Remember these families are simply Tzadikim they went through so much for the sake of our nation the least we can do is show them our appreciation and concern.

Shana Tova SO GO TO

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