July 25, 2007

Yesterday the Jewish people marked the fast day, Tisha b'Av – the ninth day of Av. Exactly 1938 years ago the heart of Israel went up in flames. On the 9th day of Av the Second Temple was destroyed by the Roman army. Some 650 years previously, on the exact same day, the First Temple was razed by the Babylonians. That day, Tisha b'Av, the 9th day of the month of Av, is commemorated each year as a fast day, from sunset to sunset.
Other inauspicious also occurred on the same date. Most well known was the expulsion from Spain in 1492. The decree ordering Jews to leave Spain was issued on March 31, 1492. The expulsion was to be completed by July 31 of that year. July 31 was the 9th of Av. [http://www.jewfaq.org/holidayd.htm]
However, most significant was the first Tisha b'Av, marked by the rejection of Eretz Yisrael, the land of Israel, by the Israelites, who had been liberated from Egypt only months earlier. Moses sent 12 men to spy the Land. Those men were the leaders of the people, the 'president' of each of the 12 tribes. The best of the best. According to Jewish sources, they realized that upon entrance into the Land of Israel they would be replaced, they would no longer be 'leaders.' As a result, upon their return to Moses and the rest of the Israelites, ten of them slandered the Land, calling it a land of giants that devours it inhabitants. Only two of the spies rejected this slander, Joshua and Kalev, exclaiming that Israel is a 'very very good land.' But they were not able to convince the majority who tore their clothes, wailed and demanded to return to Egypt. As a result, G-d decreed this day to be a day of hardship and mourning, and so it has remained over the centuries.
In other words, the root of Tisha b'Av, the ninth day of Av, is the rejection of our G-d-given Land, of Eretz Yisrael.
The mourning period, prior to Tisha b'Av is quite intense and, in many respects, difficult. With the advent of the month of Av, many religious Jews refrained from eating meat or drinking wine until after the fast. In addition, they did not wear freshly laundered clothing or bathe for 10 days. It would be expected that following the path of thousands of years of history, thousands of years of calamity, destruction and mourning, our people would have learned the lesson of Tisha b'Av. Unfortunately it seems that this has yet to be learned and internalized.
Just 10 days ago, as the grief of the month of Av began, the state of Israel 'celebrated' the inauguration of the state's ninth president. The commencement of Shimon Peres' reign as president is another reason to mourn. Shimon Peres is the embodiment of the vile spies, who, thousands of years ago, maligned and rejected Eretz Yisrael.
Peres was the driving force behind Oslo over 13 years ago. As was then, still today. On the day of his inauguration the eleventh spy proclaimed, "We have to rid ourselves of the 'territories'".
The Prime Minister has mouthed the same thoughts: we shouldn't fool ourselves – we won't be able to hold on to the 'territories.' He has ordered the notorious minister Haim Ramon, recently convicted of a 'sex crime' to head up expulsion from and destruction of 'hilltop communities.' Ramon recently suggested a 'toned-down' disengagement: rather than abandon some 90% of Yesha, as Olmert proposed following the last elections, Ramon called for an abandonment of 'only' 70% of Yesha.
The Churban – the destruction of 1938 years ago continues.
One of the most difficult and emotional episodes faced during these days of mourning began today, exactly two years ago, when Gush Katif was deleted from the face of the earth. Not only is the memory heartbreaking. It is also nauseating. Last week a number of programs on radio, and articles in the press 'questioned' the wisdom of Sharon's 'vision,' bringing about the churan of Gush Katif and the northern Shomron. Hundreds and thousands have been left without employment or permanent housing. Homes have been broken; students who once excelled in their studies lost all motivation to continue. People who were 'temporarily housed' at certain Kibbutzim find themselves again about to be expelled from their homes due to disagreements between the government and the kibbutz administration concerning the cost of rent. The state of Israel has, for all intensive purposes, abandoned these people, who gave their entire lives to the 'greening of the desert,' who suffered mortar attacks and terror killings for years and years, yet refused to give up.
And of course, the result of Israel's abandonment of Gush Katif was readily known long before the expulsion. That land would be utilized as a base from which to attack Israel. Now, two years later, the Israeli media, one of the main stalwarts of Sharon's madness, is 'starting to ask questions.' Maybe, just maybe Israel made a mistake?! It really is nauseating.
Over the past week hundreds and thousands of youth have attempted to return to Homesh, one of the two communities destroyed in the northern Shomron. From the highest point in Homesh you can view the Israeli coast, from Netanya to Ashdod and Ashkelon. This land, now cleared of all Jews, is still under Israeli control. But Israelis are forbidden from being there, in accordance with the expulsion law passed some two and a half years ago, legalizing the uprooting of 10,000 Jews from their homes.

Of course those brave souls, walking for hours to reach their destination because roads were closed off by security forces, we 'greeted' by baton-wielding police who beat them and dragged them away. However, these people never give up and have sworn to return again and again, until the Homesh community is rebuilt on the ruins of the destroyed town.
And what about Hebron? The craziness continues here too. The story of the Shalhevet neighborhood – the 'shuk' is well known. The 'shuk' - the area of the old Arab market, was built on Jewish property purchased in 1807. The market was closed years ago and the buildings left vacant. Following the murder of the 10-month old infant, Shalhevet Pass, in March 2001, we moved into those buildings and renovated them, transforming them into apartments for 9 families and a study hall in Shalhevet's memory.

Following the expulsion from Gush Katif, the government decided to expel us from those apartments too. The day before their ultimatum expired, ordering us out, they offered us a deal: we leave voluntarily, and the government would work out an arrangement allowing us to move back in 'legally' in a short period of time.

We had a 'town meeting' about this in the middle of the night and took a vote, and it was decided to opt for the deal. The next day the families moved out. That was over a year and a half ago, and we still aren't back in. The attorney general first denied a deal had been made and then later, admitted it had been agreed upon, but voided it.

Some months ago two of the families who had moved out of the "Shalhevet neighborhood" moved back in for lack of any other place to live. When the authorities discovered them this too started bouncing around in the courts. Last week they were presented with eviction notices, demanding they move out by this Friday at 12 noon or be forcibly expelled.

We have decided not to move out willingly this time around. The families won't leave voluntarily. The Israeli government has a moral obligation to allow Jews to live on Jewish land in Hebron, especially at this site, having been evicted with the promise of return. Enough expulsions, enough abandonment of Jewish land, enough broken promises. This time we will not give up easily!
In a few days we will mark the 78th anniversary of the 1929 Hebron massacre which left 67 dead, 70 wounded and hundreds expelled from their homes in Hebron. Is the Israeli government going to follow in the footsteps of our Forefather Abraham, who settled the land, who settled Hebron, or in the footsteps of Haj Amin el Husseini, whose murderous incitement led to the riots, slaughter and expulsion? Do we live in Eretz Yisrael or Soviet Israel?
The following letter was sent today to Defense Minister Ehud Barak by Chairman of seven Knesset factions:
To Defense Minister Ehud Barak:
At the present time, when we are marking 78 years since the 1929 riots, you are faced with a fateful decision concerning one of the sites which represents, more than anything else, the murder and the thievery of the Hebron Jewish community of those days: the site of the 'shuk' in Hebron, where presently several families are living.
We the undersigned, chairmen of various parties in the Knesset, turn to you with this request to refrain from expelling these Jewish families living in the 'shuk' and to study alternative ways to resolve Jewish quarters at this site, legally.
Before our eyes are the following factors:
  1. We are dealing with Jewish-owned land, which was stolen as a result of the terrible slaughter. It is incumbent on the government to act to return the stolen property as would be expected in relationship to stolen Jewish property anywhere in the world.
  2. The preset time is a time of reconciliation, during which we are attempting to refrain from conflicts which are avoidable. A solution to this issue, was suggested by a highly respected attorney, former Justice minister Dr. Ya'akov Ne'eman. This should be seriously studied prior to physical conflicts which would almost inevitably occur.
  3. The residents of Hebron prevented violence and conflict similar to the occurrences in "Amona" when they voluntarily moved out of these homes, based upon promises that they would be allowed to return, honoring and respecting promises of representatives of the state, IDF officers. This type of approach is to be encouraged and rewarded, not discouraged.
  4. The continued residency of Jews in the shuk does not harm Hebron's Arabs, who have enjoyed an alternative modern market place in the Palestinian side of the city. The site also does not expand the Jewish community of Hebron at all. We are speaking of maintaining the status quo and preventing actions which could cause instability in this sensitive area.
For all the above reasons, we request, that you order that the issue of Jewish residency in the shuk be studied seriously, and that in any case, you prevent, for the time being, any eviction of Jewish residents from the site.
Knesset party chairmen:
Yoel Hasson, Kadima
Meir Porush, Yahadut HaTorah
Uri Ariel, National Union-NRP
Gideon Saar – Likud
Robert Ilatov – Yisrael Beitanu
Ya'akov Margi – Shas
Moshe Sharoni – Retirees