Sunday, December 21, 2008

Time to soul-search

Kislev 24, 5769, 12/21/2008

Time to soul-search

This is being written on Erev Hanukka, the holiday of light. In Hebrew we greet each other with the traditional blessing, "Chag Urim Sameach" – "Have a happy holiday of lights." I just came inside from photographing two wondrous events. First, the construction of a huge Menorah on the Abu-Sneneh hills, opposite the Avraham Avinu neighborhood. It was from these hills that infant Shalhevet Pass was murdered by a terrorist sniper over eight years ago. It was from these hills that such terrorists shot at Jews in Hebron, in their homes, on the streets, into their automobiles, for two years. Tonight, the light of Hanukka will shine forth from these hills, radiating the brilliance of the miracle of the Maccabee's victory against Hellenization, as far as the eye can see.

When I finished filming the menorah from afar, I found Hebron's kindergarten and nursery school kids playing outside in the newly renovated playground, the Hyman and Ruth Simon play center. Some of the children were adorned with crowns on their heads, the remnants of the just concluded Hanukka party. They looked so happy, their faces so full of delight, that I stopped and photographed them too.

So, on the face of it, the article should be filled with festivity and joy. But, alas, the events filling our lives are not always so enchanting. Shabbat, for example. Two young women, aged sixteen and seventeen, were walking down from Kiryat Arba in Hebron at 10:15 in the evening. When they reached the bottom of the hill, at the crossroads leading to Ma'arat HaMachpela, two Arab men started walking towards them. The girls took off. One of the Arabs caught up to B., knocked her down and sat on top of her. The other girl, behind her, started throwing rocks at him, while at the same time both began screaming. No one heard them. There weren't any soldiers to be seen. (However, about 100 meters up the road at least a dozen border police were guarding the sealed up Beit HaShalom, ensuring that no one try to retake the structure.) B. struggled with her attacker, and somehow, miraculously, in her words, managed to escape from under him.

The girls finally found an army jeep and reported the attack. However the soldier and officer in the jeep didn't take them seriously enough to report the attack to their superior officers. Hebron's security chief wasn't informed about the attack until 12:30 at night. The army had totally ignored it.

The next morning the girls and their families met with the military commander of the area, Col. Udi Ben-Mocha. When they complained that there weren't any soldiers in the area he replied that he didn't have enough manpower to place soldiers everywhere (except, of course, next to Beit HaShalom.) This, in spite of the fact that numerous times Israelis are attacked at the very location where the girls were attacked, on Shabbat and during the week, when rock-throwing Arabs hurl blocks at passing automobiles.

And now to the main task at hand.

Since the expulsion from Beit HaShalom, many articles have been written lambasting the Hebron Jewish community and the struggle against the expulsion. I previously wrote an oped piece which was printed in the Jerusalem Post. However, it seems that was not enough. I don't have the time or stomach to respond to each and every article written, but I have no choice but to deal with one of the most problematic of these essays. I hope my response will satisfy all those who have requested my reaction to each and every one of these articles.

Before responding: I know that my response will upset some of those who read it, perhaps even people I work with and have dealings with. However, I cannot sit back and quietly accept such hateful slander, which is based on outright lies.

Last Shabbat one Rabbi Mitch Wohlberg, rabbi of a Baltimore 'modern orthodox' congregation, spewed out a sermon whose subject was terror. The sermon, widely disseminated on internet is titled, "Terrorists in our midst." I will try to relate to this work of self-hate point by point, but not necessarily in the order it appears in the sermon.

How does Wohlberg relate to building?: "The settlers who took over a home in Hebron under questionable circumstances, spurring confrontations with the Israeli government and with the local Arabs, called the home "Beit Ha-Shalom – House of Peace… occupied by settlers in Hebron…."

Wohlberg has already decreed that the 'occupation' is 'questionable.' Why? Brooklyn resident Morris Abraham paid some one million dollars for the building and has the documents to prove the purchase. A film of the Arab counting the money appears on internet, as does a cassette of him stating that he sold the building.

The police and soldiers were acting by orders of the government, which in turn was acting by order of the Supreme Court." This is not true. The Supreme Court did not order the government to expel the Jews from the building. They ruled that the state was legally enabled to expel us, but did not order them to do so. The decision to go ahead with the violent confrontation was made by Ehud Barak in the midst of high-level discussions with leaders of the Hebron community aimed at preventing the confrontation.

there are Jews living in Hebron and across the West Bank who do not accept the decisions of Israel's Supreme Court or of its government leaders." My article in the Jerusalem Post relates to the judicial terror used against Hebron.

"The settlers who took over a home in Hebron … spurring confrontations with the Israeli government and with the local Arabs…" This is a lie. Jewish families lived in Beit HaShalom for twenty months 'peacefully,' with almost no confrontations with the Arabs living in the area. The Jews and Arab walked the same street in front of the building, without any misconduct by any of the Jews living or visiting there.

"these same Jewish terrorists have thrown stones at Israeli police and soldiers. They have uprooted the olive trees of Arabs, attacked Arab women and old people, have vandalized mosques and Muslim cemeteries..." Again, these accusations are out and out lies. In January, 2008, Efrat Weiss writing in the Hebrew internet site ynet and the daily newspaper Yediot Achronot wrote: "The head of the Israel Police's Hebron district, Commander Avshalom Peled told Ynet that "from my experience in the Hebron and Gush Etzion area, the activity on the part of the militant left can be severe and dangerous."

Hebron police have recorded a drop in disturbances involving Jewish settlers over the past year and noted an improvement in the dialogue between the settler community and police…"In the past we did not have any problems with the leftist organizations, but all this changed recently," another police official said. "Their activity has become more extreme in nature, and it may result in (an eruption of violence)."… "The leftists antagonize the settlers in the hope that the settlers will attack them," a police official said.The left-wing organizations have become an even greater threat than the anarchists.""

What factual evidence can Wohlberg supply to prove that Jews in Hebron have uprooted olive trees, vandalized mosques and desecrated cemeteries? Unfortunately, the opposite is true. The ancient Jewish cemetery in Hebron, as well as Ma'arat HaMachpela have been desecrated time and time again, without any reaction by Israeli security forces or international media, or, for that matter, Rabbi Wohlberg.

It is true that about 2 weeks before the expulsion a small group of kids drew Jewish stars on stones at an Arab cemetery and wrote slogans on a nearby mosque. They were immediately requested to leave the building and the vicinity and the others were instructed, in no uncertain terms, that this was not to happen again. Again, for almost 2 years Jews lived in that building without any such incidents at the cemetery or mosque.

What does Wohlberg call us?: " So what should we call Jews who similarly threaten people? There is only one word: "Terrorists."

Rabbi Wohlberg, how many Arabs were injured or killed by 'Jewish terror?' Why did you neglect mentioning Eliyasaf Asban, a sixteen year old who was hit in the head by a block hurled by an Arab. Eliyasaf was standing next to Beit HaShalom speaking to his brother and friends when the attack occurred. His skull was crushed and he was nearly killed, remaining unconscious and in critical condition for days after being hit. The Arab who tried to kill him still hasn't been arrested, despite the fact that the police know his identity. Yet the Jews are terrorists, being compared in the same breath with the monsters who murdered hundreds, including Jews, in India: " The terrorists who attacked in Mumbai were members of a terrorist organization called Lashkar-E-Taiba…"

Wohlberg, at the beginning of his sermon, describes what he calls a 'pogrom.' Yet he refrains from describing the 'attempted lynch' against two Jews from Kiryat Arba who where trying to get their kids out of Beit HaShalom and were forced to shoot in order to save themselves. One of the men is under house arrest, despite demands by the prosecutor's office that he be kept in jail, because a magistrate court judge stated that it is not clear that he was responsible for the events which forced him to shoot in self defense.

There were, as has been stated by myself and other representatives of Hebron's Jewish community, incidents which occurred before and during the expulsion which were not planned, nor are they considered to be acceptable or legitimate forms of protest. However, as repugnant as some of these events were, let's examine another, similar scenario:

Last week, (as reported in ynetnews and other media networks) Israeli security forces conducted a mass training exercise to ostensibly practice dealing with riots. However, sources participating in the exercise told that much of the time was spent practicing how to expel people from their homes. Some of the police played themselves – expellers, while others were transformed into 'settlers' being thrown out of their homes.

As a result of this 'training exercise' fifty four police were injured due to the fact that "the rioters" apparently used excessive force on "peacekeeping" officers during a mock disturbance."

In other words, police beat police – on both sides. The expellers beat the expellees, who hit back. And this is police vs. police!

So what, Rabbi Wohlberg, do you have to say to that?! If that's what happens during a 'mock disturbance' between police, what do expect kids to do in a 'real' situation?!

And of course, will you condemn the Arabs who tried to rape and murder two young Jewish women on Friday night in Hebron, Rabbi Wohlberg?

I would like to now conclude with several comments:

1. As I wrote in the Jerusalem Post: "It should be clear. Hebron's Jewish community opposes and rejects any and all violence aimed at innocent people, be they Arabs, Jews or anyone else." By the same token, we reject desecration of any kind by anyone. We are not terrorists, Rabbi Wohlberg. We are Jews who love our country, our land and our people. And we live what we believe. Our lives are dedicated entirely to G-d, to the Jewish people and to Eretz Yisrael, and we do not, nor will we ever apologize for that.

2. Jews have not ever conducted 'pogroms' against anyone. You forgot, in your Shabbat spiel, to recall a true Hebron pogrom, which took place in August of 1929, when 67 Jews were murdered by Arab masses, with the survivors then expelled from the city of Abraham by the then occupying British. You also forgot to mention the war against the Jews, when Arabs shot at us for two years, killing scores, including a ten month old baby in Hebron proper.

3. I would like to see what you would do, Rabbi Wohlberg, when, due to growing anti-Semitism in the United States, one fine Saturday morning, masses of police, FBI, and other security troops show up outside your shul, while you are in the middle of a sermon, and start forcibly removing you and your congregation from you pulpit and your seats. Will you walk out like sheep on the way to the slaughter, or will you fight back, refusing to be treated like subhuman beings? After all, 'dina d'malchuta dina' – right, Rabbi Wohlberg? If they want to expel you, they can – that could be the law of the land, right, Rabbi Wohlberg?

Don't think it couldn't happen. In Germany they didn't think it could happen. In Hungary, they didn't think it could happen. Ditto other countries in Europe.

Rabbi Wohlberg, we will not be, here in Hebron or anywhere in Israel, sheep led to slaughter. We are being dealt with as 3rd class citizens with laws being circumvented and at best, rewritten, to deal with over 300,000 people, including 'settler fanatics' who live not only in 'occupied Hebron,' but in 'the occupied Jordon Valley' and the 'occupied Golan Heights.'

Don't fool yourself or your congregation Rabbi. You too will be thought of, and dealt with, as 'occupiers' of downtown Baltimore. I suggest you stop breathing fire against kids, who despite their good intentions may have erred, and begin soul-searching yourself: who are you, what are you, and what do you really believe in? Because, judging from last week's sermon, the answer to these questions are very very unclear. 

Friday, December 12, 2008

Extremism Breeds Extremism

Dec. 12, 2008

The real danger to Israeli society is not a few dozen kids throwing rocks while violently and illegitimately being thrown out of a home in Hebron. The true threat to our country is the warping of the fundamental institutions whose presence is supposed to protect the people rather than terrorize them. The decisions made concerning Beit Hashalom were not based upon justice, rather upon pure judicial terror.

Following the expulsion of families from Beit Hashalom in Hebron, during a radio interview with the BBC, I was asked about our future plans. When I responded that the community would continue to purchase property in Hebron, the interviewer asked, "But won't that just cause more violence?" I answered, "If I bought a home in London and was told that a Jew purchasing on 'that side of the city' would cause a violent reaction, how would that be viewed? Probably as anti-Semitism and racism. Why then can't a Jew buy property in Hebron, just as people purchase homes all over the world?"
Another common question I've had to field from journalists is, "Don't you think this has all gotten out of control?" My response is quite simple: "Of course it is totally out of control. That's not the question. The question is who is out of control?" Clearly, in my opinion, those who have lost control are those democratic institutions which are designed to protect citizens from despotic leadership.
FOLLOWING PURCHASE of Beit Hashalom for close to $1 million, the Hebron community found itself under attack from numerous sources. Rapidly the question of our legitimate presence in the building made its way to court. The original court decision found enough evidence supporting our claims to prevent immediate eviction. However, harsh restrictions were imposed, including denial to install windows and to hook up to the Hebron municipal electric grid. Only in the middle of a major snowstorm did the defense minister allow installation of windows in the building last winter.
Due to the political sensitivity of the case, we soon found ourselves opposite a Supreme Court panel hearing the various issues involved. That panel was composed of Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch and Justices Edmond Levy and Uzi Fogelman. Levy is religious. Following a break in the court hearings, Beinisch changed the panel, removing Levy and Fogelman and replacing them with Justices Ayala Procaccia, who is known to be one of the most left-wing justices on the court, and Salim Joubran, the only Arab on the court. Beinisch, it must be noted, is not known for her right-wing ideological opinions. Two leftist justices and an Arab were left to decide the fate of the Jews living in Beit Hashalom. If that's not a stacked deck, nothing is. So wrote retired District Court judge Uri Struzman, calling the court's final decision blatantly political.
In that decision, the court ruled that it would not examine the evidence presented, including proof of authentication of the legal sales documents, a video of the seller receiving and counting the money received for the building, and an audio recording of his description of the sale and receipt of the money.
Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz, when presented with new evidence in the case, specifically the audio cassette, refused to meet with community attorneys or examine the proof of purchase.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak announced only two weeks ago his intention to legalize all the illegal Beduin construction in the South. Yet he gave the go-ahead to violently expel all residents of the building in the midst of advanced high-level negotiations which would have allowed him to forgo the brutal confrontation.
These are examples of nothing less than terror - administrative terror, utilized by the highest echelons of the country's democratic institutions to further their own political beliefs against loyal citizens of the state, in this case, residents of the Hebron Jewish community.
FOLLOWING VIOLENT reactions to the extremely harsh expulsion, which included use of tear gas and stun grenades, I was asked about "red lines" - and decisions to "cross those red lines." Unfortunately we are presently facing situations where the government is crossing all the red lines that previously existed. The transformation of the judicial system, including the attorney-general and the Supreme Court, into an extended arm of the political arena ends all notions of impartiality or objectivity.
Hebron residents are often labeled extremists. However nothing could be more extreme than the above-described actions of Mazuz and Beinisch. But due to their positions and political ideologies, their extremism is considered legitimate.
It should be clear. Hebron's Jewish community opposes and rejects any and all violence aimed at innocent people, be they Arabs, Jews or anyone else. However it is unthinkable and intolerable that Israel's top leadership should change the rules in the middle of the game, expecting the other side to play by the old ones, while they play by the new. Such actions, as we have recently witnessed, quite literally push a large segment of the population into a corner with no way out, creating a dangerously volatile situation. Peace may breed peace but by the same token, extremism breeds extremism.
The real danger to Israeli society is not a few dozen kids throwing rocks while violently and illegitimately being thrown out of a home in Hebron. The true threat to our country is the warping of the fundamental institutions whose presence is supposed to protect the people rather than terrorize them. The decisions made concerning Beit Hashalom were not based upon justice, rather upon pure judicial terror.
The writer is spokesman of the Jewish community of Hebron.
This article can also be read at /servlet/Satellite?cid=1227702464908&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Time is Now! - Moshe Feiglin & Manhigut Yehudit

Moshe Feiglin represents the paradigm Jewish leader: a man of faith and conviction
Following the brutal expulsion of Jewish families from Beit HaShalom in Hebron, former Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu proclaimed, “We must act with an iron fist against the outlaws.”,7340,L-3632769,00.html Of course, this was stated before he spoke with anyone in Hebron to clarify the facts and establish what really happened.

It is quite clear: should Netanyahu be again elected Prime Minister with a parve Likud list, he will continue in the footsteps of one of his predecessors, namely one Bibi Netanyahu, who signed away 80% of Hebron to Arafat terrorists, and continued by agreeing to the infamous Wye Accords.

Today’s menu includes Jerusalem, the Golan Heights and just about all of Yehuda and Shomron. Without any strong brakes to stop him, Netanyahu is liable to form a coalition with Ehud Barak as his Defense Minster and Tzippy Livni as his Foreign Minister. This threesome will undoubtedly get along quite well with Obama, Clinton and Co. The only way to prevent this catastrophe is push the Likud from center-left as far right as possible. And the only way to do that today is to vote for Moshe Feiglin and the entire Manhigut Yehudit list.
Moshe Feiglin represents the paradigm Jewish leader: a man of faith and conviction, with a proven track record. The other candidates on the Manhigut Yehudit Likud Knesset list are of the same caliber, made of the same material. Shmuel Sackett, co-founder of this pair’s first venture into public activism, Zu Artzenu, will be a tremendous boost to a floundering, faithless Knesset. These two men, together with others on the list, will be a true Kiddush HaShem, bringing to Israeli leadership what has long been so lacking:  a belief and understanding of the ‘holy triangle’ of Am Yisrael – the Jewish people, Eretz Yisrael – the Land of Israel, and Torah.  Their official entrance into formal leadership of the Jewish people will finally put an end to calls for the replacement of the State of Israel by an alternative “Medinat Yehuda.” They will be living proof that it is possible to utilize the existing framework of the State of Israel within the boundaries of Kedusha – holiness, thereby bringing about a major ‘tikkun’ – rectification of the current failings of leaderless leadership.

Tomorrow I’m going to proudly cast my vote for Moshe, Shmuel and ten others, who, when elected to the Knesset, will represent the values and priorities we believe in, and actively work to bring our dreams to reality.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Tate's talking - We just have to listen...

Tevet 16, 5769, 1/12/2009
Tate's talking - We just have to listen...

Tate's talking to us. We just have to listen to what He's saying. Tate's talking to us.
We have a doctor who lives here in Hebron. Born in Iran, he's a unique personality. His specialty is respiratory illnesses, lungs, and the like. But despite the fact that his diploma doesn’t' say so, he's also a super psychiatrist.
A little while ago I left 'my hole' where I spend many hours of my day, to take a stroll outside in the cool crisp Hebron air. The good doctor Ya'akov was sitting on a step trying different keys in various locks he had stored in a box. He smiled seeing me, and we talked a little. Mostly him, telling me some stories.
"I was working in Beer Sheva. There were a few rockets that hit. I received a phone call from one of my older patients.
'Doctor, I won't be coming to see you today.'
'Why not, what's the problem?'
'A Kassam him, right next to our building.' Now there's a telephone pole blocking the entrance, with exposed high-tension wires on the ground. We can't get out.'
'Was anyone hurt or killed?'
'No, thank G-d.'
'Mamale you can come to me whenever you want, with an appointment or without. I'll take you whenever you show up.'"
"David," Dr. Ya'akov said to me, "Tate's talking to us."

"Of course," I answered, "wasn't it that way here in Hebron for two and a half years?"
The doctor growled, "Shooting from Abu Sneneh and Harat a'Shech, may their names be blotted out."
"Did you know that I made the 'Bentched Gomel' (recited the blessing for thanksgiving, said after being involved in a life-threatening situation)?"
"When, what happened?"
"It was a few months ago. I was working at a clinic in Ashkelon and decided to take a break. I told my secretary that I was going out for lunch. I walked down the street to a different mall and bought myself something to eat in a restaurant there. A while later I got a call from my wife:
'Ya'akov, where are you?'
'What kind of question is that? I'm at work?'
She nearly came thru the receiver. 'No, where are you, exactly? Are you in the mall?'
'No,' I replied, 'I’m down the road at the other mall.'
'Your clinic, it went. It's gone.'

I went back, went upstairs, and from my office looked up straight into the sky, thru a huge hole in the roof of the building. I couldn't believe what I saw. And the doctor in the room next to me, he had just gone outside to smoke a cigarette. Don't tell anyone, but a cigarette saved his life.
And then I decided to measure where the rocket had exploded. Quickly I realized that had it hit about seven meters from the actual point of impact the roof would have come down on everyone inside the mall. Hundreds of tons of concrete and metal.  At least 300 people would have been killed.
So a few days later I recited the special blessing said when your life has been Divinely saved."
"David," Dr. Ya'akov said to me, "Tate's talking to us, maybe not verbally, but He's talking to us. All the time. Today, a rocket hit an apartment in Ashkelon, with two girls inside. They managed to get into their 'protected room' before it exploded. Otherwise…. David, Tate's talking to us. We just have to listen to what He's saying. Tate's talking to us."

(For those who don't know, 'Tate' in Yiddish means Father and is often used as a synonym for G-d.)

Friday, November 28, 2008

Beit HaShalom - The house that Morris built

Beit HaShalom - The house that Morris built
Nov 28, 2008

A professor from Bar Ilan University, an expert on ancient affairs, investigated the value of silver thousands of years ago. He concluded that the price our Patriarch Abraham paid for Ma'arat HaMachpela, four hundred silver shekels , the caves where the Patriarchs and Matriarchs are buried, is worth, in today's terms, some $750,000. That's just a little less than what Morris Abraham and his father Mickey paid for Beit HaShalom in Hebron.
Beit HaShalom, (the "Peace house" in English) is a huge, 40,000 square foot structure, just above the main road leading from Hebron to Kiryat Arba. When it became known that the Arab owner of the building, some five years ago, was putting it up for sale, and the Abraham family heard about it, it was a done deal.
Well, not quite. It took a few years to actually complete the transaction. Jews purchasing property from Arabs in Hebron is not an everyday occurrence, and is not easily accomplished. It is a task which requires, among other things, a tremendous amount of money, fine attorneys, much time, nerves of platinum, and most of all, a huge quantity of Divine assistance.
Thank G-d, it all came together, and about 20 months ago, having received a green light from the lawyers, residents from Hebron's Jewish community moved in.
It wasn't easy. From literally the moment we moved in, there was someone trying to have us removed. There were those who claimed that we 'stole the building' from the Arab owner. There were others who said, 'we don't care if they bought it legally. Jews shouldn't be in Hebron, period. Throw them out!"
However, we had a lot going for us. First of all, the building was purchased legally. At one point the community released a film of the Arab counting the cash he received.  (When he later denied the sale during a police investigation, and the police showed him the video, he exclaimed, "I later cancelled the deal and gave them the money back!")
Hebron's commanding IDF officer was ecstatic about the purchase, being that the building is located at a very strategic position, overlooking all of Kiryat Arba, just across the road, and most of Hebron.  And an initial police investigation of the documents was positive. The documents were authentic.
But facts don't necessarily mean much in Israel. A court ruled that there was enough seeming evidence to prevent us from being evicted, but too many question marks to allow 'life as usual.' So a status quo was ordered. We could stay, but without making any major changes in the building. That meant, for example, that windows could not be installed in the empty spaces in the walls. Nor could the building be hooked up the Hebron electric grid.  So, as winter approached, the people inside were a little cold. A small generator was running, providing minimum electricity to keep the heaters running. But a building without windows, in a snow storm, is quite a bit to weather.  Big sheets of plastic in place of glass don't really do the trick.
Finally, in the middle of a snow storm, and as a result of massive public pressure, cabinet ministers started pounding on Defense Minister Ehud Barak's desk, demanding that the government allow windows to be immediately installed. The pressure worked, and finally windows were brought in. They refused to allow window shades or shutters; that was too much. But glass windows were okayed.
But the left refused to give up and intensified efforts to have the Jews residents expelled from the building. Police suddenly decided that many of the sale documents were counterfeit, but refused to reveal which ones were faked. Finally the court forced them to allow the community an opportunity to defend itself and they had no choice but to divulge which papers were suspect. The community, via a former police officer, an expert on such affairs, was able to easily dispel the doubts as to the authenticity of the documents.
At  a recent Supreme Court hearing, the judges, (two of the most left-wing members of the court together with an Arab judge, hearing the case), accused the community of 'taking the building by force' from its Arab owner. In response the community gave the court new, startling evidence: an audio recording of the Arab owners saying, in plain language, that he sold the place and received full compensation for the building. He also declared that he had come under great pressure from Palestinian authority intelligence forces to 'change his story.'
Last week the Supreme Court announced its decision. The decided to ignore the facts in the case, not letting them get in the way of their own political biases. They announced that they would not get involved in the previous government decision to expel  the building's residents until the question of ownership was decided in a lower court. They gave the people living there 72 hours to leave of their own accord. If they did not voluntarily evict themselves, the government would then have legal permission to expel them.
As of this writing, new families and many youth are moving into Beit HaShalom, in order to reinforce Jewish presence at  that building , which clearly belongs to Hebron's Jewish community. One family, Nahum and Revital Almagor and their 15 year old daughter came from Brooklyn to participate in the struggle for the building.
Last week, a retired judge, Uri Struzman, harshly criticized the  Supreme Court ruling, calling it political and a sham. Another retired Supreme Court judge, Ya'akov Turkal, said that the Supreme Court decision did not demand that the families be removed from the building, rather that the government could remove them, if they so desired. In other words, the decision of expulsion is in the hands of Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
At the moment, the building's many families: men, women and children, are willing to put up with a cold winter; (we expect that the cost to heat Beit HaShalom this winter at over $150,000 – money which the community does not presently have;) but they have no intentions of leaving their beloved home, Beit HaShalom, the building that Morris Abraham gave to the Jewish people of Hebron. A representative council of men and women from Hebron and Kiryat Arba, and other activists, has announced that the group will not initiate any violent acts against Israeli security forces, but should those forces attempt to expel them, there will be fierce resistance. However, the level of violence will be determined by the expulsion forces. MK Uri Ariel, speaking at an emergency community meeting last week, with over 1,000 people present, clearly stated that should those in the building be attacked and beaten, that they have a right to defend themselves.
Last Shabbat close to 25,000 people visited Hebron, hearing the Torah tell how Avraham Avinu purchased the Caves of Machpela some 3,800 years ago. Many of those people also visited Beit HaShalom, showing their support and encouragement. How fitting that a family named Abraham should buy a building for almost the same price Avraham Avinu paid for Ma'arat HaMachpela, a piece of property just five minutes from the first Jewish-owned land in Eretz Yisrael.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

What if?

Nov 16, 2008

What if?

This coming Shabbat we read in the weekly Torah portion how Abraham purchased Ma’arat HaMachpela for 400 silver shekels (in today’s term’s, about $750,000). The story is told in the Bible in great detail how Abraham haggled with Efron the Hittite and finally bought the double cave to bury there his wife Sarah.

What if...?

What if Abraham had lived today?

Abraham cannot reach out directly to Efron. If Efron knew that Abraham the Ivri – the first Jew, wanted to buy his land, he would refuse outright, knowing that the punishment for selling to a Jew is instant death by the hands of the country’s elders.

So, Abraham approaches Fony the Hittite, pays him a lot of money, and asks him to be a go-between, to purchase the caves for him. Of course, after raising the price a few times, Fony the Hittite agrees.

He then approaches Efron with an offer that cannot be refused: 400 silver shekels for a dungeon, a cave, and some of the property around it. Efron jumps at the offer and taking the money, finds his way to his cave to count the cash, making sure he didn’t get ripped off. Unknown to him, a secret camera from the roof of the cave films his greedy act.

Being satisfied that the money is in order, he returns to sign the contract with Fony the Hittite. This act is also filmed, just for the history books.

Fony takes the contract and films to Abraham, who can now announce the funeral plans for his dearly departed wife. A few hours later the procession begins. The casket is followed by Abraham and Isaac and thousands of others who respected this righteous woman. Unknown to them, others, from the IIA (Israelite Intelligence Agency) have infiltrated the crowd and too are taking part in the mourner’s ceremony.

As Abraham reaches the cave, a few hundred black-uniformed special security forces jump out from behind the rocks, trees and bushes.

“STOP,” they scream! “You have no permission to enter the caves of Machpela. They do not belong to you!”

Abraham, having some experience with these kinds of people, pulls out the contract and films, sets up his laptop, and screens the transactions, saying, “you see – I really did buy the caves – they belong to me!”

The IIA forces aren’t taken by surprise. The head honcho dials quickly and within moments a panel of Hittite judges have taken their seats in front of the caves, blocking the entrance, waiting to hear the case before them.

The IIA forces call on Efron: Did you sell this cave to Abraham?

Efron: Of course not.

IIA: How do you explain this film of you counting this money?

I was asked to count it for someone else – I counted it and gave it back.

The IIA then called Fony:

IIA: Did you purchase this cave for Abraham the Ivri?

Fony: Me? Why would I do that?

IIA: For money?

Fony: My morals would never let me buy property for a Jew.

The IIA rests its case.

Abraham calls to G-d and says: Now it’s Your turn.

G-d takes the stand.

Abraham: Please tell the truth. Did I buy these caves?

G-d: Yes, they belong to you. I created them for you during the first 6 days of creation. I even showed them to Adam and Eve.

Abraham: And I paid full price for them? You witnessed this transaction?

G-d: Of course, 400 silver shekels in cash went to Efron via Fony the Hittite.

Abraham: I rest my case.

The judges huddle and whisper hurriedly to each other. A few moments later they announce:

We reject Abraham’s testimony and that of G-d. We are the highest force on earth. Even G-d must obey us. The caves must stay with Efron. Abraham may not bury Sarah there. He must leave immediately. Take the body and go.

Abraham shrugs at G-d, looks at his son, and they all turn around and walk away. The caves of Machpela remain with Efron, and Sarah remains unburied.

That’s the way it probably would have been had Abraham lived today.

Morris Abraham, the righteous Jew who purchased Beit HaShalom with his father Mickey, told me this morning: “We will not be driven out of our home a 2nd time. We were expelled by the Arabs and the British in 1929 – my family was forced to leave its home in Hebron. We will not be exiled again, again expelled from Hebron, this time by the Israeli government. Just as Abraham purchased Ma’arat HaMachpela almost 4,000 years ago, so too did we, the Abraham family, buy property in Hebron. It was all done legally. We have the documents, the videos and the recordings. It belongs to us, and we will live there!”

With the help of G-d. The judges, the attorney general, the defense minister, whatever they may think, are not above G-d, and justice will win out. It may take some more time butBeit HaShalom will be ours. Without any doubt! 

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Beit HaShalom-New evidence proving purchase of building

Cheshvan 1, 5769, 10/30/2008

Beit HaShalom-New evidence proving purchase of building

This new evidence should put an end to the argument focusing on the purchase, renovations and possession and should prove once and for all that we have evidence which is the admission of the seller himself.
Beit HaShalom: New evidence proving purchase of the building
Beit HaShalom: The Hebron Jewish Community presents new dramatic evidence: An audio cassette which recorded the Arab admit he sold the building and renovated the property for the buyer.  

View (Hear) (Hebrew-Arabic) conversation of admission by Arab seller 
View relevant documents (Hebrew)

Yesterday the Supreme Court discussed Beit HaShalom in Hebron. The discussion focused on the question of purchase and possession. This, following presentation of a report authored by an expert, testifying for the community, which contradicted the state's claim concerning validity of the purchase documents. The judges stressed throughout the discussion that even if the building was legally purchased, it is still possible to issue an expulsion order because the building was still in the possession of the Arab seller, Rajbi. For example, the judge Procatzia said, "I am struck, by the evidence presented concerning the beginning of the process and the conclusion of the process, an issue concerning purchase."
Possession, according to the judges, is expressed by the fact that the seller continued renovations in the building. Hebron claims that these renovations were implemented for them and paid for by them. However the judges did not accept this claim and informed them, at the conclusion of the discussion, that they would probably order that the Hebron residents be expelled from the building. The building would then remain empty until the question of ownership was decided in a Jerusalem District court. The Hebron community was given 24 hours to decide if they would agree to voluntarily leave the building. The ultimatum was due to expire at twelve noon today.
However, the community surprised the Supreme Court and prosecution with new dramatic evidence: An audio cassette which documents the seller, Rajbi, in a friendly conversation with a friend, saying:
that he sold Beit HaShalom to Eiub Jabber and received the full amount for the building. That he implemented renovations in the building for Eiub Jabber and was paid for his work.
Shech Paroun brought him the money for the renovations.
That he is under pressure from Palestinian intelligence forces.
Some quotes from the conversation on the cassette:
Faiz Rajbi: (on the story of the building) …by Allah I didn't know…
Friend: So what are you, how did you get to this subject?
Rajbi: I sold it to E i u b. Friend: Which Eiub? Rajbi: Eiub Jabbar
Friend: Ah, the one in Amman?
Rajbi: Yes, Eiub. I don't know, he sent me some money to renovate it. What he sent me (hinting) I don't know and afterwards I renovated for him and later investigated and… I was disgraced.
Friend: OK, who brought you to renovate, who you say stole half of it?
Rajbi: He (Eiub) sent me Shech Paroun..
Friend: Shech Paroun?
Rajbi: Shech Paroun. He sent him for me to renovate it (the building).
Friend: OK, and you didn't know he was a spy and sold it to a Jew? Rajbi: How would I know? Tell me my friend, Jews – and the man who sold fled.
Friend: You didn't know he had contact with Jews – which Jews?
Rajbi: Never
Friend: And the money you took, for the entire renovation? Rajbi: No.
Friend: And the price for the building, he really paid you?
Rajbi: Yes

Attorney Nadav HaEtzni sent this material to the State and the court and pointed out that this new evidence should put an end to the argument focusing on the purchase, renovations and possession and should prove once and for all that we have evidence which is the admission of the seller himself.   The cassette was transferred, together with the statement signed yesterday in Attorney HaEtzni's office by the person who recorded the conversation. Concurrently the material was transferred to some of the others involved in the case but not all, and to the court.
In addition Attorney HaEtzni requested that the court order the identity of the signatory sealed and that any and all details concerning his identity be so sealed, for two reasons: A suspicion that his life could be put in danger A suspicion that the court proceeding could be interfered with from the moment that his identity became known, should he feel threatened. (Attorney HaEztni pointed out that this is similar to similar events which occurred with Rajbi himself, who, due to threats gave false testimony to the police and signed a false statement for the court.)
Of all of the versions Rajbi has given concerning the building (3 versions till now), this is the first one which was given in an open, heart-to-heart conversation with a friend, without any fear and this is the first one which is compatible with facts presented in the documents and the report of the criminal police identity squad (ignoring the twisted significances given by the prosecutor's office), this is the authentic version.
According to this version, Rajbi implemented the renovations in the building for Eiub, as a representative of Eiub, and in return we received payment from him. If the act of renovation is an act of his own possession, as was expressed yesterday in court by the president of the Supreme Court Bainish, "your claim is that Mr. Rajbi held the building for you in the form of a contractor, and he claims that he renovated for himself" – this question has now been fully answered.
As stated, this serves as admission by the person in question, and this should serve to finalize the entire case.   So writes Attorney HaEtzni to the State attorney.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

An Appetite to Destroy

An Appetite to Destroy

Published: Sunday, October 26, 2008 11:15 PM
There is a familiar feeling in the air.

Last night at just after one o'clock my cell phone rang. When the phone rings at 1:00 in the morning, at least in my house, something is wrong. Orit Struck was on the other end, apologizing for waking me up and then informing me that hundreds, if not more, troops - police, soldiers, the riot squad, etc. - were on their way to the Federman 
I pulled out my press card, which in Israel is the closest thing to a magic wand.
farm, located just off the road between Kiryat Arba proper and the Givat Harsina (Ramat Mamre) neighborhood, just about five minutes outside of Hebron. Their goal: to destroy the farm.
The homes on the Federman property have been there for over ten years. Noam and Elisheva have lived there for the past two years. Every once in a while the war drums start sounding, with rumors of an impending expulsion from the land, which the government says is "illegally settled." Most times, it's just noise. That night it looked like the real thing.
I was out of the house within about ten minutes. But when I arrived at Ma'arat HaMachpela, on the only road to Kiryat Arba, I found it blocked by border police and metal gates in the middle of the street. They motioned to me that the road was closed and that I should leave. I pulled out my press card, which in Israel is the closest thing to a magic wand, and presented it to the officer in charge. He took it and made a call on his walkie-talkie. A minute later he came back and returned the card. And told me to leave.
"But I'm a journalist," I claimed.
He looked at me, said "I know, but you can't go," and walked away.
I requested numerous times, as did others, a warrant declaring the area to be a "closed military zone." Sometimes they responded, "There's a warrant, it will eventually get here," and other times, "There is no warrant." Others were told, "There's a military operation going on – you have to stay here for your own good, so you won't be in danger." Some were told, "There's an armed terrorist in the Kasbah - we have soldiers looking for him. It's dangerous for you to be here. Go home!"
The truth was that all roads leading to the Federman farm had been sealed off. The troops didn't want the enemy to have any reserves assisting them.
At about 1:30 the two homes on the Federman farm were forcibly invaded. Sinai Tur and his wife Rivka were told that they had seven minutes to get out. The Federman family didn't have such luxury. The troops broke the home's windows and climbed in through them. They quickly made their way to the children's bedrooms where they shook awake the kids, dragged them from their beds, beating some of them, and forcefully expelling them from their home, still in pajamas. Some of the kids went via the door; others via the window. Noam was immediately arrested, being suspected of planning to "blow the forces up with gas balloons." His daughter Isca, 16 1/2 years old, was also arrested for some unknown reason.
Once everyone was out, the bulldozer started plowing down the houses and other structures on the property. It didn't take too much time, as the families were not allowed to remove any of their belongings. Down came the houses, on top of everything that was inside. By 3:30 or so, it was over.
The families were left homeless and property-less. As Elisheva Federman put it: "They wouldn't let me take my 
The families were left homeless and property-less.
children's books or belongings or mementos. Eighteen years of marriage, nine children - everything we had - gone."
For no apparent reason, except pure hate. Hate for Jews living in Judea and Samaria; hate for Jews living in the Hebron-Kiryat Arba region; and an extra special hate for Noam and Elisheva Federman, who epitomize love for Eretz Yisrael.
The Israeli government, in particular Defense Minister Ehud Barak (who is searching for political brownie points to assist him in the upcoming election) and Generals Gaddi Shamni and Noam Tibon (who is an expert in destroying houses; he commanded the forces that destroyed the home of Livnat Uzeri, whose husband Nati had been, only months earlier, killed by terrorists in their home), is intent on making life as difficult as possible for Jews in Judea and Samaria, and in the Hebron region in particular.
Late this afternoon, a large group of people began work to rebuild the Federman farm. A short time ago an appropriate response was issued by the ruling junta: a warrant was received informing that at ten o'clock tonight the entire area would be declared a "closed military zone," that cement blocks would be placed there surrounding the property, and security forces would remain there to ensure that the area remained sterile (i.e., Judenrein).
Earlier today journalists interviewing me did not seem so interested in the destruction of the property or the expulsion of the families. Rather, they seemed intent on asking/attacking me as a result of remarks made by people at the site of the devastation. Those comments ostensibly called for the death of IDF soldiers, and the "wiping out of their names," and that they should all "be like Gilad Shalit."
There is a saying in Hebrew that a person should not be held responsible for his words when his loved ones are still lying dead in front of him. That is how I relate to the above-quoted remarks. The expulsion from Gush Katif and northern Samaria are all still much too fresh and the fate of those expelled still hurting much too much. It is no 
A person should not be held responsible for his words when his loved ones are still lying dead in front of him.
secret that this administration has plans to implement further expulsions, be they in the Hebron area, or Binyamin and the Shomron. There is a feeling in the air; a sensation reminiscent of the Rabin-Peres days following signing of the cursed Oslo Accords, when "settlers" were unofficially declared "enemies of the state" and were so appropriately treated.
The IDF and other security forces are an integral element necessary for Israel's survival. But they cannot and must not be taken advantage of to batter the very people they are supposed to protect and defend. I don't believe that anyone has any plans to begin a civil war, but the comments, as extreme as they are, seem to represent the growing frustration level amongst many Israelis. I see them, not as an active threat, rather as the mercury on a thermometer climbing higher and higher, much too fast.
Perhaps those making decisions in the current government should realize that what they refuse to do to Arab terrorists and their families they are all too willing to do to their own Jewish citizens, who have not murdered anyone. And, it seems, with an appetite. An appetite to destroy.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Hebron Response - 50,000 Visit Hebron

Tishrei 25, 5769, 10/24/2008

The Hebron Response - 50,000 Visit Hebron

Over the past month and a half, some 100,000 people visited Hebron. These numbers speak for themselves.

The past few weeks have been extremely busy. So much so that finding time to put down a few words on paper has been almost impossible. But now, with the holidays over, with life returning to some kind of normalcy, the time has come.

One of the more important stories coming out of Hebron lately was the revelation that Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak gave a green light to allow close to a thousand additional armed terrorists in uniform, aka 'palestinian police' into the H1 – Arab-controlled zone of Hebron.

Flashback: The Year: 1996 – The United States is frenetically pressuring Israel to immediately sign and implement the 'Hebron Accords,' a direct continuation of Oslo, dividing Hebron into two, very unequal zones: H1- fully controlled by Arafat's PA, with a full Israeli withdrawal from that side of the city, comprising some 80% of Hebron, and H-2 – to be under Israeli security control but PA administrative control, comprising about 20% of the city.

Included in the deal are the hills surrounding the Jewish neighborhoods of Hebron as well as Ma'arat HaMachpela: Abu-Sneneh to the south and Harat a'Shech to the north.

During an immense media campaign to attempt to prevent the abandonment of most of Hebron, the Hebron Jewish Community releases a film in Hebrew and English, titled, "Hebron in Danger." Released and screened at a press conference in Jerusalem the short video predicts the results of transfer of the city and the hills to the Arabs: massive shooting attacks at the Jewish neighborhoods in the city.

Israeli press and politicians sneeringly labeled Hebron's residents as 'hysterical' and 'panicking.' When community leaders climbed the Abu-Sneneh hills with Knesset members and government ministers to show them the danger first-hand, then Hebron Commander Col. Gaddi Shamni (now a full general, commander of the Central Region) would give his own explanation: 'of course there could be danger if there wasn't peace, but now Israeli is in the midst of a peace process – with peace there shouldn't be any danger to Hebron's Jewish residents.'

Flashback: The eve of Rosh HaShana – the Jewish New Year, 2000: Massive gunfire erupts from Abu-Sneneh and Harat a'Shech towards the Jewish neighborhoods in Hebron; gunfire which continues for almost two years.

Flashback: The Avraham Avinu neighborhood, March 26, 2001 at about 4:00 in the afternoon: An Arab sniper shoots and kills 10 month old Shalhevet Pass. Shalhevet was shot in the head; her father, Itzik was shot in legs; her mother, standing next to them, is uninjured.

Flashback: November 15, 2002: Worshipers Way, between Hebron and Kiryat Arba: Following the terror in Netanya and the Adura community outside of Hebron, Israel retook security control of all of Hebron. Following the Succot holidays in 2002, then Defense Minister Binyamin Ben Eliezer again withdrew all Israeli forces from the
H-1 zone in Hebron, leaving that side of the city under total Arab control. On Friday night, Nov. 15, three terrorists attacked Jews walking back to Kiryat Arba from Ma'arat HaMachpela. The ensuing battle left 12 men dead, including three civilian members of the Kiryat Arba emergency security squad and 9 officers and soldiers, including the commander of the Hebron region, Col. Dror Weinberg. The attack was a direct result of the abandonment of 80% of Hebron.

Fast forward: October, 2008: Defense Minister Ehud Barak gives the OK to again allow armed terrorists in uniform, under the auspices of PA president Abu Mazen, to patrol in Hebron, with a massive reduction of Israeli troops in the H-1 zone.

Fast forward: 2009 - ???????

A few days ago I was up on Abu Sneneh with a small group from Hebron, and Likud MK Gilad Ardan. Looking down at the Avraham Avinu neighborhood, Beit Romano, and Ma'arat HaMachpela, I had trouble conceptualizing that the Israeli government was about to make the same mistake again, thereby placing not only the lives of Hebron's Jewish population, and the thousands who visit Hebron in jeopardy, but also Jews throughout Israel, who will again be endangered by terrorists leaving Hebron, to explode in cities all over the country.

What is Hebron's response?

Of course, Hebron's leadership is in contact with various public officials to attempt to pressure Barak to cancel his permit allowing more armed terrorists back into Hebron. MK Ardan demanded that the attorney general, Manny Mazuz, prevent such a fateful decision from being implemented, arguing that a 'transitional government' doesn't have the legal authority to enact such a decision.

However, the authentic reaction is not political. Last week, during the Succot holiday, over 50,000 Jews visited Hebron. Over the past month and a half, some 100,000 people visited Hebron. These numbers speak for themselves.

Last Thursday, the day of the Hebron music festival, thousands upon thousands packed the Ma'arat HaMachpela courtyard, participating in the joyous celebration. Hundreds of children rode on donkeys and participated in an arts and crafts festival behind the Gutnick Center. Tourists visited all Jewish neighborhoods in the city, including the Kasba and the Cave of Otniel ben Knaz. Again, Am Yisrael did not disappoint: the street were packed with visitors from all over Israel and around the world, showing their overwhelming support for Hebron and the city's Jewish community.

True, much more work is necessary, to bring more Jews not only to visit Hebron, but also to live in Hebron, and to keep additional terrorists far, far away. But fifty thousand in one week is certainly a very good start. The is the true Hebron response – to continue to keep Hebron and Ma'arat HaMachpela open, not only for the Jews, but for those of all races and religions, allowing all to experience the wonder of the city of Abraham and Sarah.

And B'ezrat HaShem, with G-d's help, this will help to keep the terrorists away. At the very least, it will proclaim loud and clear: We are here to stay. Hebron- Now and Forever. 

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Jewish Home Party-Rabbi Hillel Horowitz from Hebron

Kislev 13, 5769, 12/10/2008

The Jewish Home Party-Rabbi Hillel Horowitz from Hebron

A few days ago I wrote about Moshe Feiglin and Manhigut Yehudit. Thank G-d, they did very well in the Likud Primaries. Tonight I'd like to mention a friend, colleague and neighbor of mine, who is a candidate on the new "Bayit Yehudi" - "Jewish Home" party list.

Rabbi Hillel Horowitz grew up in Kiryat Arba and his lived for over 20 years in Hebron. For about 15 years he was the director of the Association for the Renewal of the Jewish Community in Hebron and the driving force behind the community's development.

Hillel is one of those people who 'practice what they preach,' in other words, he doesn't just talk. He does. Working around the clock, he was able to 'put Hebron on the map,' helping to jumpstart the community's public relations campaign, ranging from bringing in over 500,000 tourists a year, to major political activities in Israel.
Traveling internationally to garner support for Hebron's many activities, Hillel has come to be known as a man of action, whose love for Israel and the city of the Patriarchs knows no bounds.

 Personally I think it's about time that Hebron was officially represented in the Knesset. I'm not a big fan of the Knesset, but being that it is the official law-making body in the State of Israel, and being that King David began his reign in Hebron, it would be only fitting that a representative from Hebron be a member of the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem. Hillel Horowitz would certainly bring honor, both to Hebron, the Knesset and Am Yisrael in such a leadership position.

Any Israeli who is registered to vote can participate in choosing the members of the Bayit Yehudi Knesset list. All you have to do is go to, register on their web site, and then enter the section called 'bechirot' - 'meumadim l'knesset.' There you can choose 15 people who you believe are suitable to represent your (our) ideals in the Knesset. Rabbi Hillel Horowitz' name and photo are on that page. I voted last night, soon after the list was published, and I checked off his name too, as a person who has the ability to lead and influence within Israeli politics. If you want your voice to be heard, if  you want to make a difference, make your choice too.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


Tishrei 9, 5769, 10/8/2008


For the past month and a half, lives of observant Jews have revolved around one particular expression – that being tshuva, meaning, in broad terms, repentance. For an entire month prior to the New Year, Rosh HaShana, special prayers are recited, Torah classes are held, and personal acts of introspection permeate our existence. This, of course, culminates on the holiest day of the year, that being tomorrow, Yom Kippur. On this day we beseech G-d to forgive our wrongdoings, be they between man and the Good L-rd, or between man and his fellowman.
It's much easier to face G-d and ask for forgiveness from Him. In our silent prayers, be they formal or informal, we can confess to our human errors and plead for Divine clemency. G-d doesn’t wait for once in four years to sign executive orders granting pardons. It's something that can be done every day, every minute or every second of every day. And especially on Yom Kippur when we forgo just about all elements of our physical lives, abstaining from food and other earthly pleasures, to immerse ourselves in total spirituality, as much as we humanly can.
It's much more difficult to ask forgiveness from our fellow man. Admitting mistakes to a friend, co-worker, boss or employee, or to a close family member isn't always easy. Sometimes, actually, it's very hard. But that's what this day's all about. G-d cannot grant forgiveness for issues between two people until they settle the problem themselves.
However this is just one aspect of tshuva and forgiveness. There's at least one other side (probably more).
The ideal of forgiving is not only a personal commitment. It is also a national obligation. Keep in mind that the word 'tshuva' literally means 'return.' In a religious sense, 'returning' from the wrong paths we've taken, and this time around, turning down the right road of holiness and purity.
Exactly fourteen years ago, following election of Yitzhak Rabin, Israel began formally negotiating with Yassir Arafat and the PLO. Those talks led to Oslo. That curse, still with us today, has led to the murders of almost 2,000 people, in cold blood.
Oslo led to the Hebron Accords, which divided the city, abandoning over 80% of Hebron to the Palestinian authority. Exactly eight years ago, these accords led to shooting attacks on Hebron from the hills Israel 'gave' to our enemy. The shooting continued for two years. Dozens of people in the Hebron region and over a thousand Jews throughout Israel were killed during this war.
Oslo and Hebron led to Gush Katif. Almost 10,000 people expelled from their homes, and countless rockets fired into Israel from the land Israel abandoned to our enemies.
A short time after the 'other side' of Hebron was vacated by Israeli security forces in favor of armed terrorists in uniform by then Defense Minister Fuad ben Eliezer in the fall of 2002, then Hebron Brigade commander, Col. Dror Weinberg held a meeting with a group of local civilian security leaders. During that meeting, on a Friday morning in November, Col. Weinberg warned that terrorists were planning a major attack, but that little more information was available. That night, Col. Dror Weinberg and eleven other men were killed during the attack he had discussed earlier that same day.
Yesterday, speaking to a group of mostly Swedish youth at the 1929 memorial room in Beit Hadassah, I told them that history has to be learned from. In August, 1929 the Jewish leadership in Hebron believed that their Arab neighbors would shield them from any attacks, protecting them from harm's way. That leadership was wrong. That mistake cost 67 lives and the expulsion of Hebron's surviving Jewish population from the city.
Then the Hebron accords were signed, Israeli military officers said straight out that 'our security is dependent on cooperation from the PA.' We know exactly where that cooperation led; to Jewish cemeteries, widows and orphans. And national disgrace.
A week ago outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, once mayor of Jerusalem, in a broad newspaper interview, expressed his opinion that Israel must 'give back' just about all of Judea and Samaria, including East Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights, in exchange for peace.
As we approach Yom Kippur, we have received solid information that Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Central Command General Gadi Shamni want to do it again. Give it another chance. 'Return' the 'other side' of Hebron to PA terrorists in uniform. They believe that Fatah forces are preferable to Hamas. (Achikam Amichai and David Rubin from Kiryat Arba were killed just over a half a year ago by Fatah 'palestinian police.)
According to the information we have, some of which was published yesterday on ynet and more today in the Jerusalem Post, a meeting is to take place on October 15,  a week from today, between very high ranking Israeli security officers, including the head of the Civil Administration and also possibly General Noam Tivon (former Hebron military commander, serving in Hebron at the beginning of the 'Olso War' aka the Second Intifada), presently commander of forces in Judea and Samaria. During this meeting it is quite likely that details of transfer of security responsibility from Israel to the PA in over 80% of Hebron will be discussed and finalized.
This is, I guess, in their opinion, Tshuva – returning. Not returning to G-d's ways, not returning to Eretz Yisrael and Israeli national pride. Rather, returning to the same mistakes made time and time again, leading to Israel blood being shed, to cemeteries and mourning.
I also believe in the necessity to 'do Tshuva.' And this is what I try to express to groups I meet here in Hebron, especially when they are youth. I tell them that must do Tshuva – no, not necessarily 'religious' tshuva, keeping Shabbat and Kashrut. Rather I encourage them to fulfill another kind of tshuva – of coming home, of making Aliyah, of returning to their Homeland, coming to live here in Eretz Yisrael, in the State of Israel.
I firmly believe that there is no more significant act that a Jew can do today than such tshuva, returning home to our Land. This is real Tshuva – not the kind espoused by Barak and Olmert, Shamni and Tivon. Keep in mind that had Gush Katif been filled with 50,000 people,  that process of expulsion could never have begun. So too in all of Judea and Samaria. The secret to our remaining in these regions is dependent on Tshuva, on Jews coming back, from all over the world, coming home to our ancient homeland. When there are a half a million Jews in Yesha, there won't be anything to talk about. This should be our number one goal: Tshuva – not only for a month and half of the year, but every day of the entire year. This is what Am Yisrael needs today, more than anything else.
On behalf of the entire Hebron extended family, please accept our wishes for a Shana Tova, a good and happy New Year, for a 'Gmar Chatima Tova, for an easy fast, and for a quick and successful fulfillment of the mitzvah of Tshuva, coming home to Eretz Yisrael.