Sunday, November 14, 2010

Wonder Woman

Kislev 7, 5771, 11/14/2010

Wonder Woman

Years ago I discovered the bible. No, not the one that starts ‘In the beginning…’. Well, almost, but a little different.
This bible begins, “It was not until this book was well under way that I reluctantly confronted the historical factors underlying the “Palestinian problem.’ The book was originally meant to be solely an investigation of the current plight of the “Arab refugees,” as that subject was then still generally known.” The first chapter ends with the words that title the last chapter, (This book is) “in essence, about flight from fact.”
The book, four hundred pages later, concludes, Today (1984) the explicitly stated Arab goals appear to be gaining credence once again through the medium of propaganda and twisted rhetoric, unquestioned by those of us who haven’t known the questions to ask, and unhindered by many who have guessed. Those who understand the reality ought to demand more.”
So it was that the twentieth century bible of those seeking truth about Israel and the Middle East was born, called “From Time Immemorial,” authored by Joan Peters.
A few weeks ago, while still in the United States, a friend from Chicago called me about a couple wanting to visit Hebron. I get such requests frequently and offered to place them on one of our regular tours. Then he told me their names: Dr. William Caro, (yes, related to Rabbi Yosef Caro, author of the Shulchan Aruch, the most important codification of Jewish Law ever written, who lived in Tzfat some 500 years ago), and his wife, Mrs. Joan Peters.
I froze.” Joan Peters – From Time Immemorial,”  I asked? Of course the response was positive. A little while later, speaking to her on the phone, I told her that as I relate to her magnum opus  as a bible, she could easily understand how I relate to her.
This week Joan, together with her husband Bill, came to visit in Hebron. We didn’t have a lot of time, but managed to visit the community’s neighborhoods, Ma’arat HaMachpela, and meet some people.  While introducing her to one of my friends, his wife walked by, looked at my guests and blurted, “Joan Peters?! You’re here, in Hebron?”  She recognized Joan from a small photo of her, taken about 30 years ago, on the back of the book cover.

Driving from Tel Rumeida to Beit Hadassah, we gave Hebron resident and activist Baruch Marzel a ride down the hill. Baruch told Joan, “I didn’t just read your book. I studied it and learned it.”
During a short interview outside Machpela, I asked Joan what struck her about Hebron? She answered, “The history, the history is awesome.  The archeological dig, that’s awesome.  The 97 percent, being surrounded by Arabs is also awesome; it’s terrifying that Israel’s government has put Hebron in this situation.
Her husband, Dr. Bill Caro: “I find this a remarkable place.  One of the remarkable things about Hebron is the continuity of the Jewish community, going way way back, to Biblical times. And as American citizens we don’t know much about it, we don’t learn much about it, we take it for granted. We know about Israel, we’re here with a group that strongly supports Israel (Honest Reporting), but Hebron we read about, but being here is really important, and it’s so gratifying to be here.
I asked Joan Peters the million dollar question – what brought about the writing of ‘From Time Immemorial?’
“That’s a tough question to answer. The short answer is, I think it was a dibbuk (inner spirit – ed.) because I don’t know how I could have done it now by myself. But it went from pillar to pillar and one question begot another and the research was fascinating to me – I love research – and I found all sorts of things I didn’t expect to find, and in the process I had no idea what I was up against when I started. And when I finished I had no idea what it was going to inspire and I’m terribly humbled and gratified by the fact that people care so much about what I found. It was there, it was all there. I just found it.”
One of the fascinating chapters in this classic is titled, “’Muftism’ and Britain’s contribution to the “Final Solution.” Here the connection between Nazi Germany and the Grand Mufti Haj Amin el-Husseini is examined. Recently this subject has been the source of more than one book, but a few decades ago it was almost untouched. Also studied is the British refusal to allow Jews into their homeland.
“The Jews had nowhere to go. The irony was that the very loss of their nation had become the source of much of the anti-Jewish antagonism. The Jews could be pushed around or held suspect, because they weren’t “from” anyplace and no place totally accept them.  The more they clung to their beliefs, the more they seemed to stand out…”
“From Time Immemorial” is a permanent fixture on my office table. Despite the seemly everlasting mess which continues to grow, I can always find this book, and, as a rule, show it to just about every reporter who interviews me. The message is quite clear: If you really want to understand the Israeli-Arab conflict, this literature is a must-read. I don’t know how many of them actually follow through, but surely anyone who takes the plunge and examines the book must realize that common preconceptions are usually close to 100% wrong.
When I asked Joan if she’d continue writing she responded positively, but preferred not to go into details. I would be thrilled to receive a new Joan Peters expose, continuing to deal with Israel and present day issues. But even if she should never write another word, Joan’s place in history is assured. She is truly a modern-day wonder woman. She put it plainly, ‘the material was all there – I just found it.’ So simple and so true. But the fact is that nobody else cared enough to search for, and reveal the truth.  I can only but take my hat off to Joan, while hoping and praying that she is not the last of her kind.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Planting the seeds of a people

This week Hebron’s Jewish Community received an unusually large number of greetings. Specifically, 14 ministers, five deputy ministers, and 24 MKs from both the coalition and the opposition (3 from Kadima), including Knesset speaker Ruby Rivlin, sent special messages of support to Hebron.  This, as part of an annual celebration,  as we read the weekly Torah portion, Chaye Sarah, in which Abraham purchases Ma’arat HaMachpela, the caves of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs, almost 4,000 years ago.
Not only are politicians participating. Usually somewhere between 15 – 20,000 people arrive in Hebron and Kiryat Arba to join in the festivities. Several hundred Jews, mostly from the US, arrive in Israel especially for this special Shabbat in Hebron. Youth and adults, with knitted kippas and black kippas,  some in suits, some with shtreimal fur hats, rabbis, laymen, pour into Hebron beginning early Friday afternoon. Tents are pitched outside Machpela on the garden lawn and across the street in a park. Others find a patch of floor at the entrance to a building and set there their sleeping bags. It is the only time of the only time of the year, when receiving a phone call requesting to stay with me, and I answer, ‘we still have some floor space available,’ the response is a resounding ‘great!’
One year I recall a young woman approached my wife in the kitchen Saturday night, and thanked her. My wife asked her, ‘for what.’ She answered, ‘oh, I slept here.’ To this day, we have no idea where she slept because the house was full without her.
Shabbat evening thousands fill the 2,000 year old structure atop the caves of Machpela and thousands more worship outside in the Machpela courtyard. Some pray very traditionally, while others sing and dance to tunes of the late Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach.  The atmosphere is both holy and joyful simultaneously.
Shabbat morning the Isaac Hall, opened to Jewish worshipers only ten days a year, is packed to the brim, with some having to stand for a lack of chairs. Here the ancient words are chanted from a Torah scroll, written by hand on parchment, reciting the purchase of the caves and the field by Abraham for some 400 silver shekels, thousands of years ago. It should be noted that according to recent studies, four hundred shekels in the time of Abraham is worth about $700,000 today.
The day continues with meals, lectures, discussion groups, tours of the Jewish neighborhoods, rest and Shabbat song, a wonderful way to commemorate this unique event.
The basic question that must be addressed though, is why? Why was it special then, and why is it special today? Why should so many thousands of people arrive in Hebron to recall what happened almost four millennium ago?
Let’s start at the beginning.  Abraham paid a small fortune for a commodity he could have had for free. Efron the Hittite offered to give him the caves gratis. But Abraham refused. Years earlier, according to accounts in the holy Zohar and other sacred literature, Abraham had discovered in these very caves the tombs of Adam and Eve, the first man and woman. Here was the entrance to Paradise, the Garden of Eden. Realizing how holy the site was, Abraham knew the only way to ensure his continued possession of it was to sign a contract and put money down on the table in front of witnesses, thereby preventing any counter claim as to the ownership of the place. And so he did just that, at an extremely high cost.
Our sages taught, some 2,000 years ago, that there are three places the nations will never be able to say we Jews stole, as it is written in the Bible that we paid money for them: Joseph’s tomb, Temple Mount, and Ma’arat HaMachpela. And today, what are the three ‘most controversial places in Israel?
Just as it was special then, so too today. The site has not lost any of its sanctity or allure. To the contrary. It must be remembered that Jews (and Christians) were prevented from entering  Machpela for 700 year, following the Mameluk expulsion of the Crusaders in 1260, until the return to, and liberation of Hebron in 1967.
Why today do some half a million people visit Machpela annually, with 50,000 during the Succot holidays and this Shabbat some 20,000?
People understand that Hebron and Ma’arat HaMachpela are the roots of the Jewish people, the commencement of monotheism, the beginnings of humanity.  Roots must be watered, to prevent them from drying up. Tens and hundreds of thousands of people visiting, identifying with and worshiping at Machpela is a figurative irrigation of these roots, allowing Jews and other believers around the world to soak up spiritual nutrition, so necessary for our being, both individually and collectively, and as people, as a nation. 
In reality the wonder of Hebron, of Machpela, and on a larger scale, of all of Eretz Yisrael, is not what was. The amazing facet of Machpela is not that Abraham purchased it 4,000 years ago, rather it is that we are still here today, at that same exact place. How many peoples can say, ‘here we began, thousands of years ago, and here we remain today, not as a memory, but as a living, thriving organism, keeping our past alive in the present?’ I daresay, no one, excepting the Jews, here in Hebron, Jerusalem and throughout Israel.
Hebron is the beginning, the roots of the roots. We know what occurs to a tree should its roots be chopped off.  In 1929 we lost Hebron. In 1948 we lost Jerusalem. In June, 1967 we returned to Jerusalem and the next day, returned to Hebron.  Hebron and Jerusalem, our heart, our soul, our roots. Our past, our present and our future. This is why our holy city lives on and will continue to live on. This is why so so many people arrive to celebrate the planting of the seeds of our people in the field of Machpela, in Hebron.

Friday, October 1, 2010

The fourth leg

Tishrei 23, 5771, 10/1/2010
The fourth leg 

Jews celebrate three major holidays annually: Passover, Shavuot, and Succot. These three festive occasions celebrate our exodus from Egypt, receiving of the Torah, and the Divine presence watching over us for forty years in the desert.  These special times could be figuratively compared to a necessary injection, provided three times yearly, for a certain medical issue. In this case these shots are not required for any physical ailment. Rather they are as intravenous inoculations filled with a unique serum, that being emunah, otherwise known in English as faith.
From the very beginning Jews have had to deal with major trials and tribulations. Even before we were officially a ‘people.’ Let’s take, for example, the founder, the first Jew, Abraham. Our sages teach that Abraham was tested ten times by G-d, including what would seem to be the ultimate trial, that being the command to sacrifice his beloved son Isaac. 
It must be kept in mind that Abraham had been working quite strenuously for decades to convince those around him to abandon not only idol worship, but also such horrific practices as human sacrifice. In addition, he believed that the future, not his personal future, but that of his belief in one G-d, rested with Isaac. Removing his son from the pages of history represented a direct contradiction to all had taught, and seemingly would bring to an abrupt end the Abrahamic covenant. 
Yet Abraham realized that what he believed to be ‘right’ was secondary when compared to a divine decree. He therefore willingly obeyed the Creator’s orders. That very act, his ability to lift a knife to take his son’s life, instilled in Jews from then, through this very day, the trait of ‘mesirut nefesh.’ That is, such total dedication and devotion to HaShem allowing people to be ready for the ‘supreme sacrife,’ in other words, giving our lives for our people, our land, our Torah.
Yet it has been written that Akedat Yitzhak, the binding of Isaac, was not Abraham’s most difficult ordeal. Rather, the tenth and most complex test of Abraham’s faith was the purchase of the Caves of Machpela, to bury his beloved wife Sarah.  Why so?
Abraham and Sarah had known each other all their lives. They were married for many many decades. Their lives were totally entwined, as one. They were perhaps a paradigm of the ideal couple with unbounded faith in one G-d. Sarah died immediately following the above-mentioned story of the near sacrifice of Isaac, which must also have been extremely stressful. Despite his rock-solid trust in G-d, Abraham must still have been left a bit dazed. And then he receives word that Sarah is dead in Hebron.
Abraham hurries back to plan her burial and seeks out Efron the Hittite in order to purchase the field and adjacent caves of Machpela. The negotiations are complex, and conclude with a demand for four hundred silver shekels, which today is in the vicinity of seven hundred thousand dollars.  How did Abraham, following the Akedah and the death of Sarah, have the peace of mind to successfully conclude this deal? He could have accepted the caves for free, but declined, knowing that possession requires purchase; a signed contract, payment, and witnesses. He could have passed up the caves, interring Sarah elsewhere. But Abraham held his own, refusing to compromise the principals he himself defined, and finished the acquisition.
Why? Because he knew the value of this so sacred a site, the original burial place of Adam and Eve, the entrance to the Garden of Eden, the doorway to paradise.
Here too, Abraham instilled within the Jewish people an eternal element of faith, lasting to this very day;  a devotion beginning with Hebron, but spreading far and wide, leading through Jerusalem and all Eretz Yisrael.
What trials and tribulations have Jews not faced while trying live in our land? We have been exiled and murdered. Our holy places were declared ‘off-limits.’ A mosque was built on Temple Mount, site of Beit HaMikdash, the holy Temple. Jews were prevented from entering Ma’arat HaMachpela for seven centuries.  And only a few years ago Joseph’s tomb was abandoned and destroyed.
Yet we are not a people to give up.  We never lost hope, never said never, and notwithstanding the tremendous hardships, arrive back home and declared a state. Hebron is an excellent example.  Following the 1929 riots and massacre who ever believed that Jews could ever again live in Hebron? But home we came. Following the Hebron Accords, when eighty percent of the city was transferred to Arafat and the PA, who expected Jews to remain in this ancient city? But we stayed. When the second intifada, which I call the ‘Olso War’ began on the eve of Rosh HaShana in the year 2000, and snipers shot from the surrounding hills into the Jewish neighborhoods in Hebron for two and a half years, who could have imagined that the community would continue to not only exist, but thrive? But thrive we did. And continue doing so at the present.
This past week of Succot well over 50,000 Jews visited Hebron. This isn’t the first time such huge numbers of people throng to Hebron. Almost every holiday season, Passover and Succot, tens of thousands worship at Machpela and walk through the streets to the various Jewish neighborhoods: Tel Hebron, Beit Hadassah, Beit Romano-Yeshivat Shavei Hevron and the Avraham Avinu quarter. This is Am Yisrael, remembering our past and looking to our future.
The three annual holidays, Passover, Shavuot and Succot, are called, in Hebrew, ‘Regalim’ which literally means ‘legs.’ Yet a table cannot rest on three legs, it would be much too shaky and fall. So, what is the ‘fourth regel’ the fourth ‘leg’ on which we rest? Clearly the fourth leg is the Jewish people, a nation imbued with a faith which commenced at the very beginning of our existence, starting with the first Jew, the first believer, Abraham.  These are our four ‘legs,’ the stability of our existence, and the insurance of our eternity, in our land, forever.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Short Memories

Short memories
by David Wilder

Rosh HaShana Eve. I was downstairs at Beit Hadassah, where I’d moved with my family from Kiryat Arba two years earlier. A friend of mine was examining emergency medical equipment in special lockers. We were killing time, waiting for the selichot services, special penitential prayers recited prior to the New Year, to begin.

I must have been about 11:30, when suddenly shots rang out. In Hebron, nothing can be considered strange or unexpected, but the sound of live ammunition being shot was not an everyday affair. And this gunfire was not sporadic or single shots. It was massive.

As we ran upstairs, the emergency security squad took up positions around the building and in the street. The source of the shooting was from the hills to the north of the building, Harat a’Shech. Clearly the bullets were aimed at us.

I ran up to my home and found my wife and kids crouched in a corner. Almost all the windows in my apartment face the hills from which the shooting was initiated. They didn’t know where to hide. Finally they went downstairs to an ‘underground apartment’ where one of my daughters’ and her husband were then living.

Officers and soldiers, taken by surprise, started making the rounds throughout the building. Upon reaching my apartment, and following a quick look around inside, they asked my permission to set up a temporary base in one of the rooms, clearly overlooking the hills. I agreed, and they remained there for over three weeks.

That was the beginning of what is popularly known as the ‘second intifada.’ I call it the Oslo War.

Working with journalists for years, I had told just about everyone who interviewed me that the inevitable result of the Oslo Accords would be a war. I didn’t know when it would start, or how it would start, but that eventually it would happen. And I was right.  Much too unfortunately. For this war cost us hundreds of lives and thousands wounded and maimed, both physically and mentally.

This war continued for almost two and a half years. When Israel, in January of 1997 transferred the hills surrounding the Hebron Jewish Community to Arafat and the PA, Hebron leaders met with then Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, warning him that these hills would be a source of shooting attacks against the community. The Prime Minister responded, “If they shoot one bullet, I’ll send in the tanks.” Of course in September, 2000 Bibi was no longer premier,  and it only took two and a half years for Israel to figuratively ‘send in the tanks,’ that is, order the IDF to retake the hills and stop the shooting once and for all.

My office walls are filled with photos of friends killed: Col. Dror Weinberg, commander of the Hebron brigade, Rabbi Eli Horowitz and his wife Dina, ten-month old Shalhevet Pas, my fourth grade daughter’s teacher, Rina Didovsky, twenty-one year old Hebron resident Elazar Leibovitch, and on the bulletin board in front of me, a photograph of Gandhi, Minister Rechavam Ze’evi, that I took on the roof of Beit Hadassah a week and a half prior to his assassination.  And that’s only to name a few.

Why did this war begin? PM Ehud Barak had just returned from Camp David, where Arafat refused his offer of ninety percent of Judea and Samaria. Why the refusal? Arafat witnessed Barak’s orders to flee from Southern Lebanon, as a result of continued Israeli casualties there.  Arafat decided: ‘if Hizballah can cause Jews to flee by killing them, well, I know how to kills Jews too.’ And so he declared war, and was granted a posthumous victory five years ago when Israel relinquished Gush Katif, expelling almost 10,000 people from their homes, to that same PA. Getting back, in return for our generosity, thousands of missiles rocketed into Israel. Missile attacks which continue to this very day.

This war, the Oslo War, began exactly ten years ago last week, on the eve of the Jewish New Year, the year 2000. Yet Israelis seem to have extremely short memories. Despite the shooting, not only in Hebron but throughout all of Judea and Samaria, despite the drive-by shootings, the suicide attacks, terrorist murder in all parts of Israel, people seem to have forgotten.

And most absurdly, at present we are on the verge of bringing upon ourselves, G-d forbid, a repeat performance, which began a week and a half ago in the Southern Hebron Hills. This time around it’s not Barak, Arafat and Bill. Rather, it’s Bibi, Mahmud, and Obama. The names have changed, but that’s all. The expectations are identical: Israel must concede all of Judea and Samaria, including East Jerusalem and Temple Mount, allowing the ‘return’ of who knows how many Arab ‘refugees’ while in return we get a piece of paper with adorned photos of handshakes on the White House lawn.

The current talks are, sooner or later, destined to fail. No one has any doubts about that. The big question mark is the price we’ll have to pay for our short memories. Ten years ago really wasn’t so long ago. Ask the families of those who fell during the war. It was like yesterday. So I ask, why bring this madness upon ourselves, forceing us to go through it again?

Continuing in the footsteps of the first extremist

OK. This time of the year, leading up to Rosh HaShana, the Jewish New Year, and then climaxing with Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, it’s customary to repent, to come clean. So the time has come. Of course, the requirement to confess deals not only with personal sin but also with public transgressions. I’ve decided that I cannot continue to leave a false impression among the many I come in contact with. The time has arrived to come out of the closet.

I admit….I am….I am…..

I am an………..


Ah, there, I’ve said it, gotten it off my chest, out in the open, once and for all. Thank G-d.

I know I’ve always denied it, said it wasn’t true, I mean, after all, I’ve never shot anyone, never threatened anyone, never condoned physical violence against innocents, even as a deterrent. I’ve always defined extremists as the likes of Badar Meinhof, the Red Brigade, Hamas, Hizballah, Fatah, the Islamic Jihad, and others, who favor blowing up busses and drive-by massacres. And things like that.

However, I’ve come to the conclusion that it makes no difference if I’m like them or not. In no uncertain terms, I am an extremist.

But I’m not to blame. I didn’t do it to myself. No one had to teach me extremism, because I inherited it. It’s in my genes. Because my great-great-great grandfather also was also a fanatic. Perhaps that why I came to live in Hebron, to be closer to him.

He also flowed against the current, rejecting what ‘everyone else said,’ standing on his own, by himself, basically against the entire world. Some tried to convince him, others to cajole, and yet others attempted to kill him. Yet none of them succeeded. He even went so far as to reject his parents’ beliefs and eventually left home, taking with him his wife and a few other family members, for an unknown destination. After all, that’s the way radicals act: doing whatever they want without taking others into consideration. Quite selfish.

My great great great grand-daddy’s name was Abraham. He had this truly revolutionary idea, but no one else agreed with him, expecting a few who he was able to persuade. Who knows what techniques he used? Torture, threats, we can only use our imaginations.

In any case, his world-shattering idea was that there is only one G-d. That people shouldn’t bow down to the sun and the moon, to wooden or stone statues. These gods were phony, without any divine powers. The only authentic Deity is G-d, the One and Only. An entity so sublime, so metaphysical, that nothing we say can really describe Him, because He is totally spiritual, and alas, we are a mixed breed – physical and spiritual. The created cannot describe the Creator as He is much too far above us.

This was Abraham’s idea, his teaching, and he really was an extremist. No one, but no one agreed with him, but he didn’t care. And he had the gall to home-teach his kids and grandkids, instilling them with the same fanaticism, asking them to continue on, in his footsteps. And they did. They too, Isaac, Jacob, and his twelve sons, they were all true fundamentalists, rejected by normal folk, regarded as endangering world culture, tradition, and, in reality, world peace.

Yet, they didn’t care, continued as they believed, despite centuries and centuries, of slavery, torture, expulsions, massacres and even a Holocaust. Leading all the way to me. I too, as they were, am an extremist.

There are those today who continue to reject their primary teaching. That is, many amongst us still practice idol worship. No, you won’t find too many people prostrating themselves to the sun or moon, or any other stars. Idols are old fashioned. But there are, almost 4,000 years after Abraham’s extremism, new-fangled versions of the old product. New divinities. Like, for example, peace.

Don’t misunderstand. Peace certainly has a value. Not even a man-made value, rather a G-dly value, as we repeat the verse: “He will make peace in the heavens, peace on all of us and on Israel, Amen.” But, it must be read carefully: Who will make the peace? Obama, Hillary, Bibi, Ehud, Husni? No, that’s not the way I read it. It says, ‘He will make peace,’ He, being the L-rd, G-d.

Perhaps there are those would like to believe that they are the divinity, and therefore, have the ability to ‘make peace upon all of us.’ But that’s also idol worship, an idol with a super ego.

Peace really is a Divine goal. But only when it’s Divine, when it’s real. Not when it’s man-made, not out of wood and stone, rather from paper and ink and the breath expelled from people’s mouths. Not when it’s a peace that’s wonderful for one side, but is horrific for the other. This has no Divine value whatsoever.

When people get down on their hands and knees, falling on their faces before this ‘peace’ they are no better than Terach, Abraham’s father or Nimrod, Saddam Husseins’ ancient predecessor. This is idol worship, which is today, admittedly, a world-wide epidemic.

But what can I do? I go back to the genuine product, the roots of all extremism, who taught his kids, and them their kids, right up to me and my own children, that idol worship is forbidden, and it’s better to be an extremist, all by yourself, than to worship false gods, even though everyone else does.

That is why, even though I’m labeled as a bad-guy, and there are those who compare me to Hamas mass murderers, and all the world will tell me, ‘you have to leave Hebron and Jerusalem for the sake of world peace,’ I will continue in the footsteps of my great- great-great-grandfather, refusing to transgress the most elementary law of creation. I prefer to be an extremist in Hebron than an idol worshiper in Tel Aviv or New York.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Pure, unadulterated barbarity

It’s been a while since I photographed dead bodies. The last time I remember clearly was the murder of Yossi Shok from Beit Haggai who was shot and killed similarly on a Friday afternoon a few years ago. That attack entailed a few miracles. I recall that there were others in the car, teenage girls, who miraculously weren’t hurt.

But tonight, no miracles.

This morning, speaking with a friend, talking about the renewed ‘piece talks’, I told him that more than likely today or tomorrow terrorists would strike. It was just a question of where – around here, the Shomron, or Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. Tonight we received our answer.

Leaving Ma’arat HaMachpela after evening prayers, the beeper beeped. A car had been shot at. A quick phone call, confirming that Jews had been hit, four critically, and I sped off. I had been at the scene of the shooting only a few hours ago, examining how Arabs were stealing water from Jews in the area.

By the time I arrived, the description had changed. No longer four critically wounded. Four dead. Four killed, shot by terrorists, on their way home. The terrorists’ lives have been made much easier in the past year or so, with various roadblocks being removed in Judea and Samaria. Now it’s fairly simple to access roads used by Jewish civilians, shoot, and then escape.

The scene was reminiscent of others I’ve witnessed in the past. Ambulances, jeeps, police, medics, soldiers, officers, red lights flashing….and bodies.

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen four bodies on the street, murdered by Arabs only because they are Jews, living in Israel.

I sit here, half numb, almost not believing, but knowing that, yes, it’s real. And what to do?

The first thing that must be done: Netanyahu has to return immediately, cancelling tomorrow’s ‘festive ceremony’ renewing the so-called negotiations with Obama and Abu Mazen. Israel must make it as clear as possible: we refuse to accept, under any circumstances, and at any price, murder of innocent people on our roads, in our homes, anywhere. No excuses, no looking the other way, no ‘ifs ands or buts.’ More than the Arabs, Obama must understand in no uncertain terms that our people are not cattle-feed.

Two: Netanyahu must unfreeze the freeze now. Not on September 26, not leaving everyone wondering ‘what’s he going to do?’ Tomorrow, as these four pure souls are being buried, building must again begin throughout Judea and Samaria. Here again, the Arabs and the Americans must understand that we will not turn the other cheek; there is a price for murdering Jews in Israel.

Three: Here in Israel we must comprehend that our own people are continuing to incite; making Jewish blood cheap. Two examples: The continued ‘cherem’ – boycott of Israeli actors and performing artists, refusing to perform in Ariel in the Shomron, is incitement. Our Arab neighbors, seeing and hearing Israelis spout revulsion against their supposed brethren is, in the Arab’s eyes, a green light, opening the door to murderous attacks as we witnessed tonight.

So too with such organizations as Breaking the Silence and others, who continue to spew hate against Jews living in Hebron and the Hebron area, while identifying effusively with our Arab neighbors. This is also incitement; there is no other word for it. Actually there is: treason. A person or individual abetting the enemy is treason. These people walk the streets of Hebron freely, regurgitating lies about Hebron’s Jewish citizen’s, while showering praises on the ‘poor palestinians’ whose suffer at the hands of the evil Jews. These ‘poor people’ are planning on taking our land, destroying our country, and continuing to kill Jews. Such ‘tours’ must be stopped.

Four: Israel has been ‘returning’ security control to armed, uniformed Arabs in cities throughout Judea and Samaria. This too, must be ended. It won’t be any surprise if we eventually discover that the terrorists who murdered four Jews tonight are actually ‘palestinian police,’ trained and armed by General Keith Dayton of the US army, and set free to roam the streets with the permission of the state of Israel.

According to the latest reports, a number of terrorists participated in the attack. After the car was shot at and stopped, its passengers were shot dozens of times, ensuring their deaths. It’s been reported that one of the women was pregnant. The couple killed leaves some six children orphans. You know what it's like to inform ten kids that their parents aren't coming home anymore, that they were killed by terrorists an hour ago?

This is pure, unadulterated barbarity, brutality characteristic of our ‘piece partners.’ This may very well only be the beginning.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Serving Israel on a Silver Platter

Part 1. Direct talks

The United States: Welcome to resumption of direct negotiations between Palestine and Israel.  The goal of these talks is establishment of a Palestinian State, the borders of which, to be agreed upon during negotiations, will be established according to the pre-June 4, 1967 boundaries. The sides will have an unlimited opportunity to express their opinions and set forth their proposals during these talks, which will be completed within one year.  At this point I would request Israel to make an opening statement.

Russia: Thank you very much, Mr. President. It is our honor to be participating in these discussions. We agree with most of your opening statement, with a significant addition. It should be clear that we support weapons control for all the parties involved, provided that Israel and Palestine have equal opportunity to defend themselves against any external aggression. Therefore, we expect the sides to agree to international observation and intervention at all military facilities, including the Israeli nuclear reactor in Dimona. This is an axiomatic principal which must be applied, prior to any other discussions.

The United States: Thank you Mr. Representative. Now, please, Israel.

The European Union: Clearly, one of the most important points is security. Palestinian security has been languishing for over 100 years, ever since the Zionist invasion of Palestine. Palestinian security must be ensured. The only way to guarantee their safe sanctuary is via secure borders. These borders must be properly patrolled at all times by international forces, to be armed and prepared to repel any and all aggressors. It is imperative that the Palestinians also be allowed to have a hand in guarding their lives and country, Therefore the EU will assist in arming a full-fledged Palestinian military defense force, to be called the PDF. This has already been promised to the Palestinian leadership, and as we speak, the PDF framework is being established.

The United States: Thank you, Mr. Representative. Mr. Israeli Prime Minister, please.

The United Nations: Mr. President, please note: 1) The UN, in the 1970s, passed a resolution stating that Zionism is Racism. 2) The UN, in 1947, passed resolution 181, calling for a partition of Palestine. We believe that the time has come to finally implement that resolution, which will bring about a quick solution to all the issues at hand.

The United States: Thank you, Mr. Representative.

Mr. Israeli Prime Minister, in all actuality, I believe there is nothing left to be said. There seems to be unanimous agreement around this table, and with some arm-twisting, we should be able to convince the Palestinians to accept this agreement. Of course, we expect that Israel will assist, with immediate gestures of goodwill, proving your authentic desire for the peace we are on the verge of achieving. Your quiet, relaxed form of expression is much appreciated.

Thank you all for attending. These talks are now adjourned.

Part 2Suicide watch

Let’s stop and take a look at the map of Israel.

To our north, we must deal with Hizballah in Southern Lebanon. These terrorists are being fed weapons from Syria, Iran, and other friendly nations. According to intelligence reports, they have chemical warheads capable of reaching Tel Aviv.

A little further east we reach Syria, who also maintains an arsenal of unconventional long-range missiles.

Of course, to the north we have Iran, in the process of mixing a nuclear cocktail, aimed also at Tel Aviv.

The eastern border, the Kingdom of Jordan, seems stable. Except for the fact that the King’s enemies attempted to kill his daddy, the late Hussein, numerous times.

Egypt has maintained a cold peace with Israel since the early 1980s. However, President Mubarak is terminally ill, and the Islamic Brotherhood has its eyes on the President’s palace. Should they take over, that 30 year old peace would fizzle up in an instant.

And then, last by not least, we have Hamas sitting to our south, also with missiles capable of hitting deep into the heart of Israel.

That having been said, what happens when another Arab state is formed on our eastern border. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that Abu Mazen really has repented. He no longer denies the Holocaust, he’s sorry about Kiryat Shemona and Ma’alot, and really wants to live peacefully with the Jews. Great. Except, what happens post-Abu Mazen. He’s already announced his intentions to retire. What if his successor has yet to reach the repentant level already achieved by his predecessor? What then?

Or, another possible scenario. It’s quite likely that, following a full Israeli withdrawal from Judea and Samaria, our southern neighbors, down there in Gaza, will attempt to overthrow 'the good guys,' in the newly created state of Palestine, leaving Israel to deal with Hamas a few kilometers from Kfar Saba and Petach Tikva. It's a well known fact that the only reason Hamas still hasn't succeeded in Yehuda v'Shomron as they did in Gaza is solely due to the presence of the IDF. What happens when they're gone? Another 8,000 rockets, shot into every Israeli city on our western coast?
Another, no less important factor. From the hills of northern Samaria, there is a gorgeous view of the Mediterranean Sea, from Netanya to Ashkelon. It's quite exciting to observe a multitude of planes taking off and landing at Ben Gurion airport. Should these hills be abandoned to our enemy, these terrorists will easily be able point a sixteen kilogram shoulder-held Stinger missile at one of our aircraft and pull the trigger, blowing up the plane and killing 300 people instantaneously.  And this is not some imaginary hallucination. Israeli intelligence is working hard to find a solution to this much too realistic possibility.

And perhaps last, but not least. What about us, those of us slated for expulsion from our homes. Optimistic figures are somewhere in the vicinity of 200,000 Jews to be affected in Judea and Samaria. Would our leaders expect us to live under a 'friendly' Palestinian leadership? And if not, where are we supposed to go. Israel still hasn't found homes for the 10,000 people expelled from Gush Katif and the northern Shomron five years ago. What are they going to do with 200,000 people? Where will people work? Where will kids go to school? Perhaps Israel will establish Jewish  refugee camps in the Negev and Galil?

Direct talks, leading to a Palestinian state, is nothing less than suicide, serving up Israel on a silver platter.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The policeman's a good guy

(As printed in the Jerusalem Post-

A couple of months ago I had a little shouting match with some of the border police next to Ma'arat HaMachpela, the tomb of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs. After a little while - when we had reached a dead-end - one of the regular police, a little older than the others, came over put an arm around my shoulders, pulled me over to the side and explained to me why I was wrong and they were right. I listened, and finally acquiesced to their demands, and the issue came to an end.

This might sound fairly normal and logical, but then again, it must be remembered that this is Hebron. Had the same incident occurred seven or eight years ago, I am sure the ending would have been quite different. The relationship between police and civilians in this holy city was very different. Back then if a police officer approached me, it would not have been to put an arm around my shoulder, it would have been to handcuff, arrest, and start legal proceedings against me - and who knows what else.

However, things have changed. That's not to say that we live in utopia, but at present I certainly do not look at our local police force as enemies. I can truthfully say that I consider some of the police officers to be friends - and to a great degree, the emotions are mutual. Last week a policeman called me a Tzaddik (righteous person). Now, I bear witness that I'm surely not righteous, but hearing those words from a policeman in Hebron left me with the impression that we really are approaching the days of the Messiah!

It should be kept in mind that such episodes cannot be taken for granted. Not too long ago the relationship between police and Hebron citizens could easily have been defined as something similar to open warfare. The police were used as an extended arm of the Israeli political system, and utilized to victimize, oppress and even terrorize us. It wasn't enough that the community had to deal with Arab terror and leftist harassment. Every once in a while, while looking back through photos eight and nine years old, it's difficult to believe that we really had to deal with such brutality. And of course, people in the community didn't 'turn the other cheek,' causing major confrontations, which were quite messy, to say the least.

A few years ago, as the political scene began to change, so did the people comprising Hebron's police force. Honestly, I was very surprised and to be honest, very suspicious. But over a period of time it became clear that somewhere, someone decided to attempt to change the rancid atmosphere which poisoned the relationship between the police and Hebron's Jewish population. And I can quite happily say that for the most part, it has worked.

For example, yesterday afternoon, Hebron's police sponsored a 'Police-Community Day.' True, not all the kids attended; it was very hot, some were on vacation, and others still have trouble digesting the fact that the police are not out to get us. But a nice group did show up, and enjoyed a fascinating exhibit of police dogs in action, were able to play-drive in a police car (complete with siren -every boy's dream), wear a police vest, carry around a police baton and receive a police hat.

I know this might not sound like much, but to even attempt to carry out such a program in Hebron would once have been thought of as something out of 'Alice in Wonderland.' But it did happen, and I enjoyed it very much.

Alas, innocence is a thing of the past. I'm very well aware that conflict can still arise. So what? Tension between police and civilians is not exclusive to Hebron. It's fairly common all over the world. In Hebron we face, frequently, unique situations which are liable to cause friction between the people in blue uniforms and the civilians. But today, I know that I'm dealing with normal, rational people who are not looking to break our bones because we're Jews living in Hebron - and that's very very important. I can only hope and pray that such a rapport continues, because it makes life much more pleasant and relaxed when you know that the policeman walking down the street really is a nice guy.

(See more photos and video at:

Friday, August 6, 2010

Welcome to Israel - Blessings from Hebron - Blogs - Israel National News

Welcome to Israel
Av 25, 5770, 8/5/2010

I’d already spent two years in Israel when I came back officially as an Oleh Hadash, a new Israeli immigrant. I remember it fairly well. January, 1978. Having finished university and done a stint on Kibbutz, the time had come to get serious.

The plane landed sometime in the early evening. I was by myself, had no family here, but a few friends. They probably knew I was coming back, but waited for my call.

Of course, coming over as an Israeli meant that I had to ‘go through the mill.’ Actually it wasn’t too bad. The normal filling in forms in the airport office of the ministry of immigration, and then waiting for the free ride to my choice of destination. I do recall raising my voice as the hours marched on, but was told, ‘savlanut, savlanut’ (which means patience). I didn’t have much choice. My Hebrew wasn’t non-existent, but certainly not good enough to express myself in any great detail.

Finally, riding in some kind of truck, I made it to a dormitory in Talpiot, Jerusalem sometime after midnight. The gate was locked and it took some time until the building’s Russian guard finally heard the doorbell and let me in. The housemother showed me to my room, where my new roomate was rudely awakened in the early hours of the morning. Eventually he forgave me and is today a friend living in nearby Kiryat Arba.

That was how it began. No bells or whistles, but an inner sense of pride - ‘Here I am, now I’m an Israeli.’ It was a good feeling.

Yesterday I ‘made Aliyah’ all over again.

We had friends who were coming over on the Nefesh b’Nefesh flight, bringing some 230 new Israelis to our homeland from North America. The Abrams family, from Atlantic City, New Jersey, were finally coming home.

This flight over was far from their first. The family has been visiting Israel for at least one month every summer for over ten years. A few years ago they almost made it a permanent stay, but were held up at the last minute. The real hero of the family are not the parents, rather their oldest daughter, Elana, who decided that Atlantic City really wasn’t the place for a ‘good Jewish girl’ to go to high school. So a few years she left the US for Israel, on her own, to attend a women’s school in Bnei Brak. She came to visit us in Hebron every now and again; we tried to ease her way as much as we could. But in reality, her success was her own. A month ago she finished, Bagrut (graduation examinations) and all, and is planning, a year from now, to begin medical school here in Israel.

Standard studies weren’t enough of a challenge, so Elana also volunteered with Magen David Adom, and rode around in ambulances in the middle of the night assisting people who needed help. When that wasn’t keeping her busy she starred on her school’s basketball team.

In about a month Elana will begin her ‘Shnat Sherut,’ a year of volunteer work religious women undertake in place of army duty. She will be continuing her work with Magen David Adom and emergency aid, based in Kiryat Arba.
And during her free time she’ll be helping her parents and siblings adjust to their new lives in Jerusalem.

A month or so ago my daughter, who’s just a year older than Elana, received an invitation to greet the family at Ben Gurion airport upon arrival of the Nefesh b’Nefesh flight. The plane was supposed to land at about 7:30 AM, and invited guests had to be there by 6:45. That meant we’d have to leave the house at about 5:00. A little early for me. But at the last minute we decided to go.

It didn’t take too long until the Terminal 1 hall was packed with others just like us, waiting to welcome the new Israelis. Having a press pass, I was able to wait only meters away from the shuttle buses transporting the people from the plane to the airport. About thirty Israeli soldiers in dress uniform lined the walkway, with live music creating an authentic holiday atmosphere. When the first bus pulled up they began playing ‘Hevenu Shalom Alechem’ with hundreds of people waving Israeli flags, singing and cheering. As the passengers stepped off the bus, they seemed to be stunned.

There were young and old, singles and families of six and seven children. One group included a four generation family. Among the arrivals were eighty five youth who will be inducted into the army in a couple of weeks. From five months to ninty four years old, all coming to live in Israel. The expressions on these people’s faces left little need for words - they could not believe the reception they were receiving, as they took their first steps as Israelis.
My friends were on one of the last shuttles arriving at the terminal. I’d been filming video and photos of the festivities, but when I saw Ken and the others step off the bus I couldn’t really control myself. I ran over to him, grabbed his hands and started dancing, around and around and around.

Earlier in the morning I’d interviewed an NBN member, who told me that whenever he participated in these events, he had tears in his eyes. Well, he wasn’t the only one.

Finally, with everyone in the hall, a beautiful ceremony commenced, which included a speech by President Shimon Peres and a performance by Israeli singer Rami Kleinstein. But the ‘stars of the show,’ as far as I’m concerned, were Rabbi Yehoshua Fass and Mr. Tony Gelbart, who initiated Nefesh b’Nefesh less than a decade ago, and have, so far, brought over 25,000 new Israelis to Israel.

Watching the event, I could only look back and remember my Aliyah experience over thirty years ago, put myself in these people’s shoes, and say to myself, “Welcome to Israel.”

Photos and video at:

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Consolation Eighty-One Years Later

Av 17, 5770, 7/28/2010
Consolation Eighty-One Years Later

This is our consolation. We are here. We are in Israel, we are in Hebron, we are at Ma’arat HaMachpela. We did not fade away and die
This past week I found Shabbat morning prayers at Ma’arat HaMachpela, the Tomb of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs in Hebron to be particularly poignant.

There were three separate minyons taking place simultaneously. To my left, in the hall memorializing Ya’akov and Leah a family from Jerusalem celebrated their son’s Bar Mitzvah. The room isn’t very large, and it was packed from wall to wall. When the thirteen year old finished chanting the weekly Torah portion, festive singing filled the building, arousing joy even in the other, adjacent services. A piece of candy bounced off of my chair, outside that room and was quickly swiped by a child sitting nearby.

To the right of the central courtyard was another group of people praying, according to the Sepharadi traditions. They were also in the midst of a celebration; A fresh chatan and kallah, bride and groom, were in attendance. The young couple had married only days before, in the Machpela garden courtyard, outside the magnificent monument above the caves of the Forefathers. There too familiar sounds of delight reverberated throughout the building.

I sat in the courtyard, surrounded by festivity, but also lost in thought. As the Torah reading concluded, a familiar Hebron resident, Yossi Lebovitch, approached the podium, and taking the Torah scroll in his long arms, began reciting “El, Maleh Rachamim,” a special prayer repeated at the time of a yartzheit, the annual memorial of a relative’s passing.

Yossi’s resounding voice rose above the joyous celebrations of the other groups as he prayed for the soul of his murdered son Elazar, killed eight years ago this week, on the eve of his twenty first birthday. A soldier at the time of his death, Elazar was chauffeuring a newlywed couple, a close friend of his, to Hebron for the traditional Shabbat post-wedding party. A few kilometers outside of Hebron terrorists opened fire on his car, hitting and fatally wounding him.

When Yossi Lebovitch finished the short memorial for his son, he continued, again repeating the ancient prayer, this time in memory of sixty seven Jews slaughtered in Hebron eighty-one years ago this week, in the summer of 1929. Men, women and children were tortured and massacred by their friends and neighbors. Three days later the survivors, some of whom were saved by Arabs, were expelled from the city, bringing about an end to a Jewish community thousands of years old. A small group returned in 1931 but were evicted in the spring of 1936, being told that the Mufti, Haj Amin El Husseini, who led the 1929 riots, was again inciting against the Jews and their safety could no longer be guaranteed. From 1936 until 1967 Hebron remained Judenrein.

Every year, on the eighteenth day of the Hebrew month of Av, people gather at the martyr’s plot in the ancient Jewish cemetery to mourn those killed decades ago.

The weekly Haftorah reading, from the prophet Isaiah, on the Shabbat preceding this anniversary, begins with the words, “Nachamu Nachamu,” “consolation, consolation.”

Where is our consolation?

My wife and I hosted, this past Shabbat, close friends of ours who live in Kiryat Arba. We’ve known them for many years and have spent much time together in the past. But this time was extra special.

Why so? My friend Shlomo is a Cohen, of the traditional ‘priestly caste.’ It is well known that Cohanim are forbidden from entering cemeteries, and for that reason Shlomo had never visited inside the building atop the caves of Machpela, despite his living in Kiryat Arba for about 25 years. However, lately, due to certain technical structural changes in the building, Rabbis have ruled that it is now permissible for Cohanim to enter this holy site. So, on Shabbat morning I escorted my friend, for the first time, into Ma’arat HaMachpela.

I cannot fathom the feelings of a person accessing this sacred site for the first time, but I could visibly see his excitement and emotions. It was a very special moment. Later I asked him what he felt, worshiping for the first time inside Ma’arat HaMachpela. He responded, “I remember the first time I went to the Kotel – the Western Wall, and this was certainly no less than that. I remember then feeling, ‘we are here – Am Yisrael is here.’ And that is what I felt now, at Ma’arat HaMachpela. The Jewish people are here, really here.’

That is our consolation. We are here. We are in Israel, we are in Hebron, we are at Ma’arat HaMachpela. We did not fade away and die, despite a two thousand year exile, despite the destruction of the primary symbols of our essence – the Temple, Jerusalem and Jewish independence in our land. We suffered exile after exile, torture and death at the hands of persecutors and crusaders, but refused to give up. Culminating, of course, with the most horrific moment, that being the Holocaust, and the most uplifting moment, that being the creation of the State of Israel.

This is not only solace; rather it is our response to the evil perpetrated against the Jewish people for thousands of years. Standing next to the graves of the dozens of martyrs slaughtered in Hebron, eight y one years later, we can truthfully declare: we are your consolation, we have come home, the Jewish people are here, in Hebron.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Av: Remember, never forget, Gush Katif - Five years ago - Blessings from Hebron - Blogs - Israel National News

Av: Remember, never forget, Gush Katif - Five years ago

Tammuz 29, 5770, 7/11/2010

Tonight begins the new month of Av, and with it, the next nine days of mourning, remembering the destruction of the two Temples, the Beit HaMikdash.
It's not easy to mourn, to feel deep sadness for events that occured thousands of years ago. We never experienced the sanctity of the Mikdash, and, as a result, really don't know what we're missing. That makes mourning it difficult.
However, our G-d has ways of helping us, whatever the situation might be. We might not be able to comprehend the magnitude of that loss, so HaShem gave us other events, not necessarily as great as the burning of the Mikdash, but serious enough to leave us with, at least, a minor impression of what really happened then.
And so it was, that five years ago, we experienced a Churban, a destruction, an expulsion. Not implemented by the Greeks or the Romans or any foreign power; rather by our own people; an act voted on in the Knesset, initiated by the Prime Minister of the State of Israel, approved by the national Supreme Court and carried out by Jewish soldiers and police.
This afternoon, during an interview, I said that the Jewish people waited 2,000 years to again have an army, Jews in uniform, able to defend themselves in the face of all danger. Yes, for Jewish warriors we waited, but not for those Jewish warriors to turn against their own people.
This churban, this tragedy, may not have been of the same magnitude of the destruction of the Temples, but the impression that it made, the amputation of a limb of the Jewish people in Eretz Yisrael, an operation performed without any anesthetic, has left an open, bleeding, festering wound, which leaves us with, perhaps, a mild idea of what happened to the Jewish people two thousand years ago.
It assists us to mourn, as we will for the next nine day, culminating with the Tisha b'Av fast.
Just as we remember the destruction that happened thousands of years ago, so too must we remember that which occurred five years ago. I cry when I see photos of the destruction, but my heart breaks when I view Gush Katif, the Garden of Eden of the south, as it was, before the destruction.
The following seven minute movie is composed of 160 pictures that I photographed in Gush Katif, mostly of ordinary, everyday life, excepting the last few.
I wish I could say enjoy, but I'm sorry, I cannot. But I can hope and pray that we will learn from our errors, that we will never, ever, with our own two hands, perpetrate such a crime as was committed five years ago, and that our mourning should be transformed into joyous celebrations, as we witness the rebuilding of Gush Katif, Jerusalem, the Mikdash and all Eretz Yisrael, as fast as is humanly possible.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

A Hebron Triple-header

Tammuz 24, 5770, 7/6/2010

A Hebron Triple-header

Yesterday was a triple-header. Three very different games.

Sometime in the afternoon I discovered an item on the internet which, on one hand sent shivers down my spine, yet on the other hand seemed quite fitting for the days and weeks of mourning approaching the 9th of Av. The internet item sent me to an article in the Israeli daily Yediot Achronot. There I read about the former commander of the Judean region, Col. Udi Ben-Mocha, who concluded his two year stint in Hebron a couple of months ago.
Commander of the Hebron Brigade is considered to be a very prestigious job, and also very stressing. It is also one of the key positions needed in order to achieve major advancement in the IDF. For example, two of the leading candidates to replace the present Chief of Staff of the IDF are former Hebron commanders.

It is quite normal for commanders, following the completion of their duty in Hebron, to be given a year of study at some important university outside of Israel. Ben-Mocha chose to spend his year, with his family, in London. According to the news accounts, his bags were packed and they were ready to take off. Except that at the last moment the IDF’s top brass decided to put the brakes on the colonel’s plans, and cancelled them. Why? Because they feared that following Colonel Ben-Mocha’s arrival in Great Britain he would be arrested and charged with war crimes.

What a disgrace! The ‘mighty’ state of Israel, and a leading officer in the IDF have to ‘fear’ left-wing, Arab activists, who might file charges leading to arrest, trial and G-d forbid, imprisonment in a foreign country. It’s a good thing that David lived 3,000 years ago and not today, for if he had his battle with Goliath occurred at now, well, it probably never would have happened. Israelite commanders would never have allowed him to enter battle, fearing the international repercussions if he happened to be victorious. It wouldn’t have made any difference that his victory saved the kingdom; rather, the international arrest warrant issued via Interpol would have taken precedence.
This guy, former naval commando, could be convicted for one reason only: According to British courts, an Israeli officer is, by definition, a war criminal. But then, I guess he’s in good company. MK Tzippy Livni and former chief of staff Moshe Ya’alon also had to cancel trips for the identical reason. The big question is, when will Israel put a stop to such humiliation, by, for example, threatening to arrest various English diplomats and businessmen in Israel, should our representatives there be put in the dock.

Well, that was the first event of my triple-header. The second was much happier and pleasant.

A few weeks ago, during one of my tours, a young man approached me, introduced himself as one of the group leaders and told me that in a couple of weeks he was bringing a Birthright group into Hebron – would I be interested in meeting them?

Would I be interested in meeting them? Birthright? Taglit? I looked at him as if he’d just arrived from the moon. Why such enthusiasm? Simple. Birthright’s been around now for a long time, and they’d yet to send a group into the city of the Forefathers.

But wait, what is Birthright – Taglit. Maybe some of you are unaware. The program was initiated about 15 years ago, and originally funded by Charles Bronfman and Michael Steinhardt, along with the Jewish Agency. The idea of the program was simple: get Jewish kids to Israel. Well over 200,000 people from over 50 countries have already participated. Just about all costs are covered.

The program has two names: Birthright, which is fairly self-explanatory. The Jewish people’s birthright is Israel. Nothing could be clearer.

What is then, Taglit? Taglit is the Hebrew expression used, but it does not literally mean birthright or roots. Rather, it means revelation. In Hebrew, l’galot, means to reveal – hence Taglit is revelation. And what a revelation it is. People who barely knew they were Jewish leave Israel after 10 days to two weeks with an added neshama – a new soul, (as it is written, a person who walks 2 meters in Eretz Yisrael is bestowed with a new soul (neshama, in Hebrew). And this new soul, much purer and holy than that that preceded it, leaves a real mark.

And even without being so spiritual, seeing Israel, feeling Jerusalem, experiencing the Jewish homeland, walking Eretz Yisrael, it’s a real eye-opener. I know. I remember. I went through it to. Not on ‘birthright’ – but it makes no difference. Israel has an effect on people. I never intended on living in Israel, being ‘religious,’ on marrying an Israeli and living in a place like Hebron. But here I am, 35 years later. Probably not all these kids with come back, but, you never know.
The group I had yesterday really was a first – the first time an ‘official’ birthright mission has come into Hebron. The kids were all from Australia, we didn’t have a lot of time, and they visited only Ma’arat HaMachpela, the Tomb of the Patriarchs, but they were sure impressed and I’m sure it was a couple of hours they’ll never forget. Not because of me – rather because of the impression that Hebron, and such a magnificent and significant site as Machpela leaves on a person. I was ecstatic that birthright finally made its way to its own real birthright, and certainly hope this will lead to continued visits, allowing others to reveal the inner essence of their beings, here with Abraham and Sarah.

Their visit made my day. I spoke with some of the people on the group, saw the sparkle in their eyes, the radiance of youth soaking up a heritage they never knew existed. It was a wonderful time, and I really look forward to meeting other such groups.

So, that was my second part of our triple header.
Part three

After evening prayers I attended a short memorial program in Kiryat Arba for Rav Mordechai Eliyahu zt”l, the former Chief Rabbi who passed away a month ago. Rav Eliyahu was truly a holy man, a spiritual giant who walked among us. That’s important, because he didn’t walk above us, he walked with us.
Stories about this righteous man have floated around for years, but since he died, they’ve multiplied. This past Shabbat his son, Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu wrote how his father prevented a couple from divorcing because of some stupidity. In order to make a point, the Rabbi had his secretary throw rotten fruit at him! But it worked. The couple lived happily ever after.

At the event last night four people spoke, including Hebron’s Noam Arnon. Noam told briefly about the Rabbi’s attachment to Hebron and his undivided assistance, whenever it was needed, at any time of the day or night. Rav Eliyahu frequented Hebron, participating in numerous public events, but also worked behind the scenes, assuring continued progress in all phases of Hebron’s communal life.

The first event was downright maddening.
The second was overtly uplifting.
And the third, profound.

So was yesterday’s triple-header in Hebron.

Today was quiet. We had only one guest – the Rebbe from Alexander – a Hasidic leader who is related to Menucha Rachel Slonim, granddaughter of the founder of Chabad, who is buried here in Hebron. 
And who knows what tomorrow will bring!
With blessings from Hebron.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Our secret solution

Whatever the price, whatever the sacrifice, we will not back down. We will not give up one centimeter of Arab land
We are approaching ‘the three weeks’ as they are known, three weeks beginning on the Hebrew date, the 17th of Tammuz, thru the 9th of Av (the 29th of June – 20 July). These three weeks are a time of intense mourning, marking the destruction of the first and second Temples, the Beit HaMikdash, so many thousands of years ago.

This period of time also represents the beginning of the end, as we approach the final days and weeks of the year, by the Hebrew calendar. This is also a time of introspection, usually accompanied by the word ‘Tshuva,’ which, loosely translated, is repentance. This, as we take up an accounting of the past year, both individually and collectively. How could we have acted better, both with our fellowman, and in our relationship with our Creator? Despite that fact that ‘officially’ this self-searching does not begin for over a month, actually it begins now. For our sages have taught us the reasons for the destruction of the two Temples: The first, due to idol worship, murder and adultery. And the second, caused by unadulterated, totally unnecessary, hate. In order to rectify these errors of the past, we must delve deep into ourselves, examining our own actions, trying to identify similarities to that behavior which brought about such destruction, spiritual and physical, and, if and when found, corrected.

As mentioned, this must be undertaken both individually and collectively.

How so, collectively?

To this, there are, I am sure, many answers from many diverse vantage points. I’d like to discuss one, which I believe is of the utmost importance.

Very frequently, when speaking with groups and with journalists here in Hebron, I find myself addressing the same issue: “What is the solution?” ‘The solution,’ of course, dealing with the continued war between Arab and Jew, be it in Hebron or throughout Israel. I’d like to present my answer, as repeated numerous, numerous times.

My response comprises several parts:

Of course, our enemies, our neighbors, must accept our legitimacy, our legitimacy as a people, and our legitimacy to live in our land, freely, as Jews. As of yet, this legitimacy is still denied us; they refuse to accept that Jews have any right to live in Israel; not only in Judea and Samaria, but in all of Israel, be it Tel Aviv, Haifa, or Beer Sheva.

This is nothing new. The Arab-Islamic rejection of Israel has existed from time immemorial. However, in order to reach any kind of ‘peace,’ this denial of Judaism and Israel must be changed, with the denial itself being rejected.

However, this is the least important element of the answer. Of course, one can rightly ask, how can this first objective be achieved?

Now we begin to touch on the essential issues, the first of which is that we, as a people, must accept our own legitimacy, our right to live as a people in our land. As surprising as it may sound, this self-legitimacy is not a given. In many circles this self-acceptance is rejected. I once debated a professor who declared that ‘if the cost of establishing the State of Israel was expulsion of any Arab people from their homes, then the State should not have been declared.’

This is, of course, very extreme. But it’s not too far from those people who question the Jewish right to Jerusalem, not to mention Hebron. There are many who really don’t know – perhaps it really ‘isn’t ours.’ Or perhaps ‘their right is no less than ours.’

This is reflected, here in Hebron, on an almost daily basis, when groups coming to visit, both Israeli and others, divide their days in half. Part of the day they spend with ‘Breaking the Silence,’ whose directors are infamous for having been responsible for involving Israel in Goldstone, having accused Israeli soldiers of war crimes during the last war in Gaza. Even Netanyahu brutally attacked them for their slander of Israeli soldiers. These people are not foreigners – they are Jews, Israelis, who have been accused by many of being traitors to their land and people, aiding and abetting the enemy. Only last week they ‘hosted’ in Hebron several Arab MKs, including Muhammad Baraka, one the most virulent Jew-Israel hating Arabs in the Knesset. Funded by the EU, Britain and other, this group has become a de facto ‘equal’ to the Jewish Community of Hebron. All groups, including Israeli pre-military academies wanting to hear ‘both sides of the story’ spend hours with them, as well as meeting with us. I’ve had to fight with numerous Jewish organizations who insist on ‘touring’ with Yehuda Shaul and Michael Menken, the two leaders of this group, this despite the lies and hatred spewed forth from their mouths. For example, how can one explain the photograph shown below, of Menken, smiling, shaking hands with Baraka, head of the Hadash, an Arab, anti Israel political party. Baraka was indicted four times, including for attacking police, but has not stood trial due to his Knesset immunity.

How is it that Jewish and Israeli organizations are willing to allow their youth to hear virtual enemies of Israel? What would happen to any American youth organization which insisted that, in the name of fairness and equality, their participants be allowed a few hours with people representing bin-Laden, in order to allow them to ‘hear both sides!?”

It is this very doubt, this craving for what seems to be, albeit only superficially, fairness, that is eating away at the very core of our being. Would parents allow their children to try ‘just a little poison’ in order to experience it?

This national doubt, which is expressed in such experiences, is a result of our inability to realize who we are, and where we are, summed up, perhaps, in realizing the source of our roots.

As a result, our enemies refuse to take us seriously, because we refuse to take ourselves seriously. For example, Anwar Sadat, speaking in 1972 said,” war is now inevitable. Whatever the price, whatever the sacrifice, we will not back down. We will not give up one centimeter of Arab land” Included in one centimeter of holy land was, of course, the sand of the Sinai desert. But, for Sadat, this was holy and not to be abandoned.

Closer to the present, I recall having read statements by Arab leaders to the tune that ‘if Israel is willing to give up any of its land, than they really don’t believe it belongs to them. For if they did believe it belonged to them, they wouldn’t think of abandoning any of it.’

In other words, the Arabs don’t think we’re serious. For good reason. We’re not serious. But not only because we are willing to divide our land and abandon major segments of it to our sworn enemies. There is an even better reason. If Jews really believe that this land, Eretz Yisrael belongs to them, then why don’t they live there? Why do they remain in other countries and not move to their land?

This too is a good question which expresses the lack of Jewish seriousness concerning Israel. It stands to reason that if we really did believe that this is our land, we would all be here. Hence, a simple conclusion – we don’t believe it’s our land; but some other ‘people’ does believe it’s theirs. And guess who wins….

In other words, if we don’t take ourselves seriously, why should anyone else take us seriously? We don’t know if it’s ours, and they do.

The solution – start to grow up and take life seriously. Today there are five and a half million Jews in Israel. The Arabs laugh. When there are 10 million, 12 million, they won’t laugh as much; neither will the rest of the world. It was easy to expel 9,000 Jews from Gush Katif. Had there been a population of 20,000, it would have been a different story. Ditto Judea and Samaria. Today’s numbers are not enough. The numbers today stand at over 300,000 with the highest percent of annual population growth in Israel. No surprise that Jews are expelled from buildings in Hebron, or building freezes stunt our growth. Because when 300,000 blossoms to 500,000 and growing, well, what are they going to do with us? The government still hasn’t figured out what to do with the thousands they uprooted from Gush Katif. What will they do with a half a million or more in Yehuda and Shomron?!

That’s the solution, and it’s up to us. When we do our thing, take on the responsibility, assuring that our neighbors understand that we really are serious, things will change. They won’t laugh any more. And they’ll understand that we’re not going anywhere fast. We’re here to stay.

Many years ago a journalist interviewed an Arab family adjacent to a Hebron Jewish neighborhood. The Arab said that he knew the Jews were here to stay. How did he know? He said that he saw the children, he saw their eyes, and he knew, we will never leave.

This is our secret weapon, our secret solution – this is our future - this is our answer to the three weeks commemorating the great destruction. This is the Tikkun, the rectification, repentance, tshuva, the return. This is Am Yisrael.