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.