Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Thank you Mr. Education Minister, Mr. Gideon Saar

See photos and video at:

Hebron and Ma'arat HaMachpela have again sprung into the headlines. This time by the graces of Education minister Gideon Sa'ar. Visiting in Gush Etzion and Kiryat Arba, Sa'ar also paid his respects to his great grandparents. You know, Abraham and Sarah, who've been lying in eternal repose at the caves of Machpela for almost 4,000 years.
This time the sirens are sounding as a result of Minister Sa'ar's comments concerning children and Hebron. More specifically, about school children visiting Ma'arat HaMachpela. He managed to wake up the Israeli left, who are desperately searching for a seemingly substantive issue to yell and scream about. Sa'ar provided them with what they've been looking for.
What could be so earth-shattering? Simply, the education minister expressing the necessity for Jewish-Israeli kids to visit Machpela within the framework of the official education ministry's curriculum.
Why would the head of the education pyramid so risk his political career to make such an offensive remark? Well, when you think about it, maybe it really isn't so offensive. Perhaps the opposite is true. Might it well be odious not to allow kids to visit such a site? Why?
I don't think there's too much I can write that hasn't been written before, by me and many others, even before I was born. But I guess some things have to be repeated until they eventually sink in.
Many years ago, opposition leader Ariel Sharon stood next to the steps leading up to the 2,000 year old building atop the caves of Machpela. There he proclaimed: "What other people has such a monument where all the founders of our people are buried, together, at one place. Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and Leah! Every tourist should come here, every ambassador should be brought here, every school child should visit here, because this is our roots, the roots of the Jewish people!
Why the opposition to visiting Hebron? The espoused reasons usually focus around a couple of points, those being safety factors and politics. There are those who say that Hebron is dangerous. Why is it so dangerous? Because of the great number of 'hostile forces' aka Arabs, in the area. But those on the left who so supported Oslo and the Hebron accords also believe that the era of peace has arrived. The 'hostile forces' aka Arabs are no longer hostile. To the contrary, they are Israel's best friends. So why be scared of them?!
But, of course, they know the truth. The 'hostile forces' aka Arabs are still hostile. Why be afraid? Because the Israeli left prefers to acquiesce to Obama's demands and ease up security measures, even if they endanger people's lives. But then, of course, the question is, whose lives. If it's only us measly 'settlers,' so who cares if we live or die. But should it be the children of the new left, clearly their blood is redder than ours.
However, in all actuality, last year some 700,000 people visited the 'Jewish side' of Ma'arat HaMachpela. In order to do that, they all had to come into Hebron. They all arrived home safe and sound, just as they arrived. Well, not really. Spiritually anyone and everyone who visits this holy site leaves uplifted, on a real spiritual high. So in body, all those hundreds of thousands remained as is; but spiritually they'd all changed; people cannot help but be affected by the sanctity of this wondrous site.
Thank G-d, the security forces work hard, night and day, ensuring that anyone and everyone can visit anywhere in Hebron's 'Jewish zone,' and of course at Machpela, without any fear or apprehension.
And, what if…? And what if…. is a question that can be asked when swimming in the Kinneret, mountain-climbing in the Negev, snorkeling in Eilat, or sleeping in your bed in Sderot or Kiryat Shemona. Or getting on a bus in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv for that matter.
 So much for security issues.
Then, there are others who say that Hebron is synonymous with politics and the education ministry cannot force a 'political view' down anyone's throat. I guess that's true. After all, if Abraham lived today and tried to by the caves from Efron the Hittite, the deal couldn't be completed until Efron had received a permit from the PA and the Israeli Civil Administration allowing him to sell the property. Abraham couldn't conclude the purchase before receiving an OK from the Defense Minister and the Prime Minister. Can you imagine the headlines: 'Abraham gyps the Hittites: steals caves for only 400 shekels! (That's about $700,000 in contemporary currency.)
Others would later write: Attempt to occupy Hittite land. Efron forced out! Abraham's army threatens world peace!
And someone would surely demand: What's in those caves? Why did he buy them? What's behind the purchase? Don't let him establish facts on (in) the ground. Don't allow Sarah's burial in Hebron. Send them back to Beer Sheva! Or "Dig her up! NOW"
This chapter in the Torah, Parshat Chaye Sarah, would become the subject of national and international debate, with certain Israelis demanding that it be removed from the scriptures: "Incitement against the Hittites." Any rabbi who dared to read these verses in the synagogue on Shabbat would be arrested and interrogated. "Do you believe in transferring the Hittites out of their homeland?!"
And undoubtedly, such a provocative subject must be kept from the pure, innocent children. A new internet provider would offer automatic censorship of such blasphemy.
Enough of the sarcasm and bad jokes. Really, it isn't a joke at all. It's very sad. It's very sad that Jews, Israelis, refuse to recognize our glorious, magnificent past, the pillars, not only of Judaism, not only of monotheism, but of humanity.  A belief, not of human sacrifice, but of prayer, to one G-d. This is our heritage, our gift to mankind. And it began here, in Hebron. This is the roots of our life in Israel. Anyone who condemns Jews living in Hebron, also rejects the rights of Jews to live anywhere in Eretz Yisrael, decimating the legitimacy of the State of Israel. You can cut off the branch of a tree and it will continue to live. But if you chop off the roots, it dies.
Perhaps there are those here in Israel who believe in suicide, or assisted-killing. That is the definition of removing Jews from Hebron and abandoning our roots, Ma'arat HaMachpela. The best way to prevent such a horrible death is to educate our children about who we are, revealing our true identity, teaching them, from an early age, the essence of our existence. That essence begins at Machpela, in Hebron. Any attempt to deny our children this most basic education is similar to demanding that a fish live out of water.
This is why, our enlightened education minister, Mr. Gideon Saar, wisely decided to begin sending Israeli school children to visit Ma'arat HaMachpela. Not to make them good Likudniks, not to make them 'crazy, extremist settlers,' rather to expose them to their heritage, their culture and the pedigree from which they originate. Avraham Avinu and Sarah Emenu, our patriarchs and matriarchs, our great grandpa and great grandma.
Thank you, Mr. Education Minister, Minister Gideon Saar.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

An unforgivable sacrilege

An unforgivable sacrilege

David Wilder
February 07, 2011

Several days ago Hebron's police chief showed up at the home of Rabbi Dov Lior, Chief Rabbi of Hebron and Kiryat Arba. The officer informed Rabbi Lior that an arrest warrant had been issued, ordering his arrest. Should the Rabbi agree to be interrogated, the warrant would be cancelled. On the spot Rabbi Lior answered, telling him that such questioning represented a 'disgrace to the honor of the Torah,' and that he would not cooperate with such humiliation.
Why are the police and prosecutor's office chasing this seventy-seven year old righteous man? Born in Galatia in Poland, Rabbi Lior arrived in Israel in 1948, shortly before declaration of the State of Israel. He studied under Rabbi Abaham Kook's student, Rabbi Moshe Tziv Neria at Kfar HaRoe and later at Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav in Jerusalem under Rabbi Kook's son, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook. He was considered to be one of the Yeshiva's most important students, learning for hours at a time without moving. During festive dancing on the Simchat Torah holiday, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda changed the words of a popular song. Instead of Tov li, tov li, Toratecha (Your Torah is good for me), he recited 'Dov li, Dov li Toratecha,' paying his young student a great compliment.
In 1976 Rabbi Lior moved to the newly founded community Kiryat Arba, where he was appointed Rosh HaYeshiva – the Dean of the Kiryat Arba-Nir Yeshiva, working side by side with Rabbi Eliezer Waldman. Over the years the Rabbi became known as a prominent Torah scholar. However Rabbi Lior's teaching involved more than dry Rabbinic rulings. He became an active leader within the movement to repopulate Judea, Samaria and Gaza. He spent many summer vacations in Gush Katif. With the rise of the left and the advent of Oslo and the following Hebron Accords, he became an outspoken leader, blasting attempts to delegitimize the Israeli right. He worked tirelessly against the Gush Katif expulsion, making frequent trips to that beleaguered area, giving hope and strength to the local population, fighting for its collective life. He participated in prayer rallies and protests while providing Torah support via various Rabbinic rulings needed during those struggles.
Some twenty-five years ago he was elected Chief Rabbi of Hebron and Kiryat Arba. Some years ago Rabbi Lior formed the Rabbinic Council for Judea and Samaria and was appointed its leader. Presently he is considered to be the important Rabbi of the Nationalist-Zionist movement and one of the most significant, scholarly rabbinical figures in Israel.
Frequently Rabbis are requested to write a 'hascama,' an approbation of a newly-authored Torah book by a younger Rabbi. Rabbi Lior, himself the author of thousands of Torah responsa as well as his own books dealing with Torah law, is also approached to write a short introduction to Torah books.
So it was that a couple of years ago the Rabbi agreed to write an approbation for a book titled "Torat HaMelech," meaning 'the King's Torah.' This scholarly work, written by two young Rabbis, deals with relationships between Jews and non-Jews, particularly during situations dealing with life and death during war and other conflict. Specifically it details rulings by many Torah giants, beginning with the Talmud, two thousand years ago, through the present.
Rabbi Lior was not the only Torah scholar asked to written such a approbation for this book. Others include Rabbi Zalman Nechemia Goldberg, also considered to be an authentic Torah giant, one of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef's son, Rabbi Ya'akov Yosef, a leading Sefardic Torah expert, and well-known Rabbi Yitzhak Ginzburg.
Amongst other comments, Rabbi Lior praises the authors for writing such a comprehensive book, including the opinions of so many Torah commentators. He clarifies the significance of understanding Jewish law to its fullest, even when dealing with most sensitive topics such as life and death.
As a result of his approbation, Rabbi Lior has been accused of incitement, and has been ordered to appear for police interrogation. In a short filmed class to yeshiva students, Rabbi Lior explained that a Rabbi must be able to freely express 'Da'at Torah,' that is the Torah ruling on any given subject, even if that expression is not popular with others. He stressed that a Rabbi must never fear to express the truth, as it appears in Torah, even if such a ruling could cause him damage.  "Limiting what a Rabbi may say is comparable to Bolshevik regimes of Soviet Russia which would decide what people could think and what they could say…There are certain elements in society who, lately want to oppress Rabbis, ordering investigations and interrogations, in order to silence them from expressing Torah opinion… and this directly contradicts what is known as democracy and freedom of expression. If there is freedom of expression, it must be for everyone. We haven't heard of those preaching from mosques, inciting against the state of Israel, being arrested and interrogated…"
Rabbi Dov Lior is not only a Torah giant. He is an genuine hero, standing up for the rights of the Jewish people in their land, being able to live according to Torat Yisrael. Since his arrival in Israel over sixty years ago, he has dedicated his life to Torah, to his People and to his Land. The current attempt to disgrace him via accusations of incitement, while trying to silence him and interrogate him as a common criminal can only be described as an unforgiveable sacrilege.