Monday, March 26, 2012

Curing the Migron Migraine

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Late yesterday, seeing the court decision about Migron, I don’t remember if choice words passed my lips, but they certainly entered my mind. But  the judgment wasn’t  overly surprising given the judges’ comments during oral arguments. Additionally, any other verdict by these three justices would have been shocking. After all, what could one expect from Salim Joubran, the only Arab on the court, (who, incidentally, or perhaps not so incidentally ruled to allow Jews to be evicted from Beit HaShalom in Hebron)? Would an Israeli justice who refuses to sing the Israeli national anthem rule that Jews can live anywhere in Israel? 
Miriam Naor was in line to be president of the supreme court following the blessed exit of Dorit Beinish. That appointment was torpedoed by a Knesset law, sponsored by nationalist leader Yaakov ‘Katzela’ Katz, paving the way for the appointment of Asher Grunis as head of the court. She certainly wasn’t going to support a ‘nationalistic’ community comprised of a population that prevented her from attaining this prestigious position.  

And as for Grunis, his vote really didn’t make any difference, being outnumbered with two votes already recorded. Therefore, by voting against the compromise he notified the Israeli right that he’s ‘not in their pocket’ so to speak.

As with the original Migron court decision, (as with other such rulings, such as permitting the expulsion from Gush Katif in 2005) this had nothing to do with justice or law. The facts of the case prove that, without any doubt. Had the truth been otherwise, the government never would have negotiated a ‘compromise’ with the community’s residents; they already would have been brutally expelled and their homes razed.
There are many disturbing facets to this issue.  As has already been written, this decision is intended to initiate a snowball proposed to roll over and delete all Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria.  And that is a real problem. But I think it’s the least of our problems.

Earlier today I found an interesting article on a web site called Middle East Monitor – MEM. The article is called ‘the Judaisation of Jerusalem’ by Dr. Abdel Sattar Qassem.
The first paragraph: The Judaisation of Jerusalem has occupied a prominent place in the Arab and Muslim media recently, and is the focus of many statements made by officials and heads of state on the grounds that the city's future concerns those who care about Islamic and Christian holy sites there. Recent conferences in Doha and Beirut released statements confirming Jerusalem's Arab identity and the need to protect the holy places as well as cultural and historical monuments which characterise the city.

The second to last paragraph: Jerusalem cannot be saved by money alone; it needs the people. If they are patriotically, psychologically and ideologically sound, then funds will strengthen their position. But if they are incapable, then all the funds in the world will not help them; only people can keep a cause alive. It is no secret to most Palestinians that the goal of the Israelis, and those Arabs and Palestinians who collaborate with them, is to conquer Palestine and transform Palestinians into consumers without any real human existence.

Here is one facet of the real issue. The Arabs want Israel. They believe Israel is Palestine. Jerusalem and Israel are synonyms. One does not exist without the other.

The connection between Jerusalem and Migron?

For a moment, let’s play a game, called make-believe. Let’s make believe that all the Arab claims for Migron are valid and legitimate. (They’re not. But ‘make-believe.)  And let’s pretend that the Israeli government, realizes the stated Arab aim is the destruction of the state of Israel (they don’t realize this, but again, let’s make-believe).  As a result, the government takes a strategic decision to ensure that the Arabs understand that we understand, and that we have no plans to allow them to reach their goals.

The next step is a practical, tactical pronouncement. In our make-believe game, that assertion takes the form of a no-nonsense declaration, whereby Israel says, ‘the hell with ‘right and justice.’ A point must be made. That point, includes not only the continued existence of Migron, despite its seeming illegalities, but also massive expansion of the community, proclaiming loud and clear: Israel belongs to Israel; and if you (the Arabs) don’t comprehend – here, we’ll show you! After all is fair in love and war. And this war is about love – the love of our land.

Ah, but this is all make-believe. Because Migron is legal, because the Israeli government refuses to acknowledge our enemy’s intended goal, and G-d forbid, that we should ever take a proactive national position, affirming our allegiance to our homeland.

Our neighbors watch their televisions; they see the state of Israel decree, time and time again: this land really doesn’t belong to us. So why then, shouldn’t Dr. Abdel Sattar Qassem write about the Judaisation of Jerusalem. If this hypothesis is repeated often enough, he knows, we will eventually believe it, and act accordingly. As he writes, this subject is being widely discussed in Arab media.

One would think, that any normal government, seeing, hearing and grasping Arab intent, (not make-believe’ rather ‘real) would not ‘compromise’ over a place such as Migron. The national, elected leadership would, in no uncertain terms, ensure that this community continues to exist, expand, thrive.

That, of course, brings us to the second major problem: who is running our country? A court of pseudo-justice, without any care for the continued existence of Israel as a country and without any authority to make strategic or tactical decisions necessary to ensure our survival?

I can only thank G-d that such a court did not exist when David ben Gurion pushed through the historic decision to create the State of Israel in May, 1948. For if this outcome had had to go through Salim Joubran, Miriam Naor and Asher Grunis, we would not be here today.

Migron is today, for Binayamin Netanyahu, a throbbing migraine. The only way to rid himself of this headache is not to destroy Migron , which is tantamount to cutting off his head. Rather the real medicine is to allow this wonderful community to blossom, and to build others, by the dozens, throughout Judea and Samaria, letting Dr. Qassem and others like him know that  after a 2,000 year exile, we, the Jewish people, have come home and we’re not going anywhere. We are here to stay.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Bamba’s Baby’s Bequest

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The Olympics are in sight. This summer the international sports events will catch headlines internationally. 
Individual nations prepare for the illustrious sporting phenomena in various stages. The people involved are not the only factor taken into consideration. After all, they represent their country, their homeland. Their heritage.

So it was that Israel chose the ‘Bamba baby’ to symbolize this nation at the 2012 London olympics.

For those unaware, Bamba is a national pastime. Ask any child who can mutter the word Ema (Mommy). Bamba is the 2nd or 3rd word in any baby’s vocabulary. A tasty, munchy, peanut-flavored snack, this nibble is a favorite amongst all ages, religions, and nationalities. (It is rumored that “Bamba packets” were discovered during archeological excavations at several ancient tels in Israel (together with empty soda bottles.))
However, it seems that Bamba, with all its importance, is not taken kindly to by everyone. After all, anyone on a diet, or those who eat only ‘healthy’ food, do not partake in this crunchy treat, and undoubtedly raised a ruckus when they discovered that this nosh, the ‘bamba baby,’ was to represent them at the most important of international events.

And so it was that the inevitable decision to leave the ‘bamba baby’ at home in Israel this summer was made. The kids cried, and the company wept, but the parents cheered. After all, should the tidbit’s picture appear all over the place, surely the tot’s would demand more and more. This could cause a social revolution amongst the younger generation.

So Israel’s Olympic committee had to go back to work, to find a suitable replacement to embody the Jewish state at the Olympics. Not an easy task. How to follow in the footsteps of the adorable doll? What could better exemplify Israel amongst the nations of the world?

I began pondering this predicament and suddenly, out of the blue, had a brainstorm.

Perhaps the ‘Bamba Baby’ is first on Israel’s list of national heritage treasures. But, this having been struck down; so what could be number two? Of course, the Kotel, the Wall in Jerusalem, is the most important place in Israel, in the world. But there is a place, of major major significance which actually preceded Jerusalem. That is Machpela, the tomb of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs in Hebron. What could better represent our people, especially in London, this summer!
What is the significance of London to Ma’arat HaMachpela?  Actually London symbolizes British leadership. It was the British who appointed Haj Amin el-Husseini as Mufti of Jerusalem in 1921. Later a Nazi, meeting with and working with Hitler during World War Two, he incited and initiated the 1929 riots in Israel. British decision-makers abandoned Hebron’s Jews to their horrid fate when, during Arab riots that summer, a British officer watched as Jews were raped, tortured and butchered. Then, only three days later, the survivors were forcibly expelled by those same British, who determined that the Jews and Arabs could not continue living together in Hebron. Being that the Arabs outnumbered the Jews, it was simpler to remove the Jews. (So was told to me by a survivor of that calamity.) In 1931 Jews returned to Hebron, only again to be thrown out in the spring of 1936, following continued incitement of the Mufti, being told that they could no longer be protected. Thus, leaving Hebron Judenrein until its liberation in June, 1967. For the first time in almost 1,000 years. 

So what could be more fitting than to have all Israelis, representing Israel in the 2012 Olympics, wearing charms of Ma’arat HaMachpela, the tombs of our Patriarchs and Matriarchs, in London.

This holy site is literally the source of Monotheism. The belief  in one G-d begins in here. What could better epitomize our national heritage than the roots of Machpela?

At present, there are others claiming that the tomb of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs is not  a Jewish holy site, that it has nothing to do with Jewish heritage. What better a way for Israel, as a country, as a people, as a land, to exclaim, at this international happening, loud and clear, with no uncertainty or doubt: Ma’rat HaMachpela, the first holy site in Israel, represents us amongst the people of the world!

The implications are mind-boggling.  Perhaps those who never have heard of Machpela, might become curious and visit. Tens and hundreds of thousands of people from around the world might join the already 700,000 people who visited this site last year.

Thus, justice would be served. The very nation that turned the Jews out of Hebron would have, at the least, indirect responsibility for an ingathering of peoples, Jews and gentiles, into Hebron.
This could very well be remembered in the annuals of Jewish history as Bamba’s Baby’s Bequest.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Palmer family: A child's pain

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Seventeen years ago, I seem to recall walking around outside in Kiryat Arba, when news of a terror attack started making the rounds. A bus had been shot at, not too far away, at the ‘Glass junction’ on the way to Hebron. I jumped in a car going in that direction and about five minutes later found myself face to face with two dead men, others injured, and a large group of people, who were, a few minutes before, passengers on that ill-fated bus.
Yehuda Partush had already been taken off the bus. A doctor examined him, did whatever he could, and then threw his hands up in disgust. Partush and his wife Mazal were coming back from Jerusalem with the keys to their new home, that they’d just purchased.  When the shooting started, Partush jumped on his wife, who was then pregnant, saving her life.  She later gave birth to their first son.
Nachum Hoss was still on the bus, sitting near the front. I knew him; We had met and talked a few days earlier. I helped to take him off the bus. I only remember mumbling, again and again, ‘Nachum, we love you, Nachum, we love you.’
Today was the 17th anniversary of that horrible day. A small group of people, their family and from Hebron, met at the cemetery, to recite some Psalms, say a few prayers, and remember them.
I try, every year, to attend the short service. But, even after so many years, it still hurts. Especially to hear Yehuda’s son, Aviel Yehuda, not yet 17 years old, repeating the holy Kaddish prayer for a father he wasn’t privileged to know.
Aviel Yehuda Partush saying Kaddish - Photo: David Wilder
That was terror past. But there still is terror, present.

Yesterday I participated in an event that was new to me. A few weeks ago I received a very emotional, actually heart-rending letter from Michael Palmer, father of Asher and grandfather of Yonaton Palmer. These two, father and son, were murdered at the end of September when Arab terrorists hurled a rock at their car from a moving vehicle. The rock went through the windshield, hitting Asher in the head, causing him to lose control of the car. He and his infant son were both killed.
Michael Palmer’s letter described the first court hearing, held at a military prison outside Jerusalem. Michael and one of his sons were present. Along with dozens of Arabs, supporting the murderous terrorists.  He suggested that perhaps others could attend the next hearing, together with him and his son.
I responded positively, as did many others. He presented a list of over 100 people who wanted to participate in the next hearing. He was told that only ten people would be allowed in the courtroom.  (The six Arabs charged, with each one being allowed 10 representatives, could have at least 60 representatives to cheer them on.)
Yesterday morning I drove, with a few other people, out to “Machane Ofer” just over an hour away from Hebron. It was a nightmare come true.
In order to be allowed in, you had to be on ‘the list.’ I was on the list. One step in. Of course, I had to leave my ID at the gate, to be received back on the way out. After that, the fun began. I went through three security checks in order to be allowed in. The first two were the normal, magnometer machines.  Just like the airport. Or Ma’arat HaMachpela. But the third one was manual. The guard who went over me with a fine-tooth comb was given orders, before starting with me, ‘to check us the same way they check the prisoners.’
Of course, we couldn’t bring anything inside. Including, no beeper (pager) or mobile phone. I have a press card and asked if I could bring a camera, after identifying myself as an accredited journalist. The answer was no. However, later on, a group of journalists all came in, with their cameras, videos and recorders.
The actual hearing, which began about an hour after I got in, at 10:30, was horrible. It is very difficult to sit in a room with terrorist killers. I sat next to Michael Palmer and his son Shmuel. Behind us were the other nine they let in. On the other side of isle were a group of Arabs (I counted about 15), a group of journalists and somewhere between 15 to 20 security personnel.
Six handcuffed Arabs were led in from a side door. The handcuffs were removed; the leg cuffs stayed on. They immediately began conversations with their family members present. We were told that this is allowed.  One by one, the terrorists were asked if they understood the charges against them. Two were indicted for murder. The others are suspected of participating in other such rock-throwings at moving cars from a moving car and also belonging to a group attempting to kill Jews. Some of them are charged with 25 such attempted killings, besides the actual killing of the Palmers. With one exception, they all pleaded innocent, saying they hadn’t done anything wrong.
The proceedings, before a military panel of three officers, are in Hebrew, with full translation into Arabic. The lawyers for the terrorists are all Arabs. They are, of course, allowed to bring cell phones and the like into the courtroom.
One of the military people participating in the trial introduced himself to me and said, ‘don’t worry. All Am Yisrael (the Jewish  People) are behind you. They’ll get what they deserve.” To which I responded, ‘unfortunately they won’t. They’ll get a five star hotel for a few years until being released for a Jewish hostage.”  “Yeah,” he said, “you should see the conditions they have here. They’re better off in jail than at their homes.”
This man, who conversed with me, isn’t Jewish.
After each set of two men pleaded not-guilty, they were led out of the courtroom. When one was left, another Arab was brought in, for a different hearing. The two saw each other, smiled broadly and started hugging and kissing each other. This too was allowed. It when on for at least five minutes. It was disgusting. When they sat down, they had their arms around each other, and continued smiling and talking. In a military courtroom, in front of three military officer-judges and the prosecutors.
When the last of the Palmer murderers left the room – I think he pleaded guilty – again they hugged. This time, after a minute or two, their mutual affection was broken up by the guards.
As I mentioned earlier, in my experience it’s very, very hard to sit near these rancid creatures. I really don’t know how Michael Palmer does it. They killed his son and grandson. But we surely can’t let him sit there alone, in a room filled with Arabs, showing support for these murderers. But it really was horrible.

They’ll sit in an Israeli jail, receive ‘compensation while imprisoned, get fed three times a day, and also graduate from an exclusive terrorist university, with at least one college degree, and a specialty in advanced terror tactics. And guess who pays for it!
In seventeen years, Asher Palmer won’t have a son to say Kaddish for him at the annual cemetery service.  His only son was killed together with him. But his daughter Orit, who was born only months after his murder, will likely stand next to her father’s and brother’s graves, asking herself, ‘what was he really like’ – thinking, ‘I am so sorry I was never able to talk to him, hold his hand, have him pick me up and hold me.’ And anyone else there, in seventeen years, like me today, at the service for Nachum Hoss and Yehuda Partush, will too, feel that pain, the pain of a child who wasn’t privileged to know her father, because a terrorist killed him, because he was a Jew, living in Israel. 

Monday, March 5, 2012

Germanely German

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First, I must make a short addendum to yesterday’s article, an important point which I forgot to mention. That article dealt with the roofing over Ma’arat HaMachpela. The missing element is that the issue of the roof is not one of money or design. The only problem, I repeat, the only problem, is the issuance of the appropriate permits from the defense and prime minister, themselves. Were that to be granted, the project could be completed.
Now for today’s fun and games. Hebron attracts all sorts of interesting people, who say all sorts of interesting things. Not too long ago, when the Meretz party came to tour, former (thank G-d) MK Musi Raz told me, in answer to a question that, no, Hebron should not be Judenrein. Rather it should be (in Hebrew) ‘mitnachalim-rein’ – in other words, ‘cleansed of settlers.’ He was referring to people like me, my family, my friends, and all the others who live here.
I thought that was a cute phrase, ‘mitnachalim-rein.’ Ethnic cleansing at its best. For if, for example, one were to say Hebron should be ‘michabel-rein,’ that is cleansed of Arab terrorists,  that would probably be considered racist.
Raz was one up on his colleague, the head of the party, Zahava Gal-on, who, when asked if Jews may worship in Ma’arat HaMachpela, refused to acknowledge or answer me.

This morning I received notification of a large group of diplomats on their way into the city. Outside Ma’arat HaMachpela I found a delegation of Germans, from the consulate, embassy and from Berlin, congregating around a representative of ‘breaking the silence,’ listening to his anti-Jewish Hebron tirade. Spoken in a soft voice, seemingly presenting a ‘balanced’ point of view, he ranted about the ‘poor arabs’ and the ‘big bad Jews’ who oppress them. 

This is nothing new. This organization, funded by the EU, and many foreign governments, was blamed by the Israeli government for assisting the infamous ‘Goldstone’ research and report. Need more be said? They work tirelessly to besmirch Hebron’s Jewish community, the IDF and Israeli policy in this holy city.

However, today, my focus was not on them. It was on the German guests. I approached one man, held out my business card and introduced myself. He ignored me. I asked if I could too speak with the group. He ignored me. I asked if he would take my card. He ignored me. I asked is he would speak with me. He ignored me. Finally he said something. “It’s not personal.” Wow!

I approached another man, and asked if I could speak with the group. He told me I’d have to set it up with the German consulate in Ramallah. Then a woman came over and told him to stop talking to me. So he stopped.

Then I found the ‘leader’ who said his name is Tobias, an employee of the German Foreign ministry in Berlin. He did speak to me. We actually had a long conversation. When I asked if I could also address the group he told me that they choose who they want to hear. What, not me too. Well, he said they’d already talked to us, a few years ago.

He told me that perhaps we could have a meeting with an ‘official’ German delegation in Tel Aviv, because ‘you are aware of our legal position when it comes to Israeli settlements in the West Bank…’ and a talk at Beit Hadassah would ‘complicate things.’

I told him that it would be preferable to speak in Hebron, but that if necessary we’d be willing to talk to them in Tel Aviv. ‘Tel Aviv is also a part of the state of Israel, even though it’s not mentioned in the Bible. We are about 4,000 years old and Tel Aviv only about one hundred.’ He then interjected that it’s the capital of Israel, to which I answered that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. He retorted, ‘the internationally recognized capital,’ to which I answered, the international, eternal capital of Israel is Jerusalem and all countries, especially Germany, should accept that.’

The Germans haven’t changed. In my opinion, their outward civility does not and cannot hide their inner animosity to the Jewish people and the Jewish state. Hearing a left-wing Israeli spout hate in Hebron is legitimate; listening to a resident of Hebron’s Jewish community speak about Hebron is illegitimate.  A balanced approach to learning.

We will celebrate the Purim holiday.  We commemorate G-d’s great miracle, saving the Jewish people from the attempts of the wicked Hamen to exterminate them. Hamen was an Amalakite, a people known to be the root of all evil, as is taught in the Torah. There is a positive precept, or commandment in the Torah, to literally wipe out, or in modern jargon, delete Amalek from existence.
The nation of Amalek is thought to have disappeared, or assimilated into other nations of the world. But, in the tenth chapter of Genesis, the “Tirgum Yonatan’ a well-known translation of the Torah, written some 2,000 years ago,  identifies the nation of ‘Magog’ with Germany.. (Genesis 10:2).  Magog, as Hamen the ‘Agagi’ was an Amalekite. 

That is not to say that there is a Mitzvah to try and annihilate Germans. But, anyone with eyes in their head, having studied a little bit of early 20th century history, would be well advised to beware of Tobias,’  and other such germanely Germans from the Deutchland.
All photos and video: David Wilder, Hebron

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Abraham and Sarah are Quivering

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Ma'arat HaMachpela in the snow, last Friday
When Ma’arat HaMachpela, the tomb of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs, was reopened, after having been closed for almost a year, in 1994, the huge, 2,000 year old structure was divided. About 75% of the building was opened to anyone not Jewish; the other 25% was opened to anyone not Moslem. Excepting 20 days a year; for ten days the entire building was closed to Jews and open only to Moslems and for 10 days a year it was open only to Jews.
The main area for Jewish worship is the central courtyard inside the building, with the two small memorial rooms for Abraham and Sarah to the east and for Jacob and Leah to the west. (The largest room, memorializing Isaac and Rebecca is open only to Moslems.) The courtyard is open, with no roof covering it. Upon division of the building, the IDF constructed a big tent inside the courtyard, in an attempt to provide some semblance of a closed-in structure. That endeavor failed, miserably.
Despite the canvas ‘walls’ and ‘roof,’ it is just that: canvas. Such material does not offer protection from heat or cold, rain, snow, sleet or a hot summer sun.  During the rainy season water puddles form on the roof and remain there for months, attracting assorted insects, including mosquitoes and other small creatures. And not only small animals. During the spring and summer months, birds, sensing the holiness of the site, flock to the building. A net had to be stretched above the courtyard to prevent  winged creatures from flying around, inside the building. But the net does not prevent them from discharging unpleasant droppings from above, onto holy books, chairs, tables, and worshipper’s heads.
The courtyard inside Ma'arat HaMachpela

Needless to say, without any heat during the winter, an open courtyard is very cold. And very wet. Last year the tent ripped open as a result of rainstorms, leaving visitors entirely unprotected until a new tent was assembled. This year, for four weeks in a row, women were unable to pray in the women’s section of the courtyard because that area was transformed into something of a pond, as a result of the rain and snow. Additionally, the electrical wiring system, not overly sophisticated, is located dangerously close to this winter swimming pool, creating a life-threatening situation for anyone wading in the water while trying to pray.

The top of the tent, filled with snow, at Ma'arat HaMachpela
This year’s snow added some color to the place. The Ma’ara in white is a beautiful site. But preferably when it is outside.   Here, at Ma’arat HaMachpela, we are privileged with indoor snow.

Snow in the courtyard of Ma'arat HaMachpela, next to the worship tent
During the summer, without any air-conditioning, during July August and September, there are times when the heat is unbearable.
These features could be dismissed as minor discomforts. After all, Ma’arat HaMachpela, after being off-limits to Jews for 700 years, from 1267 to 1967, is now, thank G-d, back in the hands of its rightful owners, the Jewish people and the State of Israel. Last year, some 700,000 people visited this so holy a site, second in sanctity only to Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
And there lies the real problem.
Any normal people, any normal country, and normal national entity, would glorify such a site. Presently the Arabs are demanding that UNESCO declare Ma’arat HaMachpela as a ‘palestinian national heritage site.’ They invest huge amounts of money at the Ma’ara, performing major renovations in the area open to Moslems as can be witnessed by the structural work and painting inside the Isaac Hall and on the outside of the building.
How is the State of Israel staking it claim? What is the Israeli expression of the Jewish people’s first national heritage site? What does Israel invest?
A tent.
The tent from the roof of the Ma'arat HaMachpela
This is not a disgrace. It is a humiliation to the Patriarchs and Matriarchs; it is debasement upon the heads of thousands and thousands of Jews, who for 700 years stood outside, at the 7th step, pouring out their hearts to G-d above. It tarnishes Israel’s very roots; for this is where the Jewish people began, almost 4,000 years ago.
The solution is quite simple. Construction of beautiful roofing; not a canvas tent, but a world-class designed roof, to prevent the rain, snow and bird-droppings from bothering people’s prayer; allowing for heat in the winter and air-conditioning in the summer. After all, this is the 21st century.  
The tent in the courtyard of Ma'arat HaMachpela
What’s the problem? That’s a good question. It should be put to the 120 Knesset members who represent the people of the state of Israel, it should be put to the deputy ministers and full ministers, to the Chief Rabbis, to the collective leadership of the Jewish people in Israel and throughout the Diaspora and of course, to the defense minister and prime minister of Israel.  Shouldn’t Bibi care?
This is not a political issue. It is an ethical concern of the highest value. Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and Leah, looking upon their holy resting place from above, must be shaking. Not from the cold, not from the rain or snow. Rather they are quiver and tremble from the apathy, from the degradation and contempt displayed by their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, who, it seems, know only how to embarrass them, at their final resting place, at Ma’arat HaMachpela, in Hebron. 
All photographs and video: David Wilder, Hebron