Friday, February 22, 2013

The Purim power of children

The Purim power of children

Many years ago, I have no idea what year it was, sometime after 1981, I remember being at Beit Hadassah, it was probably during one of the holidays. Standing outside was Rabbi Moshe Levinger, taking in the scene. Which was, dozens of children playing outside. I could almost feel his fulfillment, seeing all these kids playing in Hebron.
Years later, after I’d begun working with the community, I remember seeing an article by a prominent journalist, who’d interviewed me, and a neighboring Arab. I have no idea what I said during the interview, but I’ve never forgotten the Arab’s words. He told the journalist that he knew the Jews were back in Hebron to stay. Why? ‘Look at the children, I see the children, I see their eyes.’
For many years now I’ve photographed Hebron’s Purim events, when everyone gets dressed up in costumes. Once in a while, a few days before it all starts, I take a deep breath and ask myself if I really want to do this again. After all, I have, probably, thousands of Purim photos. But, when the day arrives, and I get out the camera, I’m never sorry.
Purim officially begins on Saturday night, but for me, it started today. This morning, all Hebron’s children wore their costumes, and came dressed up to school. I spent the morning running from day-care, to nursery school, to kindergarten, and then to the playground, photographing the bubbly, bouncing, kids, in their Purim best. And I realized that it was the kind of occasion you never get tired of, no matter how many times you repeat it.
Why? Just one child, with a huge grin on his or her face, posing for a picture, while proudly telling me what they’re dressed up as, well, it makes your whole world light up. A group of little girls, dressed as brides or ballerinas, singing and dancing, falling on the floor and getting up, a couple of lions, roaring as they chase one another, Mordechais and Esthers, policemen, soldiers, and medieval knights, you name it, that’s what they are. They treat me, not to a breath of fresh air, rather to a breath of fresh, new life.

As I was photographing the kids and uploading material to facebook and our web site, our neighbors were hurling rocks at Beit Hadassah, Beit Romano and Israeli security forces in the area. They are protesting the closing of a kilometer of road on the Jewish side of the city. They call it Shuhada – we call it King David Street. It’s the only place in Hebron they have no access to – they have access to 97% of the city. We have access to only 3% of Hebron. Their demonstrations include slingshots, rocks and firebombs.
A guest here, celebrating their daughter’s Bat Mitzvah by giving pizza and cake to soldiers, asked me if all they have are rocks. I answered, ‘no, but that’s all they’re using today.’ And it’s true. They’re saving whatever else they have for bigger and better occasions. So, knowing that, what keeps us going?
I guess we each have our own idea, but for me, seeing these children, so happy, so carefree, so delighted, it’s worth more than a day of sunshine. Each child is like a sunbeam, streaming down on us, filling me with an energy that’s indescribable.
So, someone might ask, what’s the difference between Purim and other costume holidays that others celebrate around the world? Very simply: Purim is a festival of pure, unadulterated faith. An evil person, aided by a seemingly all-powerful ruler, wanted to annihilate the Jews.  They came very close to succeeding. Those around didn’t see any way out. It was, as they say, all over. But G-d wasn’t about to let that happen. As hidden as He seemed to be, actually He was there, all the time. Sometimes you see Him, sometimes you don’t, but He’s there, if you know it or not. Only two people, Mordechai and Esther, battled against the Ahmadinajed who lived thousands of years ago. How could only two be victorious against such a strong, but wicked leader, who had then the equivalent of today’s atomic bomb on his side? They did what they could, and prayed, and had faith in the L-rd above, and they won the war. The Jews were saved, and the result of that episode was the return to Israel, to Jerusalem and the rebuilding of the Temple, Beit HaMikdash.
Our struggles against the Hamans of the 21st century aren’t fought by only two. Today, back home in our land, all of us, men, women and children, by our very being in Israel, is tangible evidence of the Divine presence, which hovers above us, ensuring our everlasting life in Israel. The very fact that that, against all odds, Jewish children celebrate Purim in Hebron, is in and of itself proof; who could have ever imagined, 70 years ago, Jewish children in Hebron?
Years ago, during the intifada, called the Oslo war, a group of men wanted to visit Hebron on Purim. We rented a bullet-proof bus, and supplied them with helmets and vests, as they requested. After all, snipers were shooting at us from the surrounding hills. Such precautions were a logical necessity. As the bus entered Kiryat Arba the men put on their paraphernalia . Then, arriving in Hebron, they looked out the bus window and saw…
Dozens of children, running around outside, in their Purim attire, playing games at the Avraham Avinu neighborhood Purim carnival. They looked at the kids, looked at themselves, took off the vests and helmets, and then stepped off the bus, into the throng of kids.
That’s the power of Purim, that’s the power of Hebron, that’s the power of children.
Purim Sameach from Hebron.

photos by david wilder

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Bibi and Bar Ilan

Bibi and Bar Ilan
David Wilder
February 20, 2013

Many years ago, when I first came to Israel, I lived on the Rav Berlin Street in Jerusalem. I later learned that the name “Berlin” belonged to a great Torah sage, Rabbi Naftali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin, known as the ‘Netziv.’ Years later I knew his great grandson, a Torah scholar with the same name, presently a Rabbi in Rechovot. Except that the last name, Berlin, had been Hebraized to Bar Ilan. 

The ‘Netziv’ was known to be a huge sage, whose published books are standard works amongst Torah students worldwide. He was also a great lover of Eretz Yisrael, the land of Israel. When the Russians forcibly closed his Yeshiva in Volozhin in 1892, he planned to move to the holy land. Unfortunately, illness and his passing prevented this dream from becoming reality. But a number of his principal students did move to Israel and became Rabbinic giants: for example, Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak HaKohen Kook, Israel’s first chief rabbi, Rabbi Moshe Mordechai Epstein, later dean of the ‘Hebron Yeshiva,’ Rabbi Issur Zalman Meltzer and others.  
Rabbi Berlin was also a strong supporter of the ‘Chovevei Tzion – Lover’s of Zion’ movement, which furthered aliya and settlement of the Land of Israel.
Additionally, the Netziv’s son, Rabbi Meir Bar Ilan, a Torah scholar in his own right, was an outstanding leader within the ‘Mizrachi’ movement, who voted against Herzel’s Uganda plan at the seventh Zionist Congress, and worked strenuously for Jewish independence from the British in Israel. He moved to Jerusalem in 1923. He was also instrumental in founding the Bar Ilan University in Ramat Gan, Israel. According the American Mizrachi movement, "The name Bar-Ilan was chosen, in honor of Rabbi Meir Bar-Ilan (Berlin), a spiritual leader who led traditional Judaism from the ashes of Europe to rebirth and renaissance in the Land of Israel."
Our new Justice minister, Tzippy Livni, grew up on the knees of Jabotinsky and Eretz Yisrael. Her father and mother, Eitan and Sara Livni, were active members of the Irgun in the pre-state Israel, working to expel the British conquers from this Land. Before he died, Livni requested that the Irgun emblem be engraved on this tombstone.
Yesterday, upon notification of Tzippy Livni’s joining of his budding coalition government, Bibi Netanyahu announced that not only would she be Justice minister, but also head up negotiations with Abu Mazen and the Arabs. In her own words, "You all know my commitment to peace between Israel and its neighbors and to the two-state solution, a commitment shared with the majority of the Israeli public.” And, "The dispute is around the question of whether you can have it both ways -– maintaining Israel as a Jewish state and keeping the entire Land of Israel."
This woman is very very dangerous. She is very smart, whose ideology centers on her appetite for power. She left the Likud, following Sharon like a puppy. She later abandoned Kadima after losing leadership to Shaul Mufaz, formed a new party and announced that she’d never sit in a Netanyahu government. And she is willing to chop up Israel in a blink. She was a great supporter of the Gush Katif expulsion.
She and Netanyahu seem to have a lot in common. He too has no tangible ideology to speak of, he is determined to remain in the Prime Minister’s office as long as possible, and has already proven his loyalty to Eretz Yisrael. See: Hebron Accords and Wye.
The Bibi-Tzippy coupling, as he has declared, focuses on the catastrophic 2009 Bar Ilan speech, when Netanyahu officially recognized a ‘two-state solution,’ thereby granting legitimacy to a ‘palestinian people,’ a palestinian state’ and division of the State of Israel. The Prime Minister says that Livni will be ‘representing him,’ and negotiating for him.’ In other words, he’ll pull the strings and Tzippy will move her mouth.
But we know it doesn’t always work that way. Rabin, as Prime Minister, didn’t initiate Oslo. Peres did.
At present, a final Bibi-Tzippy coalition could look like this: Likud – 31 mandates, Tzippy – 6, Avodah-Shelli – 15, Shas – 10, Agudat Yisrael – 7, Mufaz – 2. – By my count, that’s 71. Maybe Lapid will also join. And the Jewish Home will be able to sit back and watch them take apart Israel. Horror at its worst.
I wouldn’t be surprised, if every time that Bibi, or anyone else, mentions the ‘Bar-Ilan plan,’ Rabbi Naftali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin, and his son, Rabbi Meir Bar Ilan, roll around in their graves, with tears in their eyes. How could such a suicidal, destructive initiative take the name of such lovers of our land?  I hope and pray that they will stand before our L-rd in Heaven and beseech Him to put an end to this madness before it gets out of hand. We are in need of another Purim miracle, fast.