Tuesday, September 9, 2014

What keeps Israel going?

The Jerusalem Post - Israel News


A while ago I received an email from a couple wanting to visit Hebron. For some reason they never made it. A few days ago I heard that they were leaving back to the US next week. I found their phone number, gave them a call, and yesterday they came in for a tour. I knew that they couldn't pay the full price for a private tour. But when people want to see Hebron, I try not to let them down.
They were a pleasant young couple, seemingly similar to many others who visit here. In between explanations we chatted. It turns out that, despite their current residency in the US, both hold Israeli citizenship and that they'd been here for over three months.
"So," I asked, "what have you been doing all that time?" "Well," responded the thirty or so year old man, "I spent two months in Han Yunis."
That's when my eyes really opened wide. "Huh?"
"Well I have Israeli citizenship. A few weeks after we arrived, the war started. I immediately received a 'Tzav 8" – that is, emergency IDF order, calling me up to active service. And to Gaza I went."
"Han Yunis – you were in the thick of it – fighting?!"
"Yup, doing what we had to do."
"What unit?"
I won't specify here, but needless to say, one of the IDF's most elite sections.  Knowing that, I could guess that he really was in the middle of 'the action.' And he showed no regrets, either.
I looked at his young wife, trying to understand what she was thinking. After all, they'd come to 'visit' in Israel, and here, her husband was swiftly drafted into the army, to fight against terrorists, down in Gaza. She sort of smiled shyly, saying that her mom had flown over to be with her. But she didn't imply, in any way shape or form, that she would have had it any other way.
I was very impressed. And I gave them as good a tour as I possibly could have.  They deserved it.
The day before, on Shabbat, I spoke to a group here from a nearby Israeli city. They seemed all to be religious, mixed English and Hebrew speaking, After morning prayers they met me at the Avraham Avinu synagogue. After a brief introduction about Hebron today, and more specifically about that particular site, I opened up for questions. Many times I find it preferable to do 'question and answer' sessions, rather than lecture. This enables me to address what people are really interested in hearing about.
A woman asked a question I hear frequently: "Isn't it dangerous to live here in Hebron?"
Honestly, it's difficult for me not to by cynical when addressing this. Sometimes, as I did on Shabbat, I joking answer, "sure it is, for the Arabs around us. When they see you they're afraid."
Actually, this isn't all joke. When our neighbors see tens and hundreds of thousands of people flocking into Hebron, they realize that this isn't a small, unsubstantial community. They realize, as we do too, that Hebron has huge significance to many more than the eighty or so families who live here today.
But then on to a more serious response. "Look, where isn't it dangerous? Rockets were fired at Sderot, Ashkelon, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. A few years ago northern Israeli was attacked by Hezbollah missiles. Syrian tanks are now shooting into the Golan. Unfortunately, buses have exploded all over Israel. So where should I choose to live, where it's not dangerous?"
But that's the secondary response. The primary answer: "Look, this is the first Jewish city in Israel. It's home to the second-holiest place in the world, Ma'arat HaMachpela, the Tomb of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs. That was off-limits to us for 700 years. Our neighbors tell us straight out, that if they ever control it again, they won't allow us entrance, claiming that it's a mosque and only Moslems may worship in a mosque.
This is our home. Either we are here, or we know who is here. If this is our home, than this is where we have to be. True, there may be a price, but isn't that the price we just paid, with over seventy soldiers, officers and civilians dying during the Gaza war? And if we don't fight, then….what?"
A man raised his hand and followed-up. "Is it more dangerous in Hebron than in Borough Park?"
For those unfamiliar, Borough Park is an ultra-orthodox Jewish neighborhood in Brookly, NY.
I stifled a laugh. "Look, it says in the Gemara that 'Eretz Yisrael Machkim' – meaning that breathing the air of Israel provides wisdom. Here, in Israel, and certainly in Hebron, the air we breathe is holy. In Borough Park, all they breathe is the impure air of Galut (the Diaspora)."
Later, I realized that he already knew the answer, but just wanted to hear what I would say. Because, in discussing the current events in Iraq and Syria, and the contagious continuation into Europe and the Americas, he told me, "I made Aliyah with my suitcases, with my possessions. When, at some point, the Jews won't have any choice to but to leave the States, they'll only be able to bring the clothing they're wearing."
How true. And how sad.
These people, like the young man from the US who fought for Am Yisrael for two months, putting his life on the line, and the other man, who left the spoils of New York for the holiness of Israel. This is what keeps Israel going.
This is what Israel is all about. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Lean on the Purity of Israel

Today is, according to the Hebrew calendar, the 17th day of the month of Av. Exactly 85 years ago today, the 1929 (Tarpat-Hebrew year) riots and massacre began. Over 160 people were killed throughout pre-State Israel. Sixty seven were slaughtered in Hebron. This led to the expulsion of the Hebron survivors, and the first time in almost 1,000 years that Hebron was Judenrein.

A couple of weeks ago we were honored to hear a fascinating lecture by Mr. Ya'akov Frank. He is the grandson of the former Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, Rabbi Tzvi Pesach Frank, who was born in 1873 and died in 1961.
Most of the following is from Ya'akov Frank's lecture:

In 1920, Rabbi Frank wrote a letter to two important Rabbis, one of them, Rabbi Moshe Mordechai Epstein, the Dean of the Knesset Yisrael Yeshiva, in Slobodka in Lithuania. He invited the Rabbi to bring his Yeshiva to Israel. Rabbi Epstein replied that his Yeshiva included 100 men, that he would try to come to Israel, but not yet.

In 1925, they did leave for Israel. After much discussion it was decided to bring the Yeshiva to Hebron, as Jerusalem was already saturated with important Rabbis and Torah organizations. Hebron was quiet; they didn’t expect any problems. They arrived with 100 students; the number quickly blossomed to 180 pupils.

We jump to the end of 1928. Arabs were making claims to the Western Wall in Jerusalem and trying to prevent Jews from praying there. Trouble was brewing.

1929. Rabbi Tzvi Pesach's niece, Hannah Slonim, and her husband Eliezer Dan, lived in Hebron. They invited him to participate in a family wedding celebration at their home on Shabbat, the 18th of Av. Rabbi Frank agreed, and planned on arriving in the holy city on Friday, before Shabbat.

But at the last minute, there was a change in plans. Rabbi Frank's son and daughter in law, who lived in Jerusalem, were blessed by the birth of a baby son. Being born on Saturday, the 11th of Av, the newborn's Brit, circumcision, eight days later, would be on Saturday, the 18th of Av. The baby's grandfather, Rabbi Frank, was invited to be the 'Sandak,' who is honored to hold the baby during the procedure. As such, Rabbi Frank had to cancel his planned visit to Hebron, that next week.

As such, he wasn't in Hebron, at the home of Eliezer Dan Slonim, where some 25 people were murdered, that infamous Shabbat day.

And by the way, the little baby who most probably saved Rabbi Frank's life, is the same Ya'akov Frank, who is relating to us these events.

Ya'akov Frank continued: I (the baby) was at a hospital in Jerusalem, six kilometers away. My father, and grandfather would have to walk there for the Brit. But on Saturday morning Arabs in Jerusalem started shooting at Jews. An Arab taxi would pass by Jews on the street, stop, gunfire would erupt, and the taxi would continue, looking for other victims.

Ya'akov's father decided that it was much too dangerous to allow his father, Rabbi Frank, to walk with him, and forced him to remain at home. His father, accompanied by two brothers, started walking. It took them hours to arrive, being shot at every few minutes.

When they finally made it to the hospital, the place was almost empty. They didn't even have ten men for a Minyan (prayer quorum) for the ceremony. However, one person did arrive. The famous holy Rabbi, Rabbi Aryeh Levin. Realizing the problem, and despite the shooting attacks , he went outside and rounded up a few more men, in order to have ten men for the Brit.

Ya'akov Frank related many other stories. Anyone who understands Hebrew is invited to hear the entire lecture here. It would be very worth your while.
The annual memorial will take place tomorrow afternoon at the ancient Hebron cemetery. However, today, a memorial will take place for Hebron resident Elazar Lebovitch, who was killed by terrorists 12 years ago, today, on the eve of his 21st birthday.

Elazar's father, Rabbi Yosef Lebovitch, was interviewed for last week's Chabad publication, "Sichat HaShavuah." The family had, during the Gaza war, five sons in the army, with two of them in combat units in Gaza. Asked about concern for his sons, he answered, "Worry, what will that help? I get up in the morning, pray, say Psalms and later more Psalms, and then some more. Psalms, and faith in G-d, knowing that everything will be OK."

What did he say to his sons as they left for combat? "The same thing that I was told, during the 1973 Yom Kippur war, before we crossed the Suez Canal. Maimonides writes: When a person becomes engaged in war activities, he should lean on the purity of Israel, which will save him during such a difficult time, that he should know that he is sanctifying the holy Name of G-d, that he should put aside all thoughts of himself, and his life, and shouldn't fear or be afraid, and shouldn't think of this wife and children."

What message does he want to leave to Am Yisrael? "To put our trust in G-d and to strengthen our faith. Whoever does so will not break and will know that G-d is with him."

This is the message of a bereaved father, with two sons fighting terrorists in Gaza.


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Bring Back Sherman

The Jerusalem Post

Bring Back Sherman
August 6, 2014
During the war I only attended two military funerals. The first, lone solider Max Steinberg, and the second, Kiryat Arba resident Benaya Sarel, HY"D. He was supposed to be married on Aug. 21. Thousands were present, in the middle of the night, for the procession which began at his home in Kiryat Arba, to Ma'arat HaMachpela, to the small military plot at the ancient Jewish cemetery, here in Hebron.

I've known Benaya's father, Rabbi Shalom, for somewhere in the vicinity of thirty years. Many years ago we studied at the same Torah study center in Kiryat Arba.  At that time he was already teaching some of the most difficult Torah subjects at very prestigious yeshivas in Jerusalem. In short, he is a genius.  Very tall, very smart.

At some point, when the Sarels decided to make their home permanently in Kiryat Arba, Rabbi Shalom designed the house. When he finished and the home was built, he decided he could contribute more building Jewish homes than sitting day in and day out in a study hall. So now he is an engineer, designing and constructing buildings for Jews in Judea and Samaria

Benaya's mother is a teacher of literature at the Kiryat Arba women's high school. I think she taught all of my daughters.

One of my sons studied with Benaya for a year, in the same class, when they were in high school.

So, it touches home.

At the funeral many people spoke. We call it a eulogy. Military eulogies are called, 'parting words.'  Just about all of what was said was touching, heart-breaking, gut-wrenching.  The problem is that words about a young man, an IDF officer, just beginning his life, about to be married, an authentic hero, are not enough. But that's what's left.

Benaya was injured a few days before he was killed. When at the hospital, having shrapnel removed from his chest, he refused to allow his mother to visit him. He told her, 'I don't allow my soldiers to see their parents. So you can't come see me either.' His father added, 'you're right, 100%. That's how you should behave. Don't let your mother mix you up.'

After the shrapnel was removed, he returned to the battle field.

Rabbi Shalom told two stories about him. The first: during his division's swearing-in ceremony at the Kotel, the Western Wall, Benaya saw a great deal of army food about to be thrown away. So he took all that food and gave to homeless, hungry people standing around there. The second: Benaya had been a candidate to receive a medal for heroism during a previous operation in Gaza. However, in the end, it wasn't awarded to him. When his father called him, to offer words of encouragement, Benaya told him he was happy. 'Why?'

'When I heard, first I was angry, then I was sad, and then, happy. Why? Because now I know that all I'm doing for our people isn't for my personal gain, for my ego, rather only, and totally for the good of the people.'

This sheds a little light on the kind of person Benaya Sarel was.

Yesterday was Tisha b'Av, the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av. It is one of two annual fast days that begins in the evening and finishes 25 hours later. Primarily it commemorates the destruction of the first and second Temples in Jerusalem, thousands of years ago. It is also the day, according to Jewish tradition, that ten of the twelve spies sent by Moses in the desert to check out the Land of Israel, returned and told the people that they were better off staying in the desert. 'It is a land of giants…We cannot conquer it.' The punishment included forty years of suffering in the desert and later calamities, on the same date, including the burning of the Temples.

Every year observant Jews observe three weeks of 'official mourning,'  culminating with yesterday's fast. (If you are interested in reading a fascinating, albeit very sad account of the Jewish rebellion against the Romans, leading to the Temple's destruction, clickhere.  This book was authored by Hebron resident, Dr. Gershon Bar Kochva, a known historian and lecturer. The book is worth reading.) But it is very difficult to mourn, to really sense grief, for something you've never really known. We can read, study, and attempt to experience as much as possible. But perhaps it is like trying to describe to a blind person, what is sight, or to a deaf person, sound. It doesn’t work. Until it is experienced, it is really hard to be missed. Because when you really don't know what it is, you don't know what you're missing.

So, how can we learn to mourn the destruction of the Temple?  Perhaps only by paralleling that to what we can be aware of. We mourn Benaya, Max, and the other 62 men who fell fighting for Israel, crying for the loss of such courageous people, and then multiply that sensation by about a million, and the tears too, by multiples higher than we know how to count. Then, maybe, we can start to fathom the loss we endured when the Temples were destroyed.

Of course, it is preferable that we should no longer need to mourn, not for the men and not for the Temples. But that will only happen when we fully comprehend who we are, what we are, and where we are. Then, and only then, will we make and implement the decisions that will lead to an end to our weeping.

Of course, some of you will ask, what kind of decisions am I talking about? There are a few. But the first, today: Bring back Maj. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman, and let him loose down in Gaza for a few days.  He had some experience marching to the sea. That would be a really good start.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Tears of Rage, Tears of Conscience

The Jerusalem Post

Tears of Rage, Tears of Conscience
July 23, 2014
 A couple of days ago I drove with my son-in-law towards Jerusalem to pick up my daughter – his wife, and their new daughter – our granddaughter.

During the trip in, and on our way back, my thoughts wandered – back and forth.

A new grandchild. Baruch HaShem. Thank G-d. People ask 'how many?' So now I can say, from Alef to Taf. Those who understand, understand.

It was exactly forty years ago that I came to Israel. The first time was for an entire year. I was a junior at Case Western Reserve University, studying history, planning on going to law school. I'd had the idea of coming to Israeli in my head since my Bar Mitzvah, at age 13. It was my parents doing. They suggested a summer trip. I liked the idea, but for various reasons never made it.

But, while in university, the possibility of participating in a 'one-year program' struck a nerve. Sounded like a really good idea. CWRU was OK, but nothing special. Cleveland didn't do anything to me. So, being able to finally go to Israel, being far far away from anything I knew, and getting full credit for the year, it seemed like a golden opportunity.

That year in Jerusalem, at Hebrew University, changed my life. As is said, 'the rest is history.'

I came to Israel by myself. The only family I knew of here was my mom's second cousin. Presently, after forty years, I can count at least one family member in Israel for every year here. That includes my wife, her family, our great kids and their spouses, and our wonderfully cute grandchildren.

It should definitely be a time to celebrate. But it's difficult to celebrate these days.

For a minute, let's fast forward, forty years into the future. Max and Sean have been best friends for years. So much so, that they live next to each other in a city, in the heart of Israel. Years ago they served together, fighting against Hamas Arab terrorists in Gaza. And today is an especially special day. Max's youngest daughter is tonight being engaged to Sean's youngest son. Now they will bond, not just as friends, but as family.

Forty years into the future that might have been, but never will be. Actually, these two young heroes will be together, for eternity. Sean was buried in Haifa Sunday night. Max was buried in Jerusalem, at Har Hertzel, a couple of hours ago. They fought together and they died together. For the love of Israel.

I was one of about 30,000 people who crowded into the military cemetery in Jerusalem for, probably, one of the largest funerals that site has ever witnessed. Keeping in mind that the soldier being buried was not a general, or even an officer. But his contribution was certainly no less than that of any officer or general there.

Max, as well as Sean, were 'chayalim bodedim,' that is, 'lone soldiers' who came to Israel specifically to serve in the IDF, to help Israel, to be part of Israel, defending our country, our land, our people. Max was from Los Angeles, and as many of those eulogizing him expressed, he could have chosen to live an 'easy life,' near his family and friends in the US. But he decided, after participating in a Birthright mission, that Israel was for him. He literally fought his way into an elite Golani Division, after first being rejected for lack of Hebrew. He not only shined as a soldier; he received a certificate of excellence as a sharpshooter.

Much was said about his smile, his personality and his dedication. But in truth, after hearing his parent's parting words, I wasn't surprised by anything else expressed about Max. As is said, the apple never falls far from the tree.

Max's father, Stuart Steinberg: "On behalf of our entire family, we want to answer a question in the minds of many people: do we have any regrets that Max served in the IDF as a lone soldier. The answer is an unequivocal no." And after speaking for a few minutes, Stuart Steinberg ended his eulogy at the fresh grave of his oldest son with the words, "Am Yisrael Chai."

I think that says it all.

I too, with many others, shed tears for a man I never knew, but deep down inside did know, a person who decided to dedicate his life to Israel, and did so, literally. But my tears are not only of sadness. They are of rage. Because it didn't have to be. How many times will we warn, and warn, and warn, only to be ignored. How many times will we say, 'but this is exactly what we were talking about,' only to be ignored with the same trite, 'but you have to give peace a chance.'

For years I have been telling journalists and visitors about the dangers of missiles being aimed at planes flying in and out of Ben Gurion airport, shot from the Samarian Hills in a future 'palestinian state.' I've been laughed at. Except that yesterday the FAA and its European counterpart stopped all air traffic in and out of Israel because a rocket landed a kilometer from the airport, shot from Gaza.

Dozens of tunnels have been discovered, leading from Gaza into Israeli communities. Four soldiers lost their lives as a result of one such infiltration. From an anonymous message posted on whatsapp: 'Dozens of tunnels ending in the southern cities are not tunnels of terror, rather they are infrastructures for land conquest. If we had not surprised ourselves at the backlash of the boys' kidnapping, Hamas would have chosen the appropriate timing to pump thousands of soldiers through the tunnels to conquer cities and military posts. Thousands of terrorists dressed as IDF soldiers, kill, conquer and kidnap, while the IDF has no time to organize. At the same time firing barrages of hundreds and thousands of missiles into Israel's center, paralyzing organizational ability against invasion. Why did they wait? Maybe for a rainy day, and probably to coordinate with Hezbollah for an integrated missile attack in the north ... and possibly tunnels into our northern cities too ...' 

And as I write this, we have just discovered a tunnel in Hebron, next to Beit Hadassah, under an Arab house, in the direction of our children's playground.

My tears are also tears of conscience, for had we only done more, maybe, just maybe, the above-written scenario describing Max and Sean in forty years might not have been an impossible dream, rather reality.
We just have to do more.

May these young, brave heroes be an example, may they look down from above, and assist to guide us, may they rest in eternal peace, and may their memories be a blessing on us, on their friends and families, on all Am Yisrael. Amen.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Forward or Backward? A Good Day to Fast

The Jerusalem Post

July 15, 2014
Early this afternoon an article appeared in the Jewish Daily Forward. Authored, in two parts, by the paper's editor, Missy Jane Eisner, today's item features yours truly and Hebron.

A couple of weeks ago I received a phone call from NY, informing me that Missy Eisner would be arriving and asked if I could give her a tour. I agreed. That's my job.

I know that The Forward is not overtly pro Judea and Samaria. I've had more than one run-in with them in the past. But when Missy Eisner arrived, I had hopes that maybe this time it would 'be different.' She'd never been in Hebron before and seemed to be looking forward to seeing the city. I asked her how much time we had, and her response was 'unlimited.' However, in the middle of the tour she received a call from her organizer saying that she had to rush off to Jerusalem for a long-awaited interview with Mark Regev, a spokesman in Netanyahu's office. For that reason, we had almost no time at Ma'arat HaMachpela, the Tomb of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs. We literally had time to 'jump in and jump out,' because Regev was waiting. For that reason I had no time to provide any of the captivating stories or explanations that are so-much a part of a visit to this special, unique place. And in any case, after about a minute there, she felt 'sufficated,' and 'couldn't wait to leave.'

I suggest you read her article before you finish reading mine, in order to understand what I'm referring to.

Within the time frame we had, I gave her a 'super tour.' To the best of my recollection we also sat in my apartment for a while, allowing me to answer her questions. Beforehand, we visited Tel Hebron – also known as Tel Rumeida. She mentions some of the archeological excavations, and how much it didn't seem to affect her. Honestly, that certainly was not her response when we toured together. I also seem to remember her using the word, 'fascinating,' to describe her emotions. Her face, personality and other outer reactions reflected the normal result of almost all people who visit the site for the first time, that being total amazement.

We climbed six flights to the roof of the building atop the excavations. That is where she photographed me, that picture appearing in the article.

A word about me: it is true that I carry a pistol. I'm licensed to carry a gun for reasons of self defense. (I've been told that 30% of Israelis are licensed to carry weapons. That includes many Jews living outside of Judea and Samaria.) My pants are baggy. I don't think my beard is unkempt. (Take a look at the photo – judge for yourselves.) Additionally, my shirt was not stained. I do not wear dirty shirts while publicly representing the Jewish community of Hebron, especially when speaking to 'important' journalists, like Missy Eisner.

But on to more essential issues. The photo was taken on the roof, but Missy Eisner refrains from discussing anything we spoke about while up there, overlooking the city of Hebron. From there we can see the few, small areas, which comprise the Jewish Community, and the overwhelmingly large area, comprising the Arab-PA controlled part of the city. She doesn't mention the 17,000 Arab factories in Hebron, three hospitals and four universities, or five billion shekels in business Arab Hebron conducts with the state of Israel annually.

Missy Eisner did remember to quote my saying that Jews have access to 3% of the city. She forgot the rest of the sentence, that Arabs have access to 97% of the city.

She also quotes part of my reaction to her query as to why we live in Hebron. However, she mentions only a short part of my answer. Additionally, I emailed her a link to the 2nd edition of my booklet 'Breaking the Lies' (downloadable here), which begins with an article titled, 'Motivation' which answers her question in depth. Missy Eisner, it seems, missed that.

There are two fascinating aspects to Missy Eisner's article. She begins her essay on Hebron with the words, "This is what’s so frustrating about these extreme settlers. They openly and eagerly defy the law, then react bitterly when — or more likely, if — the government actually responds. Nowhere is that more apparent than in Hebron…"

In other words, we are, a priori, "defiant of the law." Very interesting. Except for the fact that nowhere in the article does Missy Eisner detail our 'defiance to the law,' our illegality. We just are. Why? Because we live in Hebron. That is, in her words, 'unreasonable.'


The photograph of me is captioned, beginning with the word 'agitator.' Missy Eisner later writes, "Wilder is the unremitting agitator, whose passion I’d find almost admirable if it wasn’t so utterly unreasonable."

I checked out the word 'agitator.' It has a distinctly hostile connotation, of 'troublemaker' or 'rabble-rouser,' as a friend of mine defined the term. Merriam-Webster writes: "a person who tries to get people angry or upset so that they will support an effort to change…"something.

So, there is something inherently negative about me, because I am 'passionate' about "Hebron' and I have the audacity to live here. With other Jews.


Actually, the only hint of any positive reference to Hebron was just that, "whose passion I’d find almost admirable if…". 'Almost admirable.' Thanks a lot.

In other words, there is absolutely nothing positive about Jewish Hebron. Not of Hebron past, present or future. It is not a place for Jews in the 'modern era' because it is, as she writes, in her opinion, a 'palestinian city.'

Actually, I think it's quite fitting that this article be printed today. For today's Hebrew date is the 17th of Tammuz, a fast day, beginning three weeks of mourning for the destruction of Beit HaMikdash, the Temple, in Jerusalem.

Among other events that are traditionally recorded to have occurred on this sad day was Moses' throwing down and breaking the first tablets of law, the Ten Commandments, upon seeing Jews dance around a 'golden calf,' which they were worshiping as a god.

Missy Eisner's article has a distinct flavor of 'golden calves,' printed in a publication that should not be called 'The Forward,' rather, 'the Backward.' Because it views that which is holy and sacred as profane and immoral. Those dancing around the golden calf, 3,300 years ago, had it backwards. G-d wasn't real, and should be replaced by a god, a golden calf. Missy Eisner, refers to Jewish presence in Hebron and throughout Judea and Samaria as, 'Damn the consequences.' In other words, 'let's dance around a golden calf of emptiness and worthlessness. That is, the god of 'realpolitik', forgetting about our rights as a people in our land.' I ask, what would be the consequences should we not live here, in our homeland, in Hebron? Would again the Tablets of the Law be cast down on the ground and smashed to smithereens? Meaning, in real terms, again, Exile?! Galut?! G-d forbid!

Missy Eisner, I have but one last thought. I've been able to conjure up in my memory another person, who too, thought that Jews in Hebron were 'agitators,' simply because they lived in Hebron. His name was Haj Amin El-Husseini.

This realization brings me to understand that, in actuality, today has turned out to be a good day to fast.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Bombs Away!

The Jerusalem Post

Bombs Away!
July 11, 1014

There are different kinds of bombs.

Presently we are experiencing bombs falling on Israel, launched by a terrorist government whose goal is the demise of the State of Israel and the annihilation of all its Jewish citizens.

Simultaneously Israel is returning the favor, not in an effort to kill all Gazan Arabs, rather to exterminate the animals who are causing 'Red Alert' to be sounded, not only in Sderot, Ashkelon and Ashdod, but also in Beit Shemesh, Jerusalem, Haifa, Caesarea, Tel Aviv, Nes Tziona, Rishon L'Tzion, and many other places, and yes, including even Hebron. (The unconfirmed rumors are that the missile aimed at us fell in the Arab village Daharia, in the Southern Hebron Hills, killing three Arabs.)

Last night one of my granddaughters, who lives in Beit Haggai, in the southern Hebron Hills, where too there was a siren yesterday, called me. Her father (my son) was called up a few days ago in the emergency draft. In tears she whispered, "Saba, I'm afraid."

There are major differences between our bombs and their bombs. They are aiming for Ben Gurion airport. Their primary targets are civilians. Apartment buildings. Factories. Shopping centers. Wherever. The more dead, the better. After all, that's the goal.

Before Israel releases its bombs, the intended 'house' is notified. Not once, rather twice. "Get out, we are going to bomb this house." The people inside have, not 15 seconds, but five minutes to evacuate. Then a 'warning flare' is released. "We are serious about this." And only after both these warnings, is the building destroyed.

Of course, these are not random dwellings. These are the home bases of the beasts trying to destroy Israel. If the people inside take the alerts seriously, they are not injured. But lately, the Hamas terror leadership in Gaza has told its citizens to 'ignore' the Israeli forewarning. Not only don't they care if their own civilians are killed. To the contrary, they prefer it. That way they have good photos to show the international media and at the UN.

Thank G-d, we are experiencing Divine miracles. The existence of the "Iron Dome" system, which shoots the terror missiles while still in the air is a double miracle. The very fact that such a weapon exists, and the fact that it actually works. According to IDF statistics, the success rate stands (or flies) at 90%. The system not only identifies the attacking missiles' trajectory, but also where it is expected to land. If the targeted area is populated, the 'iron dome' explodes into action. If it projects that the rocket will land in an unpopulated place, it does not operate. Miracle of miracles. And just to clarify some of the expenses involved: Each Iron Dome projectile costs about $50,000.

There is another kind of bomb. In my opinion no less necessary or effective.

A few days ago HaAretz newspaper sponsored a 'peace conference.' (Ironically they all had to scatter, running to bomb shelters when the air raid 'red alert' siren sounded.)

One of the invited guests was National Home Party Chairman and Economics Minister Naftali Bennett. He is not exactly a hardcore left-wing extremist. He, together with Uri Ariel and Uri Urbach represent the right in the Israeli government.

As soon as he walked onto the stage the heckling and screaming started. "Murderer, murderer." Etc Etc Etc.
Bennett has an extremely strong character, remaining very cool under very hot conditions.

"You will not shut me up. I will speak!" And despite the continued interruptions, he did speak, saying very important words.

First, he used an example from his business career, (he made millions), to make a point.

I paraphrase: 'We initiated a project and invested millions. Until, after a few months of total failure, we recognized that we'd made a mistake. As a result we changed everything, including the product itself. Today we have employed over 400 people.

When we made a mistake, we saw it and changed direction. When are you, on the left, going to admit that you've made a terrible mistake and change direction?!?'

Bennett then proceed to list four essentials:
1) Land matters. 'Where would you prefer to meet up with Da'aish (the extreme insurgent Islamic group on the verge of conquering Iraq)? On the Jordan River or on Road 6 (here in Israel, on the border of the 'green line' – the projected border for a 'palestinian state.)

2) Deterrence. 'When you live in an area of anarchy, you have to be strong! So strong that no one would even dare think of trying to harm you. Deterrence is the ability to inflict harm on your enemies and the willingness to actualize it if necessary.

3) Internal National Resilience. That is solidarity between various parts of society. We witnessed this unity after the abduction and murder of the three young me. Concerns for the minority.

4) Our right to exist in our land. We are here for over 3,800 years. From Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, whose name is also Israel, to the Judges and King David and Soloman, the Maccabees, the 2nd Temple and the return to Zion. The idea is that a nation cannot be a conqueror or occupier in its own land.

"Not a foreign land we took, and we didn't use foreign property, rather the land of our forefathers, which was conquered by our enemies, without justification and we (the Jewish people), when we had the opportunity, we took back the land of our forefathers."

"Which Zionist pronounced these words," asked Bennett. No one knew. "Shimon the Maccabee, 2150 years ago."

Very impressive speech. Very effective bomb, of another type.

I'd like to conclude by defining one last 'bomb.' It relates to Bennett's first essential, that being land. Referring to this, he spoke of the missiles launched from land we abandoned to the Arabs in Gush Katif, and asked how it is possible that rockets aren't falling from Judea and Samaria. Because, of course, we are here.

The third, necessary bomb, is our return to Gaza, our return to Gush Katif. The rebuilding of the destroyed communities, and multiplication of that population by 1000% . Our enemies understand two languages: force and land. We are presently showing them force, and will continue to as long as necessary. But it is not enough. We must prove to them that we are serious. Force is not enough. We must take back our land, as we did in 1948 and 1967. We must continue walking in the footsteps of the Maccabees, we must continue living the words of Shimon the Maccabee. That will lead the road to total victory.

Bombs Away!

Friday, July 4, 2014

Those were the Days...

The Jerusalem Post

July 04, 2014

July 3, 1976 was a Shabbat. I had graduated from university a month earlier and had been accepted to be a counselor for a Jewish Agency summer group tour in Israel. Fortunately I was escorting a group of college-age youth, meaning that when they left back to the US, after the six week excursion, I wouldn't have to fly with them. The job paid my ticket back to Israel.

The group was scheduled to leave on Sunday, July 4th. That being, of course, the two hundredth birthday of the United States. Major events were planned for that day and my parents and I suspected that traffic, from NJ into Kennedy airport might be unbearable. So after Shabbat they drove me to a hotel near JFK. We said our goodbyes and I went to sleep.

Except that I didn't sleep very well. The thought of returning to Israel the next day was tremendously exciting. That excitement wasn't overly conducive to a sound sleep. So at some point, in the middle of the night, having nothing else to do, I turned on the radio. And what news did I hear!

The broadcaster was talking about how the Israeli hostages on the ill-fated Air France flight had just been rescued by a special Israeli military force at Entebbe in Uganda.

Wow!!! What a way to take off.

I remember, after our group arrived, we spent a couple of weeks on a Kibbutz in the north. The Kibbutznick lady in charge of our group sat everyone down around a campfire and talked about the feeling of wonder in the country, following the successful mission. We spoke about it, I have no recollection of what people said. And I'm sure that our emotions didn’t reach nearly the heights of the Israelis, who lived and breathed that hijacking day and night, until the miraculous rescue operation.

Thirty eight years ago. Thank G-d that it happened then, and not today. Because if that Air France plane had been hijacked and flown to Idi Amin in 2014, Israel would never have even contemplated such a daring undertaking. After all, what would Obama, the EU and the UN say? Innocent Ugandans might be hurt.  Israel would be violating the sovereignty of a foreign nation. What right would we have to take on such a preposterous military adventure?!

Instead, the 'security cabinet' would have sat together, making up a list of terrorists to be released, including murderers with 'blood on their hands.' They might also have contemplated, as per the terrorist demands, expulsion and destruction of several communities in Judea and Samaria. After all, saving all those hundreds of people would be worth any price. Especially when the world community was saying that the hijacking was our own fault. The terrorists aren't really terrorists. They are frustrated Arabs, without a home, without a land, without…..  What can you expect from such poor, discouraged people?!

This is what was going through my head this morning when I saw headlines, that Israel had given the Hamas in Gaza an ultimatum. If they did not stop bombing Israel with rockets and missiles within 48 hours, Israel would invade.

In other words, they had two full days to continue shelling Sderot and Ashkelon, and then, stop.

This week, speaking to a German journalist, I asked/told her the following: If a rocket was shot from France into Germany and hit a building, and German Prime Minister Merkel did nothing, rather told the nation that they must be 'restrained,' how long would it take the German parliament to vote her out of her office?!

But in Israel? Dozens of missiles hit and our reaction? Nothing.

Why did they begin these attacks now? Again, we are to blame. These rockets were, I believe actually a 'warning' to Netanyahu. The Gazan terrorists said like this: 'we kidnapped and killed three Israeli youth. We hid their bodies; it took you almost 3 weeks to find them. Now you want to react. Don't you dare! Because if you do, these few days of missiles will turn into weeks and months. You won't be able to stop us. We have long-range rockets that can hit Tel Aviv easily. So, Mr. Prime Minister Netanyahu, be a good boy and don't play with matches. Don't even think about any kind of military action against us as a result of our successful terror. Beware – you've been warned.'

The 'security cabinet' met twice (that we know of) following discovery of the murdered men. After the first night's session, rumors abounded about the disagreements and arguments between the various ministers. After the next night's meeting, no details were released at all to the media.

And since then, total quiet. Israel has not reacted, in any suitable way, to the abduction and killing of the youth. The Hamas bombs us, and Israel shells some empty buildings in Gaza. Not exactly what we could call Entebbe 2.

The impotence of this government is mind-boggling. Most of the coalition is center-right. Yet a very small number of people seem to be swinging them all to the left. Including Netanyahu, who has never been known to have tremendous inner stamina, courage, or a firm backbone.  

I was never a big fan of Rabin-Peres. Almost all of what is happening at present is their responsibility. But had Binyamin Netanyahu been prime minister on July 4, 1976, I have no doubt that today, 38 years later, we wouldn't be celebrating the heroic event known as Entebbe.

In conclusion, I highly recommend an article authored by Prof. Mordechai Kedar, called, "However, we are guilty."  After that, nothing else needs to be said.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Sur m'ra v'Aseh tov - Destory the evil and do good

The Jerusalem Post

Sur m'ra v'Aseh tov - Destory the evil and do good
July 2, 2014
My statement to the media at a press conference yesterday at Yeshivat Shavei Hevron, here in Hebron.

We sat here almost a month ago following the abduction, in hope and prayer that we might meet the press here again at a big celebration and unfortunately that's not the case. In Hebrew we say,' sur m'ra v'aseh tov' – first do away with the evil and then do good and that's the path that the State of Israel  must follow today.  We lost three men, three boys, three heroes who didn't know anything about evil. Their only crime was that they were Jews living in Eretz Yisrael, studying in Hebron, studying in Gush Etzion, who wanted to do good. That was their purpose in life, those were their values, and the evil of the evil, the worst of the evil took their lives, but that spirit can never be taken. The side that the State of Israel must follow today, sur m'ra, to destroy evil, to eradicate evil, all of the terror, anyone who associates with the terror, anybody who gives any kind of support whatsoever for terror, has to be eradicated, has to be eliminated, has to be done away with. At the big rally in Tel Aviv, where we found all of the different sides of the Israeli people coming together, left, right, anything, everyone was there. One of the things that was said by the chairman of the student's union, was that their cannot be any justification whatsoever, in any way, shape or form, for the abduction, and he would add to that today, murder, of three young people. There's no justification, there's nothing that can be said, no excuses that can be given.

It goes without saying that Hamas, the Jihad, the Salafists who are starting to infiltrate, associated with Al-Queida, they all have to be wiped out, in any way that is necessary. The Israeli security forces know how to do that. I include in that group, Abu Mazen and the palestinian authority, who made a unity pact with Hamas. People who make unity pacts with terrorists are terrorists. Their goals are the same. Enough of the handshaking, the hugging, the kissing, the 'let's be friends.' It's all a show. And it has to come to an end. The state of Israel has to make that clear, because if it's not made clear, then we'll sit here again together, and if it's not here in Hebron, then it will be, G-d Forbid, in Elon Moreh, or in Yerushalayim, or in Sderot, because that's their goal. And if we don't destroy them, then they will continue to murder Jews.

We saw the other day, 15 missiles shot,  from Gaza into Sderot, it was a Divine miracle that no one was hurt, that no one was killed.

That's the side of Sur m'Ra, do away with evil.

There's another side, which is Aseh tov, to do good. Doing good means that we have to do what is good in our opinion, in the eyes of G-d, and to show the world that we have no intentions of acquiescing. We will not acquiesce to terror.

This yeshiva, which is a pillar of Torah learning, not only in Hebron, but throughout the state of Israel, has 350 students. It should be a yeshiva of 1000 men. The building should be tripled in size. There should be dormitories for 1000 men. That's Aseh tov. That's doing good. That's taking the spirit of Eyal, Naftali and Gil-Ad and raising it up, raising up their spirit. Raising up the spirit of Am Yisrael, of the Jewish people.
Their used to be what was called the 'Zionist response,'  to murders. When people were murdered, such as here in Hebron in 1980, when six men were murdered outside here, just down the road, outside Beit Hadassah, the Israeli government finalized and actualized the permits necessary for the renewal of the Jewish community of Hebron. That was the Zionist response. That has to be renewed, it's been ignored, or perhaps even contradicted over the years. It has to be renewed.

One of the best ways to respond  would be to expand the Jewish community of Hebron. Give us building permits. Give us the ability to purchase from the Arabs that want to sell us property, but not only in Hebron, rather throughout  Judea and Samaria. The area in Gush Ezion can be expanded, and should be annexed. So too through Binyamin and Samaria.
This has to be our response.  The goal of the terrorists is to move us out, not only to move us out of Judea and Samaria, but to move us out of Tel Aviv, Tzfat, Beer Sheva and Haifa. Those places and be built up too. But today the controversy centers here.  And our response, of 'doing good,' is to show the world that we will not acquiesce to terror.

Those are the immediate steps that have to be taken.  Of course today we mourn, with the families, with the friends, we mourn with all the Jewish people, because today the grief is national. Last night there were kids walking through the streets crying. I had people from the US  and from around the world sending me text messages, and emails, calling me, with condolences. People called me up in tears, both Jews and non-Jews. The feeling of grief for these people knows no boundaries, except of course, for the terrorists, and those who wish to continue such acts, and that must stop, and we will do anything and everything we have to do to push the Israeli government, those people who are making the decisions, and we have representatives in that government, and take all of the steps necessary. And I really do think that the first step would be to make this Yeshiva a study place for 1000 people. And Makor Haim in Gush Etzion, where the other two men studied, to do the same thing there. And with G-d's help we will never have to meet again under these circumstances for a press conference. But you'll all be invited when this Yeshiva is transformed into an international Torah organization , when we have here  men like Mickey (Zivan) and others, from around the world, and not only men, we can have here too a women's division. For the good of the entire world.

Question: What about the world opinion, which is against these things that you say?
I tell you what I've told other journalists: I don't give a damn what the world thinks. The world sat, 70 years ago, and watched as Jews were shoveled into ovens at Aushwitz. They didn't do anything about it. The leaders of the western powers knew what was happening.  It's detailed and documented.  It could have stopped. They didn’t' raise their pinkies to try and stop it. The world today is not interested in the existence of the state of Israel. Today it's not popular to be anti-Semitic, anti-Semitism has taken on a new form, it's called being anti-Israel and pro palestinian. Pure rabid anti-Semitism. And its goal is the destruction of the state of Israel. The world does not give a damn about us, and I, very honestly, don't give a damn about them. We have to survive, we have to do what is best for us and see to it that our people are safe, we have to make sure that guys standing on the road to catch a ride home aren’t picked up by terrorists and murdered in cold blood. Everyone hitches and we aren't going to stop. People have to be safe. If the world doesn't like it, that's their problem.  

Friday, June 27, 2014


The Jerusalem Post

June 27, 2014

There are many people in Israel who feel like these past two weeks have been the longest two weeks in their lives. Since the moment the abduction became public knowledge, the tension is palpable.  There's more unknown than known. Optimism flips to pessimism and then back again. Emotions overcome intellect, but then the mind overtakes the heart. Faith, prayer, and a seemingly never-ending glance at the news, with someone in the background asking, 'did they find them yet?'

Israel has experienced difficult times. Anxiety is no stranger to anyone in this State. Wars, missiles, terror, shootings, intifadas, you name it. It's very difficult to find a reason for apprehension that does not exist in Israel, over the years.

This time it seems, for some reason, different.  Almost all barriers have crumbled. There is literally wall-to-wall concern and support for the families. Left and right, the most divisive forces in Israel, have come together. This has happened before, notably following a prior abduction, that of Nachshon Wachsman, in 1994.

The difference, of course, is that Wachsman was a soldier. The three teenagers, Gilad, Naftali, and Eyal are just that, teenagers. They are civilians.

Yet, that's not entirely true. Our enemies have declared, numerous times that the three young men are soldiers, 'Zionist soldiers.'  In a sense, they are correct. Because in truth, we are all soldiers. Some of us, in khaki uniform, and others in regular, everyday clothing.  But the superficiality of our dress does not change the fact that we are all, one way or another, serving our country, serving our people, serving our G-d.  

Our very presence, not only in Judea and Samaria, but anywhere in Israel, makes us soldiers. Because we, the State of Israel, is still fighting a War of Independence. We are still struggling for existence. There are many out there, around the world, who would be more than happy to see us deleted from the map of the globe.
A few days ago I attended a special Knesset caucus meeting, dealing with the delegitimation of Israel throughout the world. The keynote speaker was former Gov. Mike Huckabee. Of course he spoke very well and to the point.  Features about his visit in Israel and in the Knesset can be seen here.

One of the main points, which I've spoken about in the past, and was also stressed by Huckabee and also ZOA president Mort Klein, at the Knesset session, is the fact that rabid anti-Semitism is still very much present, in Europe and the US. However, in our modern day and age, it is not popular or correct to be anti-Semitic. Therefore, pure Jew-hatred has taken on a 'new dress' that being a double edged sword of being anti-Israel  and pro-Arab (palestinian).

I'll get back to this idea in a moment. But first, another thought must be presented.

One of the almost inexpressible utmost uplifting results of the horrid abduction of the three youth is the appearance of three new Israeli leaders, for I don't think there is any other way to describe them. Leaders.  Iris Yifrach, Rachel Frankel, and Bat-Galim Sha'ar.

Three women, whose courage, faith, and stamina, during the most difficult  time that can be conjured up in the worst possible nightmare imaginable, are leading the Israeli public through this horrendous event.

I've been working as a spokesman, opposite press and public for almost two decades. It's not easy work. You have to think and speak simultaneously. Knowing that a slip of the tongue can be catastrophic. These women, evolved literally overnight, from being private people, wives and mothers, to being not only spokeswomen, but also symbols, of Israel.

Perhaps the culmination of their efforts occurred a few days ago when they appeared at the UN Council for Human Rights in Geneva.

Here, talk about anti-Semitism?! I watched live, over the internet, how one country after another condemned, not the butchery in Syria or Iraq, not the abduction of three teenagers, rather, only the 'violation of palestinian human rights.' Nothing else in the world takes precedence to this. Not the mass slaughter in Syria, not the arrest and death sentence of a woman in Sudan who dared to convert to Christianity from Islam, and certainly not rockets fired at Israel from Gaza, or continued terror against Jews. Only one thing matters, that being the 'occupation.'

How these three women sat there, listening to this revolting hate is beyond me.  But more amazing than that was Rachel Frankel's presentation to the world organization, describing the three young men, their abduction, and plea for international intervention, to bring the boys home, alive, safe, to their families. Such grace and dignity, representing Israel with honor, an embodiment of the best of the best. Spokeswomen, leaders, soldiers.  Literally, warriors, fighting for their sons, but not only for their children, rather for their people.

Unfortunately not all Israelis fit into this category of heroics. Specifically MKS like Hanin Zuabi, who, rather than condemn the abduction, praise and support it, or MK Achmad Tibi and others, who support Hamas, refusing to recognize them as a terror organization. Even Jewish MK Amram Mitzne, who compared the Jewish Home party with Hamas. 

These kind of people should be spewed out of Israeli society, and certainly should not be allowed to serve in our parliament, the Knesset. There are no words of condemnation strong enough to use to describe them.

But these are surely not representative of the Israeli public at large. An Israeli public which not only embraces the families, but also recognizes their outstanding nobility, during such trying times.

Yesterday the military and intelligence forces released the names and photographs of the Arabs suspected of abducting Gilad, Naftali and Eyal. They are monsters. Their families are well-known for previous terror activities against Israel. They will be found, eventually, and the youth too, will be brought back to their families. The events may deteriorate before they get better. But nothing can or will ever erase the magnitude of these women's determination and fortitude. They are a beacon of light, shining forth the essence of our people.  They are what Israel is all about.

We will continue to pray, to hug them, and wait.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Celebrating Hebron Liberation Day

The Jerusalem Post

Celebrating Hebron Liberation Day
May 29, 2014

Forty eight years ago it couldn't have happened.
Dozens of Israeli men and women, in uniform, standing in formation, in the plaza outside Ma'arat HaMachpela.

Yesterday we celebrated Yom Yerushalayim – Jerusalem Day, the anniversary of the liberation of the holiest city in the world, Jerusalem. Foreign occupation, beginning some 2,000 years ago finally ended. True, this sacred city was not (and still is not) 'complete' – but, Jews, as those who for hundreds of year gave their lives reciting the words "Next year in Jerusalem" could finally actualize this dream.

Today we celebrate Yom Hebron, Hebron Liberation Day. The following day, after liberation of Jerusalem, the Jewish people came home to Hebron.

This phrase, 'coming home,' cannot be taken for granted. I speak with hundreds of people from around the world who cannot grasp how or why Hebron is 'home' to the Jewish people, and who cannot fathom why people like myself would come to live here.

The story of our return is well known. Following the liberation of the Kotel, the Western Wall in Jerusalem, the then Chief Rabbi of the IDF, Rabbi Shlomo Goren zt"l, traveled from Jerusalem to Gush Etzion, about half-way between Hebron and Jerusalem. There he met up with the Israeli forces who had, that same day, freed that area too. Knowing that the next morning they would be leaving for Hebron, he made a short speech about the importance of Hebron, and lay down to rest for a few hours.

When he awoke, the site was empty of people. Rabbi Goren woke up his driver, saying, 'They left without us – get in the jeep, we'll catch up with them.'

So it was that a Rabbi and his driver, alone, drove from Gush Etzion south, towards Hebron. Driving into Hebron, Rabbi Goren quickly realized the Arab enemy had surrendered, viewing white sheets hanging from windows and rooftops. The city's Arab residents remembered all too well the 1929 massacre, when 67 Jews were slaughtered by their next-door neighbors in August of that year. Fearing retribution, the Arab men fled the city, with the women and children waiting for the liberating forces.

Rabbi Goren quickly made his way to Ma'arat HaMachpela, the Tomb of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs, which had been totally off-limits to Jews for 700 years. This, the first Jewish possession in the first Jewish city in Israel, second in sanctity only to Temple Mount in Jerusalem, was finally back in Jewish hands.

Rabbi Goren ran up the western staircase, only to find the doors closed and locked. Unable to open them, he shot at the doors with his Uzi submachine gun. However, the doors remained locked. He backed his jeep up the stairs, attached chains to the jeep and the doors, and proceeded to pull then down. At last inside, he began to pray, thanking G-d for the miracles happening.

The Mufti of Hebron sent a messenger, wanting to surrender. Rabbi Goren sent him away, saying 'This place, Ma'arat HaMachpela, is a place of prayer and peace. Surrender elsewhere.' Which is what happened.

Rabbi Goren later explained: I have the rank of General. Why should I give them the honor to surrender to a General? Let them surrender to a lower ranking officer.' Which too happened.
However, when the Rabbi left in his jeep from Gush Etzion, his goal was to catch up to the army. Where were they?

What he didn't realize was that the IDF was unaware that Hebron's Arabs were about to surrender. They had made their way to the western side of Gush Etzion, to prepare the attack. They had also sent a contingent to enter the city from another direction.

In other words, Rabbi Goren liberated Hebron for the Jewish people, singlehandedly.

That's how we came back to Hebron.

Last night, we again reaffirmed our allegiance to this so holy a place.
For the past two years, Colonel Avi Bluth commanded the Judea Division, sometimes called the Hebron Division. Avi grew up in Israel. His parents made Aliyah, that is, came to live in Israel from the United States. Last night, at a unique and special ceremony, Avi transferred command to another young colonel, Yariv Ben Ezra. The ceremony took place in the plaza outside the huge structure, atop the caves of Machpela.

It is very difficult for me to express the emotions I sensed during the half-hour ceremony. I might call it pride, but actually it's much more than that.

First, about the commander. Avi Bluth is a military man. But he is also a religious Jew.
For many years, it was almost impossible for an orthodox Jew to reach such the rank and position of Colonel. And today, when it is possible, I'm asked about the 'religious people' 'taking over' the army.

When religious Jews didn't undertake military service, as did others, they were accused of 'not serving the country.' Now, when religious Jews do undertake to serve, and reach high-ranking positions, they are accused of 'taking over.' As one person described it to me, 'you're damned if you do and you're damned if you don’t.'

In any case, my personal feelings, seeing a man like Avi, serving with such distinction, in a place like Hebron, are overwhelming. At a short farewell meeting in our offices, I told him that not too many people have had the privilege and honor to serve where Abraham, the Jewish people's first General, and David, who became King of Israel in Hebron, lived and served.

The fact that Avi is religious didn't affect his decision-making. There were times when we agreed with his decisions and actions, and times when we didn't. We had many meetings with him and conducted an open line of communications. As has been the case with previous commanders, and as will continue with the new commander. His assessments determined his decisions, as should be.

What I didn't say to Avi was how much he reminded me of a previous Hebron commander, Col. Dror Weinberg, hy'd, who was killed in Hebron during a major terror attack over ten years ago. Both men are very similar. Both young, very determined, very loyal, very hard working, and also, both religious.
But Avi mentioned him during his outgoing speech last night, saying that Dror was his first commander, and that he was to him an example to be followed.

Avi also spoke of the honor and privilege to serve and command in Hebron.
And all of this, at this so special a site, the Tombs of the first Jews,  Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rivka, and Ya'akov and Lea. Liberated, exactly 47 years ago today.

What an experience!

Lately I've found some words, which perhaps, express in the most lucid way possible, our connection to Hebron.

The Jews are the most tenacious people in history. Hebron is there to prove it.

It ties 20 miles south of Jerusalem, 3,000 feet up in the Judaean hills. There, in the Cave of Machpelah, are the Tombs of the Patriarchs. According to ancient tradition, one sepulchre, itself of great antiquity, contains the mortal remains of Abraham, founder of the Jewish religion and ancestor of the Jewish race. Paired with his tomb is that of his wife Sarah. Within the building are the twin tombs of his son Isaac and his wife Rebecca. Across the inner courtyard is another pair of tombs, of Abraham's grandson Jacob and his wife Leah...This is where the 4,000-year history of the Jews, in so far as it can be anchored in time and place, began.

Hebron has great and venerable beauty. It provides the peace and stillness often to be found in ancient sanctuaries. But its stones are mute witnesses to constant strife and four millennia of religious and political disputes. It has been in turn a Hebrew shrine, a synagogue, a Byzantine basilica, a mosque, a crusader church, and then a mosque again. Herod the Great enclosed it with a majestic wall, which still stands, soaring nearly 40 feet high, composed of massive hewn stones, some of them 23 feet long. Saladin adorned the shrine with a pulpit. Hebron reflects the long, tragic history of the Jews and their unrivalled capacity to survive their misfortunes. David was anointed king there, first of Judah (II Samuel 2:1-4), then of all Israel (II Samuel 5:1-3). When Jerusalem fell, the Jews were expelled and it was settled by Edom. It was conquered by Greece, then by Rome, converted, plundered by the Zealots, burned by the Romans, occupied in turn by Arabs, Franks and Mamluks. From 1266 the Jews were forbidden to enter the Cave to pray. They were permitted only to ascend seven steps by the side of the eastern wall. On the fourth step they inserted their petitions to God in a hole bored 6 feet 6 inches through the stone.

...The Jewish community, never very numerous, was ferociously attacked by the Arabs in 1929...When Israeli soldiers entered Hebron during the Six Day War in 1967, for a generation not one Jew had lived there. But a modest settlement was re-established in 1970. Despite much fear and uncertainty, it has flourished.

So when the historian visits Hebron today, he asks himself: where are all those peoples which once held the place? Where are the Canaanites? Where are the Edomites? Where are the ancient Hellenes and the Romans, the Byzantines, the Franks, the Mamluks and the Ottomans? They have vanished into time, irrevocably. But the Jews are still in Hebron.

Hebron is thus an example of Jewish obstinacy over 4,000 years.
These words where not authored by myself, rather by a Gentile historian, Paul Johnson, in a book called:  A History of the Jews.

This is Hebron, this is Eretz Yisrael, this is Am Yisrael, this is Torat Yisrael.

All wrapped up in one.
As exemplified by Col Avi Bluth, by Col Yariv Ben Ezra, and by so many others.
Happy Hebron liberation day.