Friday, March 14, 2014

Purim of Beit HaShalom

The Jerusalem Post

Purim of Beit HaShalom

David Wilder
March 14, 2014

If searching for one word in the Scroll of Esther which embodies the entire story, it might very well be ‘v’naafochhu’, which means, according to Google, ‘to the contrary,’ or perhaps, ‘it all reversed.’ Turned upside down. ‘An unexpected ending.’

During the days of Haman and Achashverosh, towards the end of the first exile, following the destruction of the First Temple and the exile to Babylon, many Jews forgot what it was to be Jews. Assimilation was rampant. But for the enemies of the Jews, that wasn’t enough. They had to be eradicated. Physically removed from the face of the earth. Deleted.

There was no State of Israel, No IDF. No Shabak or Mossad. When the decision was made, (a predecessor of the 1942 Wansee Conference), who was there to turn to?

Two people, and two people alone held the keys to reversing the almost inevitable. Mordechai and Esther. It took much courage. They might not have cared about their own fate, but they knew that continued existence of their people rested in their hands.

But it took more than courage. It took faith. The most amazing, overwhelming faith a person can have. The State, the IDF, the Shabak, the Mossad, and anyone or anything else that could have saved them was all wrapped up in the Divine, in G-d. They knew and understood that only He, could save the Jews from that planned holocaust.

The story is well known. No need here to repeat it here.

But, their faith implanted within the Jewish people, for ages to come, a comprehension, an essence of, look to the Heavens. There is the answer to your woes.

Of course, our faith started with Abraham. It can be witnessed with Moses. But their predicament was very different from those before, because during their days, G-d was seemingly hidden, had seemingly disappeared. It’s very very hard to plea to a Diety which seemingly has abandoned you, perhaps punishment for your collective sins. But Mordechai and Esther knew that G-d would never abandon His people. Some might, due to lack of faith, be blind to His existence. But they were not blind; they knew, felt and saw the truth, and acted accordingly. And the Jews were saved.

Over the years I wrote many articles about Beit HaShalom:

March 26, 2007: Last week Hebron's Jewish community received a green light from its attorneys…The deal was completed to their satisfaction. We could move in…The community purchased a 4,000 sq. meter structure, overlooking the road between Hebron and Kiryat Arba.

January 29, 2008: Two soldiers are stationed outside Beit HaShalom for security purposes…the soldiers are ‘cold’ and requested/demanded that people in the building supply them with an electric line for a heater to keep them warm…Defense Minister Ehud Barak had just refused Hebron’s request to allow humanitarian renovations in the building, including instillation of simple windows, electric current, and sealing of the building’s roof to prevent water leakage. The letter received from the Defense ministry stated clearly: If you’re cold, go live somewhere else…

February 28, 2008: "You can install aluminum window frames WITHOUT glass windows."…They finally agreed to installation of windows… You didn't get a permit to install anything made of plastic – only aluminum frames and glass windows, no shades!"

October 30, 2008: Yesterday the Supreme Court discussed Beit HaShalom in Hebron. The discussion focused on the question of purchase and possession. The judges stressed throughout the discussion that even if the building was legally purchased, it is still possible to issue an expulsion order because the building was still in the possession of the Arab seller, Rajbi.

November 28, 2008: Last week the Supreme Court announced its decision. They gave the people living there 72 hours to leave of their own accord…or else..

December 12, 2008: It is unthinkable and intolerable that Israel's top leadership should change the rules in the middle of the game, expecting the other side to play by the old ones, while they play by the new. Peace may breed peace but by the same token, extremism breeds extremism…The true threat to our country is the warping of the fundamental institutions whose presence is supposed to protect the people rather than terrorize them. The decisions made concerning Beit Hashalom were not based upon justice, rather upon pure judicial terror.

October 11, 2012: The new year is starting off on the right …A few weeks ago, an Israeli court ruled that Beit HaShalom, the huge 4,000 square meter building between Hebron and Kiryat Arba, was legally purchased by the Jewish community of Hebron and must be returned to us, the rightful owners of the building.

March 11, 2014: Beit HaShalom - Victory at last WE WON WE WON WE WON I COULD KEEP WRITING THESE WORKS A MILLION TIMES AND IT STILL WOULDN'T BE ENOUGH…This afternoon the Israeli Supreme Court rejected Arab appeals concerning Beit HaShalom in Hebron, thereby paving the way for our return to the building.

The spirit of Mordechai and Esther continues, thousands of years later. The immense faith of the Abraham family, purchasing Beit HaShalom; the families, with small children and newborn babies who lived in puddles of water, with rain, sleet and snow soaking their freezing rooms, but refusing to leave, under any circumstances; people who supported them, assisting in all ways possible, and so many others, have enabled us, thank G-d, to witness the Purim of Beit HaShalom.

If this is not 'v'naafochu' I don't know what is. Happy Purim from Hebron.


This article does not necessarily represent the views of the Jewish Community of Hebron

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Beit HaShalom - Victory at last

The Jerusalem Post
Photo: WE WON WE WON WE WON !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Beit HaShalom - Victory at last

March 11, 2014


This afternoon the Israeli Supreme Court rejected Arab appeals concerning  Beit HaShalom in Hebron, thereby paving the way for our return to the building.
It might be recalled: Mr. Morris Abraham and his family purchased Beit HaShalom for over a million dollars. The building, between Hebron and Kiryat Arba, was lived in by Jewish families for 22 months, before then Defense Minister Ehud Barak, expelled them, and had the building sealed.
The Israeli Municipal Court ruled that the building should be returned to its Jewish owners, ruling that the building had been legally sold. The Arabs appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court, which today rejected the appeal. 
Presently, in order for us to return to the building, the Defense Minister, Moshe Bugi Yaalon, must sign a ‘permit,’ necessary to complete Jewish purchases in Judea and Samaria. This is a technical issue, and it is expected that the Defense Minister will sign the permits. Former Defense Minister Ehud Barak was quoted as saying that he (as Defense Minister) would sign the permits should the courts decide in our favor.

This is a huge victory for the Hebron Jewish Community. Innumerable prayers, hours, money, tears, and what not, were invested in this building.  Families with babies and small children lived in rooms without windows, through rain and snowstorms. Puddles of freezing water filled family apartments.
Yet dedication, determination, and faith, at its highest level were the name of the game. People refused, under any circumstances, to leave. Following a Supreme Court decision allowing the families to be expelled from the building, people’s determination increased.

Following the expulsion, people never gave up. The court case dragged on, but in the end, justice has prevailed. We will move back into Beit HaShalom.
And my friends, let it be known, this is just the beginning…..

All photos: David Wilder, Hebron

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Authentic Zionism – alive and kicking, in Israel, in Hebron

Authentic Zionism – alive and kicking, in Israel, in Hebron

David Wilder
March 09, 2014

It happened again.  Every once in a while I meet up with it, and this week, again.

Many years ago I wrote an article about a young soldier serving in Hebron. I think it was during the ‘Oslo War’ – aka the 2nd Intifada. Arabs were shooting at us day and night. And this guy, just out of high school wasn’t even an Israeli yet. And to top it off, his next stop, in uniform, was Lebanon.

Ari Abramowitz successfully finished his army service, graduated from university in the US, and came back to Israel to continue serving Israel in various important positions, including, after founding ‘,’ hosting a fabulously popular international TV show with Jeremy Gimpel, about life in Israel. Today he continues his efforts on behalf of the Jewish people with  Keren HaYesod.

Well,  I may have met another Ari. Only this fella’s name is, well, let’s call him Pinny.  I met him, where else, on Facebook.  I don’t remember exactly how, but I saw something about a soldier in Hebron from New Jersey. Well, that’s where I grew up.  So I sent him a message, we ‘chatted’ and I invited him for Shabbat. He was able to free himself  and came over. For me it was an uplifting experience.

Here again, a man not yet twenty. Finishes high school, from a not particularly religious family, but leaning in the direction of observant Judaism. Leaves the US to Israel ‘for a year’ to study in Yeshiva. After a year in an ‘American yeshiva’, he notifies his parents that he wants to stay another year before ‘returning home’ to ‘start university.’

But this next year is spent, not in an all English-speaking yeshiva, rather in an Israeli, high level Torah Academy, located in the Southern Hebron Hills. Why? Well, Pinny is already seriously considering Aliyah, becoming a full-fledged Israeli citizen. Therefore he chooses to attend a yeshiva where they speak Hebrew. His own Hebrew isn’t very good, but that’s the point. To learn. To get prepared for the rest of his life.

Now, that’s not easy. I know. I did the same thing. It can be very frustrating. The classes are difficult to understand, especially trying to comprehend pages of the Talmud, many of which are in Aramaic.  But, when you are really determined, and you have a real, idealistically-motivated goal, anything is possible.

This particular yeshiva is one of the “Hesder” variety, that is, the students, after a year and a half of Torah study, begin active military service for about a year and a half.  Pinny calls home again to tell his folks that now he’s going into the army.

Pinny makes his way to the army draft base and tells them, “I’m here, I want to go into the army.”

Many Israelis, (and I’m not talking about the so-called ‘Haredi religious population), try to avoid the IDF, finding excuses here and there why they cannot serve.  And here pops in an ‘American’ who, they quickly determine, doesn’t even know enough Hebrew to start the elementary Ulpan, Hebrew language instruction program for ‘new immigrants’.  But he stands his ground – ‘I want to be drafted.’

So, in he goes. I would compare it to throwing a three year old into the pool and saying ‘swim!’

When the group of young combat trainees begins target shooting practice, the commander screams out ‘Aish.’ Meaning ‘shoot.’ Pinny doesn’t shoot, because he’s not familiar with the word. The commander comes over, looks at Pinny, repeating, ‘Aish’ When Pinny just looks at him, the commander calmly utters, ‘Fire’. “ In English.

‘Fire?  Oh, ‘Aish’ is  fire my gun.’ Finally – boom boom boom.

I’ve heard of commanders who have almost literally tortured such ‘new immigrants.’ But Pinny fell into good hands. His commanding officers and other members of his battalion were patient and considerate, realizing the precious treasure they had in their company. After all, not every day do such ‘Americans’ volunteer to be drafted and participate in serving the state of Israel.

Pinny completed his basic training and moved out, with the rest of his crew, to Hebron. Here he is fulfilling most of his service, before heading back to the Yeshiva for another year of Torah study.

After dinner, I invited Pinny back for lunch the next day. He was due to begin ‘guard duty’ for a few hours, and then have a nine hour break until the next round of duty. However, that wouldn’t have allowed him to dine with us, as his guard duty would have begun just as we were beginning to eat. So rather than take a nine-hour break, he began guarding only six hours later, (which meant he had less time to sleep), but allowing him to finish and come over to us, just in time for the meal. Why? ‘Because it makes it a better Shabbat for me.’

Of course, not too long after he left us, he had to start again.

It’s not easy to be a soldier in Hebron. There is a degree of tension, with ‘security alerts’ a constant. The orders they receive aren’t always easy to implement. And sometimes the opposite: not being able to do what you think you should do. There can be frequent confrontations. But here’s a young man from New Jersey, on the brink of the beginning of his adult life, putting his life on the line for the Jewish people, for the state of Israel.

It never ceases to amaze me. And to instill me with hope and optimism.  I firmly believe that within the coming decades many more Americans and Europeans will be coming to Israel. Some of them, if not most, probably because they will realize that the US and Europe aren’t the havens they thought they were. But there will be others, like Pinny, who come to Israel, not because the US is bad for the Jews, but because Israel is good for the Jews, because this is our home, this is where we should be, this is where we belong.

I’m not a prophet or a soothsayer, but if asked to make a prediction, I can easily foresee a brilliant future for Pinny. Because a person with such dedication, to his people, to his country, to his religion, will undoubtedly continue on a path of success. I look forward to Pinny’s  continued achievements, on behalf of his family, his people, his state. And thank him for making my day yesterday. There’s very little that makes me happier than witnessing the Pinnys of the Jewish people, in Israel.

This is authentic Zionism – alive and kicking, in Israel, in Hebron.

This article does not necessarily represent the views of the Hebron Jewish Community