Thursday, April 27, 1995

Let Your Feet Do the Talking

Let Your Feet Do the Talking
April 27, 1995

At the time this is being written, the Rabin Government has announced intentions to surrender three army bases in Judea and Samaria to Palestinian forces.  This unrivaled act of treason is beyond the scope of human understanding.
     The response of the Israeli People was expressed last Tuesday, during the Passover holiday. Over 20,000 people visited Hebron, prayed in Ma’arat haMachpela, the Caves of the Patriarchs, and participated in a program at the Avraham Avinu neighborhood.  The ceremony, attended by MK Ariel Sharon, included  the laying of the cornerstone of a new building to be constructed in Hebron.  It is to be named after the two Jewish residents of Hebron-Kiryat Arba, who were murdered by Arab terrorists a month ago on the outskirts of the city.  Beit Nahum b’Yehuda, memorializing Nahum Hoss, hy”d a long-time resident of Hebron, and Yehuda Partush, hy”d, is our response to government decisions barring Jews from their own homeland.
     For 700 years Jews were forbidden to enter Ma’arat HaMachpela.  From the year 1267, until the six-day war in 1967, Arab rulers of Hebron refused to allow Jews past the infamous “seventh step” outside the 2,000 year old edifice.  Even after returning to the first Jewish City, Jews had to struggle in order to be able to pray inside the building, with full rights, as were granted to the Arab population. Now, once again over half of this monumental structure is ”off-limits” to Jews.  However, this time the decree is not one of foreign rulers, but of the Jews themselves! 
     However, Israelis from all over the country showed immense affinity to the Ma’ara and to Hebron by visiting the site during the week of Passover, and especially during the two days that the entire building was open and available to Jewish worshippers.  The two Chief Rabbis of Israel, Rav Bakshi Doron and Rav Yisrael Meir Lowe, were among the thousands who took the opportunity to visit Hebron.  Rav Lowe, overwhelmed, remarked that this unpreedented display of support proves the Israeli People’s love for Hebron and the Caves of the Patriarchs.
    There is no doubt that the tremendous support for Hebron, as exhibited last week, bothers Rabin, to say the least.  Several weeks ago he spoke to a group of Jewish Youth leaders from the diaspora.  What did he speak about - aliya absorption, industry, education?  No, he spoke about the Jewish Community of hebron - and needless to say, he was quite vehament, blasting the “crazy Jews” who are trying to destroy the “peace plan”.   Even Rabin realizes that if Jews continue to show such overwhelming support for the City of the Patriarchs, it will be almost impossible for him to fulfill his great dream, that of a Judeinrein Hebron. 
   If you are planning on visiting Israel this summer, make sure that Hebron is on your ittinerary.  If you know others, friends, relatives, coworkers, who will be here, tell them that Hebron is a must - no less than Jerusaelem!  If they look at you with big eyes and say, “Hebron - you’ve got to be kidding.  There are Arabs in Hebron - It’s dangerous in Hebron”,  you answer like this:  It’s true - there are alot of Arabs in Hebron.  But there are also 550 Jews that live in the heart of Hebron and among them are over 200 children.  If those two hundred children can live in Hebron, play in Hebron, sleep in Hebron, and ride bicycles in the streets of Hebron, then anyone can come visit Hebron for  two or three hours.  As did over 20,000 Jews last week , LET YOUR FEET DO THE TALKING!

Wednesday, April 12, 1995

A Covenant of Eternity

Hebron-Past, Present and Forever
by David Wilder
A Covenant of Eternity
May 12, 1995

Last Friday morning, on the 5th of May, (which also happened to be the 5th of Iyar-Israel Independence Day), I, along with my wife Ora, had an overwhelming experience, the likes of which I have never yet encountered in my life. For the previous Thursday evening, at 8:00 PM Israeli time, Ora gave birth to our seventh child, a boy, in a Jerusalem hospital. Ora, a "Sabra" of Sepharadic ancestry, and I have been married for almost 16 years. Our oldest (of 4) girls is going on 15 and the oldest of three sons is almost 14.

Following our new son’s birth, we decided to celebrate his entrance into the Covenant of our Forefather Abraham (known as a Brit Milah - or circumcision) at the site most fitting for such an event: Ma’arat HaMachpela - the Caves of the Patriarchs, in Hebron. The massive building that covers the ancient caves is 2,000 years old, built by Herod during the Second Temple Period. It is the largest Jewish monument in the world, and the only 2,000 year-old building existing in its entirety. For the Jewish People, this structure is extremely symbolic of Jewish History - for 700 years, from 1267 until 1967 Jews were not allowed into it. They were permitted to pray by the infamous "seventh step" leading to the entrance of the building, but no further. Only after we returned to Hebron in 1967 were Jews once again allowed inside. Even at that time, and for many years following our return to Hebron, Jews were not allowed to perform a Brit Milah inside Ma’arat HaMachpela because of Islamic laws forbidding any drinking of alcoholic beverages. Because wine (or grape juice) is necessary at a Brit, Jews were forbidden to partake of such a ceremony. (If anyone understands the logic, please write and explain it to me.) However, after many years of determined struggle, we were victorious. Israeli’s may now perform a Brit Milah inside the Ma’ara.

However, it should be noted that the importance of the Caves of the Patriarchs is not the huge Herodian building, but rather the caves ensconced under it. These caves, the burial ground purchased by Abraham, to bury his wife Sarah thousands of years ago, was the first land purchased by a Jew in Eretz Yisrael. This is where it all started - the roots of the Jewish People in the Land of Israel. This was the first act , dramatizing the covenant between the Jewish People and their Creator, in their Homeland. MK Ariel Sharon, speaking at the Ma’ara said: "What other nation in the world can make such a claim - all our Patriarchs and Matriarchs buried in one place - the roots of our nation. I would bring every schoolchild, every tourist here. I would bring every ambassador arriving in Israel to Ma’arat HaMachpela before showing him any other place in Israel. This is where the Jewish People began, in Hebron."

What then would be more fitting than to continue to renew our eternal covenant at this same site? So at 10:00 AM on Friday morning, eight days after the birth, we gathered, friends and family, in "Ohel Avraham" the Abraham Hall, inside Ma’arat HaMachpela, to celebrate the addition of a new Jew, and new Israeli, to the Jewish People in the Land of Israel. The "Sandak" or Godfather was Rav Dov Lior, the Chief Rabbi of Kiryat Arba-Hebron. He held the baby as the ceremony was performed. The baby was named Raphael Baruch Yair in memory of two close friends from Kiryat Arba-Hebron murdered by Arabs.

As you might well imagine, it is very difficult to describe the emotions felt by a father and mother participating in an ancient rite, at the site where the originator of the observance lies in eternal rest. I can only say that I wish upon each and every one of you, and of all of the People of Israel, the privilege to feel what we felt and what we continue to feel - having been merited the honor to be an active link in the eternal chain, bonding the People of Israel to the Land of Israel, according to Jewish Law and tradition. You should all be granted such happiness.

Monday, April 10, 1995

Though I Walk Through the Valley of the Shadow of ...

Erev Pesach 5755
April 10, 1995

Though  I  Walk  Through the Valley  of  the  Shadow  of  ...
(Psalms 23)

      Which  shadow?   The Psalmist, David, King  of  Israel,
wrote, "Though I walk through the valley of  the shadow of  d
e  a  t  h,  I will fear no evil, for You are with me,"  for,
"the  L-rd  is  my  Shepherd."  Is this the key  phrase  "the
valley  of  the  shadow  of death?"   There  are  those  who,
perhaps,  feel that we are not walking though the  shadow  of
the  valley of death, but rather through the valley of  death
itself.  The finger points at immanent disaster.  Scarcely  a
week  passes without a massacre, whether it be two, eight  or
forty.  And the week before Passover, the holiday celebrating
the  birth of the Jewish People, the liberation from  foreign
bondage,  and  once again, it strikes again.   Names  on  the
radio, obituaries, funerals, and "condolences to the bereaved
-  but the Piece Process must continue!". "The valley of  the
shadow of death" or "the valley of death?"
     It depends how you look at things.  It's easy to see the
black,  the  void.  Is there any good?  Is  there  any  hope?
Vision  is very subjective.  Two people can view exactly  the
same event, and see it differently.  For example, Bob and Joe
can   witness  the  same  auto  accident  but  give  opposite
testimony.   Why?  Not because one is lying;  rather  because
Bob  was  looking at driver "A" and Joe at driver "B".   Both
told the truth, but it was only a partial truth. However, had
someone  filmed the entire event with a wide-angle lens,  the
truth  would  be  complete, because  it  recorded  the  total
episode.  That might be called the complete truth.
      This  is the way that we must observe what is happening
around  us  today.  But our observance must not include  only
today, but also yesterday, and tomorrow, past and future.  We
must  inspect not only  what is happening, but also the  goal
behind our actions and reactions.  This might not make life a
whole  lot  easier, but an understanding of what is happening
will  give us the inner strength to keep going, at any  cost!
It  will  allow  us to govern our fate, and not  let  present
circumstances to rule over us.
      How  can  we do this?  If we look at present conditions
from  a perspective of  "now" what do we see?  We face almost
total  despair.   Our own government has seemingly  abandoned
us, and is using all of the forces at its disposal to repress
us,  the  "settlers."  They have forsaken the Land of Israel,
preferring  to  see  the  heart of Israel  in  the  hands  of
foreigners,  whose only true desire is to see us drowning  in
the  sea.  And they have deserted a heritage over 3,000 years
old,  preferring Oslo and Geneva to Jerusalem and Hebron.  So
what  should  we do - get up and leave?  Is there  any  other
     This is an example of shortsightedness - Looking only at
today,  at  the  present.  What if we look from  a  different
perspective - from a little farther back?   If we go back  to
the  days of Moses, and our enslavement in Egypt then we  can
declare,  without  any doubt, that their situation  was  more
difficult  than  ours. They were in a foreign  land,  slaves,
without  a  ray  of hope.  (And if you pay attention,  you'll
notice  that  after  Moses  appeared  on  the  scene,  things
worsened,  before  they improved.)  And if  we  go  back  500
years, to the days when thousands of Jews were burned at  the
stake  for  not  believing and expressing the "truth"  as  so
asserted  by  the leaders of the Inquisition, and  were  then
exiled from their homes in the most enlightened land of  that
era,   is   there  any  comparison  to  today's  trials   and
tribulations.   And if we return 50 years in  our  past,  are
words  necessary?    We were literally reincarnated,  leaving
the ashes of Aushwitz to the dream of Eretz Yisrael.  How did
the  survivors do it?  If they had no hope, if they could see
no  light at the end of the tunnel, even from within the hell
that raged, they could never have survived.  They walked  out
of  death into life, from Exile to redemption, in the land of
Israel.   That  is  where  we are today,  in  the  middle  of
redemption,  rebirth, after 2,000 years of exile.   It  isn't
easy to be reborn.
      How  then, are we to live today? Is all lost?    If  we
were  able  to bring back all of those who died because  they
were  Jews  over  the last 2,000 years, would  they  despair?
Would they suggest that we leave our homeland because of  the
"Palestinian terrorists" or because of a few sick, despondent
old men who are still hibernating, and are still sleeping the
sleep of exile?
      Each generation has a mission.  We may be privileged to
have  several  missions:  to  return  to  Eretz  Yisrael,  to
resettle Eretz Yisrael, and to STAY in Eretz Yisrael, at  all
cost!  For we didn't return to Israel as private individuals,
but  as a nation, a people.  Outside of Israel we were groups
of  individuals;  our national identity  was  almost  totally
obscured.   However,  today, in Eretz Yisrael,  we  have  the
privilege  and the obligation to act as a nation,  a  people.
This demands sacrifice and hardship.  But does it demand more
sacrifice  and  hardship than that demanded of  the  Jews  of
2,000 years of exile, when they preferred to die rather  than
change  their religion.  How many thousands of Jews  suffered
and  died for the privilege to remain Jews.  Is our sacrifice
greater  than theirs?  I think not.  Are the demands made  of
us  more  difficult than what was demanded of them?  I  think
not.   Rather, for us, it is actually easier.  Why?   Because
come  back  to the land of our forefathers, the land  of  the
dreams of generations of Jews.  We just think that it's  more
difficult,  because  we  are in the  midst  experiencing  the
hardships.   That  is  why we must view our  present  in  the
prespective of past and future AND NOT ONLY THE PRESENT..

      If we return to the beginning - to the verse "Though  I
Walk  Through the Valley of the Shadow of ..."   which valley
are we walking through?  We are walking through the VALLEY OF
LIFE.   True, even when we walk through the valley of  death,
we  fear  no evil.  All the more so when we walk through  the
valley of life.
      There are those who say that the eyes of all Israel are
on  us, the settlers, in Yehuda, Shomron, and Gaza.  I  think
otherwise.   I  think that not only the eyes  of  Israel  are
focused on Kiryat Arba-Hebron - Yesha.  I think that the eyes
of  of generations of Jews are converged on us, in prayer and
in hope.  We shall not disappoint them.

Thursday, April 6, 1995

Where Have All The People Gone

Where Have All The People Gone                                                                                                    
April 6, 1995

    Yesterday evening it happened again. Arabs in Hebron started throwing rocks at Jewish children, and the children, not being overly passive, returned the favor.  And then the army showed up and so did the police.  Who did they go after?  In this day and age of political enlightenment, not the Arabs.  So they beat the (Jewish) children arrested some of them and arrested the adults.  So, you say, that’s what they deserve?  Here are two examples:
   1) Rivka Lebovitch, a 15-year old Hebron resident was walking toward her home in the Avraham Avinu neighborhood of Hebron. A police car drove by her and stopped.  “Stop”, they told her, “you are under arrest.  Get into thecar”.  Rivka asked them why, what had she done.  “We are looking for one of Rabbi Moshe Levinger’s daughters.  You are under arrest.”  Rivka proceeded to explain to the police that her last name is not Levinger, but Lebovitch, to no avail.  She was still under arrest.  However, not wanting to be in a police vehicle alone with policemen, Rivka stated her willingness to accompany the police to the police station, but she preferred to walk.  And they agreed.  So, 15-year old Rivka, surrounded by SEVEN police strolled the five minute walk to the station.  There, the police proceeded to interrogate her.  Israeli law forbids police to question a minor without an adult present, but that didn’t seem to bother them.  After a little while, when Rivka’s parents showed up at the police station, it wasn’t enough that they claimed to be her real parents.  The police demanded that they PROVE it.  Finally, convinced that Rivka’s last name was not Levinger, but Lebovitch, they released her.
   2)  My boss, Ronen Cohen, the director of the Jewish Community of Hebron Organization, is not a violent person.  However, father to eight boys, he has some understanding of how children think and act.  The rock throwing took place on the street in front of his home, as did the ensuing police activities.  After some of the children were arrested and thrown into the police van, other children sat down in front of the van to prevent it from driving away.  The driver, seemingly ignoring this, prepared to drive off.  Ronen, seeing this, called to the police driver to be careful and not to run over the children.  A little while later, FIVE policemen broke into the Cohen’s home with no warning (of course, they didn’t have time to knock on the door) and dragged Ronen away.  He was taken to Jerusalem, where, following a lengthy police interrogation,  he was released several hours later.  (When his wife came to release him, she too was taken into custody and questioned for three hours.)
   I cannot finish without another story.  Yesterday, the infamous Baruch Marzel, after turning himself in to Hebron police, was taken to the Jerusalem district court, where he was on trial for beating an Arab women three years ago.  After the prosecution concluded its case, Marzel’s attorney, Dudu Rotem, asked the judge to examine the date of the crime, as testified to by the witnesses, and supported by the police. They claimed that the crime had taken place on Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath.  Rotem then proceeded to inform the court that the date indicated in the indictment and testified to by the witnesses was not the Sabbath, but a weekday, and on that particular day, Baruch Marzel had appeared in court before the very same judge presiding at the present trial!  (Marzel is an amazing guy, but to the best of my knowledge, he still cannot be at two different places at the same time.)  So, after examining the calendar and the court diary from three years ago, the judge threw the case out.
   One more.  This week my wife was questioned by Kiryat Arba-Hebron police at the Kiryat Arba police station.  She is suspected of having cursed police and called border policemen “goyim” at the Tombs of the Patriarchs at the end of February.  She told the police that she hasn’t been at the Ma’arat HaMachpela in over a year.  The last time she was there was  a year ago, three weeks before Purim, at the wedding of her friend Chaya Ya’iri, , (whose husband Rafael was killed in a terrorist attack 3 months later).  So the police proceeded to ask her the same thing, again and again, for about an hour, before the session ended.  Why is she a suspect?  Your guess is as good as mine.
   There is a problem here, that seems to be recurrent. And it greatly troubles me.  Why?   Because fifty years ago we, the Jewish People learned again, in the most brutal way possible, a number of lessons about human nature.  One of the most important things we supposedly learned is that nothing can be done in a vacuum.  Passivity is innate agreement.  That’s why I’m having a difficult time understanding what’s going on today.  It sort of reminds me of the old PP&M tune of many years ago...
“Where have all the people gone,
Hope they’ll come back very soon,
When will they ever learn,
When will they ever learn?”