Tuesday, January 28, 1997

Hebron-Bethlehem-From Abraham to Rachel

Hebron-Bethlehem-From Abraham to Rachel
January 28, 1997     

I am ashamed to admit that, in spite of the relatively short distance, I very 
infrequently visit Rachel's Tomb - Kever Rachel Emenu - in Bethlehem. The last 
time I was there was before the city was abandoned to Arafat, over a year ago. 
I recall feeling very emotionally drained, at that time. 'Redeployment' was 
pending and the very thought was beyond belief. 

Today I met a group of about 40 people in Jerusalem, and escorted them into 
Hebron for a full day tour.  They requested to stop first at Kever Rachel, so 
before leaving Jerusalem to Hebron, we detoured to Bethlehem. The stretch of 
road exiting Jerusalem to Kever Rachel is still under Israeli authority. There 
was a time when Kever Rachel was a familiar site to those in transit to and 
from Hebron-Kiryat Arba-Efrat-Gush Etzion to Jerusalem. The diminutive domed 
edifice, built over the traditional tomb of the Matriarch Rachel in the middle 
1800's by Sir Moses Montifiori was a constant link between Hebron and 
Jerusalem. Children would wait to pass Kever Rachel, some people would 
automatically say a short prayer or recite a Psalm, and others would glance up, 
taking the everyday site for granted. 

Today, when we arrived at Kever Rachel I could not believe my eyes: The dome 
was nowhere to be seen - instead a long stone wall lines the street, blocking 
the view, hiding Rachel's Tomb.  Stunned, stepping off the bus, I followed the 
other visitors inside, said a few Psalms, and went back outside. The 
construction is continuing - the building is being enlarged and it is obvious 
that the security precautions have not yet been completed. The wall will 
continue to grow, surrounding the tomb. In a tiny trailer I found the Kever 
Rachel Kollel - a group of yeshiva students studying Torah adjacent to the 
tomb. Eventually, when the building is finished, they will move into a room 
inside the compound. But for the time being a group of almost 10 men sit 
cramped inside the trailer, trying to ignite a spark of light in the gloomy 
reality of Arafatland.

I sort of felt the same way yesterday when I accompanied some Swiss 
journalists to the Abu-Snenah hilltop in Hebron. This hilltop is now part of 
the palestinian authority. This was my first venture into area H1 - the part of 
Hebron abandoned by Israel to the Arabs. On the way, after crossing the 
'border' I saw a big red sign announcing our entrance into an area patrolled by 
'palestinian police.' 

It is difficult for me to coherently express my emotions upon seeing such a 
sign.  After all, the reality of the Hebron accords has started to sink in, 
slowly. But still, seeing the letters standing out on a big red sign, it has a 
way of making your blood run cold. Friends of mine have been stopped by 
palestinian police in various sections of Hebron. Very simply, there aren't any 

I just ask myself, what Avraham Yitzhak, Ya'akov, Sara, Rivka, Leah and 
Rachel - wherever they are - what are they saying to themselves and to each 
other when they see what is going on here. I know what I would be saying if I 
were in their place - and I can only hope that they are more forgiving than I 
would be.

Friday, January 17, 1997

Hebron - R.I.P.?

Hebron-Past, Present and Forever by David Wilder Hebron - R.I.P.? January 17, 1997

Last night Prime Minister Netanyahu, speaking at a
press conference, told viewers that "Israel is not
withdrawing from Hebron, rather is resituating in
Hebron." Bibi has a way with words.
For that matter, so does MK Michael Eitan, a long-
time Hebron supporter. Explaining his acceptance of the
accords, he compares the abandonment to a doctor, who has
no choice but to amputate the patient's leg in order to
save his life. This sounds vaguely similar to the
`sacrifices for peace' we were so used to hearing from
the previous administration.
A little over a year ago I tried to express my
emotions when Beit Lechem was abandoned to Arafat. At
that time I wrote that Rachel cried. This week, for
almost two days it didn't stopped raining, for the first
time this winter. Now when Hebron, city of the Patriarchs
and Matriarchs is being abandoned, G-d is crying.
Many reporters have asked me if the present
agreement is better than the original Peres-Arafat Hebron
Accords. The answer is very simple. The two versions of
the Plan to Abandon Hebron are similar to two doctors.
The first doctor approaches the family of a sick patient
and informs them: "I'm sorry, but the patient is dead."
The other doctor approaches the family with a post-mortem
report, saying, "These are the reasons why the patient
died.' However you look at it, with the details, or
without the details, the patient is dead.
How is Hebron going to deal with the present
situation? Many people have asked me why we didn't
conduct a major demonstration today, or do something else
to convey our feelings. For well over a year we worked to
prevent the abandonment of Hebron. The fact that today
80% of Hebron was evacuated is not an indication of
failure. We did just about everything we could and
managed to postpone the final, awful moment for almost a
year. Seven ministers opposed Netanyahu's plan. We lost
because the other two ministers who should have voted
against the accords chickened out. The vote was 11 to 7.
It may very well come to pass that all those who voted to
implement the accords will be remembered in history as
are the 10 spies who, when reporting back to Moses in the
desert, rejected the possibility of conquering and living
in Eretz Yisrael. Those who voted against the agreement
will be recalled as are Yehoshua and Kalev, especially
former minister Benny Begin, who resigned as a result of
the government's decision. Unfortunately our Prime
Minister does not have the same courage as does Begin.
One thing should be clear: Over the past four years
the Jewish Community of Hebron had to prevail over
tremendous difficulties. With G-d's help, we were able
to overcome almost all the problems we faced during the
reign of Rabin-Peres. Just as we overcame four years of
oppression, so will we overcome the present predicament.
There are those who have written Hebron off - they
expect Hebron's Jewish community to leave. They have
declared: Hebron - Rest In Peace. For some reason they
really believe that we are in the midst of a peace
process. They also believe that a Jewish presence in
Hebron is provocative and unnecessary. But, they are
wrong. Only true peace brings true rest. Hebron will not
rest, surely not as part of this false peace. The lie
called Oslo will not allow us peace and quiet. Much to
the contrary. The more we concede, the more trouble we
will have. Hebron has been transformed into a `piece' -
the exact opposite of its true essence, which is total
What will happen to Hebron? One day, perhaps in the
near future, or even in the distant future, all of Hebron
will return to Jewish hands, as will Shechem, Beit
Lechem, and all of Judea, Samaria and Gazza. How can I
be so sure? It took from 1929 to 1967 for Jews to return
to Hebron. It took 2,000 years to return to Eretz
Yisrael, following the destruction of the Second Temple.
How, after so many years, were we able to return? The
answer is because the land of Israel is an integral
component of the Jewish People and for 2,000 years we
never forgot that. From 1929 to 1967 we never forgot our
attachment to the city of the Patriarchs. We yearned, we
prayed, we proclaimed `next year in Jerusalem,' even at
the cost of death, we sat on the ground one day every
year, in commemoration of the burning of the Temple and
the exile of Jews from Israel. We knew that Eretz
Yisrael belongs to Am Yisrael.
The immediate future will be very difficult - of
that I have no doubts or illusions. If the Jewish People
were able to overcome the results of a Holocaust that
left one third of our people murdered, and in spite of
that were able to create a viable state only three years
after the furnaces were extinguished, we can overcome
anything. It will not be easy, but we will persevere.
Only when there is a true and lasting peace, not a peace
of capitulation will we be able to add, after the word
Hebron - Rest in Peace.

Tuesday, January 14, 1997

Moments of Truth

Life is full of crossroads. Some are very personal,
others    of   a  public  nature.   Some  are  relatively
unimportant.   Yet   others,  may   have   far   reaching
implications and consequences.  Presently Israel is at  a
crossroads  that may determine our fate  -  the  fate  of
Hebron, of Jerusalem, of the State of Israel, and of  the
entire  Jewish People.  We have arrived at  a  moment  of
      Tonight,  a couple of hours from now, Netanyahu  is
due  to  again  meet  Arafat at the Eretz  Checkpoint  in
Gazza.   The  topics  under discussion  and  the  pending
accords remind me of scenes out of  A Tale of Two Cities,
especially  the last scene.  For those of you  who  don't
remember,  the  guillotine blade  falls....on  the  wrong
      Tonight  not only is Hebron on the chopping  block.
Tonight almost all of the land area of Judea, Samaria and
Gazza is up for grabs.  In addition to abandoning Hebron,
Netanyahu has agreed to part with close to 70%  of  Yesha
by  September  1, 1998.  Netanyahu is not only  beheading
The  Jewish  Community of Hebron.  He is  castrating  the
Land of Israel.
      If the accords are signed tonight or early tomorrow
morning  they  will be brought before the cabinet  almost
immediately.   On Thursday a special session  of  Knesset
can be expected, and then, on Friday, the withdrawal, the
abandonment is due to begin.
      I am constantly asked if Netanyahu has betrayed us.
The  answer is no - he didn't initiate Oslo.  But I  have
to add: in Judaism there is a term called `apikoris.'  An
apikoris  is  frequently defined  as  a  person  who  has
rejected    Divinity   and   rebelled    against    G-d's
commandments.  However, this definition is inaccurate. An
`apikoris' is not your everyday man on the street who  is
not  observant.  Most Jews have little knowledge of  what
religious  Judaism  demands of them.   A  person  who  is
ignorant is not an `apikoris.' An `apikoris' is a  person
who KNOWS, and in spite of his knowledge, in spite of his
education, rejects and rebels.
      As  far  as Rabin and Peres were concerned,  Jewish
heritage,   Jewish   history,  Jewish  identity,   Jewish
religion were synonymous with anachronism - pieces of the
past,  with  no  place in the present and future.   Peres
views  Sweden  and a role-model for a futuristic  Israeli
state.   So he told the King of Sweden upon reception  of
the  Nobel Peace Prize.  He sees Israel as a state  that,
coincidentally, is populated by Jews.  But, according  to
his philosophy, Israel is not a Jewish State.  It needn't
have a particular Jewish identity. Peres is an ignoramus.
      However, Netanyahu knows better.  He may not be  an
observant  religious  Jew,  but  he  has  a  much  deeper
understanding  of  Judaism,  of  Israel,  of  Hebron  and
Jerusalem.   Yet  he is rejecting - rebelling.  Netanyahu
KNOWS better, but is revolting.
      According to Jewish sources, a real `apikoris'  has
no place in the world-to-come.

So,  again,  we  have  reached  a  moment  of  truth,   a
crossroads  of  overwhelming  significance.   This   week
ministers  were  quoted  as saying  the  concept   `Eretz
Yisrael HaShlema' - the total complete Land of Israel  is
dead.   We are told that we must deal with a new reality,
the  division of Eretz Yisrael.  Very shortly we will  be
told  that  the same is true concerning Jerusalem  -  the
same  is  true  concerning a palestinian state.   Defense
Minister  Yitzhak  Mordechai was  quoted  in  yesterday's
Jerusalem  Post saying that Israel cannot  provide  total
security   for  Hebron's  Jews.   Yet  he  is  supporting
abandonment  of the city, and of the Jews therein.  Today
it  was  reported  that  the army  has  been  stockpiling
emergency  medical supplies at each of the  neighborhoods
in  Hebron,  including IVs, resuscitation apparatus,  and
battlefield  operating-room  equipment.   The  overriding
concern  is  that  a massive Arab attack  on  the  Jewish
neighborhoods  could leave an area cut off  and  isolated
from the other neighborhoods.  So, complying with the old
Boy  Scout  adage,  they  are fulfilling  "Be  Prepared."
Thanks loads.
      I  would like to reveal to you - devoted reader and
supporter of Hebron - what is really bothering me -  what
is,  as  far as I am concerned, the true moment of truth.
The  previous administration's decisions were, as far  as
we  were  concerned, illegitimate.  The Knesset  majority
rested on Arabs.  There was no Jewish majority.  However,
that  is  not so of this administration.  This government
was  elected  with an 11% Jewish majority.   There  is  a
Jewish  majority in the Knesset.  Do these people  really
represent  the  will  of  Am Yisrael  -  do  they  really
represent the Jewish people in Israel?  If they decide to
abandon  Hebron, do we have no choice but to  accept  the
decree  - to resign ourselves to an Israel without Judea,
Samaria, Gazza, without Hebron?
     The answer I think, is twofold.  On the one hand, as
private  individuals, or even as a community,  we  cannot
physically fight such a decision.  We will not go to war,
not  against the Israeli government or army, and not even
against  Arafat's  army.  We may use all  the  tools  and
methods  at our disposal to undo the process, if that  is
possible. We will continue to develop and grow,  as  much
as we can.
      But, we will not accept that this is truly `the way
is  should  be.'  That's why I have called  this  article
`Moments  of  Truth' and not "A Moment of Truth.'   True,
for  the foreseeable future we will have to live  with  a
reality  that is harsh, and not to our liking.  But  this
situation is temporary.  Be it temporary for a few weeks,
months,  or  even  years.   But Israel  will  not  remain
without Yesha, without Hebron, without Jerusalem forever.
The present moment of truth may determine our short-range
fate  -  it may determine whether their will be more,  or
less,   bloodshed.   It  may  determine  the  degree   of
complexity of our lives and the degree of suffering  that
we will have to undergo.  But it cannot determine truth.
     For abandonment of land in Israel is contrary to our
very  existence.  We came back to Eretz Yisrael to settle
the land, to live on the land - not to divide it and hand
it  over to our enemies, to terrorists. The direction  of
the  present `moment of truth' is clearly negative.   But
eventually,  this will change and the crossroads  we  are
turning down now will reach a dead-end, and we won't have
any  choice but to turn around, come back, and  turn  the
other  way.   Whatever the cost, we must know  this,  and
live accordingly.   The Jewish Community of Hebron has no
intentions of being another Masada.  But we know, without
any doubt, without any hesitation, that a Jewish presence
in  Hebron is part of the embodiment of truth, it is part
of  a  metaphysical reality.  It has nothing to  do  with
Rabin, Peres, or Netanyahu. On the day of the elections I
wrote  that Hebron existed before any of them,  and  will
continue  to exist after all of them. The Prime  Minister
may  decide to abandon Hebron, as may his cabinet and the
Knesset.   But  we will never abandon Hebron  -  we  will
never abandon Eretz Yisrael - we will never abandon  G-d.
And we know, He will never abandon us.

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Wednesday, January 1, 1997

A Virtual Visit

A Virtual VisitJanuary 1, 1997
It is virtually impossible to understand Hebron without
visiting, seeing, feeling, and experiencing, the streets,
the neighborhoods, the children, the adults, the sites,
and the sounds of the City of the Patriarchs. So many
people, even the most staunch of Hebron's supporters, who
for one reason or another have either never been to
Hebron, or haven't visited for many years, only realize
the real significance of redeployment in Hebron after
spending a few hours touring the city. How many times
have I heard a guest exclaim: "Now I understand what you
are talking about."
However, sometimes this same remark is not welcomed.
It depends who says it. For example, not too long ago,
one of the most important military officials in the
country, a full general, visited the Jewish Community.
Part of the tour included a visit to the Abu Snenah
hilltop, overlooking the Jewish neighborhoods. This
hilltop, less than a kilometer from the Avraham Avinu
residences, is to be turned over to Arafat and represents
a significant danger to all Jews in Hebron. Standing
atop Abu Snenah, scanning the view, the general turned to
his host, one of the leaders of Hebron's Jewish Community
and also uttered, "Now I understand what you are talking
about." How is it, that a full general, with
responsibility for the lives of Israelis throughout the
country, who was sent to Hebron to try to convince the
Jewish community to finally agree to implementation of
previously rejected `security measures,' only now becomes
truly aware of "what we are talking about?"

Lately I have added a new site to visit in Hebron.

I subject my tourists to a long climb up to the rooftop
of one of the apartment buildings in the Avraham Avinu
neighborhood. Looking around, at least at first, the
view is phenomenal. That is, before I start explaining:
"Look over here, in back of us. You see these
buildings. They have been abandoned for decades. Here,
underneath us, look inside the window. Arab workmen are
renovating, compliments of Saudi Arabian funding. From
that window, a terrorist can literally jump into one of
our apartments. And we know that Arafat is planning on
populating these buildings with terrorists released from
Israeli jails. The women who lives here, in the
apartment underneath us, has a clear view of that window.
She watches it, day after day. When the Arabs begin
working, she calls the police. They come and send the
Arabs home. A few hours later they are back. And it
begins again.

And look to your right. You can see the fresh

cement, poured a few days ago, directly under an IDF
outpost. The same thing is happening there. In most of
these areas the renovations are permitted, in spite of
the fact that they could be stopped, for reasons of
security. But the building continues.

In back of the these buildings you can see hills.

These hills are called Harat el-Shech. They too are
going to Arafat. They overlook Beit Hadassah and Beit
Shneerson. Our homes are within shooting range of these
hill. Three years ago, Arab terrorists fired a Lowe
missile from this hill into Beit Shneerson.

Now, come over here, to the other side of the

rooftop. Here we see Abu Snenah. From Abu Shenah you
can see us standing here on this roof. You can clearly
view the entrance we use into Ma'arat HaMachpela. You can
peer into Tel Rumeida. This hilltop overlooks the road
leading from Hebron to Kiryat Arba to Jerusalem. In
short, Abu Snenah controls Jewish Hebron.

Now, look down. Here you see the entrance to the

Avraham Avinu neighborhood. To the right of the entrance
is the Arab market, due to be reopened. In order to
separate between Jews and Arabs, the army is planning on
building a wall, cutting the entrance in half, leaving us
a corridor into the neighborhood. We won't have anywhere
to park our automobiles. When Yitzhak Mordechai visited
here he wasn't interested where we'll park our cars. But
he asked the officers with him how the Arab merchants
would be able to unload their produce.

That street in front of the entrance, that is the

most famous street in the world, called Shuhada by the
Arabs, and King David by us. That street is the only
street we are allowed to travel on in Hebron. It isn't
our major traffic artery - it is our only one. The rest
of Hebron is off-limits - closed military territory. If
this road is reopened to Arab traffic, it will fill up
with trucks leaving the market. It will be impossible to
get from neighborhood to neighborhood without getting
caught up in major traffic jams. And we won't have any
alternative-we haven't anywhere else to go. Should a
terrorist leave a carbomb on the street, or bring a truck
filled with explosives into the market and blow it up -
well, Israeli military officials have expressed their
grave reservations concerning reopening the street and
the market - reservations which Netanyahu has ignored.

So actually what you see from this rooftop are most

of the most serious security problems created by Oslo's
Hebron accords. The Arabs are surrounding us -
attempting to strangle us from all directions. This is
Hebron, the morning after implementation of Oslo here, in
the city of the Patriarchs.