Monday, January 27, 2003

The Choice is Ours

The Choice is Ours
January 27, 2003


So, tomorrow are the elections. According to political commentators and, even without them, the general feeling in the air, is that this campaign has been relatively painless. As Kol Yisrael analyst Hanan Crystal said this morning, there’s no hate between the parties, it’s as if everyone knew the results before the game began, it’s just a question of what will be the score.

This surely is different from other elections we’ve witnessed in the past ten years – the Rabin-Shamir fiasco, bringing us Oslo, the Netanyahu-Peres cliffhanger, the Barak-Netanyahu turnaround, and finally, the return of the right with Sharon’s trampling of Ehud Barak, only two years ago.

This election really did seem to be over before it began. An Arik win seemed a foregone conclusion, so, excepting two weeks of media-setup suspense over the Sharon loan, only apathy has abounded.

In my eyes, not rightly so.

In Hebrew, the word for elections is “bechirot,” stemming from the word l’vchor, which literally means, ‘to choose.’  And choose we must!

The choice we must make is not political, rather it is, as I see it, an affirmation, or perhaps a reaffirmation.

Speaking to groups and individuals, here and abroad, one question is a constant: What is your solution to today’s problems? What would you do if you could do anything you want?

My response is consistent, unwavering: First things first. We must all understand, those of us in Israel, and Jews around the world, that Eretz Yisrael belongs to Am Yisrael. No question marks, no maybes, no doubts – Eretz Yisrael, all of Eretz Yisrael, be it Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Hebron, Bethlehem, Beit El, Ramallah or Ramla, all of it, all of Eretz Yisrael, belongs to Am Yisrael. As long as we don’t understand that, or are unwilling to recognize this fact, it is very difficult, if not down right impossible to proceed. One side, the other side, our enemy, definitively proclaims: “The land is ours.” The voice coming from Israel, stuttering, speaking apologetically, with severe reservations, peeps out, “Maybe it is ours, maybe not.” And of course, there are those who yell out, loud and clear, “no it’s not ours, it’s theirs.”

Those of us, who disagree, also shouting out loud, only in the exact opposite direction, are pushed into a corner and told to shut up, because we are the fanatic fringe element who does not represent anyone.

What does this have to do with elections? Very simply, when we go l’vchor, to choose, what must we choose?  In all actuality we must decide whether to choose ourselves, to be ourselves, or to choose not to be ourselves, to try and change our essential being. In other words, are we for ourselves or are we against ourselves?

Unfortunately, much of the Israeli populace, as well as the Jewish community around the globe, has chosen to ignore or forget who we really are, and what we are, as Jews, living in our Land, living as a Jew should, proudly identifying with our religion, our culture, our homeland.

Here in Israel, this is reflected at the polls. How so?
It is unnecessary to delve into great detail about each of the political parties. There is only one party that need be singled out, exemplifying the problematic of Israeli society. That party is called Shinui, meaning change. What changes does Shinui espouse?

According to their official platform, “Shinui fights against religious coercion and for a secular state with room for all opinions and beliefs. Extortion and exploitation of the public treasury for religious purposes have to end. The ultra-Orthodox establishment is a threat to the orderly administration of a free society and to the individual freedom that characterizes a democratic state.” They conclude by saying, “We seek to separate state and religion, while preserving the country's Zionist character

Party leader, Tommy Lapid, has built a political party, which, in any other country, would be labeled ‘anti-Semitic.’ There is no other word for his attitude and that of his party. He has announced that he will never sit in the same government with ‘ultra-religious’ parties. Shinui’s political stance reeks of abhorrence to Judaism. Yet, according to the latest polls, Shinui will receive between 15 to 18 mandates, making it the second or third largest party in the Knesset.

Lapid’s opinions concerning Yesha and the ‘peace process’ have a way of shifting with the wind. Officially, Lapid could be considered ‘center-right.’ He professes to believe in the right to live in parts of Judea and Samaria. However, his party list is almost entirely left wing, with opinions close to Labor.

The appearance of such a political party is very disturbing, in and of itself. The fact that they are receiving such widespread support is even more alarming. Not every Jew is religious, and religious coercion is illegitimate. But how is it that so many Israelis are not willing to respect other Jews who practice traditions thousands of years old, believing them to be G-d given commandments? This seems to be the same type of ‘sinat-hinam’ or ‘free hate’ spoken about by our Sages in the Talmud, leading to the destruction of the Second Temple and the two thousand year old exile from Eretz Yisrael.

True, tomorrow we are going to the polls. But the real elections we are facing, as I said earlier, in Hebrew, bechirot, or choice, is a decision whether or not we choose to be ourselves, or whether we choose to flee from ourselves. Are we willing to look ourselves in the eye and see who we really are, or will we attempt to disguise ourselves as somebody else? The question isn’t Sharon or Mitzna. The choice is to stand up and be the real Am Yisrael in Eretz Yisrael, or to pretend that we are something else.

The choice is ours.

With blessings from Hebron,
This is David Wilder

Monday, January 20, 2003

The Hebron Planter

The Hebron Planter
January 20, 2003

I thought that tonight I’d be able to fill you in on some of the very positive aspects of my trip to the United States. I expected to tell you about a visit with a Senator who told me, “Arafat is a terrorist. You people must stay strong. We are behind you one hundred percent.” I hoped to relate to you how another Senator, after sitting with me for a half hour, showing me a picture of Jerusalem in his office, and telling me that this picture has to be placed higher on the wall than another picture, because Jerusalem is more important.

I expected to tell you about a wonderful eighteen-year-old woman named Danielle, from Baltimore, who decided to single-handedly help Israel. She began a “business”, importing flowers from Israel for holidays and for the first Shabbat in every new Jewish month, selling them to customers throughout the city. All of the profits earned are being donated to families of terror victims.

I also planned on talking about an extraordinary young Rabbi, who having visited Hebron this past summer, and again several weeks ago, invited me to be a guest of his synagogue, and spoke about Hebron, during his weekly sermon, two weeks in a row.

But unfortunately, I’ll have to leave these uplifting events for some other time.

It was exactly six years ago, I think it was today, January 20, when then Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s government gave the go-ahead to abandon Hebron. At that time over 80% of the city was denuded of any Jewish presence. The site of the famous “Slobadka – Hebron” Yeshiva; the cave of the first Judge in Eretz Yisrael, Otniel ben Knaz; and of course, the hills surrounding Hebron’s Jewish neighborhoods, Abu Sneneh and Harat a’Shech.  Almost immediately the community came under attack, massive rock-throwing and fire-bomb assaults. For months on end the Netanyahu government did virtually nothing to stop the attacks. Only after an Israeli soldier was badly burned by a Molotov cocktail was Arafat presented with, not a crushing military blow, rather, an ultimatum: Stop, or else!

We warned, both before the Israeli withdrawal, and after, that the inevitable result of the Oslo and Hebron Accords would be war, and it wasn’t long in coming. There are those who prefer the Arab word, “intifada,” meaning uprising. This phrase is nothing more than an Arab-media propaganda ploy, a euphemism, hiding behind it the true substance of current events: War.
The Oslo war, a much more accurate calling card, has cost Israel over 720 deaths and thousands of wounded and maimed, all over the country. No city, no bus stop, no school is immune. Hebron has been hit hard, very hard. For almost two full years we were shot at day and night. Ten month old Shalhevet was  murdered, shot to death from the surrounding hills. Elazar Lebovitch, on the eve of his 21st birthday, was struck down, only miles outside the center of the city. Two of the Meshulam brothers were shot and wounded while standing on their apartment balcony. Another brother was stabbed and critically wounded. One of the Struk family boys was hit in the chest by a bullet fragment. Another was shot in the back, also, just outside Hebron. Others from the Hebron region, were gunned down: only to mention a few, Rina Didovsky, Eliyahu ben Ami, David Cohen, Yehezkel Mualem, and the list goes on. And of course, the miracles are many to numerous to detail during a five minute conversation.

Then, two and a half months ago, the commencement of a major terror offensive in the Hebron district. First, twelve killed during a Friday night terror ambush – three civilians from Kiryat Arba and nine soldiers. A week and a half later, two more soldiers were gunned down in Hebron. Then, a few weeks later, the Otniel Yeshiva Shabbat attack, leaving four dead. And now, this past Friday night, an additional victim of terror, another widow, another five orphans.

Nati Uzeri was a familiar personage, thirty five years old, having lived in the Kiryat Arba vicinity for well over a decade. His personality combined abundant traits: an idealist, a pioneer, a Torah scholar, and a doer, who practiced what he preached. He fully believed in Torah study, and he fully believed in working the land.  He and his family lived in an isolated home, which should not have been secluded, because it was built within the municipal boundaries of Kiryat Arba. Uzeri knew that if Jews did not settle this land, it would soon be filled with Arab housing. With the dedication and self-sacrifice so characteristic of him, the family lived there, just outside of Kiryat Arba, happily fulfilling a goal, settling Eretz Yisrael.

On Friday night, while eating their Sabbath meal, the family was interrupted by a knock on the door. “Who’s there?” Nati asked. From outside came a voice answering, “Mordechai.” Being suspicious, Nati drew his gun and opened the door. He shot and hit one of the two terrorists before being struck down. Two guests in the house, both unarmed, left quickly through a back entrance and surprised the terrorists from behind, jumping on them and beating them. One of the terrorists was killed on the spot and the other, the next morning, by Israeli forces. But Nati Uzeri was dead, the nineteenth victim in the Hebron area in less than three months.

Two days ago, Shabbat, was the Jewish holiday Tu b’Shvat, the traditional “New Year for Trees.” The Hebron community planned a huge tree- planting ceremony, planting trees in memory of the heroic twelve. Planting a tree in the ground is an act of faith, knowing that the rewards are not immediate, that fruit will grow only in the future. But knowing that new roots are now growing in the ground, new roots, intermingling with old roots, this is symbolic of our past, our present and our future, all blending together. It is an inspirational event.

However, yesterday, rather than plant roots of new trees in the soil, Hebron participated in lowering another victim into the ground, earth scorched by so much blood, boiling blood of so many innocent people, their only crime being Jews, settling the land of Israel.

All a direct result of what happened here, exactly six years ago today.  Land and guns, for blood.  You’d think we’d have learned by now.

With blessings from Hebron,
This is David Wilder

Monday, January 6, 2003

The Witch's Looking Glass

The Witch's Looking Glass
January 6, 2002


Sometimes we lose touch with reality – attempting to see what doesn’t exist. Then, all of a sudden, we find ourselves woken up, abruptly, thrown on the floor, not by a bad dream, but by another one of those horrendous explosions. Last night, again, a ‘double suicide attack,’ each of the murderers carrying over 15 kilograms of explosives, packed with screws, bolts, nails and other assorted weaponry, designed to kill and maim. It makes absolutely no difference that many of those wounded and killed were foreign workers and not Israelis – the vicious attack was aimed at the heart of Israel, in the heart of Tel Aviv.

We need not be jolted by reality so harshly. Our enemy exploits not only bombs – he also utilizes words – we only need hear them, and then, act accordingly.

I’d like to steer your attention to two recent articles. The first appeared in this past Friday’s Ha’Aretz newspaper magazine [], written by Ari Shavit, and is called ‘Travels with Mohammed.’ Mohammad is a 34 year old lawyer. He would be described as young, modern and educated. He is also an “Arab Israeli” as opposed to a “Palestinian.”

What does he think about the State of Israel? I quote: “The Jewish public now living in the country has the right to self-determination. But one can understand why the Palestinians rejected the UN partition plan in 1947. And one must understand that there is no balance of rights here. There is no balance of our right vs. your right. And
that is because at the point of departure, the Jews had neither legal right, nor historical right, nor religious right. The only right they had was the right of distress. But the right of distress cannot justify 78 percent [of Mandatory Palestine becoming Israel]. It cannot justify the fact that the guests became the masters. At the end of the day, it is the natives, not the immigrants, who have a supreme right to the country. Those who have lived here for hundreds of years have become part of the land, just as the land has become part of them. We are not like you. We are not strangers and we are not wanderers and we are not migrants. For hundreds of years, we lived on this land and we multiplied on it. Therefore, no one can uproot us from it. No one can separate it from us. Not even you.”

“If the two-state solution continues to be insisted on, autonomy in Galilee will definitely be on the agenda. And that autonomy will have to be not only cultural but territorial as well. With policing powers and effective control of the land and of the natural resources. Three autonomous areas of this kind will have to be created: in Galilee, in the Triangle and in the Negev. Palestinians living in Lod or Ramla or Jaffa will have to be given personal autonomy that will have an associative relationship to the three Palestinian cantons in the State of Israel."

Are you starting to wake up? If you’re still a little groggy, maybe this will help.

Mr. Solly Ganor, a holocaust survivor, recently posted an article [] called, “Conversation on the Beach.” This true dialogue occurred between Ganor and a twenty five year old Arab student of political science, studying at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. It took place just outside Hertzlia, on the Israeli coast, and is quite revealing: 

Solly: “You don't think that moderation is a good idea?"

Arab student: "What has moderation ever done for us? We have been moderate long enough. We are growing weaker while you have grown stronger. It is time for us to act."

Solly: " Do you think that you were moderate up to now? Would you call five wars the Arabs launched against us, moderation? I wonder what you would call hostility?"

Arab student: " Hostility is what you are getting now. Our young people are blowing themselves up in all of your major towns, taking with them hundreds of your Israelis. President Arafat has promised you a million 'Shihads' to march on Jerusalem.  The march has already begun, and it won't be thanks to Arafat. He is another old bungler. Things are changing. Until now you had the upper hand, but no more! Our "Shihads,"  are the answer to your atomic bombs. If necessary, one "Shihad" can be an atomic bomb, here in Israel, in America, in Europe, or anywhere the Jews and the Crusaders live. We don't need millions of dollars worth of sophisticated labs and expensive scientist. What we have is cheap and efficient. That is because we are not afraid to die.  We have finally found your soft underbelly, your Achilles Heal. You Judeo-Christians worship the sanctity of life, while we don't mind dieing for Islam"

Solly: " Do all the Arab students studying at the Israeli universities share your views?"

Arab student: " Absolutely! A few may be oriented towards the West, but the overwhelming majority are for the new emerging Renaissance of Islam. You might as well enjoy the beautiful view from while you can. You won't be able to do so for long. If I were you, I would pack and leave for safer countries."

There are those of us who, familiar with the Arab mind, who didn’t need either of these two articles to be well aware of the truth. There are others of us who, even upon reading these articles, will not take them seriously.  What do they take seriously? Twenty-three dead and over a hundred wounded? Last night’s terror put us over the 700 dead mark: The Oslo War has cost us 717 deaths and over 5,000 wounded.

So where does that leave us: Speaking of Arab return to Israel, Mohammed says, “I don't know how many there will be. Certainly not millions, maybe hundreds of thousands. But I see them returning. In the same way that my family slid back on the slopes of the Turan ridge with their mules and belongings after a few months of exile, the others will also return. It will be a long convoy of returning people.”

Our lesson to be learned?  Gazing into the witch’s looking glass, believing that everything we see is pretty, is killing us.

With blessings from Hebron,
This is David Wilder