Monday, February 24, 2003

The Roots of Tel Rumeida

The Roots of Tel Rumeida
February 24, 2003


Yesterday, the Israeli Supreme Court, sitting as the High Court of Justice, halted construction of new apartments in the Tel Rumeida-Admot Yishai neighborhood.

What is the background of this building?

Almost five years ago, Rabbi Shlomo Ra’anan, the 63 year-old grandson of Israel’s first Chief Rabbi, Rav Avraham Yitzhak HaCohen Kook, was murdered in his Tel Rumeida caravan- home bedroom. Among the visitors during the shiva, the week of mourning, was then Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu promised Hebron’s Jewish community that his government would issue permits allowing construction of permanent housing to replace the ‘caravan’ mobile homes, which had been brought to the neighborhood in the summer of 1984 with the permission of then Defense Minister Moshe Arens.

Tel Rumeida’s real name is Tel Hebron, site of the ancient home of our Patriarchs and Matriarchs, as well as King David and others. During excavations conducted during the Jordanian occupation of Hebron in the early 1960s, many ancient artifacts were uncovered, including giant walls dating back to the days of Joshua. In order to allow construction of permanent housing anywhere in Tel Rumeida, it was understood that the building would be preceded by additional archeological excavations.

The Israel Antiquities Authority, in conjunction with the director of archeology in Judea and Samaria, began digging in the area. In the midst of the excavations, Ehud Barak was elected Prime Minister. Following conclusion of the six-month dig, the Barak government refused to issue the necessary building permits. However, cement roofing, covering the excavations was begun, and finished after Ariel Sharon replaced Barak.

Following months of waiting, Sharon’s Defense Minster, Labor-party leader Binyamin ben Eliezer finally signed the building permits, and construction began. The new building will house six new apartments and a Torah study hall, in memory of Rabbi Ra’anan, called Ohr Shlomo. When ben Eliezer was asked by his own Labor party members why he, a Labor minister, issued building permits to Hebron settlers, he replied that the situation in Hebron was so dangerous that caravan homes provided no safety for their occupants, and therefore, new, stone houses were a security necessity. This, of course, due to the “Oslo War.” The caravan homes in Tel Rumeida were shot at day and night for over two years. Bullets hitting the caravan walls pierced not one wall, rather two or three walls. Only Divine miracles prevented anyone from being hit by these terrorist bullets. Ben Eliezer’s comrades then asked him, if it is so dangerous in Tel Rumeida, why doesn’t he close the area and remove its Jewish residents, to which the Defense Minister replied, “There are some places you cannot throw Jews out of.”

The building has continued for a number of months and should be completed by the coming fall. However, several people, including two Arabs, two archeologists, and a left-wing former MK, are attempting to stop the building. They appealed to the Israeli Supreme Court, claiming that Israel is destroying ancient archeological artifacts. The court yesterday issued a temporary injunction halting all construction, until the claims are examined and ruled upon.

Let’s for a moment, take a look at the petitioners.

First, the Arabs, both of whom live in Tel Rumeida. Zakariah el-Bakri lives right next to the building site, adjacent to the Israeli caravan homes. He lives in a real, stone house. His house is, without any doubt, sitting on top of archeological antiquities which will never be uncovered, due to the fact that his house is covering them. The Jewish community’s construction has been fully approved by the Israeli antiquities authority and the director of archeology in Judea and Samaria, Dr. Yitzhak Magen. All measures were implemented to ensure that the artifacts unearthed would be conserved. However, when Zakaria el Bakri built his house, he took no such precautions, thereby causing irreparable damage to artifacts under his home.

In addition, el Bakri rented his home to the Israeli construction company in charge of the building. In other words, he was fully aware of the impending construction and even took advantage of it to make some money. Yet now he is trying to stop the building by appealing to the courts. Strange, no?

The other Arab petitioner is the principal of an Arab girl’s school, across from Beit Hadassah. Their house also rests on ancient Tel Hebron and covers antiquities. Mrs. Hekal is known for her vicious hatred of Hebron’s Jewish residents and has been involved in many more that one scuffle with Jews living in the vicinity.

There are also two archeologists complaining to the court. Dr. Avi Ofer was involved in excavations in Tel Rumeida in the 1970s. When it was decided to excavate again, several years ago, he wanted to participate as director of the dig, but was overruled by the Israeli antiquities authority. He went to court in an attempt to receive the appointment, but lost.

Two interesting points concerning Ofer. First, the excavations were labeled as “rescue excavations,” whose objective is to allow construction at the archeological site following conclusion of the dig. Ofer himself wanted to direct this dig. In other words, he knew, when applying for the directorship, that the site would be used for construction of apartments after the dig was completed. He didn’t then complain about future building.

The second point is the Dr. Avi Ofer told Noam Arnon and me, in our offices, years ago, that Tel Rumeida is the second most important archeological site in Israel after Temple Mount in Jerusalem. However he added, ‘it all belongs to Arafat.’

In other words, Avi Ofer isn’t interested in the well-being of Tel Rumeida. He is infected by two horrible inflictions: deep-rooted jealousy and rampant leftism.

The other archeologist bringing suit is Professor Moshe Cochavi, who is, incidentally, Avi Ofer’s mentor. So you know where he’s coming from.

So there you have it. Again, an attempt by the left to stop growth and development in Hebron, this time in Tel Rumeida. However, they will not succeed. Tel Rumeida is the virtual roots of the Jewish people, beginning with Abraham, and leading up to the present. Those roots are so deep that no one will ever be able to displace or destroy them, hard as they may try. The roots of Tel Rumeida stretch out through almost four thousand years of Jewish presence in this world. The will continue to exist for eternity.

With blessings from Hebron,
This is David Wilder 

Monday, February 17, 2003

Quenching Our Thirst

Quenching Our Thirst
February 17, 2003


Following the terror attack here three months ago, when twelve men were killed, the Israel Defense Forces, in concert with other security forces, decided to clear out and widen segments of the road leading from Kiryat Arba to Ma’arat HaMachpela in Hebron.  

Walking from Kiryat Arba to Hebron via the town’s south gate, one first hikes down a hilly road, called in Hebrew, “Tzir HaMitpallelim,” or “Worshiper’s Way.” The distance from beginning to end is, at most, five minutes. It was just off this road, very close to Kiryat Arba, where the 12 men were attacked and murdered. It was on the west side of this road that Hebron-Kiryat Arba residents formed a new neighborhood after that fatal attack, a neighborhood later ordered destroyed by the Sharon government.

At the end of  “Worshiper’s Way” is a small intersection, which is crossed over diagonally, to reach another small pathway, called in Hebrew “Simtat Erez,” or the “Erez Path.” This road leads directly to the Machpela Courtyard and Ma’arat HaMachpela. Here too, from beginning to end, is, maximally, a five minute walk. 

This path, resembling an alley more than a road, is very narrow, and treacherous. It is called the Erez Pathway in memory of Erez Shmuel, a student at the Kiryat Arba yeshiva, who was killed on this path late one Friday afternoon, ten years ago. Two Arab terrorists hiding behind a stone wall jumped on Erez, one holding him and the other stabbing him to death. Other Jews have been periodically attacked here over the years. The last such assault occurred exactly one week after the twelve men were killed. That Friday morning a bomb exploded on the Erez path. It had been timed to blow up later, on Friday night, when again, worshipers walking to and from Ma’arat HaMachpela would have been victims. Fortunately, the explosion took place earlier than planned, when the area was deserted. It should be noted that the bomb was somehow placed there while the Arabs in Hebron were under total curfew.

Simtat Erez is surrounded on two sides by ruins - crumbling buildings constructed decades ago. Some of the structures were built one to two hundred years ago. They are dually dangerous: Buildings are liable to collapse, with stones literally falling on passersby; but much more perilous is the chance of a terrorist hiding behind an ancient stone wall, or a bomb implanted underneath a mound of rubble.

In between the debris are a few Arab families, living in rebuilt houses amongst the ruins.

Following the terror attack, the IDF decided that the time had come to clean up the Erez pathway, thereby removing a serious threat to Jewish lives in Hebron. The few Arabs living there, led on by the Israeli left, petitioned to the Israeli Supreme Court against the impending measures. At the court hearing, lawyers for the left spouted rancorous words of hatred against the ‘settlers’ and ‘their evil plots.’ Lawyers representing the IDF made it clear that the government and the defense ministry, and not the Hebron settlers, were demanding radical changes at the Erez pathway.  They then presented a list of terror incidents occurring in and around the location under discussion, attacks taking place over tens of years.

Following oral arguments, the supreme court justices informed defense ministry attorneys that the security reasons presented were not cause enough for allowing destruction of the ruins or the Arab homes. The attorneys were told to bring back other, more serious grounds. In other words, Jewish blood is cheap.

A few days ago at another hearing, the court requested that the army ‘reconsider’ its plan to widen the road. This, despite grim warnings of the consequences of continued inaction.

This morning two newspaper headlines caught my eye.
First, this afternoon the new Knesset is to be sworn in. And second, the water level of the Kinneret has risen above the red line.

In ways which are, perhaps, more than symbolic, I think these two events are related.

What should we look for in the new Knesset? Of course, the clichés normally espoused: Honesty, integrity and objectivity. However, this Knesset contains an element sorely missing in Israel’s parliamentary body for many years. That is, a clear-cut mandate. The Israeli electorate has spoken twice in two years, leaving no doubt as to the will of  the people. Sharon’s two landslide victories, the demise of the left, and the overwhelming rejection of Oslo enable the Knesset to enact far-reaching decisions, choices which will literally determine whether Israelis live or die. The Knesset can and should undertake legislation curbing the enormous powers of the Supreme Court, powers not determined by law, rather usurped via judicial osmosis. The Knesset can and should undertake legislation giving priority to Jewish lives by declaring the ‘death of Oslo’ thereby voiding any and all Israeli responsibilities or obligations undertaken as a result of that cursed ‘peace treaty.’ The Knesset can and should undertake legislation annexing Judea, Samaria and Gaza, declaring to ourselves and to the entire world, that Eretz Yisrael not only belongs to Am Yisrael, but is a legitimate element of the Jewish state of Israel. Such legislation is the only true response to continued Arab terror, whose goal is the eradication of the State of Israel.

How is this related to water in the Kinneret? Simply. The lack of rainfall over the past few years brought the Kinneret’s water line down, way past the red line. This red line signified disaster, and the real possibility of major water shortages, not only for agricultural use, but also for drinking water. Dire predictions of thirst and famine were not far from the headlines. Already, water costs were skyrocketing. However, much to the meteorologist’s surprise, this year has turned their prophecies around. The water level, though still far from being optimal, is rising steadily, and hope is in sight.

So too it must be with Israel. We’ve been under the red line for almost a decade. The last two plus years have seen us drowning, not in water, but in our own blood. There may have been those who thought that all was lost, that we were past the point of no return. But it’s not so. The Israeli people have made their voices heard, and the moment has arrived. We have the ability to bring about an end to our famine – to our useless actions, and to quench our thirst, that is, to express our love for our land, the Land of Israel. Just as the Kinneret is returning to itself, so too, we must return to ourselves, to rise above the red line, so far up that we will forget that a red line ever existed.

With blessings from Hebron,
This is David Wilder 

Monday, February 10, 2003

The Road Map - Kevorkian-Assisted Suicide in the Middle East

The Road Map - Kevorkian-Assisted Suicide in the Middle East
 February 10,  2003

(This article was prepared in conjunction with an article in Hebrew called
“The Road Map – a tragedy known in advance" by Eliyakim HaEtzni, dated Feb.
5, 2003.)

Doomsday prophecies aren’t my thing. It’s always good to look at the bright
side, to be optimistic, to take life one step at a time.

However, there are times when, left with no choice, reality must be faced
head on. And now is one of those times. The state of Israel, led by Ariel
Sharon, is on a crash course with major catastrophe. This unmitigated
disaster is known as “the Road Map,” or in its full glorious title, “The
Road Map for implementation of a permanent solution for two states in the
Israel-Palestinian Dispute.”

Rather than mince words, let me lay out the basic elements, as they are
presently known, of the ‘road map.’

1. The central goal of the ‘road map’ is creation of a Palestinian state.
This state is to be sovereign and independent, including “maximum
contiguous territory.” Totally rejected are Ariel Sharon’s preconditions,
including Israeli control of borders, arms limitations, Israeli control of
air space, and more.

This state will be created in two stages: Following elections in the
Palestinian Authority, declaration of a state with temporary borders, by
the end of 2003, that will receive international recognition and a seat in
the United Nations.
Permanent borders will be established after determining solutions to issues
such as Jerusalem, refugees, and ‘settlements.’

Here again, Ariel Sharon’s stipulation of a ‘long-term process’ lasting for
at least ten years, falls by the wayside.

2. The Road Map involves two international conferences, the first in 2003
following PA elections, with the marked goal of “initiating negotiations
leading to declaration of a Palestinian State with temporary borders.”

The second international conference is scheduled for 2004, to give final
approval to a Palestinian state with temporary borders, and to initiate
negotiations for a permanent agreement.

It should be noted that past Israeli governments have always avoided
international conferences at almost any cost, because the deck was always
stacked against us. So why now, is Ariel Sharon willing to risk such a
precarious symposium?

The so-called Quartet is the instrument by which a sovereign Palestinian
state will take form. Composed of representatives from the United States,
Russia, the European Union and the United Nations, this group has supreme
decision-making control. For instance:
a. The quartet decides when conditions have ripened for progress, taking
into consideration achievements of all of the sides involved. In other
words, this foreign body will decide when to recognize a Palestinian state.
This bypasses Ariel Sharon’s precondition that all progress be determinant
on Israeli judgment, taking into account factors such as cessation of
terror, collection of illegal armaments, cessation of incitement, etc. In
other words, Israel’s decision-making control is severely restricted, if
existent at all.
b. The quartet will initiate an international observer force, which will
examine Israeli-Palestinian progress. Here again it is worth noting that
Ariel Sharon did not take major military actions against the PA for a year
and half, in order prevent implementation of an international observer
force in Yesha.
c. The Quartet will guarantee that both sides implement all obligations

This directly contradicts Sharon’s plan, by which any Israeli
implementation happens only after full implementation by the Palestinians.

For example, the Palestinian obligation to eradicate terror will be
equivalent to Israeli obligations concerning settlement activity.

d. The Quartet will be directly involved in all negotiations between the
two sides, totally negating a cardinal Israeli rule insisting upon direct
negotiations between the parties involved.
e. The Quartet will be involved in all facets of a Palestinian transition,
including, financial, administrative, legal, and security issues. This
involvement has already begun.
f. The Quartet will be involved in decisions and negotiation concerning the
‘permanent agreement,’ including Jerusalem, refugees, and settlements.

Concerning settlements, Israel will be obligated to:
a. uproot all settlements formed since March, 2001. 
Implementation is not dependent on Palestinian cessation of terror or
incitement. Rather, the obligations must be fulfilled simultaneously.

b. Israel must freeze all settlement activity, including any “natural
growth” of Yesha communities. Implementation priority must be given to
areas which threaten contiguously populated Palestinian regions, including
areas around Jerusalem.
c. Towards declaration of a Palestinian state with temporary borders,
Israeli must allow maximum geographic contiguity, including further
measures concerning settlements, i.e., uprooting of settlements that
interrupt Palestinian territorial contiguity.

Concerning Jerusalem, Israel must agree to reopen all Palestinian offices
and institutions dealing with commerce, business and economy, which were
closed in East Jerusalem, including, of course, the Orient House.

The goals of discussions concerning a permanent solution will seek to
achieve a realistic and just solution to the problems of the refugees and
the status of Jerusalem, which will take into account the political and
religious stands of the two sides. In other words, the Palestinians enter
into negotiations on an equal footing with Israel.

Three other interesting points:
a. Concerning security, the United States, Egypt and Jordan will be
involved in revitalizing security guarantees between Israel and the
b. The solutions reached will take into account the program initiated by
the Saudi Arabians. This program calls for a total withdrawal of Israel to
the 1967, pre-Six Day War borders.
c. The road map demands an international conference to attain peace on all
fronts, including the Israeli-Syria-Lebanese, disputes. In other words, not
only is Yesha on the chopping block. The Golan Heights is also in jeopardy.

These are some of the elements of the Road Map – delegating responsibility
for almost everything that occurs in Yesha to the European Union and the
United Nations. The Quartet is nothing less than a death council whose job
is to speed up a step-by-step annihilation of the State of Israel.

The road map, with quartet participation cannot come into being without
full Israeli approval. If Israel says no, it doesn’t happen.

In other words, the Road Map is an assisted suicide pact that could have
been designed by Jack Kevorkian.