Monday, July 28, 2003

Titus and a Spy

Titus and a Spy
July 28, 2003

To the Honorable George W. Bush
President of the United States of America

To Ariel Sharon
Prime Minister of the State of Israel

Dear President Bush and Prime Minister Sharon,


Prime Minister Sharon should know, but it’s possible he has forgotten. President Bush probably doesn’t know, unless his advisors have informed him. The Jewish people are presently in the midst of ‘the three weeks,’ commemorating the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem, thousands of years ago.

These three weeks represent a period of mourning, during which we grieve for the most cherished and sacred site in this world, that being Temple Mount, the heart of our existence as a people.

The three weeks begin on the Hebrew date, the 17th of Tammuz. It was on this day that the walls to Jerusalem were breached, both by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BCE and by Titus in 70 CE. The three weeks end on the ninth day of Av, called Tisha b’Av. It was on this day that the Temples were demolished and burnt to the ground.

Our Sages have taught us the reason why the two Temples were destroyed specifically on Tisha b’Av. It was on that date that the spies Moses sent from the desert to scout Eretz Yisrael, returned home from their journey.  Ten of the twelve spies, rather than seek out the weaknesses of the people living in the Land, concluded that the land was unconquerable, that it was a land of giants, a land which literally consumed its inhabitants.

When the spies returned to Moses and the rest of the people and publicly issued this report to the entire gathering, the people tore their clothing and weeping, demanded to know why they were being led to such a horrendous place. G-d then decreed that the Jewish people would spend the next 40 years wandering in the desert, and would only enter Eretz Yisrael following the deaths of all those people who had torn their clothes and cried, all of those people twenty years of age and older.

But the L-rd also proclaimed that that very day would become a time of weeping for generations. And that day is Tisha b’Av, the day the two Temples were razed to the ground and burnt, a day on which observant Jews fast, from sunset to sunset, a day of mourning, a day of lament, for thousands of years.

Why did the spies choose to reject G-d’s chosen land? Why were all except two, Joshua and Kalev, blind to the splendor of the sacred land? It is written in the holy Zohar that the spies, who were the princes of their respective tribes, were aware that once they entered the Land of Israel, they would no longer be important; they would no longer be leaders. Rather they would be replaced, they would be normal folk, just like everyone else. Therefore they desired to remain in the desert, preferring to be influential there, instead of relinquishing their dominance to live in Eretz Yisrael. For this, and for Am Yisrael’s acceptance of their ‘guilty verdict,’ the Jewish people have suffered ever since.

Mr. President, Mr. Prime Minister, if you would, take a moment to look back at some of those preceding you. Look, for a moment, at President Harry Truman. True, it has come to light that Truman was not the pinnacle of purity. Yet Harry Truman was instrumental in the creation of the State of Israel and Israel’s acceptance as an independent state by the world. Truman miraculously won a second term of office and is remembered as one of the truly great statesman-Presidents of American history.

Look, on the other hand, at Richard Nixon, who put the screws on Israel during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, delaying an airlift so desperately needed by the Jewish state. What happened to Nixon? Look at Reagan, who put tremendous pressure on Begin. He has been mentally incompetent for decades. Look at George Bush Senior, who was instrumental in knocking Shamir out of office. Look at Bill Clinton, who did everything possible to prevent Bibi Netanyahu’s election in 1996 and who reneged on his promise to release Jonathan Pollard in exchange for Israel’s signature on the Wye accords. All of these people were disgraced, one way or another. And not only on the American side. Examine our leaders. Begin abandoned Sinai, and died a recluse. Shamir went to Madrid and lost power. Rabin needs no explanations. Peres has been nationally embarrassed time and time again. Bibi deserted Hebron, and Barak was willing to forgo Jerusalem.

Why did all of these people assume their chosen roles? Why did they reject the premise that Eretz Yisrael belongs to Am Yisrael? For the same reasons the spies rejected G-d’s will. Because they simply wanted to be important. They wanted to be known in the history books of the future as ‘the peacemakers.’ And that too, is you the two of you, George Bush and Ariel Sharon, are meeting tomorrow in Washington, to try and ensure yourselves first place on this year’s list of Nobel Prize recipients. Because you believe that you will be remembered for eternity as the great peacemakers.

Mr. Bush, Mr. Sharon: Before continuing on your erroneous path of infamy, make sure that this is actually the road you wish to follow. For, as the prophet Samuel said to Saul, so G-d says to you, ‘the eternity of Israel will not be denied.’ Nothing you do, nothing you say, can eliminate the inviolability of the Jewish people and of Eretz Yisrael. As Mordechai told Esther, ‘if you choose not to save your people know that redemption is assured from elsewhere.’ ‘And you and your family will perish.’

So too it is with you. Mr. President, you can choose to be Harry Truman or to be Titus. For your plan, that of a Palestinian State in the heart of Eretz Yisrael, is comparable to Titus’ breaching of the wall. You know, Titus thought he was doing the world a favor by conquering Jerusalem, but according to our sages, he later died an unspeakable death, going totally insane.

Any you, Mr. Prime Minister, can be a Joshua, settling the people in the land, or you can be an evil spy, leading the people to forty years in the desert.

The choice is yours. Do you really want to be remembered as Titus and a spy?

With blessings from Hebron,
This is David Wilder

Monday, July 21, 2003

“Let My Husband Go”

“Let My Husband Go”
July 21, 2003


Since last Thursday night the name Shalhevet has returned to headlines, which read, “Shalhevet’s father arrested by Israeli intelligence forces.” 

Yesterday close to two hundred people protested the arrest of Itzik Pass and his brother-in-law, Mati Shvu, and the repressive conditions they are encountering in a Jerusalem Shabak detention center. The protests took place at Shabak intelligence headquarters in Talpiot in Jerusalem and later, at the Jerusalem District court, while a hearing was being conducted concerning the injunction forbidding the men’s meeting with their attorney, Naftali Wertzberger. Several people were arrested and police forcibly dispersed the demonstrators at the courthouse.

Earlier today I had a conversation with Oriya Pass, Itzik Pass’ twenty-four year old wife. Oriya, who grew up in Hebron, has seen a lot in her life. Her father, Avraham Zarbiv, was axed in the head and critically wounded by two terrorists over a decade ago. He shot and killed one of his attackers, and then dropped his gun. When the second terrorist picked up the fallen weapon and tried to shoot Avraham, the gun jammed.

Oriya’s twin sister, Ortal, married to Mati Shvu, arrested together with Itzik, was stabbed by a terrorist near their Hebron home when the girls were seventeen.

And just over two years ago, Oriya and Itzik’s first born daughter, Shalhevet, was shot and killed by an Arab sniper from the Abu Sneneh hills in the parking lot outside the Avraham Avinu neighborhood. Shalhevet, 10 months old, was in her stroller. The bullet that penetrated Shalhevet’s head also hit Itzik in the legs, wounding him.

These are some of the events in Oriya Pass’ life, excepting, of course, everything else she has witnessed –  numerous terror attacks, the killing of friends, and wounding of others.

I asked Oriya what she would like to convey to you, to people who she cannot reach directly. This is what she said:

“The police called me at about nine o’clock Thursday night. The only thing they told me was that Itzik had been arrested. They refused to let me speak with him; they wouldn’t tell me why he’d been arrested, or where he was being held. They wouldn’t even tell me when he would be brought to court for an initial hearing.

I thought that the arrest wasn’t anything serious. Two months ago he was arrested in Kiryat Arba, dragged from our car, and then released a short time later when the police realized that they’d made a mistake. It wasn’t until Friday morning, when I received word that he couldn’t meet his lawyer, and that he was being held by the ‘Shabak’ the Israeli intelligence forces, that I realized that something unusual was happening.

This whole episode is very strange. This morning Supreme Court justice Dalia Dorner, when upholding the original court injunction forbidding him from meeting his lawyer, said that Itzik is accused of ‘belonging to a terrorist organization.’ The newspapers say that he gave money to buy gas tanks to blow up an Arab girl’s school in Jerusalem. We heard about all of these charges a year ago, when the original “Bat Ayin group” was arrested. Why didn’t they arrest him then? Why did they wait a year? Why is considered to be ‘more dangerous’ today than he was a month ago? The person making the accusation is unknown to us, Itzik never met him and doesn’t know him. And in any case, there is no justification for not letting him meet his lawyer and for denying him sleep.

I think that the charges are totally false. The Prime Minister and the head of the Shabak, Avi Dichter, should be ashamed of themselves, arresting a bereaved father, while preparing to release hundreds of terrorist murderers.

I really don’t understand why they’re doing this to us. It not only disturbs me, but also my two baby daughters, Renana and Nachala. Renana is two years old. Yesterday she didn’t feel well and refused to go to day care. Nachala is one year old and now she wants me to hold her all the time. She’s not like that; she’s very friendly and independent. They understand that something’s happening.

Itzik is a real family man. He knows how much I need him at home. I’m very sensitive, and he knows how hard it would be for me to maintain our home without him. Even after Shalhevet was killed, he didn’t express a personal need to avenge her murder. Of course when your daughter is killed, it hurts, it hurts a lot, and it leaves many scars. But we dealt with that. We initiated the Rinat Shalhevet Kollel Torah study center in her memory. Itzik learns there every day. But, as opposed to others there, he doesn’t get a salary. We earn our living from my salary. I’m a teacher’s aide in the Kiryat Arba religious boy’s school, helping children with learning disabilities.

I know that the police and other security forces don’t like the kollel because it is very active. Whenever the government tries to uproot communities in Yesha, the kollel students go to help out. Itzik has always been very active. Maybe that’s why they harass him.

Yesterday we heard rumors that Itzik is staging a hunger strike. One of the guards said that he’s not eating, just drinking. We know they’re not letting him sleep, so he must be very weak.

I have no doubt that all of these charges will be refuted and Itzik will be allowed to come home to his family. I hope that people all over the world will express their shock at such brutal treatment of my husband and my brother-in-law, Mati Shvu. Our family has suffered enough. Why put us though this too?

The only blood on my husband’s hands is the blood of our daughter, of Shalhevet. All I can ask is that they let my husband go.”

With blessings from Hebron,
This is David Wilder

Monday, July 14, 2003

Help Jonathan Hear the Shofar in Jerusalem

Help Jonathan Hear the Shofar in Jerusalem
July 14, 2003

Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, better known as the “Rambam,” is considered to be one the greatest Jewish scholars who ever lived. His codification of Jewish law, called the Mishna Torah, written almost a thousand years ago, is a primary pillar upon which Torah-observant Jews live their lives today.

What does the Rambam consider to be the most important of all mitzvot, the precepts by which we live? Is it recital of Shema Yisrael twice a day, when we accept upon ourselves the rule of G-d? Is it the weekly observance of Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath? Or perhaps, the dietary laws of Kashrut, or laws pertaining to family purity? The Rambam writes, “there is no greater mitzvah than the redemption of a captive”, or as it is known in Hebrew, Pidion Shvuim.  His ruling is based on the Talmud, where it is written, “And Rabbi Yochanan said, “the sword is worse than death, hunger is worse than the sword, and captivity is the worst  because it includes them all.”

Rabbi Yosef Karo, author of the Shulchan Aruch, a later compilation of law based upon the Rambam’s earlier work, adds, “every moment that a captive is not redeemed, when redemption is possible, is if one is spilling blood.”

Israel has always maintained a cardinal rule, that of redeeming captives, prisoners of war. Every Israeli who dons a uniform knows that should be fall into enemy hands, the state of Israel will do anything and everything possible to bring about his return.

In the past Israel released over one thousand Arab terrorists for the return of four soldiers. More than likely other deals, not always made public, have been implemented to bring Israeli captives home. For over twenty years the government has attempted to find and bring about the release of soldiers missing in action since the War in Lebanon. Unfortunately, without success. Dealing with Syria and Hizballah is very close to impossible. Yet Israel has not given up and surely, one day, their fate will be determined and they will be brought back home.

However, there is one POW, a shavui, a captive, who is not in the hands of the Syrians, the Hizballah, or any other Arab country, for that matter. He has been held by Israel’s ‘best friend.’ And he has been rotting in an American federal penitentiary for over eighteen years and a half years.

Jonathan Pollard is no different from any other Israeli MIA or POW. He provided Israel with intelligence information vital to the survival of the state, information the United States neglected to turn over to Israel. The information withheld from Israel included Syrian, Iraqi, Libyan and Iranian nuclear, chemical, and biological warfare capabilities - being developed for use against Israel. It also included information on ballistic missile development by these countries and information on planned terrorist attacks against Israeli civilian targets. Israel was legally entitled to this vital security information according to a 1983 Memorandum of Understanding between the two countries.

Jonathan Pollard never had a trial. At the request of both the U.S. and Israeli governments, he entered into a plea agreement, which spared both governments a long, difficult, expensive and potentially embarrassing trial. He fulfilled his end of the plea agreement, cooperating fully with the prosecution. Nevertheless, Pollard was never indicted for harming the United States. He was never indicted for compromising codes, agents, or war plans. He was never charged with treason. He was indicted on only one charge: one count of passing classified information to an ally, without intent to harm the United States. Yet, Pollard received a life sentence and a recommendation that he never be paroled - in complete violation of the plea agreement he had reached with the government.

A Court of Appeals, in a two to one ruling, rejected Pollard’s appeal, mostly on procedural grounds. In a dissenting opinion, Court of Appeals Judge Stephen Williams called the case "a fundamental miscarriage of justice," and wrote that he would have ordered that Pollard's sentence be vacated.

In October, 1998 the President Clinton promised to release Pollard as part of the Wye Accords, signed by Arafat and Netanyahu. At the last minute Clinton reneged, due to threats by CIA chief George Tenet to resign should Pollard be released. This is the same George Tenet who missed all signals leading to 9/11, and who recently fed President George W. Bush false information about Iraqi attempts to purchase uranium, which Bush mentioned in his State of the Union address.

Ehud Barak could have requested Pollard’s release by executive clemency on Clinton’s last day of office. But he didn’t.

It is now clear that many of the episodes Jonathan Pollard was thought to have a hand in, bringing about the deaths of American agents in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, had nothing to do with him. Rather that was the work of American spies, former CIA employee Aldrich Ames and former FBI agent Robert Hanssen. Yet Pollard is still in jail.

Sunday, September 21, has been declared “International Solidarity Day for Jonathan Pollard,”  when people around the world will demonstrate solidarity and support for the release of Jonathan Pollard.
Activities worldwide will consist of: Prayer vigils, studying the mitzvah of redeeming captives, learning about Jonathan Pollard, petition-signing for the release of Jonathan from prison, a letter writing campaign to President Bush and Prime Minister Sharon, demonstrations, marches, etc.
A major event is being planned at Independence Park opposite the American Consulate in Jerusalem, consisting of speeches by Rabbis, members of the Knesset and other well-known public figures and famous singers. Jonathan Pollard will also be presented with the Am Yisrael Medal of Honor in recognition for his tremendous self-sacrifice which led to his saving, literally, hundreds of thousands of Jewish and non-Jewish lives during the Persian Gulf War. The day will culminate in a silent candle-light vigil/march to the Knesset.
I call on Jews and non-Jews worldwide to take an active role in organizing this most vital event – remember, every day Jonathan Pollard sits in prison, it is as if we are allowing the spilling of his blood. For more information, write: Let’s assure that this coming Rosh Hashana, Jonathon Pollard will hear the Shofar, together with his wife Esther, in Jerusalem.
With blessing from Hebron,
This is David Wilder

Monday, July 7, 2003

How Many More Ariels?

How Many More Ariels?
July 7, 2003


Early this afternoon I opened the newspaper and saw a little boy, smiling, wearing a leather helmet on his head, waving at the camera. The article alongside the picture, in big white letters on a celebratory blue background read, “Ariel returns with a smile.” I stopped my other activities to read the article, and when I was finished, brushed a few tears from my eyes.

Ariel Yered, on April third, 2001, then only 14 months old, was playing on the porch of his home in the Atzmona community, in Gush Katif, in Gaza. At that time he had just learned to say ‘Imma’ and Abba’ – Mommy and Daddy. Suddenly, an awesome explosion – a mortar fired by Arab terrorists landed right next to him. Ariel’s mother Lia was wounded in the arm. But another mortar fragment hit Ariel, striking him in the head, penetrating his brain. Two other fragments hit his spine. At the time many of the doctors trying to save his life didn’t expect little Ariel to live much longer. He was brought to the hospital without any pulse and wasn’t breathing. However, one of the doctors reported a ‘slight movement of the heart,’ just enough to try and save him.

In order to prevent pressure on his brain, surgeons performed unique surgery, by removing a piece of Ariel’s skull and then storing it in deep freeze. Since then Ariel wore a special helmet on his head, protecting his open skull. 

After an initial recovery period Ariel underwent intense rehabilitation in Jerusalem. The right side of his body, including his arm and leg, were partially paralyzed, as a result of his injuries. Now, the 10 by 7 centimeter bone, removed from Ariel’s skull almost two years ago was returned to his head, and finally, Ariel can remove the helmet from his head. Ariel’s mother, Lia said, “He was dead, and it’s like he’s been reborn.”

Thank G-d for miracles. Ariel Yered is a living miracle, living proof of the wonders of the L-rd. The question is, how many miracles must we wait for?

Yesterday the Israeli government decided to release hundreds of terrorists from prison.  Many of them were convicted in courts of law. Others are being held under administrative detention, having been apprehended with the help of first-class intelligence information. They have killed, wounded, and maimed. Maimed both physically and mentally. I know a young man who was actually sitting next to the terrorist who exploded on Ben Yehuda Street one Saturday night, a couple of years ago. For reasons he cannot even understand he stood up and walked away, only seconds before the terrorist detonated his bomb. His friends were killed and injured. Exploding body parts flew by him, some hitting him. I can assure you, an event like that leaves its mark, despite that fact that he wasn’t physically wounded. Anyone anywhere near the vicinity of a terror attack asks, maybe for the rest of their lives, ‘why was I saved’ and ‘what if…?’

Is a terrorist who “only wounded” people any better than a terrorist who killed? Is the Arab terrorist who “almost killed” but “only wounded” Ariel Yered any better than the terrorist who shot and killed Shalhevet Pass? Their intentions were identical - one succeeded in fulfilling them and the other ‘almost, but not quite.’ Is there any reason in the world to grant him freedom, allowing him a ‘second chance to try again?’

And for what – for a three month hudna – for a three month ceasefire? For promises – which can be classified as ‘virtual’ – in the mind of the beholder only. After all, the Americans are demanding that all terror organizations be dismantled – i.e. destroyed. But Abu Mazen and Dahlan, despite their seeming agreement to the ‘road map’ and its obligations have publicly stated that they will not try to disarm Hamas or the Islamic Jihad or take apart their terror infrastructure. Rather, they will use the ‘power of persuasion,’ which is, in other words, ‘wait a few months, regroup, take a breather, and when the time comes to start again, we’ll let you know.’

And then, Israel will have to deal with another 1,200 terrorists or so, who received at least an MA in advanced terror tactics while in Israeli jail.

A few days ago Hebron community leaders learned that the Israeli army has, for all practical purposes, already withdrawn from the H1 – Arafat-Abu Mazen controlled side of Hebron, that being about 80% of the city. True, Israeli forces are still in the hills that surround us, but for how long? Dahlan will meet with Mufaz, Abu Mazen with Sharon, Bush and Condelezza will make a couple of phone calls, and, bingo-presto, we’ll be back where we started. Sitting ducks in a pond, waiting for the sharpshooters to take aim and pull the trigger. The last time the IDF pulled out of the ‘other side of Hebron,’ the result was the November 15th Friday night massacre, leaving 12 men dead. That continuing bloodbath has left 27 people murdered in and around Hebron in the past eight months. But, so what? After all, Condy was reported as saying, a few days ago, that the US expects Israel to restrain itself and not react, even in the event of a terror attack, because a harsh reaction would ‘damage the peace process.’

Arik Sharon is acting as a dictator – forcing his will, not only on his ministers, but also on the entire Israeli population. He refuses to hear anyone – when Minister Benny Elon asked to discuss the ‘roadmap’ in the cabinet, he was told to mind his own business, that of the tourism ministry, and to leave ‘other matters’ alone. Sharon, together with Bush and his team, are forcing Israel to participate in its own execution. According to recent reports, Sharon has ordered the destruction of another so-called outpost community tomorrow, Beit-El East. If the roadmap continues on schedule, other, larger communities will be uprooted before the end of the year, including Tekoa and Beit Hagai.

And so I ask, Arik, Condy, George and Shaul, what will you say to the mother of the next Ariel – how many more children will need Divine miracles? And what will you say to those mothers and fathers who aren’t so lucky – to the Ariels that don’t make it?

How many more Ariels?

With blessings from Hebron,
This is David Wilder