Thursday, December 29, 2011

Turning up the lights: Hanukkah in Hebron

It’s happened to me three times in the past few weeks. Once, while giving a tour, in the middle of a suspense story, the next time at a Brit, a baby’s circumcision, and two days ago, during a candle-lighting ceremony; all at Ma’arat HaMachpela, the tomb of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs.

More Hanukkah in Hebron here - Videos and photos
On the second night of Hanukkah we had a double candle-lighting ceremony. The first, at six o’clock, was with the police. Hebron police commander, Itzik Rachamim, together with some officers and police, were listening to Rabbi Hillel Horowitz speak about the eternal elements of Hanukkah.  Then, as he mentioned the great miracle, the great blessing and the lights of Hanukkah, which still shine upon us today: Allah HuAchbar. The muezzin began his call to prayer, with the loudspeakers facing into the Machpela courtyard, drowning out whatever anyone might try to say. Rather than begin lighting the Hanukkah menorah, the gathered crowd began singing and dancing to Eli Gilboa’s accordion music, in an attempt to prevent having to listen to the noise being projected by the Arab muezzin.


Time and time again we face this disgrace. I have no problem with them praying amongst themselves, but why do we have to suffer their public worship, at least five times a day, beginning at about five in the morning, through late at night. In a city such as Hebron, the noise levels are multiplied, as the various mosques, all equipped with modern audio equipment, blast out the Arabic words, not necessarily synched. So we get it in quadraphonic plus. Not what I call music to my ears.

Having the Hanukkah ceremony delayed, a ceremony representing the lights of Judaism, rejecting foreign cultures attempting to destroy our own, at Machpela, in Hebron, by Islamic prayer, is more than a simple disgrace. It is humiliating. After we were prevented from entering into and praying at this so holy a site for 700 years, now we must hear that noise, at decibel levels  way above the norm, as we celebrate Hanukkah, or a Brit, or a regular prayer service? It makes no sense.

On the other hand, that aside, Hanukkah in Hebron is really quite special.  There are numerous candle-lightings. At Machpela, in the Avraham Avinu synagogue, and of course, the famous event on the very top of the Abu-Sneneh Hill, overlooking Hebron, sponsored by my good friend Rabbi Danny Cohen and Chabad.


The night of the above-mentioned shame also had some bright spots. After the noise ended and the candles were lit, Commander Rachamim spoke, saying things some people might not necessarily expect to hear from a senior ranking police officer, especially in Hebron.

"The police and officers of the Hebron serve in this holy place with a sense of challenge and purpose.
And as the dear  Rabbi said, we light the candles "to see them only,"  first of all when we see them, I have a wish that the Israeli police here in Hebron together with the army and the Shin Bet and the organizations and the communities and all elements of security and settlement, and the rabbis and community leaders, that G-d will enlighten our path every day this year allowing personal safety for residents, quality of life and dwell only on projects will enhance the unity of Israel and the whole country (Shelmut HaAretz).  And the vision of serving in a Holy place like this, our ultimate goal is not only Jews in the Diaspora will come to visit the Cave of the Patriarchs, but even the citizens of Israel will all come in droves to visit this holy place. We fully identify with the importance of this place which is Israel's foundation.

So thank you and I thank everyone for the opportunity you gave us light Hanukkah candles on the second night of Hanukkah and everyone should have a happy holiday."

We do not always agree with the police, with everything they say and do. But Commander Yitzik Rachamim’s words, as opposed to the noise of the muezzin, are music to my ears.

A little later, Hebron’s military Commander, Col. Guy Hazzut lit candles also at the Ma’ara. Much is made of the negative attitudes and behaviors towards the army, be it in Hebron or elsewhere. For that reason, I think it imperative that all watch the greeting Col Hazzut received at Machpela, by Hebron residents and students from the Shavei Hevron Yeshiva. The video and photos speak for themselves.

Finally, last night, I attended a ceremony at ‘Havat Yehuda,’ a few minutes out of the center of Hebron, on the road to Kiryat Arba. It was at this site that Asher Palmer, and his baby son Yonaton were murdered by Arab terrorists a few months ago.  It has since been discovered that that area is the site of an ancient Jewish village, and attempts are being made to renovate the place and bring visitors there, to see the ancient wonders of Judea. A bus-load of people attended in the cold but clear Hebron air, together with Hebron-Kiryat Arba Chief Rabbi Dov Lior, who lit three lights, on the side of the road, publicizing the miracle of Hanukkah to all who drove by. Also attending were Michael and Mollie Palmer, who lost their son and grandson in the murderous attack. Additionally, Noam Arnon spoke about the historical importance of the area, only a short distance from where the Maccabees fought for Jewish independence from the Greeks, some 2,300 years ago.


At present, we still must fight, for our identity and for our right to live freely in our land. There are those who would still take both from us. Judah the Maccabee was a warrior, but he also realized the significance of the spiritual side of our people. He fought and killed, and also lit the lights of the Menorah in the Holy Temple.  Those lights, even though they seem to have dimmed, are still shining. We need only open our eyes and our souls in order to absorb them.  There are those who have opened themselves up to this light, as we heard in the words of Yitzik Rachamim. It's called, turning up the lights. That’s what Hanukkah is all about.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Happy Hanukkah: The Hebron Chronicles

The Hebron Chronicles
December 20, 2011

See first night Hanukkah candle-lighting at Ma'arat HaMachpela in Hebron

Tonight the Festival of Lights will be upon us. Hanukkah is an unusually joyous holiday, allowing us eight full days of extra added illumination.
Hanukkah’s celebration centers around one word, that being miracle. It could well be coined the festival of miracles. What miracles? Two particular unnatural events occurred. The Greek invasion and conquest of Israel led to Hellenization of the Jewish population, and the desecration of the Temple, which was transformed into a place to worship Zeus.
When liberated during the Maccabean Wars against the Greek pagans, the Jews discovered that the canisters of pure olive oil, used to light the holy Menorah, had been tainted, were impure and not fit for use. Only a single can of pure oil was found, enough for one day’s use. As is known, that oil lasted for eight days.
The question is then asked, if Hanukkah is a remembrance for that event, it should be only seven days, as the miracle of the oil was only seven days. One of the most frequently given answers to this question is that the eighth day commemorated the second miracle, that being the victory over the Greeks. They were the superpower of their day, and their army was second to none. Their decision to fight, to take on the strongest empire in the world, cannot be ignored.
That fact that a small group of people could awaken the souls of their Jewish brethren and then defeat the Greek empire was surely nothing less than a Divine miracle.
And for these two miracles, we celebrate Hannukah.
However, I might add, there are others hidden within those phenomenon. For example, that fact that even one small oil tin was discovered, that too was a miracle. And also, the fact that the Maccabees themselves did not lose their identity within the Hellenistic culture, which admired more the body than the soul, was too wondrous. And the fact that they brought their people back to Judaism, away from Hellenism, that too must be celebrated.
The headline of Hanukkah’s nightly candle-lighting ceremony is, in Hebrew, ‘persumie nisa’ that is, publicizing the miracle, making sure as many people know about it as possible. For that reason, when feasible, the Hanukkah menorah is light adjacent to the doorpost of a house, or courtyard, thereby advertising, to all who pass by, the miracles of Hannukah.
But there’s more to it. We have to promote the miracle to others, but first we must internalize it ourselves. First we must recognize the marvels which have taken place, and then send them on to others. For even a person, alone in his house, must light the Menorah, even if no one else will see it. He, or she will see it. And that alone, should fill them with faith.
These days we need a lot of faith. And we have much faith, for without Divine protection and assistance, we certainly would not be here today. Our being in Israel, and in Hebron, is most definitely a miracle.
Hanukkah is a holiday of light, a holiday of faith. A little light goes a long long way. A little light dispels much darkness. One tin of oil has provided us light for over two thousand years. One small candle is not only a reminiscence of that light; it is that very light. It appears every year, at this very time, as we recite nightly, ‘in those days, at this time.’
In honor of Hanukkah, I’ve decided to make available over 500 articles I’ve authored since 1995. Named “The Hebron Chronicles, ”they tell numerous stories, and shed much light on our presence in Hebron and in Israel.
The book can be downloaded for free at:
Happy Festival of Lights.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Facts are the archenemy of lies

Facts are the archenemy of lies
Dec. 11, 2011

Friday morning a van pulled up outside my Beit Hadassah home in Hebron, and out stepped Alan Clemmons, State Representative from South Carolina. First I shook his hand and then told him, ‘you deserve a hug,’ and proceeded to hug him.

Representative Alan Clemmons at Ma'arat HaMachpela in Hebron

Alan Clemmons is one of a growing number of young American politicians taking an active, first-hand role in the continued conflict between Israel and its Arab neighbors in Judea and Samaria.  His visit comes on the heels of this summer’s visit by five congressmen to Israel. Their visit included not only Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, but also Ariel, Psagot and Hebron.  

Alan Clemmons is not your everyday, run of the mill politician. Dressed in a casual sweater on a cold day, I remarked that when representatives of the American Consulate visit Hebron, they arrive in tank-like vehicles, may not enter the Tomb of the Patriarchs because their armed body guards aren’t allowed in with their weapons, and must plan just about every site to be visited prior to arrival, otherwise it’s off-limits. Whereas Rep. Clemmons, and the others, show up by themselves, without an arsenal following their every footstep.

Why did I hug Alan Clemmons? On June 2, 2011, he introduced a resolution in the South Carolina House of Representatives, which was passed unanimously  by all 124 members, stating:

“Be it further resolved that the members of this body support Israel in their natural and God-given right of self-governance and self-defense upon their own lands, recognizing that Israel is neither an attacking force nor an occupier of the lands of others, and that peace can be afforded the region only through a united Israel governed under one law for all people.” []
We toured Hebron, saw all the sites and talked over a cup of coffee in my home. As we finished up, I spoke with Representative Clemmons on camera: []

Alan Clemmons outside Ma''arat HaMachpela in Hebron


There are people who would tell you Jews have no claim to Hebron, that Jews have no claim to the lands referred to as the ‘west bank.’ I stand to correct them. They need to see what I’ve seen. They need to go to Ruth’s tomb. They need to be where I am, in the field purchased, one of the most sacred sites in the Judeo-Christian world. Is right here, where I’m sitting, in Hebron. I’m in awe at what I’ve seen, I’m in awe of the people that I see here, the Jewish people, protecting Israel’s right and claim here in a land which they’ve had, and which they’ve lived, as their home, for millennia. At times being persecuted and driven out and here they’ve got their toehold back on the land. And they’re holding this sacred piece of ground for future generations.

Representative Alan Clemmons outside the Tomb of Ruth and Jesse in Hebron

How will you try to convince people that what you are saying is correct? How will you try to change their minds?

The truth is an enemy to lies. And as I share the truth of what I’m seeing, what I’ve seen, here in Israel, the truth will help to dispel the myths, the misinformation, that the world-wide media seems to be sharing with the world, which is being bought, on a large part, by the world.

Representative Alan Clemmons in 1,500 year old synagogue in Hebron
How can you help to influence Congressmen in Washington to stop pressuring Israel to renlinquish places like Hebron and acqueise to Arab terror?
I have friends in Congress, friends who are friends to Israel. Unfortunately today there is more attention given to the enemies of Israel by those in the highest positions in the United States.  I’m from a small state, South Carolina, and represent about 30,000 people. There are only about 600 Jews in my district. I proposed a resolution in South Carolina that takes a position that most Bible-believing Americans hold, and that is that Israel has a right to the land of Israel. They have a right to settle, and a duty to settle and protect and defend it, defend these holy pieces of ground, that no man, that no government gave them, that G-d gave them, where people, who have owned,  who have lived in, they’ve given birth in, they’ve died in, they have a right and duty to protect this holy land. I’ve discovered that this is truly the opinion of the heart and soul of the American people, when I proposed that resolution, and all 124 members of the South Carolina House of Representatives agreed with me and voted in favor of the resolution, not  a single person voted against it.  I’ve now been in contact with about half of the states and they’re proposing the same resolution. I’m working on a bottom-up revolution in the United States, to send a message to our president and to those sitting on Capitol Hill that America is with Israel. And by sending that message from the bottom up, my hope and my prayer and my belief is that those sitting in the highest offices of the land in America, they will likewise reach out to protect Israel.

Representative Alan Clemmons in Hebron

What can others do to further this effort?

I implore that people that love Israel, they do take an active role. They can do that by contacting their representative, their member of their state house of representatives, their state senator, call them, send them a letter, send them a letter, catch them by their arms when you see them at church, tell them about this resolution.They can find out more about it by contacting me at, take the resolution, model it, and propose it. What’s the worst that could happen?  It’s debated, and facts are put on the table, and facts are the archenemy of lies, debate the facts about Israel, and Israel’s right and claim to this G-d – given land and the worst that can happen is that Israel-haters would vote the resolution down. The best that could happen is that which happened in South Carolina, where all members of the house stood together, united, linking arms, regardless if they’re Republican or Democrat, black or white, or whatever else might divide them, but on this issue they link arms and say we are united with Israel.
A few days ago Newt Gingrich, present frontrunner for the Republican nomination for President of the United States, said that the ‘palestinians’ are an ‘invented people.’"Remember, there was no Palestine as a state. It was part of the Ottoman Empire. And I think that we've have invented the Palestinian people, who are in fact Arabs and are historically part of the Arab community, and they had the chance to go many places."Is what I said factually correct? Yes. Is it historically true? Yes. Are we in a situation where every day rockets are fired into Israel while the United States? The current administration tries to pressure the Israelis into a peace process... Somebody ought to have the courage to tell the truth. These people are terrorists. They teach terrorism in their schools. They have textbooks that say, if there are 13 Jews and nine Jews are killed, how many Jews are left? We pay for those textbooks through our aid money. It's fundamentally time for somebody to have the guts to stand up and say, enough lying about the Middle East." []

Newt, meet Alan. You’d make a great ticket.
And Representative Alan Clemmons, thank you for your love, support, and action, for Hebron, all Judea and Samaria, and the Jewish people in Eretz Yisrael, the land of Israel.

 All photos and video by David Wilder-Hebron
This article is dedicated to the memory of my father, Samuel H. Wilder, a lover of Hebron and Eretz Yisrael, whose Yartzheit falls tomorrow on the 16th of Kislev.