Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Thank you, Moshe Feiglin

Exactly four years ago, a few days prior to the Likud primaries, I posted a blog called: The Time is Now! - Moshe Feiglin & Manhigut Yehudit, I wrote: 
"…It is quite clear: should Netanyahu be again elected Prime Minister with a parve Likud list, he will continue in the footsteps of one of his predecessors, namely one Bibi Netanyahu, who signed away 80% of Hebron to Arafat terrorists, and continued by agreeing to the infamous Wye Accords…Moshe Feiglin represents the paradigm Jewish leader: a man of faith and conviction, with a proven track record…this man, together with others, will be a true Kiddush HaShem, bringing to Israeli leadership what has long been so lacking:  a belief and understanding of the ‘holy triangle’ of Am Yisrael – the Jewish people, Eretz Yisrael – the Land of Israel, and Torah…and will be living proof that it is possible to utilize the existing framework of the State of Israel within the boundaries of Kedusha – holiness, thereby bringing about a major ‘tikkun’ – rectification of the current failings of leaderless leadership."
After years of struggle and hard work, it seems that Moshe will finally speak for Am Yisrael from within the walls of the Israeli parliament. But that is not why I believe we must express a debt of gratitude to Moshe. His presence as an Israeli lawmaker is important, but I, personally, don't think this is his most important contribution to Israeli society.
Four years ago I used the words, 'should Netanyahu be elected with a parve Likud list…" – parve meaning, a weak group of centrists, sometimes leaning right, sometimes leaning left, who are more afraid of Obama, Abu Mazen and the EU than anything else, excepting perhaps their own shadows.
In yesterday's Likud primary, a large, or better put, huge group of strong, idealistic, right-wing political activists with proven track-records were elected to represent Israel's ruling party in the next Knesset. I can happily say that all of the twelve people I voted for are in the top twenty, all of whom have an extremely good chance to be in the Knesset.
Ah, you ask, why would I vote in the Likud primaries?! What's with a Hebronite and the Likud?
The answer: Moshe Feiglin.
Moshe Feiglin is, I believe, directly responsible for the list elected yesterday. Almost all of those elected, with very few exceptions, are right-wing superstars, who fully back Hebron, and all other Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, who oppose any type of withdrawal from anywhere in Eretz Yisrael, and who will combat, with all their hearts and souls, creation of a so-called palestinian state.
The reason that these people were elected is because of Feiglin. He enlisted the electorate who voted overwhelmingly for them in the Likud primaries.
I won't try to explain the all the conceptual ideas behind Feiglin's ideology. He can do that much better than me. But simply put, his original initiative, challenging Netanyahu for the Likud premiership, while attracting a massive ideological political power base into the Likud, was a brilliant stroke of genius which began paying off four years ago, and has presently culminated with the current excellent Likud list.
The Psalmist writes: (34:15), "Depart from evil, and do good"  
These politicians can put the brakes on Bibi, preventing him from pulling left,  and doing 'evil,' while at the same time, they will  'do much good.' Gideon Saar is sending Israeli school kids to Hebron. Yisrael Katz renovated and modernized miles and miles of roads in Judea and Samaria. Zeev Elkin co-chaired the Eretz Yisrael lobby in the Knesset, etc. etc. etc.  Many of them can attribute their victory to Moshe Feiglin's army of people, who, like me, joined the Likud to ensure, not only Feiglin's place in the Knesset, but also to guarantee a list such as was elected yesterday. And their triumph is our triumph.
The above-quoted verse in Psalm concludes: "seek peace, and pursue it." The peace sought and pursued by these words' author, relates not to Camp David, Oslo, or any other future farce. Rather, to real peace, the fulfillment of a Divine promise which includes the right and obligation of the Jewish people to live in their land, all their land, Israel. Only then will the entire world reap the rewards of tranquility and serenity, for ever after.
We cannot live under an illusion that all will proceed exactly as we would desire, that we are 'home free.' Not yet. But we're on the way. Each step in the right direction is a sign from Above that we've done something right. And in this case, we must give thanks where thanks are deserved. That's why we must thank Moshe Feiglin.

Monday, November 26, 2012


A few months ago I posted photos taken in the Casba, here in Hebron, of big red stenciled letters on the walls, “Welcome to palestine.”
This morning we woke up to find the same thing painted onto storefronts between Ma’arat HaMachpela – the Tomb of the Patriarchs, and the Avaham Avinu neighborhood. Also written was ‘no Zionists here.’
So, just who is a palestinian? Actually, I have a document from July 28, 1944 which identifies one  Esther Alhanaty, from Jerusalem, as a Palestinian.  The document, numbered 40186, was issued by the Government of Palestine, and is an identity card. Esther Alhanaty’s ‘race,’ as listed in the card, is Jewish.  Thirty five years after this document was issued, Esther Alhanaty, by then, Esther Eli, became my mother-in-law. If she was a palestinian, well I guess that means my wife is too, a palestinian.   And my kids too. And Grandchildren!

Frequently, when speaking with groups here in Hebron, I ask if anyone knows where the name ‘palestine’ originated?  More often than not, no one replies.  So, let’s set the record straight.
This place, this land, where we live, is Israel, Eretz Yisrael. Some 2,000 years ago, following destruction of the second Temple by the Romans, those invaders and conquerors decided to erase all Jewish identity from Israel. They changed the name of Jerusalem to Aelia Capitolina and the name of the land from Israel to Palestina. The word ‘palestina’ – palestine, was adapted from the word ‘pilishtim’ or philistines, a people who had lived here, and died out, a thousand years previous to the Roman conquest.
So it happened that Israel became Palestine. People who live here became ‘palestinians’ – be they Jewish, Moslem, Christian  or anything else. For that reason my mother-in-law too, was a Jewish palestinian.
What about a palestinian people?  According to Wikipedia, different peoples who have ruled this land include since the Romans include:   Byzantines, the Muslims, Crusaders, Ayyubids, Mameluks, Ottomans, the British, and The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Prior to the Romans:  Ancient Egyptians, Canaanites, Ancient Israelites, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, and Ancient Greeks.
What about the palestinians? When did they rule in this land?
They didn’t.
No such people ever existed. And they never ruled here, or anywhere. The ‘palestinian people’ as it is classified and defined today, is a figment of the world’s collective imagination.
I know this is an unpopular idea – but what can you do – sometimes the truth hurts. The ‘palestinian people,’ as such, on the verge of being accepted into the United Nations, is the greatest PR bluff since the Greeks pushed the Trojan Horse into Troy.
Much has been written on this subject – see Eli Hertz:http://www.mythsandfacts.org/article_view.asp?articleID=53&order_id=2
And others.
Why were they invented? Simply to dispel any Jewish rights to our homeland, Israel. This is nothing less than a continuation of Hitler’s Nazi plans to annihilate the Jewish people. One of the first such palestinian leaders, Haj Amin el Husseini, who met with Hitler in Berlin in 1941, called Arafat his ‘successor.’ This monster incited and initiated the 1929 riots which left 67 Jews dead in Hebron and over 150 killed throughout Israel.
The point is: such graffiti, painted on storefronts in Hebron, ‘welcome us to palestine’ is a Nazi anachronism. Palestine went out with the end of the British Mandate in May, 1948 as did Nazi Germany in 1945. It is no more.
We are in Israel. We includes: Hebron, Beit El, Shilo, Eli, Beit Chagai, Sussya, Jerusalem, and also Tel Aviv Beer Sheva and Haifa.
Palestine died.
Israel is alive.
Welcome to Israel!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Jeremiah Prophesized Iron Dome Defense

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Friday night, Sabbath eve. I was sitting with my son-in-law at the Tapuach community synagogue, in the Shomron, north Samaria. We were just about to begin the beautiful Shabbat service, when suddenly, sirens started whining and blasting.
The sound wasn’t really strange to me. I hear it, not first-hand in Beer Sheva, Ashkelon, Ashdod, or other places. Rather sitting, staring at my computer screen in Hebron. I have a program which notifies me whenever sirens start sounding. It too is a siren. The only difference is, that in Hebron, I don’t have to run for shelter.  Anywhere else you hear it, you have to scurry pretty fast to avoid the possibility of being hit by one of the Hamas rockets.
But, I must admit, hearing a siren in a Samaria synagogue, well, it sort of makes your hair stand up. After all, we are quite a ways away from Gaza. They do have long-range missiles, but still…

We all looked at each other, trying to figure out what to do, where to go. The shelters there weren’t really ready for a public stampede. After a few minutes someone came in and exclaimed that sirens were sounded throughout all of Israel. “I guess that means war,” I remarked, “all-out war.”
But a few minutes later we were informed that a rocket had been shot towards Jerusalem, and, ‘just in case,’ sirens were sounded over much of Judea and Samaria. We later heard that the missile had fallen in an Arab village near Gush Etzion, halfway between Hebron and Jerusalem.

So much for sirens.

Actually as I’m writing this, listening to the radio in the background, I can’t even begin to count the virtual sirens warnings I’ve been alerted to over the past 10 minutes. Basically, that’s the way it is all day.

Here in Hebron, many reservists have replaced the regular IDF brigades usually here. Older men, from around Israel, are standing guard and patrolling.  Yesterday I met a man from Netivot, near Beer Sheva in the south, one of the cities being bombarded day and night. “Ah,” I told him, “here you’re safer here than in Netivot. Here there aren’t any missiles or rockets, just rocks and firebombs.”

Actually, that’s really what we are facing here, over the past few days. Hebron Arabs, supporting Hamas terrorists, are hurling massive amounts of rocks and firebombs, on the roads and within the city. A firebomb hit a pizza truck near Beit Hadassah Saturday night, and a little while ago another fire-bomber was shot in the leg by an IDF officer, caught in the act of trying to kill Jews with his Molotov cocktail.  Rocks are flying all over, but thank G-d, without too many injuries.

For the time being we are all sitting, watching, and waiting: what will be next? Will Israel commence with a ground war? We all have friends and relatives who’ve been called-up in the emergency draft. One of my sons and a son-in-law were swooped out of civilian life to take part in the defense of Israel.  My son-in-law, a Rabbi, living in a mostly secular town not far from Beer Sheva was notified on Shabbat that he should report immediately to his unit. So he caught a ride with a resident from his neighborhood, even before Shabbat was over. (Orthodox Jews usually don’t drive on Shabbat.)

So it goes when our country goes to war. And make no mistake: war it is!

This is a very emotionally trying week. Current events are undoubtedly stressing. But I find myself dwelling on other thoughts too.

Every week, a different member of the community writes a short Torah message, distributed to soldiers in Hebron on Friday, before Shabbat, with all sorts of goodies – cookies, cake, and the like. A few days ago, my friend Yoni Bleichbard, (himself also drafted and now serving – here in Hebron), who initiated the Sabbath soldier program, asked me to write an article for the coming Shabbat.

Here is a brief version of part of the essay:
“In this week’s Torah portion, we read that Ya’akov (Jacob) left Beer Sheva, fleeing from his brother Esau, who wanted to kill him. The primary commentator on the Torah, Rashi, writes: The departure of a righteous man from a place makes an impression, for while the righteous man  is in the city, he is its beauty, he is its splendor, he is its majesty. When he departs from there, its beauty has departed, its splendor has departed, its majesty has departed.

It was exactly ten years ago, this coming Shabbat, that 12 righteous men departed from our city, and that definitely left an impression. A shining light extinguished that Shabbat eve. Twelve men, officers, soldiers and civilians, caught in a terror ambush outside the south gate of Kiryat Arba, were killed on what was called ‘worshiper’s way.’ Colonel Dror Weinberg, commander of the Hebron brigade, and Kiryat Arba security chief Yitzhak Boanish, were among those gunned down.

These men, serving their people, doing their job with their amazing heroism, worked to protect the lives of the residents of Kiryat Arba and Hebron when three cursed terrorists tried to end the lives of innocent civilians. They gave their lives, they sacrificed themselves, for their people and their country.”

I read an article, published last week, dealing with this horrific event, and it made me shiver, even after a decade. These men knowingly took part in the bloodiest battle in Hebron since 1929, and went to their deaths as genuine heroes.

This is the fabric of Am Yisrael, of the Jewish people. There were days, months and years when Hebron was under daily attack. Israel’s north came under rocket fire for years; Kiryat Shemona was showered with Katusha missiles shot from South Lebanon. So too the brave people who lived in Gush Katif, as well as those in Sderot, and today, Beer Sheva, Ashkelon and Ashdod.
There isn’t anyone, anywhere in this small country, that hasn’t faced an enemy threat, be it in his home, on the roads, or on the battlefield.

What keeps us going?

Jeremiah 46:27 - Fear not, My servant Jacob, and be not dismayed, O Israel! for behold, I will redeem you from afar and your children from the land of their captivity, and Jacob shall return and be quiet and at ease, and there shall be none who disturb his rest.

In this week’s Torah portion, G-d promises Jacob that he will come back to Eretz Yisrael, safe and sound. So, too, the L-rd has promised us, the children of Jacob, that He will protect us from afar (shades of the Iron Dome Missile system). In the end, none will disturb us, we will be fully redeemed. So it will be. For all the people, from Kiryat Shemona to Eilat, are heroes, and there are none who are afraid. And we will never be dismayed. And that’s what keeps us going.
Photos: David and Raphael Wilder

Monday, November 12, 2012

Shabbat Chaye Sarah in Hebron: A real happening!

Shabbat Chaye Sarah in Hebron: A real happening!
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When I invite people to Hebron for Shabbat, I sometimes hear the response, “I’ve been – I was for Shabbat Chaye Sarah.” But in fact, Shabbat Chaye Sarah in Hebron isn’t a normal Shabbat. It’s an experience.
Yesterday, according to conservative estimates, over 20,000 people visited this holy city.

Here in our offices, this event began weeks ago; planning for the multitudes. Many man hours, and much money is invested to ensure that the day will be a success. And as much as we want, and need rain, we sort of hope that this day will remain dry.

My Chaye Sarah began on Friday, wandering around, hoping to get some good photos. Being that the main events are on Shabbat, I have no way to photograph the occasion. (That’s really my only regret about this wonderful day.)

Toward early mid-afternoon the tents start popping up on the lawn in the park across from Machpela. Men, women, kids of all ages, can be found camping out. I spoke to people who’d come from Netanya and Akko to sleep in a tent on the ground because ‘this is the city of the Patriarchs. It’s ours.’ On Friday night, walking back from amazing evening prayers at Machpela, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Families pitched tents on the road, between parked cars and opened up small tables from which to enjoy their Shabbat meal. Young children, swathed in winter jackets, sat around such tables, eating, singing and enjoying the festivity.

Evening prayers are unbelievable. Various minions – prayer services – spring up on the lawn outside, in the courtyard, and inside the building. Thousands upon thousands descend on Herod’s 2,000 year old structure to offer Shabbat prayers. These worship services include song and dance, true joy. More than one group includes dozens of people who have flown into Israel from the United States and Europe, for 48 hours, to participate in this massive celebration. It is indescribable.

During meals, huge tents were filled to capacity. People hosted, some more, some less. In my apartment, aside from filling our bedrooms (in one, three older married women slept together), our living room floor contained four guys and the couch bedded my friend Moshe Goldshmid, whose family has been coming to us for about 14 years for this Shabbat. Moshe’s grandfather, Rabbi Moshe Goldshmid, was murdered in Hebron during the 1929 riots. For meals, another visiting family joined us.

Others hosted literally dozens, eating in shifts (and maybe sleeping in shifts too).

After evening meals many participated in political panel discussions, including numerous Israeli MKs, ministers and Rabbis. Visitors toured all day and all night. Saturday afternoon my friend Noam Arnon led a huge tour in the Casba. Simcha Hochbaum guided a huge group throughout the Jewish neighborhoods. I had two tours of the Tel Rumeida neighborhood, showing the uninitiated the wonders of ancient-new Hebron.

I must also mention: Friday afternoon we dedicated a memorial room to our dear friend, Herb Zweibon, founder and director of AFSI, Americans for a Safe Israel. Herb was a genuine friend of Israel, and especially of Hebron’s Jewish community. AFSI’s executive director, Helen Freedman led a group of about 25 friends from the US for a week-long visit in Israel, and to Hebron for this Shabbat. We all gathered at the new “Zweibon Hall,” at the entrance to the ‘Hezkiah neighborhood,” here in Hebron to dedicate this room in Herb’s memory.

Late Saturday afternoon I participated in the ‘3rd meal’ with our friends attending via Hebron’s US branch, the Hebron Fund. The fund’s new director, Rabbi Dan Rosenstein, asked me to speak with the group for a few minutes. I asked them to take their “Hebron Shabbat High’ back home, to convey it to others, and to be ambassadors for Hebron’s Jewish community, getting the word out, letting other know what Hebron iss really all about. They are all, as much as we are, ‘keepers of the keys,’ insuring Hebron’s Jewish future forever.

By the time Shabbat ended, everyone was exhausted, but the day hadn’t yet concluded. I sat with my AFSI friend in our Beit Hadassah apartment, answering questions and discussing various issues common to all of us for about an hour. Only later did I have the luxury to collapse.

Actually there was another important event Saturday night. In Kiryat Arba, a group of people met with Education Minister Gideon Saar, expressing gratitude for the time and effort he has put in to assist the communities in Hebron and Kiryat Arba. I wanted to attend but my legs rebelled.

How can I best sum up this day? Actually I’d prefer to quote a friend of mine, Barak Arusi, the police officer in charge of the Hebron station. Barak began his position here a number of months ago, and this was his first Shabbat Chaye Sarah in Hebron. Speaking to him, he told me, “As far as I’m concerned every Shabbat should be like this in Hebron. It’s a lot of work, but for me, it was a lot of fun, a real happening.”

Coming from a police officer, who worked around the clock this past Shabbat, well, I couldn’t express it better. ‘A lot of fun, and a real happening.’
Twenty thousand isn’t bad. In fact, it’s pretty good. Considering that the forecast was for rain. These 20,000, in my eyes, represent tens and hundreds of thousands who couldn’t celebrate here with us in Hebron, but did so, at their homes and in their synagogues, around the world.
I think Abraham and Sarah would be proud.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Abraham's Legacy

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 A few years ago, following one of his last visits to Me’arat Hamachpela, the Cave of the Patriarchs, as Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu entered his car, the other door opened and two people literally pushed their way into the vehicle, one civilian, the other in uniform.

The civilian, a senior employee at the holy site, said, “Rabbi, I’m sorry to do this, but this man, a border police officer, works here very hard and greatly helps the Jewish people. He has a problem. He and his wife have been married many years and have yet to be blessed with children.”

Rabbi Eliyahu looked at the man and responded, “He should continue to help the Jewish people and next year he will be witness to salvation.”

A year later his daughter Miriam was born. The border police officer’s name is Shuchralla Morav.

Much has been written about Hebron’s relationship with security forces, be it police or IDF. As much as we say about our good, positive relationships with them, we are unfortunately generally not believed.

The roots of our national essence, in Hebron, begins with Abraham and Sarah. They were known as people of chesed, that is, overwhelming loving-kindness and generosity. Our sages have taught that we must express the attributes of our Creator: as He is kind, so too we must be kind. The primary examples of kindness are Abraham and Sarah.

Abraham’s compassion was not limited to “his own.” Numerous stories are told of his assistance to strangers, many of whom worshiped idols, the very antithesis of his life and ideology. Yet this did not prevent him from offering them food, drink and a place to sleep.

The present Jewish community of Hebron tries to continue walking in the footsteps of our illustrious Forefathers, learning from their deeds, and acting accordingly. Therefore, when Rabbi Shalom Alkobi, then director of the Machpela authority, realized he had an opportunity to seek a blessing from one of our generation’s most righteous people, he did so, without thinking twice.

And the rabbi’s blessing was received and came to pass.

Morav, as he is called, served at Me’arat Hamachpela for 17 years. Living in the north, several hours from Hebron, he wasn’t able to spend enough time with his wife and young daughter. Recently he was transferred to a position much closer to his home, allowing him to enjoy his blessings.

But, after 17 years of service, we couldn’t allow him to leave without a proper parting. So a few days ago, a large group from Hebron, as well as a few of his former commanders, surprised Morav at his home for a farewell party. All facets of Hebron’s community were represented: Rabbi Hillel Horowitz and Noam Arnon, Baruch Marzel, Rabbi Shalom Alkobi, and others.

The celebration began with a number of speeches recognizing Morav’s contribution to dozens of Hebron events, including mass gatherings of tens of thousands of visitors. Everyone present articulated words of gratitude, which was expressed also in several gifts presented to him: an original painting of Me’arat Hamachpela by Hebron artist Shmuel Mushnik, and a certificate of appreciation, signed by all present as well as Hebron’s mayor, Avraham Ben-Yosef, Hebron’s director-general Uri Karzen, and the director of the regional religious council, Yosef Dayan.

How did Morav relate to his years in Hebron? In his words, “It was an honor... the sanctity of the site was above any and all other considerations.”

Shuchralla Morav is not the first and only officer honored by Hebron’s Jewish community. A long list of police , IDF soldiers and officers and commanders are among those who are tangibly appreciated as a result of their tireless efforts to maintain a safe and secure Hebron, allowing hundreds of thousands of people, of all races and religions, to visit Israel’s first Jewish city and holy sites.

Surely, we do not always see eye to eye, but then again, neither do husband and wife always agree. You learn to agree to disagree. However that doesn’t prevent mutual care, respect and love. So too with the courageous men and women whose presence, hard work and shared esteem lead to positive, fruitful relationships which can last for many years.

For example, Colonel Guy Hazut, speaking recently after having concluded two years as commander of the Judea-Hebron brigade, said, “Many people think that people in the Jewish community of Hebron have horns and tails. These are amazing people. There is a tiny, negligible group which give them a bad name.”

Abraham’s legacy is a lesson well learned, and still practiced. That legacy, still alive and well, is the crux of our existence, not only in Hebron, but as a people, in Israel and around the world.