We have ended a week of mourning

Instead of the good life in Tel Aviv, residents of the Hills of Hevron have opted for the good life in the biblical heartland of our nation. We have to make it safe, not just good.

Rabbi Aaron Egeltal

OpEds Rabbi Aaron Egeltal
Rabbi Aaron Egeltal

We have concluded a week of mourning for our beloved Hallel Ariel and Rabbi Michael Mark, both murdered in the Kiryat Arba – Har Hevron Hevron Hills) region, within the same 24 hours.

As the leadership, we are harnessing whatever strength that we have left in order to continue onward with this historical endeavor. We are building Jewish life in the region that is our nation’s historical birthplace.

In the Har Hevron region, there are currently 16,000 Jewish residents living in the city of Kiryat Arba and the 18 additional towns in the region. At the center is the Tomb of the Patriarchs, the resting place of our forefathers and their wives.

The region in which we are building our communities is twenty times larger than Tel Aviv, and this demands exceptional effort from us as residents.

The distance between the towns and the logistics of addressing our basic, everyday needs, strains the already limited funds that we have. This makes it difficult for us to focus on important issues, as all of our attention is directed toward ensuring that the communities can function on the most basic level.

The region in which we are building our communities is twenty times larger than Tel Aviv, and this demands exceptional effort from us as residents.
The area known as Har Hevron is at the heart of the land of Israel. It overlooks the coastal plain to the west, the strategic factories in Dimona in the east and important military bases in the south.

“Where do you get your courage?” we were asked again and again during the week of mourning, and we noticed that the questioner was actually wondering if we are sane. Or, put more delicately, “Wouldn’t it be more logical for you to consider whether it is worthwhile to continue living in these dangerous places?”

We recognize the importance of these questions, but we also realize that these questions are over a hundred years old and that they have been posed to the Zionist movement since its establishment. There was always a need for pioneers who set out before the others, who took greater risks. No one forced them to do so!

No one would have argued with them had they chosen to continue to live in Tel Aviv, living in security and enjoying a good espresso every day…but Jewish history would not have reached the places that it reached or attained the achievements that make us so proud.

It’s our turn. It’s extremely difficult for us. We are being dealt very painful blows. We are filled to the brim with sorrow, accumulated after countless funerals during the dozens of years that we have been living on these breathtaking hills. But we are like a boxer in a boxing ring: being punched in the face and collapsing in pain, only to muster our strength to get up and keep fighting. Until the next punch…and the next blow…

In contrast, however, we are not playing a game. What is at stake here is much larger than the question of whether we will live here or not. The entire land of Israel, and our ability to live in this country in peace, is dependent on maintaining our position here. The moment that these murderers understand that it is possible to break our spirit, they will continue with even stronger motivation and go onward – to other places.

But if we do seem to be in a boxing ring, we need fans who will cheer us on, who will make us feel that we aren’t alone in this fight. We need to be given that vital oxygen, so that people will be able to muster up the strength to continue fighting and not be crushed.

We need to address children whose immediate surroundings are tainted by bereavement.

We need to address the needs of worried mothers and ease their stress.

We need to take responsibility for emergency care teams who have experienced, time and time again, the murder of their neighbors whom they are called to treat.

We need to bring more guests and visitors to the region, build new businesses, and bring more families.

Seventy years after the Holocaust and after the Jewish nation’s promise of “never again,” we are here to say – never again! We will not let inhuman people crush us again. We will stand up to them bravely, and together, we will triumph!