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      Op-Ed: A Letter to My Friends

      Published: Monday, November 03, 2003 5:28 PM
      We were sitting in a sukka on a mountaintop midway between Beit El, a city of over 1,000 Jewish families, and Ramallah, the capital of Palestinian terrorism, the city in which, in 2001, a mob of rabid, bloodthirsty animals took two Israeli reservists who had lost direction and ripped their bodies apart, limb by limb; the city where Yassir Arafat lives in his own version of heaven. We were o


      We were sitting in a sukka on a mountaintop midway between Beit El, a city of over 1,000 Jewish families, and Ramallah, the capital of Palestinian terrorism, the city in which, in 2001, a mob of rabid, bloodthirsty animals took two Israeli reservists who had lost direction and ripped their bodies apart, limb by limb; the city where Yassir Arafat lives in his own version of heaven. We were on this mountaintop to dedicate a playground, and to donate a Sefer Torah.

      Numerous heroes of modern Israel were there ? Yaakov Katz or Katzele, one of General Ariel Sharon?s top commando officers in the Yom Kippur War, who walks with a cane as a result of injuries suffered during a key battle in that war; the leadership of Beit El and the mayors of several other new communities in Judea and Samaria.

      And the inhabitants of Givat Assaf, this new community set up at this strategic intersection, which has been the site of numerous terror attacks, including the murders of Assaf Herskowitz, z.l., (for whom this city is named) and his father, Arieh Herskowitz, z.l., who had been murdered by Arab terrorists further up the same road just four months earlier. These are the builders of modern-day Israel, who give up everything to strengthen the land of Israel, and to assure continued Jewish ownership of its lands.

      We had made a decision to combine the bat mitzvah of our daughter Miriam with two other mitzvot - the settlement of the Land of Israel (a very difficult mitzvah to keep, living in Long Island) and the donation of a Sefer Torah. We chose Givat Assaf because of its strategic location; had this location been inhabited three years ago numerous murders may not have taken place, including the murders of Assaf and Arieh Herskowitz, and many families would not be living their lives in grief and sadness.

      So why a playground? Because a playground symbolizes permanence, a community, and children; i.e., the future. Because a playground tells the people of Israel, the Arab nations, the world, and Yossi Beilin and his self-hating ilk, that we are here to stay.

      And why a Sefer Torah? To remind the world that this is a country given to the Jewish people by G-d, never to be taken away from them. And to remind our fellow Jews that only G-d can provide us the protection we so desperately need.

      My dear friends, we sang, we danced, we laughed and we cried. And to my nieces and nephews and to my children, the lessons were learned. My friends, Sheldon and Cindy Small, sponsored the bat mitzvah of an orphan girl living in a foster home to twin with their daughter?s bat mitzvah, and created what may be a lifelong friendship with a 12-year-old girl whose life is bereft of hope and happiness. In honor of their daughters? bat mitzvot other friends, Joel and Lyon Mael and Andrew and Terri Herenstein, sponsored a simchat beit hashoeva at the army base outside Beit El and gave gifts to each soldier containing a note from children in their daughters? schools. My brother- and sister-in-law Shimmie and Chani Klein made a bar mitzvah dedication at Shalva, a wonderful facility for physically disabled children, in honor of their son Burry?s bar mitzvah.

      Thousands of American yeshiva kids studying in Israel for the year sang and danced (and socialized) for eight (or seven) full days. And hundreds of American families toured, hiked, kayaked, danced, sang, laughed and cried. And we spent money in, on, with and for the Land and people of Israel. And our children saw and understood.