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Ask the Rabbi
David Wilder was born in New Jersey in the USA in 1954, and graduated from Case Western Reserve University with a BA in History and teacher certification in 1976. He spent 1974-75 in Jerusalem at the Hebrew University and returned to Israel upon graduation.
For over eighteen years David Wilder has worked with the Jewish Community of Hebron. He is the English spokesman for the community, granting newspaper, television and radio interviews internationally. He initiated the Hebron internet project, including email lists of over 15,000 subscribers who receive regular news and commentaries from Hebron in English and Hebrew. David is responsible and continues to update the Hebron web sites, portraying various facets of Hebron, utilizing text, audio, video and pictures. He conducts tours of Hebron's Jewish Community and occasionally travels abroad, speaking at Hebron functions.
David Wilder is married to Ora, a 'Sabra,' for 33 years. They lived in Kiryat Arba for 17 years and have resided at Beit Hadassah in Hebron for the past 14 years. They have seven children and many grandchildren.
Links to sites David recommends:
(others to be added)
Tevet 13, 5772, 1/8/2012
Yesterday my wife and I spent Shabbat in Jerusalem with some friends. They made Aliyah a year and a half ago and invited us to spend the day with them in the “Holy City.”
After arriving at their apartment in the Kiryat Shmuel neighborhood of Jerusalem, I asked what time they leave the house to pray on Saturday morning. I was a little taken aback when the response was ‘6:30.’ But not for long. We don’t often go out for Shabbat, but when we do, I try not to let anything faze me. “Ok, 6:30, fine. But where are we going?” “To the Old City, to the Moslem Quarter. It’s about a 35 minute walk from here.”
So, 6:30 it was. We left on time, Ken and I, with two of his children. The Jerusalem winter air was crisp, cold and clear. Just as I remember it, from when I first lived in Israel, in Jerusalem, some 37 years ago. You might expect that at that hour of the morning, on a Saturday, the streets would be empty. But they weren’t. Not that they were full either. But there were others, like ourselves, making their way by foot to a synagogue somewhere in the city.
We walked outside just as the sun rose, lighting up the sky with a seeming sanctity that might only be sensed in the holiest city in the world. Our half-hour walk was a stroll though a time tunnel. Leaving the home I searched carefully for another apartment building in the neighborhood. Our host’s apartment is on Rav Haim Berlin Street. I lived on that same street thirty seven years ago, while attending Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
Only two buildings from theirs – and there it was. I haven’t been there in quite some time, but easily recognized the three porches jutting out towards the street. Ours was on the top floor. We were five guys, in Israel for a year, mostly juniors in university. Walking past brought back a flood of memories, from way back when, then a kid, 20 years old.
But I didn’t have too much time to reminisce. We walked briskly down the street, onto Aza Road, and then down Agron. Crossing the main street we entered an area I’d never visited, that being the Mamilla promenade. It is really a combination of the old and the new. Externally it has a kind of quaint atmosphere, but the storefronts are far from old-fashioned, selling anything and everything you can imagine, at prices I’m sure aren’t from the middle ages. But it is picturesque, an interesting addition of Jerusalem’s diverse cultures.
The walkway led to narrow stone stairs, directly in front of Jaffa Gate, leading into the Old City. As was crossed from the twenty-first century into a time warp going back about 2,000 years, I recalled the first time I’d crossed that threshold, back then. The day after we arrived, it was probably late Friday morning, I stood outside that huge stone wall, waiting for all the group to arrive, so that we could all go in together. I remembered the excitement, the anticipation, knowing that in a few moments we’d be marching to the Kotel, the Western Wall, in the Old City of Jerusalem.
It’s a little different today. The ‘gate’ is no longer there, just a big opening, like a hole in the wall. But walking through an almost empty Arab market, down the smooth stone stairs, under arches people are used to seeing only in pictures, it was quite a feeling. Like, here I am, back home again.
We didn’t make a right turn, as did other Jews like ourselves, towards the Kotel, to pray at the Wall. Rather we turned left, into the so-called Moslem Quarter. We walked past a memorial to Elchanan Atali, a young yeshiva student murdered there some 21 years ago. And then, on the left side of the road, a door with a sign hanging on the wall, “Chazon Yechezkel Synagogue – Young Israel of the Old City of Jerusalem.”
Many may not be familiar with the name ‘Young Israel.’ ‘Young Israel’ is an association of Orthodox synagogues, located primarily in the United States. There are too, some here in Israel. This ‘Young Israel’ is located about 5 minutes from the Kotel, in the Old City of Jerusalem.
Walking in, up the stairs in what must be a fairly old building, I came to the sanctuary, a small ‘haimish’ (homey) room, with a few people already in attendance. It was then about 7:10. Standing in the middle of the room, by the pulpit, was an older, scholarly, but kindly looking man, studying the weekly Torah portion. I introduced myself, telling him that we have a mutual friend living in Chicago. He asked if I was from there too; I told him that I’m from Hebron. He told me that he has a son there. I responded that his son was my youngest son’s teacher in the Yeshiva High School in Kiryat Arba.
Then I sat down and listened to his weekly Torah class.
Rabbi Nachman Kahana really is a great Torah sage. He has authored well-know books, is an accomplished speaker and a leader of the Jewish
presence in the Old City, and here, in the ‘Moslem Quarter,’ where the Jewish presence has grown in leaps and bounds over the past years, thanks to people like Rabbi Kahana. And if the name rings a bell, yes, he is the brother of the murdered Rabbi Meir Kahana, who too was a Torah scholar.
One theme repeated itself in Rabbi Kahana’s talks on Shabbat, that being the need for Jews to live in Israel. Most of the people attending the Rabbi’s synagogue are ‘former Americans’ who came to live in Israel from the United States, some many years ago, and others, more recently. There were some young men also in attendance, who perhaps hadn’t yet made that fateful decision to stay in Israel, rather than return to live in the US. I’m sure his words, which he spoke in English and Hebrew, to make sure everyone understood, didn’t fall on deaf ears.
Of course, the prayer service was spiritually awakening, and the ‘kiddush’ afterwards, included some of the best of Jerusalm’s ‘kugel,’ (noodle pudding) prepared by the Rabbi’s wife. Leaving the shul, some five hours after arriving, I felt like again, I was walking through time, and what a time it was.
My friend Jack, from Chicago, whenever he’s in Israel, usually turns down my invitations for Shabbat, saying that he prefers to be with Rabbi Nachman Kahana in the Old City. Now I know why. It’s an unbelievable experience, and highly recommended in anyone in the area. And if you’re not planning in the area, I suggest you change your plans and try it out. You won’t be sorry.
Actually, the Young Israel of the Old City isn’t really so young; rather it’s a segment of the chain of Jewish history, culture and Torah, adjacent to the holiest place in the world, Temple Mount. Rabbi Kahana and his congregation are helping to ensure that this site will remain Jewish forever.
Tevet 3, 5772, 12/29/2011
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.
Kislev 24, 5772, 12/20/2011
Kislev 15, 5772, 12/11/2011
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.
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.” [http://goo.gl/KP8mS]
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: [http://goo.gl/Qoz9U]
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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." [http://goo.gl/UpqsT]
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.
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.
Cheshvan 25, 5772, 11/22/2011
This year’s Shabbat Chaye Sarah, was, thank G-d, very successful, as expected. Despite the rain, somewhere in the vicinity of 15,000 people walked the streets of Hebron, worshiped at Ma’arat HaMachpela, and even tented outside. Lectures and Torah classes to people of all ages were conducted in Kiryat Arba and Hebron. Groups of Americans, visiting Hebron via the New York-based Hebron Fund, and also AFSI, feasted on scrumptious meals at the Gutnick Center, adjacent to Machpela and participated in various Hebron excursions, including the famed Casbah tour, Shabbat afternoon.
I spent a good part of Friday night and Shabbat day with a group of American/Israeli youth, who study in a special Yeshiva High School near the Kinneret in northern Israel. Their Rosh Yeshiva, the dean of the institution, Rabbi Danny, told me that he wanted the guys to have a good time, but also have a meaningful experience. It’s a long drive, to and from Hebron, and he wanted to make sure the Shabbat was a full educational experience.
I set up a Torah class Friday evening, as well as a short discussion with a Hebron resident. We also took a tour of Tel Rumeida in the cold crisp night air. The next day we toured other Hebron sites, and concluded with a discussion, tea, cake and cookies in my apartment in Beit Hadassah. They certainly left Hebron knowing more than they did when they arrived. More importantly, they ‘felt Hebron.’
However, a real highlight of the day took place on Friday afternoon. The Hebron Fund group, together with AFSI, drove in two buses, early Friday afternoon, about 15 minutes south of Hebron, to the Zif junction. There, leaving the buses, we all walked a few minutes to a big tent, where everyone was asked to remove their shoes before entering.
A number of years ago, a group of Arabs, together with Israeli leftists and anarchists, planned on burning down the Hazon David Synagogue, just outside the gates of Kiryat Arba, on the eve of Rosh HaShana, the Jewish New Year. The event was stopped at the last minute when it came to the attention of Sheikh Jabari, leader of Hebron’s largest clan. He told Hebron Arabs that he didn’t agree to destruction of a ‘holy place,’ especially on a Jewish holiday. He told them that this was a place of prayer, and prevented the destruction.
Following his intervention, a meeting was arranged between several Hebron leaders and the Sheikh, thanking him for his involvement. Since then, the Sheikh and Hebron-Kiryat Arba leaders meet relatively frequently, discussing relevant issues. He has publicly declared his opposition to unilateral declaration of a ‘palestinian state’ in the UN and also acknowledged the right of Jews to live in Hebron. Last summer he met at his Hebron home with Rabbi Shlomo Riskin and Pastor John Hagee.
This past Friday afternoon he met with almost 70 Americans and a few Hebron residents in a large tent, just outside Hebron. Welcoming the group, he asked those attending to be ambassadors to his message of peace ‘in the land of peace.’ He also spoke of Shabbat Chaye Sarah, Abraham and Ma’arat HaMachpela, saying that Machpela should unite all of us together, that we are one family, from one father, Abraham. He blessed the group ‘from all his heart, on this holy Shabbat.’ He thanked the group for visiting him, saying he appreciated that they came from so far away for this holy occasion.
Other members of the group addressed the Sheikh, expressing thanks for his hospitality, commenting and asking questions. The event concluded after the group was given a small cup of traditional Turkish coffee.
The significance of this meeting wasn’t so much the words spoken, rather its actual happening. A decade ago, Jews in Hebron were being shot at by Arabs from the hills surrounding the Jewish community. Years ago meetings between Jews and Arabs were common; yet following Oslo, the Hebron Accords, and the Oslo War – 2nd intifada, such meetings became a thing of history.
I don’t expect that all of us present agree on all issues. To the contrary, certainly we don’t. But the Sheikh represents an alternative to the palestinian authority, a terrorist organization overtly backing the expulsion of Jews from all Judea and Samaria, while covertly working for the liberation of all ‘palestine’ aka the State of Israel.
I found the meeting with the Sheikh to be a refreshing change from the normal animosity displayed between Jews and Arabs. I’m not living under any illusions. The gaps are very wide and Sheikh Jabari is only one person. However, there aren’t too many Arab leaders who would prevent destruction of a Jewish house of worship, who would publicly declare willingness to live with Jews in Hebron, and who would meet a large group of American Jews in his tent on a Friday. Our past has taught us ‘Chabdahu v’chashdehu’ – meaning, ‘honor them and suspect them.’ But I have a feeling that there are many more Arabs in Judea and Samaria who would prefer living within the state of Israel as opposed to ‘palestine,’ and who could easily identify with Sheikh Jabari as their leader, rather than Arafat, Abu Mazen, or Marwan Barghutti. Of course, most normal Arab people would never say so publicly, fearing for their lives. A fatwa, that is a death warrant, has been issued against the Shekh several times as a result of his meetings and pronouncements concerning Israel and Jews. But he is a brave man, with a large backing, who isn’t scared to say what he believes, even knowing how ‘unpopular’ it will make him with his Arab brethren.
That was Chaye Sarah, 5772 – 2011. A fun, interesting, and enjoyable Shabbat, together with thousands and thousands, here in Hebron. The day will come though, when fifteen or twenty thousand Jews in Hebron for a Shabbat will be normal and regular, when Jews will be able to live, not in small ghetto-like neighborhoods, but rather, throughout the city, as should be. As we say, bimheira b’yamenu – speedily in our days – Amen!
See more photos at: http://goo.gl/ghoJJ