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      Blessings from Hebron
      by David Wilder
      Personal Reflections on Hebron, Eretz Yisrael, Friends, Family and anything else that comes to mind.
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      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 35 years. They lived in Kiryat Arba for 17 years and have resided at Beit Hadassah in Hebron for the past 15 years. They have seven children and many grandchildren.

      Links to sites David recommends:
      www.davidwilder.net
      www.hebron.com (English)
      www.hebron.org.il (Hebrew)
      www.machpela.com
      www.ohrshlomo.org (Hebrew)
      www.ohrshalom.net (Hebrew)
      www.womeningreen.org
      www.zoa.org
      (others to be added)

      Cheshvan 22, 5773, 11/7/2012

      Abraham’s legacy


      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 andhave 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.

      This coming Shabbat, Chayei Sarah, we read of Abraham’s initial transaction, purchase of the Caves of Machpela in Hebron, as a final resting place for Sarah, and later himself, Isaac and Rebeccah, and Jacob and Leah. Together with tens of thousands in Hebron, and multitudes elsewhere, we continue, as best we can, the heritage bequeathed to us, some four thousand years ago.







      Cheshvan 9, 5773, 10/25/2012

      Jewish self hate


      Jewish self hate

      My job has all sorts of interesting facets to it. As spokesman I get to meet many different people. Yesterday, for example, I toured with a group from Sri Lanka. A couple of days earlier, with businessmen from Taiwan, and last week, a group of Koreans spent a few hours with me.


      These groups came to see what Hebron is all about. Their questions were good and to the point. I think they enjoyed their tour of Hebron.


      I also speak with ‘interfaith groups.’ These groups usually include Christians, Jews, and sometimes, also Muslims. They usually allocate about an hour with me which I divide into two segments. First we do a short tour of the Hebron Heritage Museum at Beit Hadassah, and then spend about forty five minutes of questions and answers. It’s clear to me that much of what I say we may disagree about, but this is an opportunity for such people to hear a representative from Hebron, telling it as we see it. I don’t live under illusions, thinking that they’ll reverse positions 180 degrees, but, then again, you never know.


      I find such groups, as challenging as they may be, stimulating and evenenjoyable.


      A few days ago, another such group visited with me for the above-described program. They introduced themselves as belonging to the ‘Dorothy Cotton Institute.’

       
       The program proceeded normally. I wasn’t aware of anyone overly friendly, and some of the questions were a bit sharp, but nothing really abnormal.


      This morning I found a blog piece on Mondoweiss titled, ‘A meeting with the spokesman of the Jewish settlers in Hebron’ 

      by Alice Rothchild. 

      Mondoweiss is not overly pro Israel-Judea and Samaria, so I had a feeling the article would lean far to the left. You can read the entire piece for yourselves, but here I want to quote a few choice sentences.


      “the visit will start out with meeting David Wilder, a spokesmen for the (most aggressive intolerant) Jewish community in Hebron. Some in our group feel that morally they cannot sit down with this man, (would I meet with a Klansmen?); others feel this is an unusual opportunity to observe and understand the enemy.”


      Even before we begin I am aggressively intolerant, an enemy, and exemplified as a member of the KKK. Good start.


      ‘ I do not know if I will be able to be remotely civil. We agree as a group to be civil.’


      Thanks.


      “ I study him [David Wilder] carefully; he has an easy, friendly manner…and projects an air of authority and warmth that could be disarming to the misinformed, I can imagine him as one of Romney’s PR handlers.”


      I liked that, being associated with the next President of the United States (we hope).


      “He presents us with a context-free history of the Jewish people that is a complicated mixture of half truths, outright lies, and racist paranoia.”


      Most of the rest of the article deals with their later meeting with a ‘good friend’ of mine, Issa Amru, a local neighborhood Arab terrorist, whose incitement manages to heat up the area, even during quiet times.


      How does Dr. Alice (she’s a doctor) relate to Issa. After all, I’m a liar, as she wrote. However, when quoting Issa: “He observes thoughtfully, “Settlers are not Jews.”


      He observes and is thoughtful. As opposed to me. I am, in his words “the crazyman.” During a meeting with another group, he said, ‘David Wilder, he’s notJewish.’ That’s because, ‘settlers are not Jews.’ I guess, Jews, for him, are the kind that can be slaughtered easily, who can’t or won’t fight back.


      I’m not going to enumerate, line by line, the lies espoused in the article. The point here, is that anything an Arab says is, by default, true. Anything a Jew says, is by default, a lie.


      OK. I can live with this. I’ve seen it before. It’s not pleasant, but the reality exists, and we live with it and deal with it. I would hope that normally intelligent people would be able to, and prepared to open their eyes and really search for the truth, as opposed to swallowing poison pills as offered by Amru. And by such blogs as Rothchild’s.


      But what really hit me, and I have to admit, it hit me hard, was one other line in Dr. Alice’s essay of hate. Now please remember, this woman is a Jew. According to her website biography, her family belonged to a conservative synagogue and her grandparents were orthodox.


      This woman spews forth: ‘He states he is happy to engage in dialogue with Arabs who are interested in peace; he is a reasonable man who is only here to protecthis people and what is rightfully theirs. Unfortunately he has many grandchildren.’


      Ahha. She doesn’t like that fact that I have many grandchildren. It’s not just my politics, not by beliefs, not my way of life, (which are all supposed to be legitimate in a democracy). It’s my offspring.


      Why should she care how many grandchildren I have? She views them as acontinuation of me and I represent, it seems, as far as Alice Rothchild isconcerned, consummate evil. If I’m evil then I procreate evil. Look at those not socute little Jewish monsters living in Hebron. Too bad they exist.


      Her comment about my grandchildren leads me to one understanding, and oneunderstanding alone. Alice’s ideas have nothing to do with politics, or rights andwrongs of the Israel-Arab conflict. It has nothing to do with human rights orfreedoms. Her illness is clearly Jewish self hate; a conscious or unconsciousloathing of her core essence, of her being. Otherwise she could never expresssuch a thought or write such words.


      I cannot know from whom she contracted this terrible disease, but I can only hope and pray that G-d will have mercy on her, and others like her, and lead them back to their source, that they should be privileged to see the light, and to live in the light, as we do, and not remain totally overcome by the pitch black darkness she is shrouded in at present.







      Cheshvan 3, 5773, 10/19/2012

      Send Meridor to the Visitor's Gallery


      Send Meridor to the Visitor's Gallery

      There is a long-running discussion among Torah scholars as to a most significant topic. Is it a positive commandment to settle Eretz Yisrael, the Land of Israel? On the face of it, two of the greatest Torah scholars ever to walk the earth, seem to disagree. The Rambam, Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, in his seminal work, the “Yad HaChazakah,” where he discusses the 613 Biblical Torah commandments, does not include settling the land as a positive precept. The Ramban, Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman, who lived shortly after the Rambam, writes, seemingly disagreeing with his illustrious predecessor, that settling the Land of Israel is definitely a Mitzvah, a positive, Divine commandment.

      However, there are many distinguished Torah scholars who rule that, in reality, there isn’t any disagreement between the two giants. The Rambam, when enumerating the Mitzvot, does not include in his list, the most basic fundamentals, upon which Judaism is based. For example, he does not write that Tshuva – repentance, is a commandment. Rather, he instructs, ‘when you do tshuva – when you repent… this is what you must do.’

      Tshuva is pillar upon which Torah, and Torah observance is founded. There is no Judaism, as we know it, without Tshuva. Yet it does not appear in the Rambam’s list, not in spite of its importance, rather as a result of its major significance.

      So too, with the Mitzvah of living and settling Eretz Yisrael. The Jewish people were created in order to live in this land. Without Israel, Judaism as we know it, does not exist.

      This example can illustrate my feelings today, upon hearing Minister Dan Meridor’s statement on the early morning news. Meridor was asked his opinion about reports that the government was going to approve the Levy Commission Report. This report, written by three highly respected judges and attorneys, headed by former Supreme Court Edmund Levy, rejects international claims that the Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria is ‘occupation of a foreign land.’ Its adoption and implementation by the Israeli government will remove many of the politically bureaucratic hardships placed upon Jews living in Judea and Samaria, particularly in the areas of building construction and land purchase.

      Meridor said, “Ramallah and Hebron are not part of the State of Israel and I don’t think that Prime Minister Netanyahu has any intentions to change this.”

      I find it very difficult to stomach a Likud minister, serving in a right-wing government, state that Hebron is not part of Israel.

      True, the state of Israel has yet to annex Judea and Samaria. Legally, all this land, including Hebron, is officiated via the Defense ministry. Actually, the Levy report, its findings and conclusions should be the first step changing this, leading to eventual annexation.

      That, however, has no bearing on whether Hebron is part of the State of Israel. Because, without Hebron, there wouldn’t be a State of Israel. Hebron, the first Jewish city in this holy land, was the first home of Abraham, as we read in Genesis 13:18 - And Abram moved his tent, and came and dwelt by the oaks of Mamre, which are in Hebron, and built there an altar unto the L-rd.”

      Here, in the first Jewish city in Eretz Yisrael, Abraham lived for decades. As did his son, grandson, and many many others after them. Here they lived and here they were buried. Ma’arat HaMachpela, their tombs, the Caves of Machpela, is the 2nd holiest site in the world, second only to Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

      Here began the Davidic monarchy, prior to Jerusalem becoming our eternal capital. Here fought Bar Cochva and the Maccabees. Here Jews came following the Spanish expulsion in 1492. Here Jews lived almost continuously over the centuries, until the 1929 riots, massacre and expulsion.

      In June, 1967, coming into Hebron, Israel did not conquer and occupy a foreign city. We came home.

      Just as living in Israel isn’t mentioned in the Rambam’s list of Mitzvot, because of its supreme magnitude, so too, Hebron’s importance cannot be minimized because of political fears and accountings. Hebron is the roots of Judaism, it is the source of monotheism, and is an integral element in our people’s essence.

      Israeli ministers, representing the State of Israel, must not humiliate Hebron, declaring in an affirmative manner that ‘Hebron is not a part of the State of Israel, and that’s the way it should stay.’ Rather they should decry this disgrace, asserting that Hebron is the Jewish people’s lifeblood, the source of our culture and tradition, and of course, Jews must have the same rights and privileges in Israel’s first Jewish city, as do Jews living in Tel Aviv or Haifa.

      Meridor’s left-wing tendencies are known. Truthfully, as sad as it is, it’s no great surprise that he should make such a statement. But his presence as a Likud minister, in a Likud government, with such opinions, is scandalous.

      Before Israel goes to the polls, most parties will conduct primaries to determine their candidates for the Knesset. Meridor’s own words must be publicized loud and clear,insuring that Likud voters know exactly what he thinks of Israel’s presence in Judea and Samaria, his thoughts about the Levi Commission Report, and about Hebron. This way, perhaps he will join Ehud Barak, after the elections, following Knesset and government proceedings from the visitor’s gallery.







      Tishrei 26, 5773, 10/12/2012

      Victory@Beit HaShalom-A sweet way to begin a New Year!


      Victory at Beit HaShalom: A sweet way to begin the New Year

      The new year is starting off on the right foot - and if you didn't notice, that's a double entendre. Over the past month and a half, over 150,000 Jews visited Hebron. About half of them arrived during the Succot holidays. That's a good way to begin a new year. But it's only the beginning.

      A few weeks ago, an Israeli court ruled that Beit HaShalom, the huge 4,000 square meter building between Hebron and Kiryat Arba, was legally purchased by the Jewish community of Hebron and must be returned to us, the rightful owners of the building.

      Beit HaShalom was purchased by Morris Abraham and his family, for over a million dollars. Hebron Jews moved into the building in 2007 and lived there for 22 months. Ehud Barak, then Defense Minister, ordered the families to be forcibly expelled in the winter of 2008.

      The Arab who sold the building, Rajabi, then filed suit in a Jerusalem court, demanding that the structure be returned to him. In court he admitted that he had sold the building and received money for it – he had no choice, as the transaction was videoed. However, he claimed that he'd changed his mind and returned the money. His only problem was that he had no proof, receipts or documents showing that he'd actually returned the money.

      A few weeks ago the court ruled against him, and ordered the government to return the building to the Jewish owners within 30 days.

      One final problem remained. According to Israeli law, properties purchased by Jews from Arabs in Judea and Samaria must be approved by the Defense Minister. Ehud Barak, a left-wing politician who only a few days ago announced his idea for a unilateral expulsion/withdrawal from Judea and Samaria, is not known to view favorably the Jewish presence in Hebron. Expectations that he might sign such a permit weren't high.

      But, miracles do happen. As happened early tonight. Hebron's Jewish community received written notification that Barak ordered the Defense ministry to grant the necessary permits allowing us to return home, to return to Beit HaShalom.

      Shortly, the cement blocks surrounding the building will be removed. The big padlock sealing the doors will be removed. The keys will be returned to us. Beit HaShalom has been redeemed.

      We are very very happy that the Israeli government has finally recognized the legitimacy of Jewish land purchase in Hebron. It's about time. After all, the first land purchase, some 4,000 years ago, didn't need any minister's signature. When Abraham bought the Caves of Machpela, he didn't need anyone's permission. He put money on the table and, in return, received the keys. That's the way is should be.

      So too, we expect the Israeli government to continue to recognize legally owned Jewish properties in Hebron, such as Beit HaMachpela and Beit Ezra.

      And just in case anyone thought otherwise, yes, we will continue to buy property and buildings in Hebron, and yes, we will continue to grow and expand, and no, we have no plans to leave our holy city, not now, not ever. Hebron is here to stay, an integral element of the land of Israel and of the State of Israel. As is the Jewish community of Hebron, keeping Hebron Jewish for the Jewish people, for eternity.

      Actually, the timing is just right. This Shabbat we begin reading the Torah from the start – "In the Beginning…" The greatest commentator on the Torah, Rashi, asks, why doesn't the Torah begin with laws and commandments? Why start with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? His answer is quite fitting for today's events. He answers: "Because of the thought expressed in the verse(Psalms 111:6) 'He declared to His People the strength of His works, in order that He might give them the heritage of the nations.'

      For should the peoples of the word say, You are robbers, because you took by force the lands of the seven nations of Canaan, Israel may reply to them, "All the earth belongs to the Holy One blessed be He; He created it and gave it to whom He pleases; When He willed He gave it to them, and when He willed, He took it from the and gave it to us."

      It is imperative to note that Rashi stresses the verse, 'He declared to His People…' – In other words, the nations of the world might realize that our Land belongs to us – the problem isn't with them. Rather we have to ensure that all OUR PEOPLE know and understand that this land, Eretz Yisrael, belongs to Am Yisrael, the people of Israel. Rashi lived almost 1,000 years ago. He knew what he was talking about.

      To all those who have helped, to all those whose faith and support, and hard work have brought us to this joyous day – thank you , thank you, thank you! May we be privileged to continue to witness such wonders as we have seen today!







      Tishrei 9, 5773, 9/25/2012

      Dignity


      Yesterday I met with an Australian journalist. He had spent the previous day with Shovrim Shtika – Breaking the Silence, in Hebron. They are far left- and very anti Jewish Hebron. A countryman of the journalist, let’s call him Harry, wanted him to see ‘the other side’ so they came over to see me.

      We didn’t have a lot of time, so rather than tour we sat and talked for about 40 minutes. Harry directed some questions to me, which I tried to answer to the best of my ability. Most questions I’ve heard before – it’s hard to find something new to hit me with. When we spoke about the division in the street outside, which is divided: one side for Jews and the other for Arabs, I explained that, number one, we don’t like it either. True, the Arabs can’t walk on part of the street, but then again, we are also prevented from walking on the other side. Two, the division, implemented by the army, is in place to prevent friction between Jews and Arabs, and also for security reasons, in an attempt to decrease possibilities of terror attacks against Jews.

      Harry told me that ‘it doesn’t look good.’ I answered that in Israel there are many things that ‘don’t look good,’ but if they save human lives, I don’t care if it looks good or not.

      Then Harry did manage to pull a rabbit out of his hat. His question wasn’t rancorous; he was asking according to what he’d been told by our enemy’s agent the day before. He asked if it was true that we had denied Arabs (he called them palestinians) dignity.

      That really did stun me. Dignity? Do we deny them dignity?

      First I asked him to define that – honestly I don’t remember what he replied.

      Then I explained to him that Arabs have access to 97% of Hebron, while Jews have access to 3% of the city. I explained why there weren’t more Jews living in Hebron, due to political restrictions enforced by Defense Minister Ehud Barak. He must authorize all Jewish building or purchases in Hebron. Yesterday it was publicized that Barak is suggesting a 2nd unilateral ‘disengagement’ i.e. expulsion – this time from most of Judea and Samaria. (Expelling the Jews, that is. Any suggestion of expelling Arabs is, of course, racist.) So, obviously, Barak isn’t signing any permits allowing more Jews to live in Hebron.

      On the other hand, purchases are very difficult to actualize, as Arabs who sell to Jews are executed. PA law defines real estate deals with Jews as a capital crime.

      So who is denying dignity to whom?

      Continuing, I explained how the building adjacent to us, Ma’arat HaMachpela, the Tomb of the Patriarchs, the 2nd holiest site to Jews in the world, was off-limits to Jews (and Christians) for 700 years. The Arabs still claim it belongs only to them. (See Karl Vick’s Time Magazine Blog - “It’s a mosque!” says Khaled Osaily, the mayor of Hebron. “You don’t have to be an architect to see it! Will you allow me to pray in a synagogue or a church?”)

      Then, I exclaimed, forget Hebron. What about Jerusalem? What about Temple Mount? Why are Jews prevented from saying Psalms at the holiest site in the world? Why are brides arrested on their wedding day because the Waqf guard complains to Israeli police that ‘she was moving her lips?’

      So who is stealing whose dignity? Who respects who?

      That’s almost where our conversation ended.

      Now, as we approach the holy of holies, the most sacred day of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, I think it perhaps suitable to give a few examples of dignity – of respect, for our Creator:

      Dignity is:

      When 20,000 people visit Hebron over two days, worshipping at Machpela, pouring their hearts out in prayer, requesting health and happiness and the continued safety of our State of Israel against all forces seeking to destroy us.

      Dignity is when an Israeli court rules that, yes, the purchase of Beit HaShalom in Hebron, for over $1,000,000 was legal, and that Jews have a right to return to that site.

      Dignity is when Jews, Arabs, Druze and Christians, can offer holiday greetings one to the other. (Yesterday I received a message from a Druze officer at Machpela wishing me an ‘easy fast’. I’ve received holiday greetings from an Arab Sheik in Hebron, and have reciprocated.)

      Dignity is when an Israeli police officer gives a tour of Hebron to his colleagues from other parts of Israel.

      Dignity is when ranking IDF officers and police attend Hebron resident’s family celebrations.

      Dignity is when Hebron residents host soldiers for Shabbat and holiday meals.

      Dignity is when Hebron children distribute apples and honey to security personnel and soldiers in Hebron.

      Dignity is when, every Friday, soldiers receive a “Shabbat package” with Torah lessons and ‘goodies’ to munch on.

      Dignity is when the Jewish people recognize all the good their G-d has bestowed upon them, and try their best to act, and respond accordingly, thanking Him for His kindness.

      Our G-d treats us with dignity – our living here in Israel, in Jerusalem, in Hebron, is one of the ways by which we return the favor, granting dignity upon Him, doing what He wants us to do.

      Our neighbors have tried to deny us dignity for thousands of years. We owe them nothing. The world community at large is attempting to deny the Jewish people, as a whole, dignity, by allowing the greatest enemy of our people since Hitler, and perhaps the greatest threat to world peace, to speak at the United Nations on the holy, fast day of Yom Kippur.  Achaminajad, speaking at the United Nations, the world’s most representative body, on the Day of Atonement, is the greatest denial of dignity possible, the greatest slap in the face possible, to the Jewish people.

      And where was our dignity, while six million were shoveled into ovens seventy years ago? Where was the world’s dignity?

      Harry, in answer to your question, we owe no one, but no one, any apologies, and certainly, despite all the above, no one will ever be able to take from us our dignity, as our source is Divine. We live in a sphere of G-d-given holiness, which, as hard as some might try, no one can ever take from us. That is our true dignity.