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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.hebron.com (English)
      www.hebron.org.il (Hebrew)
      www.ohrshlomo.org (Hebrew)
      www.ohrshalom.net (Hebrew)
      (others to be added)

      Tishrei 9, 5773, 9/25/2012


      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.

      Elul 16, 5772, 9/3/2012

      Stop spitting in G-d's face!

      I thought about driving up to Migron, last night, this morning.

      Many years ago, after moving to Kiryat Arba, while studying in a Torah “Kollel” – study program for married men, I participated in founding the local ‘Chevra Kadisha,’ that being a volunteer organization that prepared deceased people for burial.  While looking for others to join in this holy work, one of the Rabbis told me, ‘sometimes, people with experience, won’t agree to participate. After a while, a person can reach a saturation point of dealing with death and dead people. They just don’t want to see it any more.’

      Perhaps that explains how I feel about witnessing, and filming, continued expulsions. You can reach a point of whereby you really don’t want to see it again, or be a part of it, if you really don’t have to. 

      The atmosphere at such events tends to regurgitate itself. Massive security forces, male and female, in uniform – police, border police, the riot squad, IDF, and ‘shabak’ – Israeli intelligence personnel, usually noticeable because they have small earphones tucked into their ears, whispering quietly with their hands cupped, covering their mouths, dressed in suits with a weapon hidden away behind their jackets. 

      As the troops step down the stairs from the buses that have transported them to the site, they tend to hug each other.

      Media people also mob the area, each person looking for a good picture, a unique photo representing the occasion. 

      And of course, there are the victims, the expellees, the people being thrown out of their homes, sacrifices, not on the altar of justice, rather on the altar of piece, which others, mistakenly, spell ‘peace.’ 

      Additionally, others, usually young people, arriving at the scene to participate, to protest, to be amongst those being displaced. 

      It’s a familiar scenario, that makes me sick to my stomach.

      Breaking down doors, carrying the kids out, a few others on rooftops, awaiting the moment of their eviction. 

      Families, or what’s left of them, marching as brave warriors, surrendering after a battle lost,  some with stoic expressions and, without doubt, expressing confidence that ‘we will return.’  A few crying, a few screaming, and others, shrugging their shoulders, as if saying, what’s there to say?

      At Migron the events seem to be being played out as if scripted, directed, and now in production.  Even though I’m not there, the community’s execution is being broadcast live, via internet on ynet.  

      We’ve seen it before.

      In Hebron, we’ve experienced it, many too many times.  It brings back black memories of Neve Dekalim and Kfar Darom, Homesh, and way back when, Yamit. 

      Of course, the question on everyone’s mind is, what’s next, who’s next, where will this all end?

      It’s so ironic. Watching the three-ring circus live on internet, while reading articles about the Arab who poisoned a family in Ra’nana, while hearing more and more about the Iranian threat to our existence, while Obama’s United States distances itself from Israel, rockets fired from Gaza continue hitting southern Israel and we continue tearing ourselves apart.

      It makes no sense.

      Actually, I almost feel a little sorry for Netanyahu. It didn’t have to be this way. He wasn’t elected to expel Jews from their homes. Yet he is following in the footsteps of his predecessors. 

      What happened to them? Begin flipped out, Sharon is still alive, but in hell, and Olmert may soon find himself behind bars. And even if not, the disgrace of a former Prime Minister having to defend himself against major corruption charges in a court of law, that too is a live nightmare.

      One small factor Bibi hasn’t taken into consideration: Any leader, especially the Prime Minister of the state of Israel, in order to succeed, needs major ‘Sa’atya d’Shmaya’ – that is, Divine assistance.  Such help is necessary all the time, but more than ever when major decisions must be reached. And following those decisions, their implementation.  Particularly when people’s lives and the future existence of the state are at risk. And above all, when the eyes of Jews around the world, and through the centuries, past, present and future, bore down at you. 

      It really isn’t nice to spit in G-d’s face, and then turn around and ask Him to help.  Tossing Jews out of their homes in Eretz Yisrael, similar to the way people throw away disposable diapers,  is spitting in G-d’s face. It’s saying, ‘we really don’t have a claim to this land, but help us hold on to in anyhow – spit spit spit. ‘

      It’s not an omen I can pretend to be happy about.

      We are not disposables.  Our land is not disposable. Our Torah is not disposable. Neither is our G-d disposable. Our presence here is not temporary.

      Bibi, Arik, Ehuds, Shimon, they are the disposables.  They spit in G-d’s face. 

      But G-d knows how to spit back.

      The above, seemingly trite words, will come to pass.  We will return – to Migron, and to all the other holy places disposables have expelled us from. We are permanent, from time immemorial. And we will stop the spitting at our good L-rd

      Av 18, 5772, 8/6/2012

      1929 Redux?

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      1929 Redux?

      Last week a young woman from Toronto visited me at my office here in Hebron. She told that her name was Slonim, that her family was from Hebron, that her family was miraculously saved during the 1929 massacre.
      I told her, yes, members of the Slonim family were holed up in Rabbi Ya'akov Slonim's home. The Rabbi's Arab landlord, hearing about the impending riots, stood at the door of the house, refusing to allow the marauding Arabs to enter. They put a sword on his throat, threatening to kill him if he didn't move. He didn't budge. They drew blood. He stood his ground. Finally, they left. The building's residents survived, including her grandmother.
      The young woman's eyes bulged. 'That's the exact story my grandmother told me," she exclaimed.
      Not far from Rabbi Ya'akov Slonim's house is Beit Hadassah - the Hadassah House in Hebron, was built in 1893 as a medical clinic for Arabs and Jews in the city.  It served the community for 26 years.
      Today Beit Hadassah is home to Jewish families in Hebron. A small synagogue is located on the ground floor. The basement floor is rather unique. There is the Hebron Heritage Museum, detailing the magnificent history of Israel's first Jewish city, some 3,800 years old. Many of the groups touring Hebron visit this site. It provides, as I am wont to tell visitors, a taste of Hebron's Jewish history, over the centuries. 
      Perhaps the most difficult and emotional room in the museum is a memorial to victims of the 1929 riots and slaughter. At least 67 Jews were murdered in Hebron, with over 70 injured. A total of over 130 Jews were killed throughout pre-state Israel, in Jerusalem, Tzfat, Motza and other places.
      The accounts are documented and the events well-known. On Thursday, August 22, that being the 16th day of the Hebrew month of Av, a group of Jews from the Haganah, led by Mordechai Shneerson, came to Hebron and met with its Jewish leadership. 'Mufti Amin el-Husseini is inciting. There's going to be trouble. Take weapons to protect yourselves.'  Hebron's Jewish leaders refused. 'The Arabs are our friends. The protected us in the past, and will do so again now. We've already met with them. Weapons will only act as a provocation.' 
      The Haganah representatives left with the weapons they'd brought for Hebron's Jews, who remained defenseless. They paid dearly for their error in judgment. The next day rioting commenced. One Hebron Jew, a yeshiva student, Shmuel Rosenhalz, was murdered just prior to the beginning of Shabbat. British police officer, Major Raymond Cafferata, told the Jews to stay home and lock their doors. The next morning Arabs went house to house, torturing, raping, pillaging and killing.  Virtually nothing was done to help the Jews. True, there were Arabs who saved Jews. But not enough. At least 67 were killed. Three days later, the survivors were expelled. 
      Following recitation of the account, and viewing of the horrid photos in the room, I repeat, to just about anyone and everyone visiting with me, two messages: First, in 1967, when Israel liberated Hebron, it did not conquer and occupy a foreign city. It came home. Second, Israel always has to be able to protect itself. When we leave our fate in the hands of others, this is the result.
      In theory, the lesson need only be learned once, the hard way. Unfortunately Israel continues to make the same mistake, time and time again. Since Oslo was signed, putting much of Israel's security in the hands of our neighbors, over 1,500 Jews have been killed in cold-blooded terror attacks. Since abandonment of Gush Katif and Gaza, well over 10,000 rockets have been shot into Israel. Those attacks continue, to this very day.
      This is particularly significant at present: To Israel's north we are witness to a barbaric slaughter of men, women and children. I'm no great fan of Syria, or its Arab population. They have warred against Israel and killed our citizens. However, politics aside, it is difficult to watch a twenty-first century bloodbath, perpetrated by one man trying to hold on to power, with virtually nothing being done to stop him and the carnage. World powerstis and hiss, but that's about it.
      North east of Damascus, less than a thousand miles away, sits another Bashar Assad, this one going by the name of Ahmadinejad. He doesn't care a whole lot more about his hometown folks in Teheran than does the butcher in Damascus. But his target is different. About 590 miles away, (that being some 1,500 kilometers) is Tel Aviv.
      So what's the lesson to be learned? Crystal clear. If we – if Israel waits for someone else to protect us, to ensure our security, the loss is liable to be much greater that the Jews massacred in 1929. The world watches as Syria burns; why should they act different while, G-d forbid, Israel burns? Hebron's 1929 Jewish population was decimated, while others watched from the sidelines. Would world leaders act any differently from Raymond Cafferata?
      Why were Hebron's 1929 survivors expelled, following the riots? Years ago I was told, by a man whose family survived, that his father wrote to the British high commissioner, asking that very question. The answer was short and to the point. 'There were more Arabs than Jews in Hebron and you couldn't continue living together. It was easier to expel the Jews than the Arabs.'
      What might today's international 'high commissioner' declare, following an Iranian attack on Israel? Might not the state of Israel face the fate of Hebron's 1929 Jewish survivors?

      1929 Redux?

      All photos: David Wilder

      Av 3, 5772, 7/22/2012

      The Spring of Creation

      Wednesday’s terror attack on Ron, from Kiryat Arba, was an example of a true miracle. The boulder hurled at his head, as he prepared to bathe in the Abraham Spring, here in Hebron, was intended to crush his skull. It did leave him with a serious injury, but he is still alive. Only inches from the water, had he fallen in, unconscious, the results would most likely have been tragic.

      Since that near-deadly assault, the site of the attack has become a focal point of attention. In truth, the spring is much more important than publicly known.
      Researchers, attempting to document ancient communities, can frequently locate such sites via wells, or springs. Or inversely, discovering what might be a tel, one of the ways to identify the area is to locate its water source. For people cannot exist without water. That being the case, where there is water, there may very well have been an early population. And wherever there were people, there had to be a water source.

      Tel Hebron, site of the Biblical home of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebeccahand Leah was no different. So it is that a short distance, north-east of the walled city, is that very water source. Due to its proximity to the tel, (today known as Tel Rumeida – or Admot Yishai) the spring is known as Abraham’s Spring. Legend speaks of Abraham and Sarah purifying themselves here, almost 4,000 years ago.

      According to Hebron resident and researcher, Aryeh Klein, this spring is referred to in the Bible, at 2 Samuel 4. Here the scripture tells how King David, then ruling in Hebron, hanged two men ‘at the pool in Hebron.’ It is also written about by Mujar a’ Din, in 1496, calling it “Ayn Jadida” – the ‘new spring.’ This name resulted from renovations done, at that time, at the spring. According to several examinations, the spring is 3.7 meters (12 feet) deep . 

      Archeologist Avi Ofer, who also investigated this site, reported that a massive thick wall, inside the spring, may have closed off an underground aqueducts, leading from the pit to the upper level of Tel Hebron.

      In recent years, since renewal of the Jewish community in Hebron, this spring is frequently visited. On hot, summer days, such as we’ve experienced this week, Hebron’s children play and swim in its cold waters. Other visitors, from around Israel, bathe and purify themselves in the spring, utilizing it as a “mikva,” a ritual purifying bath. So it was that our friend Ron happened to be there on Wednesday afternoon. That day, and the days preceding, witnessed dozens of people arriving at the spring.

      For several days, Hebron youth, working under the supervision of adults, and with permission from Israeli security forces, worked in the area around the spring, trying to clean up the rubbish and renew the area, making it a bit more attractive for people frequenting the place.

      Perhaps, as a result of their work, an Arab terrorist decided to ‘take revenge’ for this Jewish chutzpah, - cleaning up an ancient spring – and tried to kill a Jewish man there.
      Actually, however, this site is much more significant than has been yet mentioned. Almost one thousand years ago, a Jewish traveler named Rabbi Ya’akov benNetanel HaCohen, visited the Holy Land and wrote about his experiences. Amongst other places visited was Hebron. One of Israel’s greatest historical researchers, Prof. Ze’ev Vilnai, published Rabbi Ya’akov’s account: “And there (adjacent to the spring) is the place where G-d created the first man, and for that reason people take earth, to use for building or for medicine…”. This place is called ‘the Field of Adam HaRishon,’ – ‘the field of the first man.’

      This beautiful legend is quite fitting, as according to very holy Jewish literature, Adam and Eve when trying to discover the way back to the Garden of Eden, dug a cave within a cave, until a voice from the heavens commanded them to stop, saying that they’d dug far enough. Known as the entrance to paradise, or the entrance to the Garden of Eden, this is where the first man and woman were later buried. That site remained hidden until the days of Abraham, who discovered this sacred cave-tomb. That site is today known as Ma’arat HaMachpela – the ‘double cave of Machpela, where later, the Patriarchs and Matriarchs were buried.

      Therefore, it seems that not only was the first man buried in Hebron. Here too, he was created, not more than two kilometers from Machpela. I’m sure, if the first man really was created at this spot, he undoubtedly bathed in the waters of the nearby spring.

      That being the case, these waters, which purified Adam, and maybe too Eve, as well as Abraham and Sarah, and most likely King David also, are a direct link from the beginning of time, through this very day. Water symbolizes life, for without water there is no life. This spring represents our life, as a people, as a nation, continuing to flow, without stopping, for thousands of years. That is our essence: life, purity and an uninterrupted flow of holiness. This is Hebron, from the Hebrew root ‘lechaber’ – to join together, to unify – bonding us from conception of our world, to the present.

      As such, it’s no wonder that Ron’s life was saved by a miracle at this wondrous place: the spring of Creation.

      Photos and video: David Wilder

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