He Ru Follow us: Make a7 your Homepage
      Free Daily Israel Report
      Blessings from Hebron
      by David Wilder
      Personal Reflections on Hebron, Eretz Yisrael, Friends, Family and anything else that comes to mind.
      Email Me
      Subscribe to this blog’s RSS feed

      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)

      Kislev 15, 5772, 12/11/2011

      Facts are the Archenemy of Lies

      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.

      Representative Alan Clemmons at Ma'arat HaMachpela in Hebron

      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]



      Alan Clemmons outside Ma''arat HaMachpela in Hebron
      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.

      Representative Alan Clemmons outside the Tomb of Ruth and Jesse in Hebron
      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.

      Representative Alan Clemmons in 1,500 year old synagogue in Hebron

      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.

      Representative Alan Clemmons in Hebron
      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 alan@alanclemmons.com, 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

      A ´Shekhi´ Chaye Sarah in Hebron

      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

      Cheshvan 20, 5772, 11/17/2011

      A free people in our land – Hebron

      Several years ago, on the anniversary of the liberation of Hebron in 1967, I was interviewed by a journalist who queried me about various problems facing Hebron’s Jewish community. His concluding question/statement was, “Well, I guess you’re not celebrating today?”

      “Why not?” I replied.

      “Well, you have all these problems and issues, how can you celebrate?”

      “You just don’t understand,” I answered. “Look at where were we 70 years ago, or 60 years ago. Were we in Hebron? Today I’m here, in the first Jewish city in Israel. I live here, I work here, I’m bringing up my children here. This is my home. True, we have problems. There are ups and downs. Issues must be dealt with. And they will be overcome. But I’m here. And as long as I’m here, I have what to celebrate, and that’s exactly what I’m doing today!”

      One of our most special celebrations will occur this weekend. The Torah portion of Hayei Sarah, otherwise known as “Shabbat Hebron,” is an extraordinary event. It is not an ordinary shabbat (which in Hebron is also unique). Rather, it is an event.

      Over the past decade, some 20,000 people a year have capitalized on this special Sabbath to crowd into Hebron and nearby Kiryat Arba to rejoice. Starting on Friday morning, Israelis young and old will begin flocking to the city. Jews from the United States and other countries fly to Israel to be in Hebron for this exceptional occasion.

      Well over six months prior to this Sabbath we begin receiving phone calls and emails requesting places to sleep and eat on this auspicious day. Dozens of tents are pitched outside Me’arat Hamachpela, the Cave of the Patriarchs, and Matriarchs. Public buildings are transformed into dormitories, with separate facilities for men and women. It’s the only time of the year when my living room is wall-to-wall people sleeping on the floor.

      One year, on Saturday night, a young woman walked into our kitchen to thank my wife. She asked what for. The woman said she had slept in one of our rooms. We had no idea she was there, or where she slept, because the room was already packed.

      A huge tent is constructed outside the Avraham Avinu neighborhood, providing meals thousands of guests. Literally every nook and cranny in Hebron is utilized, with people sleeping and eating wherever they can find a few free meters.

      All hours of the day and night the streets are full of people walking to and from the various neighborhoods in Hebron. Saturday afternoon, multitudes tour the city, visiting the Hebron Heritage Museum at Beit Hadassah, the tomb of Jesse and Ruth in Tel Rumeida, and the Avraham Avinu synagogue in the Avraham Avinu neighborhood. Special Casba tours are also included in the day’s agenda.

      The heart of the day’s events takes place at Me’arat Hamachpela. On Friday night, literally thousands of people gather at this holy site, inside and out, to offer joyous Sabbath prayers. Singing and dancing during a huge “Carlebach minyan,” conducted in the Machpela courtyard, is unbelievably uplifting.

      But the pinnacle and actual raison d’être for the ingathering begins early Saturday morning.

      By 5:15 a.m., thousands make their way to early morning prayers at the Machpela. The entire building is open to Jewish worshipers, including “Ohel Yitzhak,” the Isaac Hall, available to Jews only ten days during the year. The first vatikin service, with the sunrise, is a spiritually inspirational way to start the day.

      However, the peak takes place about an hour into the service. A Torah scroll is removed from the Holy Ark and opened. The first person, usually a cohen, or priest, is called up to the Torah. Following recitation of a blessing, the reader begins:

      “And the life of Sarah was a hundred and seven and twenty years; these were the years of the life of Sarah. And Sarah died in Kiryat Arba –the same is Hebron – in the land of Canaan; and Abraham came to mourn for Sarah, and to weep for her... and Abraham weighed to Ephron the silver...four hundred shekels of silver... And Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of Machpelah before Mamre – the same is Hebron – in the land of Canaan...” (Gen: 23, 1-20).

      HERE, AT Machpela in Hebron, some 3,800 years ago, Abraham, the first Jew, purchases the first Jewish property in Eretz Yisrael, the Land of Israel. It is an amazing thought: here we are, almost 4,000 years later, the offspring of the first Jew, present at that very site which we read about in the Torah. It is all the more astonishing considering that fact that this sacred site was off-limits to Jews for seven centuries, following the 1267 Mamluk conquest of Israel. Only since our return to Hebron in 1967 has this holy place again accessible to any and all who wish to visit or worship here.

      If that isn’t a reason to celebrate, what is?

      As a result of political anti-Semitism, the first Jewish site of national heritage has become an object of international controversy. UNESCO has recognized our first holy site as a “Palestinian heritage site,” demanding it be removed from Israel's list of “national heritage sites.”

      Should this site again be placed under Muslim control, Jews (and Christians) will no longer be allowed to enter and worship at this holy place, as was the case for 700 years, as the Arabs consider it to be a mosque. According to Islam, only Muslims may enter and pray in a mosque.

      Support for a continued Jewish presence in Hebron and at Machpela is tangible. Some half a million visitors of all religions visit Hebron and Machpela annually, letting their feet do the talking. Polls show that almost 90 percent of Israelis reject relinquishing Me’arat Hamachpela. Rejection of Hebron and Me’arat Hamachpela is equivalent to chopping off our roots. And we all know what happens to a tree when you sever its roots.

      Shabbat Hayei Sarah in Hebron is an affirmation of our people’s right to live and worship freely in our land. This is the embodiment of the Israeli national anthem, Hatikva: Lehiot am hofshi, b’artzeinu – to be a free people in our land. Can we be a free people in our land without the first Jewish city in Israel; without free, unlimited worship at the first Jewish holy site in our land?

      This Sabbath, some 20,000 people from Israel and around the world will answer that question, at Machpela, in Hebron.

      The writer is a spokesman for the Jewish community of Hebron.This article is dedicated to the memory of Rabbi Sholom DovBer Goldshmid, who passed away last week. Born in Hebron 86 years ago, he survived the 1929 Hebron massacre, but his father, Moshe, was killed at their home. He loved Hebron with all his heart and soul. May his memory be blessed.

      Printed in the Jerusalem Post http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Op-EdContributors/Article.aspx?id=245849

      Tishrei 25, 5772, 10/23/2011

      The View from the Abu Netanyahu Hills

      Time sure flies. Just yesterday we were preparing for Rosh HaShana, the Jewish New Year. Preparations in Hebron are two-fold: Private and Public. On the private side, each to his own, introspection, an examination of the past year, the good and the not so good, trying to figure out what to do differently next year. Prayer, supplication, mixed with song and dance, in an effort to ensure self-improvement on all different levels.

      Thousands at Ma'arat HaMachpela in Hebron - Succot, 2011
      But in Hebron, there's also public preparation. Getting ready for the tens of thousands who flock to Ma'arat HaMachpela, the tomb of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs. For a month prior to Rosh HaShana, through the high holy days, to Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, following into the joy of Succot, the feast of Tabernacles. The festive worship services, the music festival, children's plays and activities, thousands upon thousands walking the streets of Hebron. During this time alone, over the week-long Succot holiday, well over 50,000 people visited Hebron. Over the month and a half we probably came close to 100,000. That's a lot of people. Very exciting, very invigorating and refreshing, very supporting, very addictive. You want to see it happen again, and again, and again.
      In conjunction with our United States partner, the Hebron Fund, this Succot we offered a special VIP tour to select supporters. Two busloads of friends, mostly from the United States, participated in this unique event. They attended an exceptional luncheon at the Yeshivat Shavei Hebron succah, and heard a particularly moving speech from Hebron's police chief, Arnon Friedman. In the past, relationships between police and Hebron citizens were such that the last person expected to speak at a Hebron event would have been a police officer. However, times have changed. You can see and hear Friedman's address here
      . Also talking to the visitors were Hebron Mayor Avraham Ben Yosef and Rabbi Simcha Hochbaum.

      Police Chief Arnon Friedman with Hebron Fund Director Ari Lieberman
      Additionally the group had special access to Ma'arat HaMachpela, and also attended the dedication of 'the Ayal Park,' in memory of our beloved resident, Ayal Noked, who passed away a few months ago, not yet forty years old, leaving a wife and ten children. One of Ayal's dreams was the 'greening of Hebron,' and as such, dedicating a park in his memory, in the hopes of continuing his holy work, was more than fitting.
      However, the highlight of the day was an exclusive event, that being a trip up the hill to the south of Hebron's Jewish community, known as Abu Sneneh. In the past, prior to the 1997 Hebron Accords which split the city, this area was readily accessible to Jewish visitors. However when Hebron was divided, this area was transferred to Arab control. On the brink of the hill, overlooking the city, a 'joint' Israeli – Arab patrol, in two jeeps, kept a constant lookout over the city. However, when the second Intifada, or the Oslo War, as we call it, began, the Israeli jeep disappeared and the Arabs stayed. The hill became a source of shooting attacks on the Jewish community for two and a half years. It was from this hill that Shalhevet Pass was shot and killed.

      Visitors atop Abu Sneneh Hill during Succot holiday
      Since the end of that war the hill has been under Israeli military control, with a small base providing protection, preventing renewal of those shooting attacks at Jewish Hebron below.
      Civilians don't have frequent access to this site; once a year, during the eight days of Hanukkah, a large Menorah, built on the edge of the hill, is lit nightly. That's about the only time during the year we make the climb up the hill (in a jeep, not by foot). This year though, we received permission to take our group of VIP visitors on a short tour of Hebron from the top of Abu Sneneh.

      The Avraham Avinu neighborhood from Abu Sneneh Hills
      Usually I enjoy the trip to Abu Sneneh. It's a great place to get fabulous photos. With my equipment I can get close-ups of the neighborhoods and Ma'arat HaMachpela. Kiryat Arba, kilometers in the distance, turns into a stone's throw away. The pictures are stunning. And the visitors had a great time. None of them had ever before experienced viewing Hebron from above. Together with full explanations by Noam Arnon, the visit was a real success and a great way to reward loyal friends.
      But truthfully, this time around, I left with hill with an unsettling, troublesome feeling.
      Keep in mind, the talk of the day centered around one subject alone, that being Gilad Shalt. Hundreds of terrorist murderers were about to be released for our Israeli POW, held captive by Hamas for over five years. The deal was extremely controversial. Letting hundreds of murderers out of jail, for one person, could almost be called an act of desperation. Clearly the decision-makers reached a breaking point of 'now or never.' Shalit's life was in their hands. Do or die. 

      Families of terrorist victims, felt betrayed. Rightly so. They had been promised that the killers of their loved ones would never again see the light of day. And around the country, citizens, understanding the implications of blood-thirsty terrorists again roaming the streets, feared the worst. The question was, where they would hit first. The idea of their return to terror is not, and was not, a question. It is a given.
      My queasiness though, didn't so much stem from the terrorists' freedom. Its cause was the source of that liberation: Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. If Netanyahu had the guts, and also the despair to make such a decision, what might be next? 
      Back in 1996-1997 Hebron's Jewish community pulled just about every string possible to prevent the accords from being signed and implemented. We made a movie showing the bloody results of shooting from Abu Sneneh. We were labeled as paranoid scaredy cats. After all, peace had arrived. Then Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu promised his hesitant ministers, 'if one shot is fired at them, I'll send up the tanks. You think I'd endanger the life of one Jew in Hebron?!?'
      Endanger he did. Two and half years of gunfire, until the tanks were sent in. And of course he was no longer Prime Minister when the shooting started, or when it ended.
      So the big question is, in my mind, what's next? If this Prime Minister was able to send hundreds of killers home-free, for one Israeli soldier, how much guts, or despair, would it take to give Abu Sneneh back to the Arabs? How much American/UN/European/Russian/ pressure would it take to roll back the clock to the days pre-Oslo War, in Hebron and throughout Judea and Samaria?

      Kiryat Arba from Abu Sneneh Hills
      As I looked down at the Avraham Avinu neighborhood, at people entering Ma'arat HaMachpela, at Kiryat Arba, at Yeshivat Shavei Hebron, that question reverberated through my head, and through my body. 'This is what the terrorists saw, this is where they took aim and shot at us. A terrorist with a good scope can see into people's windows, into cars, kids walking on the street. Will it happen again?'
      That's the big question: will history repeat itself, will we be forced to live through it again?
      After Shalhevet was killed, we renamed the area the 'Shalhevet Hills.' The name didn't really stick. I sure hope we don't have to change the name again. For the time being, I might call them the Abu Netanyahu hills, just to remind Bibi. He doesn't have to make do with my photos. He should come and see first-hand the view from the Abu Netanyahu Hills before any other kind of 'Gilad Shalit decisions' about Hebron, or Judea and Samaria. Maybe it would shake him up enough to discard the thought of relinquishing Israeli control here again, forever.

      Tishrei 16, 5772, 10/14/2011

      What would Rabbi Meir say?

      The Succot holiday has arrived. As we say in Hebrew – ‘Chag Sameach’ – Happy Holiday. Succot has a uniquely special characteristic – it is a time of great joy. It is considered to be the ‘happiest’ of the Jewish holidays, coming after the intense holy days of Rosh HaShana, the New Year, Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, and the entire month preceding these, as a time of concentrated preparation.
      Now, with those past, we can sing and dance, celebrating Eretz Yisrael, living in small ‘booths,’ while participating in joyous worship services.

      Yet this Succot, our festivity is somewhat dulled. The announcement that Gilad Shalit will soon be released is certainly a cause for overwhelming gratitude and happiness. But the price, release of 1,000 terrorists, of whom, according to past statistics, sixty percent will return to terror activities, is not a reason to celebrate. To the contrary.

      The Shalit agreement is a done deal. There isn’t too much we can do to prevent it. Past experience shows that the courts will not stop the exchange. Next week, barring unforeseen circumstances, it will happen.

      That being the case, I can only but express, in my opinion, a couple of elements missing from this disgraceful surrender by Israel to terrorists. If it has to be, at least is should include at least two other factors.

      The first, I’ve already seen others speaking of. According to published reports, Interior minister Eli Yishai is demanding the release of Jewish ‘terrorists,’ that is, Jews who have been convicted of perpetrating crimes against Arabs. A list of such people has been prepared by my friend and neighbor, ‘Zangi’ Medad, the head of the Honenu organization, which works to defend Jews accused of any and all crimes under the sun.

      Medad and Yishai are to be commended. It goes without saying: if hundreds of Arab terrorists, convicted of murdering, maiming and wounding hundreds and thousands of Jews, with the intent to destroy the State of Israel are being released from prison, so why not release a few Jews too?

      Are they worse than the Arabs? Of course not. These people are not terrorists, nor are they ‘common criminals.’ These are people who, as a result of continued Jewish bloodshed, reacted. The manner in which they chose to react is not commonly accepted by Jews or Israelis; the fact is, the number of such ‘criminals’ is miniscule. If people really believed that this was the way to solve our dilemmas, ‘taking the law into their own hands,’ the numbers would be much much larger.

      People do make mistakes. It certainly would be preferable that the Arab terrorists be left to rot in Israeli jails, or better yet, be executed for their deadly crimes. But being that Israel sees fit to release 1,000 for one, there’s no reason to leave Jewish Israelis in prison.

      But this is only one side of the coin. There is another side, which I have yet to see mentioned.

      What about Jonathan Pollard?

      Pollard wasn’t convicted of murder. He didn’t harm anyone. He was convicted of ‘spying’ for a friendly ally of the United States. He has expressed regret for his actions. If Israel can release so many evil individuals, with blood on their hands, creatures who have committed the worst of crimes, how can the United States continue to hold Pollard in jail?

      There shouldn’t be any mistake made. I’m not, in any way, shape or form, comparing Pollard to Arab terrorists, or to Jewish convicts. He doesn’t fit into these categories . But his release is no less humanitarian than that of Shalit’s. Were he being held by any other country in the world, the United States would be in the forefront of the attempts to have him released.

      In truth, Pollard, similar to Gilad Shalit, is a Prisoner of War. Jonathan Pollard did not spy to get rich. He didn’t have any evil illusions about destroying the United States. He was a Jew, in a position to help Israel against deadly enemies, wishing to annihilate another few million Jews. His only concern was to help Israel survive. For that, he is paying an enormous price. Shalit has been in a Hamas dungeon for five years. And Pollard? In an American dungeon for almost 9,500 hundred days.

      Netanyahu has spoken at length over the past few days about leadership. He, today, following agreement to free terrorist murderers, must demand of the United States, to simultaneously release Jonathan Pollard from the pit in which he is being held captive. As Shalit crosses into Israel and terrorists are freed, so too, the United States must do its part, and let Jonathan come home too, to Israel. At least that. Not 1,027 for one, rather 1,027 for two.

      Last night, coming home from my daughter’s home in Eshtamoa in the southern Hebron Hills, we were discussing the deal. One of my sons, who has also served in a combat unit, was resolute, exclaiming, ‘you would never do that because of me.’ In other words, he said, should I ever become a captive of the enemy (G-d forbid), I wouldn’t want you to demand the release of hundreds and thousands of murderers and terrorists, whose freedom would cost so many more Jewish lives.

      I certainly hope and pray that I’m never put in a situation where I would have to face such a test. What I do know is that some seven hundred and twenty years ago, Rabbi Meir of Rothenburg, one of the greatest Jewish scholars of his time, died in prison after being held captive for seven years. An enormous ransom was demanded for his release and according to tradition, some 23,000 silver marks were collected for his freedom. Yet he refused to allow this money to be paid, fearing it would result in further imprisonment of others, as a way to extort huge amounts of money from Jews. And today: what would Rabbi Meir say?

      There will be many Israelis crying next week, as Shalit crosses the border. Not tears of joy, rather tears of anguish, seeing their loved-one's murderers go free. At the very least, the very very least, we should have some small sense of something positive, seeing not only Shalit, but also, Jonathan, coming home too.