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.
Many years ago, I have no idea what year it was, sometime after 1981, I remember being at Beit Hadassah, it was probably during one of the holidays. Standing outside was Rabbi Moshe Levinger, taking in the scene. Which was, dozens of children playing outside. I could almost feel his fulfillment, seeing all these kids playing in Hebron.
Years later, after I’d begun working with the community, I remember seeing an article by a prominent journalist, who’d interviewed me, and a neighboring Arab. I have no idea what I said during the interview, but I’ve never forgotten the Arab’s words. He told the journalist that he knew the Jews were back in Hebron to stay. Why? ‘Look at the children, I see the children, I see their eyes.’
For many years now I’ve photographed Hebron’s Purim events, when everyone gets dressed up in costumes. Once in a while, a few days before it all starts, I take a deep breath and ask myself if I really want to do this again. After all, I have, probably, thousands of Purim photos. But, when the day arrives, and I get out the camera, I’m never sorry.
Purim officially begins on Saturday night, but for me, it started today. This morning, all Hebron’s children wore their costumes, and came dressed up to school. I spent the morning running from day-care, to nursery school, to kindergarten, and then to the playground, photographing the bubbly, bouncing, kids, in their Purim best. And I realized that it was the kind of occasion you never get tired of, no matter how many times you repeat it.
Why? Just one child, with a huge grin on his or her face, posing for a picture, while proudly telling me what they’re dressed up as, well, it makes your whole world light up. A group of little girls, dressed as brides or ballerinas, singing and dancing, falling on the floor and getting up, a couple of lions, roaring as they chase one another, Mordechais and Esthers, policemen, soldiers, and medieval knights, you name it, that’s what they are. They treat me, not to a breath of fresh air, rather to a breath of fresh, new life.
As I was photographing the kids and uploading material to facebook and our web site, our neighbors were hurling rocks at Beit Hadassah, Beit Romano and Israeli security forces in the area. They are protesting the closing of a kilometer of road on the Jewish side of the city. They call it Shuhada – we call it King David Street. It’s the only place in Hebron they have no access to – they have access to 97% of the city. We have access to only 3% of Hebron. Their demonstrations include slingshots, rocks and firebombs. A guest here, celebrating their daughter’s Bat Mitzvah by giving pizza and cake to soldiers, asked me if all they have are rocks. I answered, ‘no, but that’s all they’re using today.’ And it’s true. They’re saving whatever else they have for bigger and better occasions.
So, knowing that, what keeps us going?
I guess we each have our own idea, but for me, seeing these children, so happy, so carefree, so delighted, it’s worth more than a day of sunshine. Each child is like a sunbeam, streaming down on us, filling me with an energy that’s indescribable.
So, someone might ask, what’s the difference between Purim and other costume holidays that others celebrate around the world?
Very simply: Purim is a festival of pure, unadulterated faith. An evil person, aided by a seemingly all-powerful ruler, wanted to annihilate the Jews. They came very close to succeeding. Those around didn’t see any way out. It was, as they say, all over. But G-d wasn’t about to let that happen. As hidden as He seemed to be, actually He was there, all the time. Sometimes you see Him, sometimes you don’t, but He’s there, if you know it or not.
Only two people, Mordechai and Esther, battled against the Ahmadinajed who lived thousands of years ago. How could only two be victorious against such a strong, but wicked leader, who had then the equivalent of today’s atomic bomb on his side? They did what they could, and prayed, and had faith in the L-rd above, and they won the war. The Jews were saved, and the result of that episode was the return to Israel, to Jerusalem and the rebuilding of the Temple, Beit HaMikdash.
Our struggles against the Hamans of the 21st century aren’t fought by only two. Today, back home in our land, all of us, men, women and children, by our very being in Israel, is tangible evidence of the Divine presence, which hovers above us, ensuring our everlasting life in Israel. The very fact that that, against all odds, Jewish children celebrate Purim in Hebron, is in and of itself proof; who could have ever imagined, 70 years ago, Jewish children in Hebron?
Years ago, during the intifada, called the Oslo war, a group of men wanted to visit Hebron on Purim. We rented a bullet-proof bus, and supplied them with helmets and vests, as they requested. After all, snipers were shooting at us from the surrounding hills. Such precautions were a logical necessity.
As the bus entered Kiryat Arba the men put on their paraphernalia . Then, arriving in Hebron, they looked out the bus window and saw….
Dozens of children, running around outside, in their Purim attire, playing games at the Avraham Avinu neighborhood Purim carnival. They looked at the kids, looked at themselves, took off the vests and helmets, and then stepped off the bus, into the throng of kids.
That’s the power of Purim, that’s the power of Hebron, that’s the power of children.
Many years ago, when I first came to Israel, I lived on the Rav Berlin Street in Jerusalem. I later learned that the name “Berlin” belonged to a great Torah sage, Rabbi Naftali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin, known as the ‘Netziv.’ Years later I knew his great grandson, a Torah scholar with the same name, presently a Rabbi in Rechovot. Except that the last name, Berlin, had been Hebraized to Bar Ilan.
The ‘Netziv’ was known to be a huge sage, whose published books are standard works amongst Torah students worldwide. He was also a great lover of Eretz Yisrael, the land of Israel. When the Russians forcibly closed his Yeshiva in Volozhin in 1892, he planned to move to the holy land. Unfortunately, illness and his passing prevented this dream from becoming reality. But a number of his principal students did move to Israel and became Rabbinic giants: for example, Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak HaKohen Kook, Israel’s first chief rabbi, Rabbi Moshe Mordechai Epstein, later dean of the ‘Hebron Yeshiva,’ Rabbi Issur Zalman Meltzer and others.
Rabbi Berlin was also a strong supporter of the ‘Chovevei Tzion – Lover’s of Zion’ movement, which furthered aliya and settlement of the Land of Israel.
Additionally, the Netziv’s son, Rabbi Meir Bar Ilan, a Torah scholar in his own right, was an outstanding leader within the ‘Mizrachi’ movement, who voted against Herzel’s Uganda plan at the seventh Zionist Congress, and worked strenuously for Jewish independence from the British in Israel. He moved to Jerusalem in 1923. He was also instrumental in founding the Bar Ilan University in Ramat Gan, Israel. According the American Mizrachi movement, "The name Bar-Ilan was chosen, in honor of Rabbi Meir Bar-Ilan (Berlin), a spiritual leader who led traditional Judaism from the ashes of Europe to rebirth and renaissance in the Land of Israel."
Our new Justice minister, Tzippy Livni, grew up on the knees of Jabotinsky and Eretz Yisrael. Her father and mother, Eitan and Sara Livni, were active members of the Irgun in the pre-state Israel, working to expel the British conquers from this Land. Before he died, Livni requested that the Irgun emblem be engraved on this tombstone.
Yesterday, upon notification of Tzippy Livni’s joining of his budding coalition government, Bibi Netanyahu announced that not only would she be Justice minister, but also head up negotiations with Abu Mazen and the Arabs. In her own words, "You all know my commitment to peace between Israel and its neighbors and to the two-state solution, a commitment shared with the majority of the Israeli public.” And, "The dispute is around the question of whether you can have it both ways -– maintaining Israel as a Jewish state and keeping the entire Land of Israel."
This woman is very very dangerous. She is very smart, whose ideology centers on her appetite for power. She left the Likud, following Sharon like a puppy. She later abandoned Kadima after losing leadership to Shaul Mufaz, formed a new party and announced that she’d never sit in a Netanyahu government. And she is willing to chop up Israel in a blink. She was a great supporter of the Gush Katif expulsion.
She and Netanyahu seem to have a lot in common. He too has no tangible ideology to speak of, he is determined to remain in the Prime Minister’s office as long as possible, and has already proven his loyalty to Eretz Yisrael. See: Hebron Accords and Wye.
The Bibi-Tzippy coupling, as he has declared, focuses on the catastrophic 2009 Bar Ilan speech, when Netanyahu officially recognized a ‘two-state solution,’ thereby granting legitimacy to a ‘palestinian people,’ a palestinian state’ and division of the State of Israel. The Prime Minister says that Livni will be ‘representing him,’ and negotiating for him.’ In other words, he’ll pull the strings and Tzippy will move her mouth.
But we know it doesn’t always work that way. Rabin, as Prime Minister, didn’t initiate Oslo. Peres did.
At present, a final Bibi-Tzippy coalition could look like this: Likud – 31 mandates, Tzippy – 6, Avodah-Shelli – 15, Shas – 10, Agudat Yisrael – 7, Mufaz – 2. – By my count, that’s 71. Maybe Lapid will also join. And the Jewish Home will be able to sit back and watch them take apart Israel. Horror at its worst.
I wouldn’t be surprised, if every time that Bibi, or anyone else, mentions the ‘Bar-Ilan plan,’ Rabbi Naftali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin, and his son, Rabbi Meir Bar Ilan, roll around in their graves, with tears in their eyes. How could such a suicidal, destructive initiative take the name of such lovers of our land? I hope and pray that they will stand before our L-rd in Heaven and beseech Him to put an end to this madness before it gets out of hand. We are in need of another Purim miracle, fast.
Well, the election is history. The results weren’t exactly what we’d have prayed for, nor were they what we expected. The polls showed slightly different results. On the other hand, despite errors similar to those made in 1992, the left-wing dream of a ’mahapach,’ that is a ’revolution,’ a changing of the guard, a total defeat of the ruling prime minister, didn’t happen. The new coalition might not be as ’right’ as the present government, but it won’t be Rabin-Peres – 1992.
However, this time around, history was made. For the first time, Hebron has a representative in the Knesset. This is of no small significance.
Over the years, the Hebron community has played a major role in Israeli life and Israeli politics. Beginning with Rabbi Moshe Levinger and Rabbi Eliezer Waldman, under the guidance of Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook, Hebron developed, materially and spiritually. Over the years, the community was led by such outstanding leaders as Menachem Livni, Yechiel Leiter, Yehuda Rider, Ze’ev ’Zambish’ Hever, Avraham Ben Yosef, Rabbi Hillel Horowitz, Noam Arnon and others.
Another one of the unsung heroes of Hebron’s rebirth, is a 52 year old woman with 11 children and as many grandchildren.
Orit Struk grew up in Jerusalem. While in high school she became religious and later spent much time with Rabbi Chaim Druckman and his family.
After marrying Rabbi Avraham Struk, the couple lived the first year of their married life in Yamit, prior and during the expulsion. They then moved to Hebron, where they’ve lived for over 30 years. For a number of years Orit led Hebron’s legal and political departments and acted as a spokesperson for the community.
Witnessing the travesty of justice following expulsions from communities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, Orit founded the Organization for Human Rights in Judea and Samaria. This was the first, and only human rights organization dealing with massive police brutality against Jews. As a result, dozens of police were brought to trial, many of whom were convicted, fined and/or fired.
According to her official bio page on the Bayit Yehuda web site:Within this organization, she waged a struggle against police violence, including PID complaints and civil suits against police officers who attacked settlers and right-wing activists. She has published reports and studies which demonstrated a professional, scientific and statistical approach, detailing the discrimination and breakdown of the rule of law against residents of Judea and Samaria. She revealed the conduct of a withering law enforcement system against demonstrators of the Gush Katif expulsion, and subsequently initiated and led the amnesty law for opponents of the expulsion. She led legal battles, public and parliamentary, against restraining orders, confiscation of weapons, violations of legal rights of children, property rights, police brutality during expulsion from outposts, violation of the rights of detainees, and violation of the right to protest.
Over the past few years, Orit acted as director of the Land of Israel caucus and lobby in the Knesset, which consisting of 42 MKs. They successfully waged campaigns against the building freeze and other governmental policies. They also brought about Israel’s declaration of Ma’arat HaMacpela, the Tomb of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs, and Rachel's Tomb, as national heritage sites. They passed the "boycott law" and led a governmental change of policy and legal position on the issue of the outposts, while promoting the establishment of the Justice Edmond Levi commission.
Orit Struk with Gideon Saar, Noam Arnon and Avraham Ben Yosef outside Machpela
A few days ago, Orit Struk was elected to the Knesset on the ‘Bayit Yehudi – Jewish Home list.
The Knesset, beginning in February, 1949, celebrates its ‘birthday’ tomorrow, on the holiday of Tu B’Shvat. Actually though, the roots of today’s ruling body began thousands of years ago, here in Hebron. Here, Abraham established the rules of ‘Chesed,’ of lovingkindness. Yitzhak initiated the traits of ‘Gevurah,’ strength and heroism. Ya’akov commenced Beit Yisrael, the house of Israel, Am Yisrael, the Jewish people.
But we must remember, Hebron was not only home to our Patriarchs and Matriarchs. Hebron was also the site of the beginning of the Davidic monarchy. David ruled in Hebron for seven and a half years, following the death of Saul in a war with the Philistines. Here commenced the first ’Knesset’, the Kingdom of David, the real roots of eternal Jewish rule in Israel.
It is fitting, as the State of Israel approaches its 65th birthday, that finally, Hebron is officially represented in our national parliament. Orit Struk is a worthy delegate of Hebron’s Jewish community. Her public activity, leadership, and personal example are a shining paradigm of how today a Jew can and should live in Israel.
We wish her much success in her new position, for her achievements will be a triumph for Hebron, the State of Israel, and all Am Yisrael.
This morning I received word that an unusual event was abouttotake place. Former Foreign Minister Avigdor Yvette Lieberman was coming tovisitin Hebron.
Why unusual? Numerous diplomats, including ministers and MKsvisitHebron fairly frequently. What was different this time wasthepersonality, the visitor. I have no recollection when was the last time Lieberman visited Hebron.
He lives in Gush Etzion, about a half hour from here. He’shadfairly significant positions for quite a while, but doesn’t frequent Hebron.
Actually, immediately after leaving his car, surrounded by amassof pushing, shoving cameras, he stopped for a moment and revealed thereasonof thisvisit. He told that on election day, in 1996, when he was one of Netanyahu’s chief honchos, after the polls closed, when the results weren’tlookinggreat for Bibi, he decided to come to Ma’arat HaMachpela in Hebron.
Poignantlyhedescribed receiving a phone call while standing on the outside stairs, withinformationthat the numbers seemed to have changed, that Bibi was winning.
His party entered the building, prayed, and upon leaving received another call sayingthatthe results were final. Bibi was PM. (Big smile).
So, it seems that this time the former FM decided to comeandpray before that fact, rather than after.
The big question is, what was he praying for?
Various articles are showing the Likud Beitenu party formingacoalition with the ‘Center Left,’ preferringMufaz, Livni and Lapid to Shas and Bennett.
Maybe he was praying for enoughvotesto be able to put that together.
Or maybe he has information we don’t, showing that his partycouldconceivably lose.
Doesn’t seem likely.
But he did announce that should he be convicted of fraud, hewillleave politics. Guys like Lieberman really don’t want to walk away fromjobslike his. So maybe he was praying for acquittal.
He didn’t tell anyone. But, in the Abraham and Sarahhall,afterchasing out the reporters and photographers, following some Psalms andafternoon Mincha prayers, a special prayer ofthanksgiving, recited every Shabbat, was repeated, praising G-d for all his goodness.
Noam Arnon and I tried to get in a word edgewise. We both,briefly, mentioned the disgraceful situation atMachpeladue to the refusal toallowus to roof the open courtyard. A few days ago the useless tent above thecourtyarddripped water and snow onto prayer books and chairs, soaking everything. Usually,duringheavy rain, the site floods.
Lieberman heard us, and murmured something about ‘remembering’this. I wasn’t overly impressed.
Leaving the building, again being photographed from everywhichdirection, he refused to say anything to the many journalists who hadbeeninvited to participate in the visit. Lieberman also didn’t see anynecessityto visit any of the other sites, or neighborhoods in Hebron. Hejumpedinto his car and drove off.
We had some other questions for him, but didn’t have achanceto ask. For example, his statement that the ‘2- state solution’ will beapillar of the next Netanyahu government’s policy. We wanted to know what, inhisopinion, would happen to Ma’arat HaMachpela and Hebron should this policybe, G-d forbid, implemented.
But we didn’t get a chance to ask.
Before elections politicians tend to do strange things thatwouldnever enter their minds to do at any other time. Like, in this case, cometoHebron. It would have been nice had the former FM exclaimed, even during anelection campaign, that ‘Hebron withbeJewish forever’, or ‘we will neverabandonour Patriarchs and Matriarchs.’ But,nyet. Nada.
I sort of got the feeling that Lieberman was playing anupdatedversion of reverse Russian roulette. Spinning the barrel, letting the bullet fallinto placeand then pull the trigger. Come into Hebron, mutter some words at aholyplace, and then wait for the results, hoping the prayers hit home.
I have another feeling that Avigdor Yvette Lieberman isgoingto need more than that before he’s able to take his seat in the nextgovernment. Otherwise, he’s liable to take a seat next to Katzav in Ramla, theplaceleft empty when Deri went home.