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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)

      Adar Bet 2, 5771, 3/8/2011

      The Battle for Hebron

      It is true: there is apartheid, discrimination and security biases in Hebron. They are, however, directed not against the Arabs, rather against the Jews
      This week has been declared, by some of Israel’s enemies, as “Israel Apartheid Week.” I’ve seen some of the material being distributed, and of course, Hebron is granted the dubious honor as one of the best examples of so-called Israeli apartheid, discriminating against Arabs. This is another one of those international fairytales, utilized with very specific goals. The primary aim in using Hebron is the ‘judenreinization’ of the Jewish people’s second holiest city.
      Some of the claims being made against Jewish Hebron and the State of Israel:
      1)    The main road (Rt.60) is only open to Jews. Arabs must use side roads.
      This is a lie. Rt. 60, from Jerusalem to Hebron, and going south to Beer Sheva, was closed to Arabs during the Oslo War (aka 2nd Intifada) due to numerous ‘drive-by shootings’ and murder of Jews. However, the road was reopened to all traffic, Jewish and Arab, a number of years ago, and so it remains accessible to all. 
      It must be noted that Jewish vehicles are still attacked on an almost daily basis, with Arabs hurling huge rocks at passing cars in various places, such as El-Arrub, Halhul and other areas close to the entrance to Hebron.

      2)    Access to Kiryat Arba is restricted
      This is true. Security in Kiryat Arba is very heavy as a result of terror attacks within the community. This week we will mark the seventh anniversary of the murders of Rabbi Eli and Dina Horowitz, who were brutally killed in their Kiryat Arba home by Arab terrorists. Therefore, access is restricted in order to prevent further terror attacks. Arabs have access to the “Jewish zone” of Hebron, called H-2, via checkpoints leading from the H-1, Arab-controlled zone.
      3)    Concerning accessibility issues:
      a.    Following signing and implementation of the Hebron accords in January, 1997,Israel maintained security control in about 20% of the city, with 80% being totally under Arab rule. However, administratively, all of Hebron, including the "Jewish zone" remained under Arab - PA control. When the community needed to install water pipes in the roads, Arafat's permission was needed and he refused.

      b.      Additionally, Jews today have access to about 3% of Hebron, while Arabs have access to 97% of the city. In other words, Arabs can cross back and forth between both sides of Hebron - from H1 to H2 and back. Jews are not allowed in H1. And even in the Jewish side, H2, there are areas off limits to Jews, such as the Kasba, where Jews can visit once a week, on Shabbat, and only with IDF escort. Jewish holy sites, such as the tombs of Otniel ben Knaz and Avner ben Ner are off-limits to Jewish visitors.

      c.    As for the ‘shuk’ or old Arab market: These buildings were built on Jewish property purchased in 1807 by Rabbi Haim Bajaio, for the Hebron community. (That is accepted even by the Israeli courts.)The market buildings were constructed in the 1960s following the Arabs’ razing of the ancient Jewish Quarter, which had existed there since the middle 1500s. The market was closed for security reasons, over a period of years, and finally in 2001 after Arabs terrorists planted a bomb in a teddy bear between the market and the Avraham Avinu  neighborhood. Fortunately soldiers found it before a child did.
      d.    Concerning King David Street (aka Shuhada Street, the road of the martyrs): This road was open to Arab traffic prior to the Oslo War. It was closed to Arab traffic following numerous terror attacks, including a suicide bomber who exploded and killed two people on this road. The only area of Hebron that is inaccessible to Arabs is a stretch of about a kilometer and a half. A bypass route is accessible. Excepting this, all of Hebron is open to Arabs.
      e.    Concerning the shops on this road: these were closed by the IDF due the security threat they posed. This too was approved by the Israeli supreme court. They have remained closed do the continued security threat in the city.
      4) There is another very significant issue which must be addressed. That is continued Arab building and renovations in Hebron, as compared to Jewish building.
      Jewish building is totally disallowed within the Jewish-controlled parts of Hebron. Building permits must be signed by the Defense minister, the Prime Minister and in many cases, also approved by the cabinet or a special cabinet subcommittee. It has been six years since the last building constructed was finished in the H-2, Israeli controlled area of Hebron.

      However, Arab building and renovation continues at a breathtaking pace. Construction is funded to the tune of millions of dollars by countries from the European Union,  including Spain, Germany, France and others. Sweden has also funneled huges amounts of money into Hebron, and specifically into the H-2 Israeli-controlled area. Arab neighborhoods surrounding Jewish neighborhoods, desolate and isolated for decades, have been taken over by organizations funded by the EU, and are being rebuilt, with the intent to fill them with released Arab terrorists, and PA security personnel. The stated goals of these building projects is, as stated on their web site: Introduction- Paragraph III: (to) counter and limit Israeli settlements inside the Old city by  surrounding settlements with inhabited buildings to prevent their  horizontal expansion; and to avert the urban interconnection  of these settlements by increasing Arab demographic density  between them.
      The area east of Ma’arat HaMachpela, called the ‘eastern Kasba,’ has been turned into a virtual paradise, with hundreds of Arabs are being moved into these new homes. Arabs are granted numerous incentives, including tax exemptions, free water, and monthly allowances. 
      The buildings border the only road leading from Hebron to Kiryat Arba and leads to Ma’arat HaMachpela. Their goals are twofold: 1) to cut off the route between Hebron and Kiryat Arba; 2) to cut off Jewish access to Ma’arat HaMachpela. 

      The area behind the Jewish neighborhoods, called the ‘western Kasba’ has also been renovated, with new homes and parks, including a huge park sponsored and paid for by TIPH, the ‘neutral’ observer organization in Hebron. The ‘palestinian authority’ has opened official offices inside the Kasba, despite this area being under Israeli security control. Israeli officials have stated that these offices are ‘illegal,’ yet nothing has been done to close them.
      Presently, other, desolate buildings, also taken over by the PA, are being renovated with a new goal: to create a new neighborhood connecting the two sides of the city from the west, allowing Arabs a ‘bypass route’ to the Israeli checkpoints, thereby allowing unchecked access to the Jewish areas of the city. This too is known to the Israeli authorities, but nothing is being done to stop or prevent continued construction.
      Of course, the H-1, Arab-controlled area continues to grow, without any limitations.
      There can be only one, inescapable conclusion. It is true: there is apartheid, discrimination and security biases in Hebron. They are, however, directed not against the Arabs, rather against the Jews. Jews have virtually no rights in the city. The Israeli authorities are doing nothing to prevent the use of foreign money to proliferate an enemy Arab population in the Jewish side of the city.
      As the situation stands now, we are in the midst of the battle for Hebron.

      Adar Bet 1, 5771, 3/7/2011

      A roar for Hebron

      This past Shabbat afternoon, we held a special Sabbath luncheon. It was attended by Hebron executive director Menachem Livni, Mayor Avraham Ben Yosef, Rabbi Simcha Hochbaum, Noam Arnon and myself, and of course with our respective wives. However, the guests of honor were from out-of-town: Hebron Fund president Teddy Pollack and the special guest, Mr. Ari Lieberman, the new director of the Hebron Fund.

      Ari Lieberman outside Ma'arat HaMachpela
      The Hebron Fund, founded almost 30 years ago, operates out of Brooklyn, New York and is an essential element of Hebron’s work in the United States. The Fund serves as the center of Hebron’s numerous activities in the States, which focus on educational projects, lecture tours, and fund-raising. Over the years Hebron representatives, through the Hebron Fund, have traveled far and wide across the United States, touching base in many states and cities, including California, Washington, Colorado, Atlanta, Texas, Chicago, Boston, Baltimore, Miami, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and other places as well.
      Being based in New York, the Fund has sponsored many an event in the tri-state area, including an annual ‘dinner’ which continues to grow in popularity, and has, in the past conducted concerts, ferry rides in the Hudson, parlor meetings and Shabbatons. Additionally the Hebron Fund has initiated ‘Hebron missions’ in Israeli, visiting communities in Judea and Samaria, while focusing, of course, on Hebron.
      One the most special and unique events of the year is the annual “Chaye Sarah Shabbat” in Hebron, when over 20,000 people gather in this holy city to read, in that week’s Torah portion, Abraham’s purchase of the Caves of Machpela. A large contingent of Hebron’s friends from the US usually arrive in Israel a few days before Shabbat, tour, and then spend that awesome day with multitudes, before leaving on Saturday night.
      Of course, the Hebron Fund, in conjunction with the Hebron Jewish community, sponsors fabulous tours of Hebron, usually led by Rabbi Simcha Hochbaum, with a helping hand from Noam Arnon and myself when needed; thereby showing people what Hebron is all about, first-hand. Anybody and everybody attending these tours cannot help but leave Hebron uplifted, having undergone one of the strongest spiritual happenings they could ever hope to experience.
      The past Hebron Fund director, Yossi Baumol, worked with the Hebron community for five years, and concluded his work a couple of months ago. Yossi toiled tirelessly on behalf of Hebron, and this is the place to publicly express our gratitude for his dedication to Hebron’s Jewish Community. We, of course, wish him the best of luck in all future endeavors.
      This week we were privileged to meet the new Fund Director, Ari Lieberman. Having spent a few days with him, I can attest to his wisdom, determination, energy and bubbling enthusiasm.  Ari flew in from New York with Fund president Teddy Pollack, and the two men participated in a number of meetings and tours, aimed at welcoming Ari to the team. The highlight of their visit was the special Shabbat meal, when everyone, as part of a ‘dvar Torah,’ (Torah speech) welcomed Ari in their own words.

      The tomb of Jesse and Ruth
      Rabbi Efrem Goldberg on right - Ari, front center 
      Yesterday afternoon Ari and I toured with a group from Boca Raton, Florida, not far from Ari’s stomping grounds, that being the nearby city of Hollywood.  He has a lot going for him. A high-tech executive, with a background full of success, Ari seems exquisitely suitable for his position with the Hebron Fund. However, in my opinion, his most impressive feature is personality. I’ve met and worked with many many people over the years. You can’t always read a person’s face the first time you meet. But Ari was an immediate ‘like.’ And as we continued discussions and spent Shabbat together, I knew that my first impressions were 100% correct. As a matter of fact, those impressions continued to grow. Perhaps the most important characteristic needed for such a position is being a ‘people person,’ someone whose personality emanates excitement and an overflowing belief in what they’re doing. It’s a special kind of charisma, and in my book, Ari Lieberman has it. In English, Ari means lion. Ari’s roar really isn’t scary, to the contrary, it’s very inviting. It’s a roar for Hebron.
      Tonight Ari will be heading back to the US to continue what he’s started here in Hebron. We, of course, wish him the best of luck, much ‘Si’atya d’Smayia’ – that is Divine assistance from above, and most of all, that he should always exude the same love for Hebron and Israel that he radiated here.
      (Ari can be reached at ari@hebron.com)

      Adar 21, 5771, 2/25/2011

      International Open "Shuhada St" Day - 'RAGE' in Hebron

      Today (Friday Feb 25) marked "International Open Shuhada Street Day" and called on Arabs, Anarchists, and Israeli leftists "to RAGE."

      "Shuhada Street, translated as 'the street of the martyrs, whose real name is King David Street, runs through the Jewish neighborhoods in Hebron. Shops on the street were closed by the IDF during the Oslo War (aka 2nd intifada) due to terror attacks, shootings, stabbings and a terrorist homicide attack on the road. The closings were appealed to the Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of the IDF.

      A small portion of this road is the only area in Hebron closed off to Arabs, who have access to 98% of the city, where as Jews have access to only about 3% of Hebron.

      International anti-Semitic - anti-Israel movements, initiating in South Africa, incite Hebron Arabs against the Hebron Jewish Community and declared today to be an international day of rage, with the aim of opening the street fully to Arabs. Their intent, of course, is to force the Jewish community out of the city, (as one of the Israeli protestors told me - see photo below).

      Israeli security forces prevented the demonstrators from reaching the Jewish neighborhoods, but demonstrations took place adjacent to them. Stun grenades and tear gas were used to disperse them. However there are reports of massive rock-throwing on the roads leading into Kiryat Arba and Hebron. Several cars were attacked by Arab mobs on the streets. No injuries have been reported.


      Adar 12, 5771, 2/16/2011

      Education Minister Gideon Saar at Ma'arat HaMachpela

      Hebron and Ma'arat HaMachpela have again sprung into the headlines. This time by the graces of Education minister Gideon Sa'ar. Visiting in Gush Etzion and Kiryat Arba, Sa'ar also paid his respects to his great grandparents. You know, Abraham and Sarah, who've been lying in eternal repose at the caves of Machpela for almost 4,000 years.

      This time the sirens are sounding as a result of Minister Sa'ar's comments concerning children and Hebron. More specifically, about school children visiting Ma'arat HaMachpela. He managed to wake up the Israeli left, who are desperately searching for a seemingly substantive issue to yell and scream about. Sa'ar provided them with what they've been looking for.

      What could be so earth-shattering? Simply, the education minister expressing the necessity for Jewish-Israeli kids to visit Machpela within the framework of the official education ministry's curriculum.

      Why would the head of the education pyramid so risk his political career to make such an offensive remark? Well, when you think about it, maybe it really isn't so offensive. Perhaps the opposite is true. Might it well be odious not to allow kids to visit such a site? Why?

      I don't think there's too much I can write that hasn't been written before, by me and many others, even before I was born. But I guess some things have to be repeated until they eventually sink in.

      Many years ago, opposition leader Ariel Sharon stood next to the steps leading up to the 2,000 year old building atop the caves of Machpela. There he proclaimed: "What other people has such a monument where all the founders of our people are buried, together, at one place. Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and Leah! Every tourist should come here, every ambassador should be brought here, every school child should visit here, because this is our roots, the roots of the Jewish people!

      Why the opposition to visiting Hebron? The espoused reasons usually focus around a couple of points, those being safety factors and politics. There are those who say that Hebron is dangerous. Why is it so dangerous? Because of the great number of 'hostile forces' aka Arabs, in the area. But those on the left who so supported Oslo and the Hebron accords also believe that the era of peace has arrived. The 'hostile forces' aka Arabs are no longer hostile. To the contrary, they are Israel's best friends. So why be scared of them?!

      But, of course, they know the truth. The 'hostile forces' aka Arabs are still hostile. Why be afraid? Because the Israeli left prefers to acquiesce to Obama's demands and ease up security measures, even if they endanger people's lives. But then, of course, the question is, whose lives. If it's only us measly 'settlers,' so who cares if we live or die. But should it be the children of the new left, clearly their blood is redder than ours.

      However, in all actuality, last year some 700,000 people visited the 'Jewish side' of Ma'arat HaMachpela. In order to do that, they all had to come into Hebron. They all arrived home safe and sound, just as they arrived. Well, not really. Spiritually anyone and everyone who visits this holy site leaves uplifted, on a real spiritual high. So in body, all those hundreds of thousands remained as is; but spiritually they'd all changed; people cannot help but be affected by the sanctity of this wondrous site.

      Thank G-d, the security forces work hard, night and day, ensuring that anyone and everyone can visit anywhere in Hebron's 'Jewish zone,' and of course at Machpela, without any fear or apprehension.

      And, what if…? And what if…. is a question that can be asked when swimming in the Kinneret, mountain-climbing in the Negev, snorkeling in Eilat, or sleeping in your bed in Sderot or Kiryat Shemona. Or getting on a bus in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv for that matter.

       So much for security issues.

      Then, there are others who say that Hebron is synonymous with politics and the education ministry cannot force a 'political view' down anyone's throat. I guess that's true. After all, if Abraham lived today and tried to by the caves from Efron the Hittite, the deal couldn't be completed until Efron had received a permit from the PA and the Israeli Civil Administration allowing him to sell the property. Abraham couldn't conclude the purchase before receiving an OK from the Defense Minister and the Prime Minister. Can you imagine the headlines: 'Abraham gyps the Hittites: steals caves for only 400 shekels! (That's about $700,000 in contemporary currency.)

      Others would later write: Attempt to occupy Hittite land. Efron forced out! Abraham's army threatens world peace!
      And someone would surely demand: What's in those caves? Why did he buy them? What's behind the purchase? Don't let him establish facts on (in) the ground. Don't allow Sarah's burial in Hebron. Send them back to Beer Sheva! Or "Dig her up! NOW"

      This chapter in the Torah, Parshat Chaye Sarah, would become the subject of national and international debate, with certain Israelis demanding that it be removed from the scriptures: "Incitement against the Hittites." Any rabbi who dared to read these verses in the synagogue on Shabbat would be arrested and interrogated. "Do you believe in transferring the Hittites out of their homeland?!"

      And undoubtedly, such a provocative subject must be kept from the pure, innocent children. A new internet provider would offer automatic censorship of such blasphemy.

      Enough of the sarcasm and bad jokes. Really, it isn't a joke at all. It's very sad. It's very sad that Jews, Israelis, refuse to recognize our glorious, magnificent past, the pillars, not only of Judaism, not only of monotheism, but of humanity.  A belief, not of human sacrifice, but of prayer, to one G-d. This is our heritage, our gift to mankind. And it began here, in Hebron. This is the roots of our life in Israel. Anyone who condemns Jews living in Hebron, also rejects the rights of Jews to live anywhere in Eretz Yisrael, decimating the legitimacy of the State of Israel. You can cut off the branch of a tree and it will continue to live. But if you chop off the roots, it dies.

      Perhaps there are those here in Israel who believe in suicide, or assisted-killing. That is the definition of removing Jews from Hebron and abandoning our roots, Ma'arat HaMachpela. The best way to prevent such a horrible death is to educate our children about who we are, revealing our true identity, teaching them, from an early age, the essence of our existence. That essence begins at Machpela, in Hebron. Any attempt to deny our children this most basic education is similar to demanding that a fish live out of water.

      This is why, our enlightened education minister, Mr. Gideon Saar, wisely decided to begin sending Israeli school children to visit Ma'arat HaMachpela. Not to make them good Likudniks, not to make them 'crazy, extremist settlers,' rather to expose them to their heritage, their culture and the pedigree from which they originate. Avraham Avinu and Sarah Emenu, our patriarchs and matriarchs, our great grandpa and great grandma.

      Thank you, Mr. Education Minister, Minister Gideon Saar.


      Adar 4, 5771, 2/8/2011

      Rabbi Dov Lior - An unforgivable sacrilege

      Limiting what a Rabbi may say is comparable to Bolshevik regimes of Soviet Russia which would decide what people could think and what they could say…
      Several days ago Hebron's police chief showed up at the home of Rabbi Dov Lior, Chief Rabbi of Hebron and Kiryat Arba. The officer informed Rabbi Lior that an arrest warrant had been issued, ordering his arrest. Should the Rabbi agree to be interrogated, the warrant would be cancelled. On the spot Rabbi Lior answered, telling him that such questioning represented a 'disgrace to the honor of the Torah,' and that he would not cooperate with such humiliation.

      Why are the police and prosecutor's office chasing this seventy-seven year old righteous man? Born in Galatia in Poland, Rabbi Lior arrived in Israel in 1948, shortly before declaration of the State of Israel. He studied under Rabbi Abaham Kook's student, Rabbi Moshe Tziv Neria at Kfar HaRoe and later at Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav in Jerusalem under Rabbi Kook's son, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook. He was considered to be one of the Yeshiva's most important students, learning for hours at a time without moving. During festive dancing on the Simchat Torah holiday, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda changed the words of a popular song. Instead of Tov li, tov li, Toratecha (Your Torah is good for me), he recited 'Dov li, Dov li Toratecha,' paying his young student a great compliment.
      In 1976 Rabbi Lior moved to the newly founded community Kiryat Arba, where he was appointed Rosh HaYeshiva – the Dean of the Kiryat Arba-Nir Yeshiva, working side by side with Rabbi Eliezer Waldman. Over the years the Rabbi became known as a prominent Torah scholar. However Rabbi Lior's teaching involved more than dry Rabbinic rulings. He became an active leader within the movement to repopulate Judea, Samaria and Gaza. He spent many summer vacations in Gush Katif. With the rise of the left and the advent of Oslo and the following Hebron Accords, he became an outspoken leader, blasting attempts to delegitimize the Israeli right. He worked tirelessly against the Gush Katif expulsion, making frequent trips to that beleaguered area, giving hope and strength to the local population, fighting for its collective life. He participated in prayer rallies and protests while providing Torah support via various Rabbinic rulings needed during those struggles.

      Some twenty-five years ago he was elected Chief Rabbi of Hebron and Kiryat Arba. Some years ago Rabbi Lior formed the Rabbinic Council for Judea and Samaria and was appointed its leader. Presently he is considered to be the important Rabbi of the Nationalist-Zionist movement and one of the most significant, scholarly rabbinical figures in Israel.

      Frequently Rabbis are requested to write a 'hascama,' an approbation of a newly-authored Torah book by a younger Rabbi. Rabbi Lior, himself the author of thousands of Torah responsa as well as his own books dealing with Torah law, is also approached to write a short introduction to Torah books.

      So it was that a couple of years ago the Rabbi agreed to write an approbation for a book titled "Torat HaMelech," meaning 'the King's Torah.' This scholarly work, written by two young Rabbis, deals with relationships between Jews and non-Jews, particularly during situations dealing with life and death during war and other conflict. Specifically it details rulings by many Torah giants, beginning with the Talmud, two thousand years ago, through the present.

      Rabbi Lior was not the only Torah scholar asked to written such a approbation for this book. Others include Rabbi Zalman Nechemia Goldberg, also considered to be an authentic Torah giant, one of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef's son, Rabbi Ya'akov Yosef, a leading Sefardic Torah expert, and well-known Rabbi Yitzhak Ginzburg.

      Amongst other comments, Rabbi Lior praises the authors for writing such a comprehensive book, including the opinions of so many Torah commentators. He clarifies the significance of understanding Jewish law to its fullest, even when dealing with most sensitive topics such as life and death.

      As a result of his approbation, Rabbi Lior has been accused of incitement, and has been ordered to appear for police interrogation. In a short filmed class to yeshiva students, Rabbi Lior explained that a Rabbi must be able to freely express 'Da'at Torah,' that is the Torah ruling on any given subject, even if that expression is not popular with others. He stressed that a Rabbi must never fear to express the truth, as it appears in Torah, even if such a ruling could cause him damage.

       "Limiting what a Rabbi may say is comparable to Bolshevik regimes of Soviet Russia which would decide what people could think and what they could say…There are certain elements in society who, lately want to oppress Rabbis, ordering investigations and interrogations, in order to silence them from expressing Torah opinion… and this directly contradicts what is known as democracy and freedom of expression. If there is freedom of expression, it must be for everyone. We haven't heard of those preaching from mosques, inciting against the state of Israel, being arrested and interrogated…"

      Rabbi Dov Lior is not only a Torah giant. He is an genuine hero, standing up for the rights of the Jewish people in their land, being able to live according to Torat Yisrael. Since his arrival in Israel over sixty years ago, he has dedicated his life to Torah, to his People and to his Land. The current attempt to disgrace him via accusations of incitement, while trying to silence him and interrogate him as a common criminal can only be described as an unforgiveable sacrilege.