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Life Lessons with Judy Simon
Torah Tidbits Audio
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.
Links to sites David recommends:
(others to be added)
Elul 20, 5770, 8/30/2010
These days include:
Rosh HaShana - Thursday and Friday - 1 - 2 Tishrei - 9-10/09/10
There are also days when the building is totally closed to Jewish visitors. This year the Arab month of Ramadan coincides with the Hebrew month of Elul, and there are a number of days during the next month when the site is inaccessible to Jewish visitors.
The Merit of the Forefathers will Redeem the Sons
Selichot in Hebron
Remember the Covenant of Abraham
Rosh HaShana Eve
Transportation from Jerusalem
From Shaulson Road, Har Nof (next to Yesh)
Call 052-2283-672 for details and reservations
Elul 16, 5770, 8/26/2010
Another, no less important factor. From the hills of northern Samaria, there is a gorgeous view of the Mediterranean Sea, from Netanya to Ashkelon. It's quite exciting to observe a multitude of planes taking off and landing at Ben Gurion airport. Should these hills be abandoned to our enemy, these terrorists will easily be able point a sixteen kilogram shoulder-held Stinger missile at one of our aircraft and pull the trigger, blowing up the plane and killing 300 people instantaneously. And this is not some imaginary hallucination. Israeli intelligence is working hard to find a solution to this much too realistic possibility.
And perhaps last, but not least. What about us, those of us slated for expulsion from our homes. Optimistic figures are somewhere in the vicinity of 200,000 Jews to be affected in Judea and Samaria. Would our leaders expect us to live under a 'friendly' Palestinian leadership? And if not, where are we supposed to go. Israel still hasn't found homes for the 10,000 people expelled from Gush Katif and the northern Shomron five years ago. What are they going to do with 200,000 people? Where will people work? Where will kids go to school? Perhaps Israel will establish Jewish refugee camps in the Negev and Galil?
Direct talks, leading to a Palestinian state, is nothing less than suicide, serving up Israel on a silver platter.
Elul 10, 5770, 8/20/2010
A couple of months ago I had a little shouting match with some of the border police next to Ma'arat HaMachpela, the tomb of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs. After a little while - when we had reached a dead-end - one of the regular police, a little older than the others, came over put an arm around my shoulders, pulled me over to the side and explained to me why I was wrong and they were right. I listened, and finally acquiesced to their demands, and the issue came to an end.
This might sound fairly normal and logical, but then again, it must be remembered that this is Hebron. Had the same incident occurred seven or eight years ago, I am sure the ending would have been quite different. The relationship between police and civilians in this holy city was very different. Back then if a police officer approached me, it would not have been to put an arm around my shoulder, it would have been to handcuff, arrest, and start legal proceedings against me - and who knows what else.
However, things have changed. That's not to say that we live in utopia, but at present I certainly do not look at our local police force as enemies. I can truthfully say that I consider some of the police officers to be friends - and to a great degree, the emotions are mutual. Last week a policeman called me a Tzaddik (righteous person). Now, I bear witness that I'm surely not righteous, but hearing those words from a policeman in Hebron left me with the impression that we really are approaching the days of the Messiah!
It should be kept in mind that such episodes cannot be taken for granted. Not too long ago the relationship between police and Hebron citizens could easily have been defined as something similar to open warfare. The police were used as an extended arm of the Israeli political system, and utilized to victimize, oppress and even terrorize us. It wasn't enough that the community had to deal with Arab terror and leftist harassment. Every once in a while, while looking back through photos eight and nine years old, it's difficult to believe that we really had to deal with such brutality. And of course, people in the community didn't 'turn the other cheek,' causing major confrontations, which were quite messy, to say the least.
A few years ago, as the political scene began to change, so did the people comprising Hebron's police force. Honestly, I was very surprised and to be honest, very suspicious. But over a period of time it became clear that somewhere, someone decided to attempt to change the rancid atmosphere which poisoned the relationship between the police and Hebron's Jewish population. And I can quite happily say that for the most part, it has worked.
For example, yesterday afternoon, Hebron's police sponsored a 'Police-Community Day.' True, not all the kids attended; it was very hot, some were on vacation, and others still have trouble digesting the fact that the police are not out to get us. But a nice group did show up, and enjoyed a fascinating exhibit of police dogs in action, were able to play-drive in a police car (complete with siren -every boy's dream), wear a police vest, carry around a police baton and receive a police hat.
I know this might not sound like much, but to even attempt to carry out such a program in Hebron would once have been thought of as something out of 'Alice in Wonderland.' But it did happen, and I enjoyed it very much.
Alas, innocence is a thing of the past. I'm very well aware that conflict can still arise. So what? Tension between police and civilians is not exclusive to Hebron. It's fairly common all over the world. In Hebron we face, frequently, unique situations which are liable to cause friction between the people in blue uniforms and the civilians. But today, I know that I'm dealing with normal, rational people who are not looking to break our bones because we're Jews living in Hebron - and that's very very important. I can only hope and pray that such a rapport continues, because it makes life much more pleasant and relaxed when you know that the policeman walking down the street really is a nice guy.
(See more photos and video at: http://www.hebron.com/english/gallery.php?id=361)
Elul 8, 5770, 8/18/2010
Elul 7, 5770, 8/17/2010
Nightmares about being shot by Revolutionary Guards no longer haunt him, but he still misses his mother's cooking. This is the amazing story of a young Jew who instead of joining Iranian army became outstanding IDF soldier who took part in Operation Cast Lead
The Persian prince
by Yossi Yehoshua, Reuven Weiss
About three months ago, Major-General Sami Turgeman, commander of the Israel Defense Forces' ground forces, delivered a motivational speech to cadets at the Bahad 1 officer's training base in southern Israel.
Turning to one of the cadets, Turgeman said, "Stand up, introduce yourself and tell us why you want to become an officer."
The cadet's story left the general flabbergasted. A month later, when the course ended, Turgeman even awarded him the battalion's medal of excellence.
Many details of Yosef's (not his real name) story remain confidential for security reasons and out of concern for his own personal safety. His family still lives in Iran, from which he immigrated to Israel to serve in the IDF.
A short time after arriving in Israel, Yosef was already fighting in Gaza as part of Operation Cast Lead.
Even as a child, Yosef felt out of place in Iran. "I was born to a religious Jewish family, and we lived in a Jewish community. You can live in Iran as a Jew, but not as a Zionist," he explains. "You have to be careful not to anger the extremists."
Yosef went to school with Muslim children. "Following the revolution of 1979, the Iranian authorities banned studies in the Jewish community's school. Everyone had to enroll in Muslim schools. On Friday, our only day off, we studied at the Jewish school."
Did you have any friends at the Muslim school?
"I did, but we were not particularly close. For example, I did not visit their homes, because had I visited their homes and they would have offered me something to eat, I would not have been able to put anything in my mouth because of kashrut issues. There were other things that made me uncomfortable. For example, before meals (at school), the children would ask me 'why did you wash your hands (referring to the Jewish ritual of Netilat Yadayim)'? Some would not even sit next to me during the meals.
"I asked my parents once, 'Why are we here? There is a Jewish state - the State of Israel'. After the revolution my parents understood it was time to leave Iran. But they did not know exactly when. I asked them, 'Why are we treated differently? Why do they want us to pray in Arabic? Why am I asked whether I plan on converting to Islam?' There were many mean children. Some of them attacked me and broke my finger. In another incident I was stabbed with a knife. When anti-Israel demonstrations were held in Iran, I could not leave the house. Even though our financial situation was good and we lacked nothing, I did not want to be there."
Yosef shows off his Iranian passport (Photo: Gadi Kabalo)
The synagogue was a refuge for Yosef and many of his friends. "It wasn't just a place to pray; it was like a youth center, where we met friends, studied and watched movies," he says. "The members of the community were very close – like family. Many of the children shared my feelings – they did not want to stay in Iran. We started first grade with dozens of children, and by 12th grade there were less than 10. The rest moved to the US and Israel."
When he was 16, Yosef decided to try and leave Iran. He told no one of his plan. "I had some money saved up from my bar-mitzvah and from computer lessons I would give. I kept the money hidden in my shoes and packed a large bag containing all of my belongings. On Purim, it was customary for Jews to visit the gravesites of Esther and Mordechai in the city of Susa (or Shushan), so I told my parents I was going there," he says.
"I asked a truck driver to smuggle me across the border. I took two flights to meet him, but I was a half-hour late and he drove away without me. It was also the Iranian New Year, so the border I had planned on crossing was closed for 13 days. I was forced to go back home."
But the stark reality in Iran, including the arrest of 11 Jews on suspicions of "spying for Israel," increased his desire to come to the Land of Israel.
"Some of them (the detained Jews) were my teachers. Innocent people. There is no way they were spies. They had no idea what a computer was. In Iran, killing people is like having a cup of coffee. Had they really been spies, they would have been executed, not released after a few years. When they were arrested, I began teaching in their stead. I taught Bible, Zionism and current Israeli events, which I linked to the Land of Israel of 2,000 years ago. I kept explaining to my students why it is important for Jews to live in Israel. I gave these lessons in secret, or else I would have been arrested immediately," he says.
'Doing something for my country'
Yosef's fears intensified as the end of his studies drew near. "At 18 everyone has to enlist in the Iranian army. Those who don’t enlist do not get a passport, are forbidden from getting married, cannot apply for a driver's license, cannot purchase a car or buy an apartment, nothing. For Jews the issue of enlistment is very difficult. Apart from the problem of kashrut, which of course is not kept in the army, no one wants to join an army that is an enemy of Israel. I dreamed of serving in the IDF."
In an effort to dodge the draft, Yosef approached a man who promised him an exemption in exchange for money. "I paid him a $3,000 bribe. That's three million in Iranian currency. It's a huge gamble. Very frightening. I gave him money and all my personal information. I was afraid he would turn me in to the authorities, but he gave me the exemption certificate. I went to the Interior Ministry to apply for a passport. I was told that if the exemption certificate was authentic I would be given a passport, and if not I would be arrested. I sat at home, anticipating my arrest. Two weeks later I went to the post office – my passport was waiting for me there."
Using a satellite dish, Yosef was able to follow the daily events in Israel on television. "When Gush Katif was evacuated, I could not understand what all the fighting was about. I saw Jews crying, and IDF soldiers. I did not understand why they were crying – why this evacuation was taking place. I would watch it every evening and go to bed sad."
Yosef was also able to follow the Second Lebanon War on Israeli TV. "Iranian television saidHezbollah destroyed more than 1,000 Israeli tanks, but I heard that Israel did not use that many tanks and realized that the Iranian media outlets were lying," he says.
According to Yosef, Iran is technologically advanced. "Iran gets the most modern things from Dubai. People tend to think that Iran is like Gaza, but this is far from the truth. I saw Gaza up close during Operation Cast Lead, and it is very different from Iran. I say this regretfully, because (Iran) is our enemy."
Yosef managed to stay in touch with family and friends in Israel. "One of my relatives fled from Iran to Israel after the revolution. He would call once a year, and we would converse over the Internet. I would speak to friends who left Iran for Israel only on public phones because I was convinced Iranian intelligence wire-tapped phones in Jewish homes."
Yosef says his friends in Israel contacted the Jewish Agency, which helped plan out his escape to Israel. "I bought a plane ticket to another Arab country, as though I were going on a trip. The most important thing was to keep everything secret. That was the most difficult part – not being able to say goodbye to my parents and friends. My parents assumed I would leave one day, but they were not prepared for it. I surprised them."
"At the airport, the passport control officer looked at me with suspicion. 'Jew?' he asked. I answered 'yes'. 'Were you in the army?' I said I wasn't, and prepared to present the exemption certificate, but then he stamped the passport with a forcefulness that shook me."
Jewish Agency representatives greeted Yosef upon his arrival at the Arab country. "I spent the night in a hotel, at the agency's expense, and we flew to Israel the following day."
Are you in touch with your family in Iran?
"They call me about once a month, from a public phone."
Yosef initially lived in a Jerusalem absorption center. "All our lives we prayed that someday we would make it to the holy city. For me, living in Jerusalem was a dream come true. They gave me a room in the Armon Hanatziv neighborhood, a half-hour walk from the Western Wall. I would pray there every day."
Yosef's first few days in Israel were accompanied by nightmares. "Every night I would dream that members of the (Iranian) Revolutionary Guard are chasing me and shooting me. When they shot me in the dream, I felt the bullets penetrate my body; I felt actual physical pain, which woke me up.
"At some point I purchased a huge Israeli flag and hung it opposite my bed. When I would awake from the nightmares and see the flag, it calmed me down. I knew I was here in Israel and they could not hurt me," he recalls.
At the IDF recruitment center in Jerusalem, Yosef asked to join the Paratroopers Brigade.
"What do you mean? They captured the Western Wall."
Operation Cast Lead was launched when Yosef completed company commanders' course. "I entered Gaza with the paratroopers. We were there for the duration of the operation. It was very interesting. I finally felt I was doing something for my country."
The operation helped Yosef get rid of the nightmares. "During the first week I succeeded in killing them (Revolutionary Guards) in my dream, and since then I stopped having the nightmares."
Following the IDF's withdrawal from Gaza, Brigadier-General Avichai Ronsky, who served as chief military rabbi at the time, helped Yosef get the security clearance required to attend officers' training course. Yosef is currently being trained to become a battalion communications officer. He emphasized that this is a "combat position."
In the meantime, Yosef left the absorption center in Jerusalem and currently resides in Kiryat Arba. "We prayed at the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, and I felt I needed to live in the area. I saw a big Israeli flag and understood that I have to reinforce this site."
What do you miss most?
"Every lone soldier misses his mother's cooking."