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.
“WE’RE ALL IN THE SAME BOAT NOW!” The outpouring of hate against Israel and the Jews after the flotilla incident was absolutely unprecedented. Jews around the world and other Lovers of Israel suddenly felt just like the Jews of Hebron – the Jews the media loves most to hate. We therefore decided to hold our annual fundraiser as a unique, united Zionist response to this situation. We must bring together the various groups that work for Israel in a show of confidence in the future of a united, large and strong Israel!
The whole world is concerned with the supposed suffering of the Arabs of the Gaza strip.
Yet while the Arabs build and open luxury hotels and state-of the-art shopping malls, the Jews of Hebron live in impossible conditions – with families with 6, 7 or more children living in 2-3 room apartments.
While the Arabs of Gaza are free to build wherever and whatever they like, our children are arrested for planting gardens and installing park benches in violation of the “building freeze”.
Our gardener – Yitzchak Imes, who tenderly cared for the Machpela Gardens – was brutally gunned down together with his wife and two neighbors in a recent terrorist attack.
While investors are free to invest in and develop the Gaza strip, Hebron properties purchased by Jews – whether in 1809 or in 2005 – are not free to be used by their legal owners.
While the Arabs of Gaza, their incessant construction and their terror regime are all subsidized by many "civilized" countries and NGO’s to the tune of billions of dollars per year, the tax deductible status of the meager donations to Hebron’s Jews comes under repeated scrutiny - for no good reason except for racism and Anti-Semitism.
Here's why our opponents are wrong:
1) Settlements are legal. When the US signed the 1924 San Remo accords, they became co-signers of the British Mandate in Palestine which calls for “close settlement of Jews upon their land.” The area in question included the West Bank!
2) Support for settlements is tax deductible! The fact that this administration may decide to fly in the face of US law and commitment does not negate the tax deduction on donations to Jewish causes on the West Bank. Even the NY Times wrote: “…the tax code encourages citizens to support nonprofit groups that may diverge from official policy, as long as their missions are educational, religious or charitable.”
In a series of events – in both Hebron and in New York – we raise our voices and take out our checkbooks in protest against the evil discrimination against the Jews of Hebron and Eretz Yisrael.
In Hebron on the Succot holiday, we celebrated the end of the building freeze – as promised by the Israeli government. Our Hebron Music Festival on Sept. 27th was attended by over 35,000 guests including hundreds of US donors and Israeli political leaders.
Now the time has come to do the same in New York City.
On November 16, join us in launching the Hebron Aid Flotilla!
Our event will be honoring some very special people:
“Gevurat Ha’Imahot” (Bravery of the Matriarchs) Awardee IDF Capt. Caroline Glick (ret.), who will also be our keynote speaker was named by “Maariv” as “the most prominent woman in Israel”. As chief diplomatic correspondent for Makor Rishon newspaper, deputy editor of the Jerusalem Post, editor of the political satire website “Latma TV” and a senior Middle East Fellow at Washington’s Center for Security Policy, Glick made history with her “We Con the World” video clip exposing the hypocrisy behind the Gaza Flotilla.
“Bonei Hevron” (Builders of Hebron) Awardees David & Jane Seidemann of Lawrence, NY. David is a longtime Hebron Fund Board member and former Fund President who is a very popular attorney, columnist and Long Island community leader.
"Chasdei Avot" (Charity of the Patriarchs) Awardees David & Joclyn Stern of Brooklyn, NY. David is the President of Brooklyn’s Young Israel of Midwood and has led a number of missions to Hebron. Both of them are beloved local activists and former repeat guests in Hebron for the special “Chayei Sarah” weekends attended by tens of thousands every year.
Magen Avraham (Abraham’s Shield) Awardees Fred & Carole Samuel of Fairlawn, New Jersey come and go to Hebron as if they live there and have made close personal ties with some of the local residents. Fred’s firm is currently spearheading an important security project for Hebron.
Aishet Chayil (Woman of Valor) Awardee Ester Arieh-Hatanian, is the mainstay of the Hebron Fund office in Brooklyn, NY. She is receiving the recognition she so justly deserves for over a decade of dedicated service above and beyond the call of duty.
Every single one of us must work together to fill the ship with 1000 people who will not only come out in support of Hebron, but will also have a fantastic time doing so!
If there ever was a time when you just have to stand up for the Jews of Hebron – Now is the time!
STAND TOGETHER FOR HEBRON & ERETZ YISRAEL!
The Hebron Aid Flotilla
Tuesday Evening, November 16, 2010
Leaving from Pier 59, Chelsea Piers, 12th Avenue & West 23rd St.
This week Hebron’s Jewish Community received an unusually large number of greetings. Specifically, 14 ministers, five deputy ministers, and 24 MKs from both the coalition and the opposition (3 from Kadima), including Knesset speaker Ruby Rivlin, sent special messages of support to Hebron. This, as part of an annual celebration, as we read the weekly Torah portion, Chaye Sarah, in which Abraham purchases Ma’arat HaMachpela, the caves of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs, almost 4,000 years ago.
Not only are politicians participating. Usually somewhere between 15 – 20,000 people arrive in Hebron and Kiryat Arba to join in the festivities. Several hundred Jews, mostly from the US, arrive in Israel especially for this special Shabbat in Hebron. Youth and adults, with knitted kippas and black kippas, some in suits, some with shtreimal fur hats, rabbis, laymen, pour into Hebron beginning early Friday afternoon. Tents are pitched outside Machpela on the garden lawn and across the street in a park. Others find a patch of floor at the entrance to a building and set there their sleeping bags. It is the only time of the only time of the year, when receiving a phone call requesting to stay with me, and I answer, ‘we still have some floor space available,’ the response is a resounding ‘great!’
One year I recall a young woman approached my wife in the kitchen Saturday night, and thanked her. My wife asked her, ‘for what.’ She answered, ‘oh, I slept here.’ To this day, we have no idea where she slept because the house was full without her.
Shabbat evening thousands fill the 2,000 year old structure atop the caves of Machpela and thousands more worship outside in the Machpela courtyard. Some pray very traditionally, while others sing and dance to tunes of the late Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach. The atmosphere is both holy and joyful simultaneously.
Shabbat morning the Isaac Hall, opened to Jewish worshipers only ten days a year, is packed to the brim, with some having to stand for a lack of chairs. Here the ancient words are chanted from a Torah scroll, written by hand on parchment, reciting the purchase of the caves and the field by Abraham for some 400 silver shekels, thousands of years ago. It should be noted that according to recent studies, four hundred shekels in the time of Abraham is worth about $700,000 today.
The day continues with meals, lectures, discussion groups, tours of the Jewish neighborhoods, rest and Shabbat song, a wonderful way to commemorate this unique event.
The basic question that must be addressed though, is why? Why was it special then, and why is it special today? Why should so many thousands of people arrive in Hebron to recall what happened almost four millennium ago?
Let’s start at the beginning. Abraham paid a small fortune for a commodity he could have had for free. Efron the Hittite offered to give him the caves gratis. But Abraham refused. Years earlier, according to accounts in the holy Zohar and other sacred literature, Abraham had discovered in these very caves the tombs of Adam and Eve, the first man and woman. Here was the entrance to Paradise, the Garden of Eden. Realizing how holy the site was, Abraham knew the only way to ensure his continued possession of it was to sign a contract and put money down on the table in front of witnesses, thereby preventing any counter claim as to the ownership of the place. And so he did just that, at an extremely high cost.
Our sages taught, some 2,000 years ago, that there are three places the nations will never be able to say we Jews stole, as it is written in the Bible that we paid money for them: Joseph’s tomb, Temple Mount, and Ma’arat HaMachpela. And today, what are the three ‘most controversial places in Israel?
Just as it was special then, so too today. The site has not lost any of its sanctity or allure. To the contrary. It must be remembered that Jews (and Christians) were prevented from entering Machpela for 700 year, following the Mameluk expulsion of the Crusaders in 1260, until the return to, and liberation of Hebron in 1967.
Why today do some half a million people visit Machpela annually, with 50,000 during the Succot holidays and this Shabbat some 20,000?
People understand that Hebron and Ma’arat HaMachpela are the roots of the Jewish people, the commencement of monotheism, the beginnings of humanity. Roots must be watered, to prevent them from drying up. Tens and hundreds of thousands of people visiting, identifying with and worshiping at Machpela is a figurative irrigation of these roots, allowing Jews and other believers around the world to soak up spiritual nutrition, so necessary for our being, both individually and collectively, and as people, as a nation.
In reality the wonder of Hebron, of Machpela, and on a larger scale, of all of Eretz Yisrael, is not what was. The amazing facet of Machpela is not that Abraham purchased it 4,000 years ago, rather it is that we are still here today, at that same exact place. How many peoples can say, ‘here we began, thousands of years ago, and here we remain today, not as a memory, but as a living, thriving organism, keeping our past alive in the present?’ I daresay, no one, excepting the Jews, here in Hebron, Jerusalem and throughout Israel.
Hebron is the beginning, the roots of the roots. We know what occurs to a tree should its roots be chopped off. In 1929 we lost Hebron. In 1948 we lost Jerusalem. In June, 1967 we returned to Jerusalem and the next day, returned to Hebron. Hebron and Jerusalem, our heart, our soul, our roots. Our past, our present and our future.
This is why our holy city lives on and will continue to live on. This is why so so many people arrive to celebrate the planting of the seeds of our people in the field of Machpela, in Hebron.
When one visits Hebron and, above all, the Tomb of the Patriarchs, one cannot leave without understanding that the roots of the Jewish people have been deeply planted in the Holy Land for thousands of years Shabbat Chaye Sarah in Hebron
Ministers and Members of Knesset Offer Congratulations, Moral Support, and Assurances
No fewer than fourteen ministers, five deputy ministers, and twenty-four Members of the Knesset from the coalition and the opposition, headed by the Speaker of the Knesset, MK Reuven Rivlin, responded to the request of the Jewish community of Hebron and the Kiryat Arba Local Council by sending congratulations on the occasion of Shabbat Chaye Sarah. In their remarks, these elected officials demonstrated much knowledge of the history of the City of the Patriarchs, recognized the city’s value and importance, expressed strong appreciation of its residents, and, no less important, gave commitments to the building and development of Hebron and the reinforcement of its status as a proud and flourishing Jewish town.
Knowledge of the History of Hebron
· MK Menachem Eliezer Mozes quotes the adage in Zohar that describes the Tomb of the Patriarchs, situated “near the gateway to the Garden of Eden,” as the burial place of Adam and Eve as well.
· The Minister of National Infrastructures, Uzi Landau, is reminded of the Shlah-Lekha Torah reading, of all things: “Calev ben Yefuneh walked to Hebron alone and prostrated himself at the tombs of the Patriarchs there. The leaders of the Israelite tribes did not visit Hebron and failed the test when the time for action came. Only Calev ben Yefuneh, who imbibed the sublime power of Hebron […] said, “Surely we will ascend to and inherit [the Land of Israel] … the Land is very, very good.”
· The Minister of Culture and Sports, Limor Livnat, notes, “The city lost none of its importance and grandeur throughout the entire biblical era; it served as one of the country’s largest and most populous cities and even as King David’s capital in the first years of his reign.” MK Danny Danon quotes Rabbi Kook: “Hebron is the foundation of the Jewish monarchy; it was there that David’s timeless kingdom, which is everlasting and will be so forever, was established and perfected.”
· MK Rabbi Haim Amsalem notes, “Hebron has been a city of Torah and Judaism for centuries, the home of magnificent communities and towering rabbis such as the authors of Sede Hemed and Hesed le-Avraham, to name only two.”
· The Vice Premier and Regional Development Minister. Silvan Shalom, writes, “For hundreds of years our ancestors were not allowed to cross the seventh step and enter the Tomb of the Patriarchs.” He mentions “the riots of 1929 […] that serve as an urgent reminder that our enemies around the world have not yet given up on the idea of slaughtering and killing our people.” The Minister of Education, Gideon Saar, notes, “The Jewish community of Hebron existed uninterruptedly in all generations and was tragically cut down due to the massacre in 1929.” MK Zeev Elkin, Chair of the Coalition and of the Land of Israel Lobby, notes, “Jewish settlement in Hebron persisted for thousands of years until the Jews there were murdered and evicted in the events of 1929.”
· MK Zion Pinyan says, “The restoration of the Jewish community of Hebron after the town’s liberation in the Six-Day War is a historical act of justice that was deserved. We will never allow lowly murderers to expel Jews from the Land of Israel. The Jewish community of Hebron is flourishing and developing. Additional families are moving into town; children play in its streets. It’s a vision coming true.”
Recognizing the Value and Importance of Hebron
· The Speaker of the Knesset, MK Reuven Rivlin, writes, “Our right to the Land [of Israel] as a just right, as a moral right, [and] as an unchallengeable property right was established in Hebron.”
· The Minister of the Interior and Chair of the Shas Movement, Eli Yishai, notes that the Tomb of the Patriarchs is “the gateway to the Garden of Eden” and writes, “It is one of three places where the nations of the world cannot cheat the Jews by saying that we’ve stolen it.” The Minister of Science, Rabbi Daniel Hershkowitz, also quotes this rabbinical dictum and writes, “At a time when the nations of the world subjecting the State of Israel to political pressure and attempting to deal a blow to Jewish settlement, it is especially important for the unity of the entire [Jewish] people to strengthen and intensify our toehold in the Land of Israel.”
· The Minister of Communications and Chair of the Likud Central Committee, Moshe Kahlon, writes, “From Hebron all prayers from all over the world ascend to heaven. In other words, Hebron is our ‘communication center’ vis-à-vis the Holy One; we must look after it with the utmost of care!!!”
· The Minister of Education, Gideon Saar, notes, “Our nation’s link to Hebron generally, and to the Tomb of the Patriarchs particularly, has a historical, religious, and emotional dimension.” Minister Michael Eitan wrote instead about “the relationship and the continuity that exist between the Hayei Sarah Torah reading and Israel’s Declaration of Independence. The two texts combine religious sanctity and the national ethos to create one of the most important fundamentals in the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.”
· The Minister of the Environment, Gilad Erdan, writes, “When one visits Hebron and, above all, the Tomb of the Patriarchs, one cannot leave without understanding that the roots of the Jewish people have been deeply planted in the Holy Land for thousands of years.” The Minister of National Infrastructures, Uzi Landau, notes that Hebron has been “the source of the Jewish people’s strength for generations.”
· The Minister of Finance, Yuval Steinitz, writes, “Hebron is the stone from which we were hewn.” Deputy Minister Gila Gamliel writes, “Hebron is one of the four holy cities, it’s the very soul of the Jewish people, it’s the Jewish people’s birth certificate, its ID card, and its pledge of allegiance.”
· Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon writes, “Hebron embodies the Jewish people’s connection with the Land of Israel.” Deputy Minister Ayoub Kara writes, “Hebron reminds us of the Jewish people’s right to dwell, settle, and live in all parts of the Land of Israel.” MK Michael Ben-Ari mentions “the commandment to inherit and dwell in the land.”
· MK Uri Orbach writes, “Hebron is the City of the Patriarchs, the city where the monarchy began and where the reestablishment of a toehold in the entire Land of Israel began.” MK Alex Miller terms Hebron “the first Hebrew city, the cradle from which the Jewish people arose.”
· MK Uri Ariel notes that Hebron symbolizes “the second dimension of eternal possession of the Land of Israel: the human essence, the test of action, to fulfill the divine promise via human action. And the action is to return and to build.” MK Moshe Mutz Matalon writes, “The Tomb of the Patriarchs was the first Jewish possession […]. In Israel of 2010, there is not only the right of possession but also the obligation of possession—one that we as Jews are duty-bound to fulfill.”
· MK Tzachi Hanegbi writes, “The Tomb of the Patriarchs is the first Hebrew possession in the Land of Israel. Practically speaking, its purchase by our Patriarch Abraham thousands of years ago determined the worldview of the Jewish National Fund—buying land at full price in order to cement our historical entitlement and divine promise in property rights as well.”
· MK Rabbi Nissim Zeev writes, “This is the true location of the Jewish people’s most exalted figures and the site of the nation’s roots in the Land of Israel.” MK Ronit Tirosh wrote, “We can derive inspiration from our Patriarchs, who are interred in Hebron, for the importance of educating in the timeless Jewish values.”
· MK Yoel Hasson writes, “In the religious sense, Hebron is the second most important city for the Jewish people, surpassed only by Jerusalem. For generations, Jews prayed to return to Hebron and dwell there. The city is a symbol of the connection between the Jewish people and its land.”
· MK Yaakov Katz (Katzeleh) writes, “Hebron is the city of the living, a city that gives life and that links parents with their offspring.” MK Carmel Shama Hacohen adds, “Hebron symbolizes the past, the present, and the future rolled into one.”
Strong Appreciation for Its Residents
· The Speaker of the Knesset, MK Reuven Rivlin, wrote, “Due to your actions, your ardent faith, your motivation, and your resolve—pioneer-brethren who march before the camp—the country is being built and is sharing its fruit with its offspring.”
· The Minister of Information and Diaspora Affairs, Yuli Edelstein, writes, “It is you who enable hundreds of thousands of Jews to ascend to our Patriarchs’ graves.” MK Miri Regev noted, “By virtue of the Jewish community of Hebron and its devotion, Jews from all over the world and in Israel are able to ascend to and worship at the tombs of the holy Patriarchs and Matriarchs.” MK Rabbi Nissim Zeev congratulates the residents “for their steadfastness amid the ordeals of the time and their faith in and adherence to the city of our Patriarchs […]. More than half a million Jews from all over Israel and abroad visit Hebron each year. There is no doubt that there were no Jewish community in Hebron, such a flow of visitors could not exist.”
· The Minister of Religious Affairs, Yaakov Margi, defines the settlement project in Hebron as “a pioneering settlement enterprise for the safeguarding and security of the Land of Israel, a symbol and paragon for the entire Jewish people.”
· MK Arieh Eldad, Chair of the Land of Israel Forum, noted that the residents of Hebron “wage a daily heroic struggle to strengthen their grip on the cradle of the Jewish people and to resist anyone who wishes to loosen this grip.” MK Rabbi Haim Amsalem mentioned “their steadfastness against opponents from within and without,” and MK Zevulun Orlev, Chair of the Jewish Home faction, writes, “By doggedly clinging to this location, they are making a meaningful contribution.”
· MK Danny Danon termed Hebron “the vanguard of settlement in Judea and Samaria [. . .]. The steadfastness of the people of Hebron in the past few decades despite being targeted by waves of terror is a miracle and a paragon for us in the process of the Jewish repatriation.”
· MK Tzipi Hotovely wrote, “Dear residents of Hebron, you are the true heroes of the Jewish people, you are the torch that leads the camp, that reminds us all where we came from and who the national patriarchs are.”
· MK Yariv Levin wrote, “The residents of Kiryat Arba are an outstanding example of the rebirth of the Jewish people in the land of our Patriarchs […] a spearhead.”
Commitment to Building and Development Hebron and to the Reinforcement of Its Status as a Proud and Prosperous Jewish Town
· The Minister of Construction and Housing,, Ariel Atias, wrote, “As the person who oversees the Ministry of Construction and Housing […] I am committed to strengthening the place where the nation’s Patriarchs lie in rest [. . .]. Hebron has deep historical and Jewish roots; we do not wish to disengage from it, nor can we.”
· The Minister of the Environment, Gilad Erdan, promised “to continue doing everything I can to help and support this wonderful community and its inhabitants.”
· The Minister of Communications and Chair of the Likud Central Committee, Moshe Kahlon, wrote, “Saying that Hebron isn’t ours is like saying that Jerusalem isn’t ours. Anyone who wants to hand Hebron to foreigners is cutting off the branch on which we sit […]. Hebron is ours, on deposit from the Holy One, and we have no authority to hand it to anyone.”
· The Minister of Transport, Yisrael Katz, wrote, “The Jewish people’s return to its land and the restoration of the settled Jewish presence in Hebron and Kiryat Arba are one and the same, inseparable […]. In my capacity as Minister of Transport, I undertook to reinforce Hebron, Kiryat Arba, and the Tomb of the Patriarchs and to bring them closer to the entire Jewish people—a physical connection that in turn will reinforce the psychological connection […]. [I promise] to continue acting to build roads to the hearts and to the Tombs of the Patriarchs, and we will assure the strength of the Jewish community in Kiryat Arba and the City of the Patriarchs.”
· The Minister of Culture and Sports, Limor Livnat, notes, “I am firmly confident that we will continue, as before, to appreciate the strength and solidity of the Jewish community of Hebron, and the State of Israel will continue to develop and build in Judea and Samaria and ensure the inhabitants’ security and well-being.”
· The Minister of Education, Gideon Saar, notes, “I have decided to include Hebron and Kiryat Arba among localities that entitle their residents to subsidized preschool education for children aged 3–4.”
· The Minister of Finance, Yuval Steinitz, writes, “Now more than ever, we need to continue building, developing, and striving in Hebron and the Kiryat Arba area.”
· The Vice Premier and Regional Development Minister, Silvan Shalom, writes, “It is our commitment as elected officials to make sure that the city of Hebron will continue to exist as the very heart of the State of Israel [. . .]; we are sovereign at the Tomb of the Patriarchs and we will be here forever.”
· Deputy Minister Gila Gamliel writes, “We came this Shabbat to pledge allegiance and tell the entire world, aloud and erect, that this is our land and the inheritance of our forefathers. Hebron is the eternal city for the eternal people; it is not an object to be partitioned, transferred, or leased out.”
· Deputy Minister Lea Ness wrote that we, much like the Patriarch Abraham, “bear the heavy responsibility of settling the Land of Israel and keeping it in Jewish hands, as an adjunct to the divine promise that we were given.”
· The Deputy Minister of Education, Rabbi Meir Parush, wrote, “I will continue to do whatever I can, as I have in the past, for the building and development of the renewed Jewish community in the holy city of Hebron.”
· MK Zeev Elkin, Chair of the Coalition and of the Land of Israel Lobby, notes, “The Land of Israel Forum struggled successfully to have the Tomb of the Patriarchs included on the list of heritage sites […]. It is our obligation and privilege to support and assist the residents of Hebron and Kiryat Arba.”
· MK Zevulun Orlev, Chair of the Jewish Home faction, notes, “To make sure that Israel continues to control Hebron and the Tomb of the Patriarchs and to keep them from being handed over to the Palestinians, I have presented the Knesset with a Hebron and Tomb of the Patriarchs Bill.”
· MK David Azoulay wrote, “As a member of the Knesset of Israel, I feel committed to the city of my patriarchs, Hebron—to its building, development, and preservation as Jewish city of cardinal importance.”
· MK Tzipi Hotovely wrote, “We elected officials must act in every way to keep Hebron [...] a safe, flourishing, and prosperous Jewish locality.”
· MK Yoel Hasson wrote, “Due to its value and importance to the Jewish people, I am convinced that the Jewish people’s special relationship with the city of the Patriarchs will continue in the future as well.”
· MK Yariv Levin wrote, “I am determined to continue helping to ensure the prosperity and safety of Kiryat Arba as a proud and thriving Jewish town […] and to strengthen the settlement enterprise in all of the Land of Israel.”
· MK Avraham Michaeli wrote, “As our rabbis’ emissaries, we have been ordered to preserve and develop the city of Hebron as far as possible and will do everything that we were told.”
· MK Alex Miller wrote, “It is our privilege and duty to support, strengthen, and develop the Jewish presence in Hebron.”
· MK Zion Pinyan, coalition whip in the Knesset Finance Committee, wrote, “We will act for the continued building and development of Hebron and the Jewish community, for the Jewish people and for posterity.”
· MK Carmel Shama Hacohen wrote, “Governments of Israel in all generations have resolved to strengthen the Jewish community of Hebron, and it’s our privilege and obligation to apply these resolutions in actions […]. It will be my pleasure to help in all matters.”
By Rabbi Shmuley Boteach First printed in the Washington Post at http://goo.gl/gKjn
Israel is a magical country, but to experience one of its greatest wonders you have to travel out to what the world calls the West Bank and the Bible calls Judea and Samaria. There, its crown jewel is the city of Hebron, first capitol city of the Jewish people and where its patriarchs and matriarchs are buried.
Many Jewish and Christian tourists to Israel skip Hebron, declaring it too dangerous, and indeed four Israelis, including a pregnant woman, were killed there just two weeks ago with another two shot this week. But terrorists dare not determine whether visitors to the Holy Land make pilgrimages to Judaism's holiest sites, and besides terrorists incidents have declined dramatically and the city, comparatively speaking, is safe.
The first thing you discover about the residents of Hebron, whom the world derisively describes as settlers - as if Jews living in their own ancient capitol are newcomers - is their warmth, friendliness, and hospitality. I arrived with twenty guests and our host, a wise and dedicated communal activist named Yigal, prepared a feast fit for a king. We ate in his Sukka, surrounded by a tranquility and quiet that I, in my busy life, rarely experience. The night air was cool and energizing.
All around us children were playing, utterly carefree, on pristine playgrounds. So many Jews in Hebron have been killed in terror attacks over the years. Yet the residents in general, and the children in particular, live unafraid. They are also liberated from hatred. When their friends die - as did the four two weeks ago - they mourn them, bury them, commemorate them, and get on with their lives. There are no calls for revenge attacks, there are no mass demonstrations braying for Arab blood. Their response, rather, is to demonstrate, in the most peaceful manner, that they are there to stay.
For nearly a thousand years, the Islamic rulers of the Holy Land forbade Jews from entering the tomb of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs, allowing them to climb only seven steps into the tomb but beating them mercilessly if they rose any higher. When Israel captured the tomb in 1967, Jewish pilgrims came to Hebron, swearing never again to be separated from their origin. As my host explained, even amid the worst terror attacks, property values never decline. There are no fluctuations in the commitment to pray by the graves of those who gave the world monotheism.
Yet these residents have been demonized by the entire world. They face daily character-assassination in the media by those who would decry their simple desire to walk in the footsteps of Abraham. World leaders regularly engage in extreme defamation of families whose only wish it is to raise their children in the Judean hills of King David. President Obama rises at the United Nations and calls for a further moratorium on building in the settlements as if it's a crime for peaceful people to have children and add rooms to warm and hospitable homes.
Abraham, at whose tomb I prayed with my children tonight, is the father of all peoples, Jew and Arab alike. The Arabs are my brothers, equal children of G-d in every respect. And Arabs and Jews must learn to live peacefully together in the land. Neither group should be asked to abide my a moratorium that stifles the natural expansion of either population. It is not the spiritual-seeking settlers who threaten the peace, but rather the murderous groups of Hezbollah and Hamas, who wish to make all of Israel judenrein.
I spent time tonight in Hebron talking to the brave Israel soldiers - eighteen to twenty years old - who patrol the streets of Hebron to protect the Jewish population from further slaughter. It is a sad commentary on some of my Arab brothers and sisters who live in Hebron that soldiers should be needed to protect children at playgrounds. Yet the soldiers have no rancor in their heart. Indeed, many of them were telling me how they never wish to make the Arab population feel intimidated by their presence and are given strict orders never to appear overbearing. Their mission is not to enforce an Israeli hegemony but to simply stop Jews from being targets.
Just a few yards from the spot where Shalhevet Pass, a ten-month-old Israeli infant, was shot and killed by a Palestinian sniper while sitting in her stroller in March, 2001, I danced with my children to celebrate the Jewish festival of Sukkot.
The streets of Hebron were alive with joyous residents dancing to the music of a Jewish mystical hippie band whose flowing locks and mesmerizing music brought gladness to my heart. I was uplifted and joyous to be dancing in a city that in 1929 saw the massacre of 67 Jews and the destruction of nearly all the Synagogues and Jewish buildings. I felt alive and utterly free of fear.
Could it really be that a community who simply wish to live aside the earthly remains of Abraham and Sara, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and Leah, are obstacles to peace? Are 800 Jews in Hebron such a criminal incitement to the 100,000 Palestinians who surround them? And is it fair to characterize religious individuals who have a love for children and large families, and who live without material extravagance or opulence, as irritants?
But don't take my word for it. The next time you're in Israel, come and immerse yourself in the city chosen by Abraham as the eternal resting place for a wife he so loved to forever rest in peace.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is the international best-selling author of 23 books and was the London Times Preacher of the Year at the Millennium. As host of 'Shalom in the Home' on TLC he won the National Fatherhood Award and his syndicated column was awarded the American Jewish Press Association's Highest Award for Excellence in Commentary. Newsweek calls him 'the most famous Rabbi in America.' He has just published 'Renewal: A Guide to the Values-Filled Life.' Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.
BY RABBI SHMULEY BOTEACH | SEPTEMBER 29, 2010; 1:36 PM ET