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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:
(others to be added)
Over the past month, what I would consider to be three miracles have occurred in Hebron. I’d like to relate them.
The first happened on the last night of Hanukkah. Every night, at Ma’arat HaMachpela, someone was honored to
This is the aura of Hebron, the spirit of Machpela, the Divine essence of this holy city.
light the Menorah. On the first night, the special guest was Knesset speaker Rubi Rueven Rivlin. On the last night, one of the army units serving in Hebron for five months was asked to attend the ceremony and have one of the officers do the honors.
After the group arrived and received a short introductory tour inside, one of the officers, a company commander with the rank of captain, stepped forward and said that he wished to light the candles. He told the people there that this was the first time he had ever visited Ma’arat HaMachpela. In addition, he said, coming from a secular background, he’d never before lit Hanukkah candles. Therefore, on this very special occasion, marking his first time at Machpela, he requested the honor and privilege of lighting the candles.
With genuine joy radiating from his face, he lit the eight candles and repeated three blessings. The first two are recited every night, for the mitzvah (commandment) of the lighting, and for the miracle that had occurred. But the third blessing was extraordinary: thanking G-d for have kept him alive, for sustaining him, and for having brought him to this special moment.
It was a moment of tremendous spiritual uplifting.
The second miracle happened a couple of weeks later. By way of introduction: Hebron is plagued by numerous foreign organizations who flock to the city to help the Arabs, while simultaneously inciting against the Jewish community.
One afternoon two people visited my office, a male photographer and an older woman with him. She introduced herself as a research student at a university in Sweden, and was looking for information about Hebron. I queried as to exactly what she was researching and she replied that she needed facts about the pre-1929 Hebron Jewish community.
I decided to introduce her to my colleague Noam Arnon, who is more of an expert on this subject than I. They made an appointment to meet and a few days later she showed up at the office and sat with him for a couple of hours. After she had left I asked him how the session had gone. His answer was astounding.
Noam told me that actually this woman belonged to one of the foreign organizations in Hebron, caring for the Arab population. She had a feeling that perhaps it would be beneficial to speak also with the Jews in the city, but her superiors refused. So she decided to take matters into her own hands and made an appointment with us. After questioning Noam and hearing his responses, she literally had tears in her eyes. She said that there was, somewhere in her family, Jewish blood, and that his answers supported her inner feelings that in Hebron, the conflict between the Jews and Arabs contains more than meets the eye. She left our office telling him how important it had been for them to speak.
A few days later I met this woman at Ma’arat HaMachpela. It was difficult for her to speak, her voice choked and she seemed to fight tears. She thanked me so much for introducing her to Noam and for taking the time to speak with her. When I offered to sit with her again she said that, unfortunately, she was leaving Israel that night, but was so happy that she had had the opportunity to meet with us and hear the other side of the story. When we parted she returned to offer a few more prayers near the memorial for Abraham and Sarah.
The third event occurred about a week ago. An American producer came in to interview me for a new movie. He was accompanied by three Israelis: a videographer, an audio man, and a third, younger person, driving and helping out. He seemed to be extremely tense. While driving into Hebron, calling me for instructions, he exclaimed, “I don’t believe I’m really here.” Later he declared that the group had to be out of the area before nightfall because, ‘Life is good to me, I like my life.’ In other words, ‘it’s much too dangerous to be here.’
The group had arrived late and the interview and tour lasted for a couple of hours, more that they’d intended. At about four thirty, outside Machpela, I told them that I had to go pray afternoon and evening prayers. When they asked if they could join me, I agreed and they followed me upstairs. Arriving, this younger man, never having been in Hebron or Machpela, searched out the Abraham room, and literally fell on the grating of the Abraham memorial, as if pasting himself to it. I had trouble believing that this was the same individual who was so uptight only a few hours ago. Also, it should be kept in mind that he is not religiously observant. But inside Machpela, he seemed to be in a trance.
Later, as they were leaving, he told me that, ‘I have to start coming here to Hebron.’ The next day, calling me, he told me that he wanted to bring a busload of friends into Hebron too.
This is the aura of Hebron, the spirit of Machpela, the Divine essence of this holy city. A couple of hours, a short tour, a conversation or two can and has changed people’s lives. We witness such occurrences all the time. Jews, non-Jews, people from all over the world. Literally, Machpela miracles.
More photos and video at: http://www.hebron.com/english/gallery.php?id=374
Years ago I discovered the bible. No, not the one that starts ‘In the beginning…’. Well, almost, but a little different.
This bible begins, “It was not until this book was well under way that I reluctantly confronted the historical factors underlying the “Palestinian problem.’ The book was originally meant to be solely an investigation of the current plight of the “Arab refugees,” as that subject was then still generally known.” The first chapter ends with the words that title the last chapter, (This book is) “in essence, about flight from fact.”
The book, four hundred pages later, concludes, Today (1984) the explicitly stated Arab goals appear to be gaining credence once again through the medium of propaganda and twisted rhetoric, unquestioned by those of us who haven’t known the questions to ask, and unhindered by many who have guessed. Those who understand the reality ought to demand more.”
So it was that the twentieth century bible of those seeking truth about Israel and the Middle East was born, called “From Time Immemorial,” authored by Joan Peters.
A few weeks ago, while still in the United States, a friend from Chicago called me about a couple wanting to visit Hebron. I get such requests frequently and offered to place them on one of our regular tours. Then he told me their names: Dr. William Caro, (yes, related to Rabbi Yosef Caro, author of the Shulchan Aruch, the most important codification of Jewish Law ever written, who lived in Tzfat some 500 years ago), and his wife, Mrs. Joan Peters.
I froze.” Joan Peters – From Time Immemorial,” I asked? Of course the response was positive. A little while later, speaking to her on the phone, I told her that as I relate to her magnum opus as a bible, she could easily understand how I relate to her.
This week Joan, together with her husband Bill, came to visit in Hebron. We didn’t have a lot of time, but managed to visit the community’s neighborhoods, Ma’arat HaMachpela, and meet some people. While introducing her to one of my friends, his wife walked by, looked at my guests and blurted, “Joan Peters?! You’re here, in Hebron?” She recognized Joan from a small photo of her, taken about 30 years ago, on the back of the book cover.
Driving from Tel Rumeida to Beit Hadassah, we gave Hebron resident and activist Baruch Marzel a ride down the hill. Baruch told Joan, “I didn’t just read your book. I studied it and learned it.”
During a short interview outside Machpela, I asked Joan what struck her about Hebron? She answered, “The history, the history is awesome. The archeological dig, that’s awesome. The 97 percent, being surrounded by Arabs is also awesome; it’s terrifying that Israel’s government has put Hebron in this situation.
Her husband, Dr. Bill Caro: “I find this a remarkable place. One of the remarkable things about Hebron is the continuity of the Jewish community, going way way back, to Biblical times. And as American citizens we don’t know much about it, we don’t learn much about it, we take it for granted. We know about Israel, we’re here with a group that strongly supports Israel (Honest Reporting), but Hebron we read about, but being here is really important, and it’s so gratifying to be here.
I asked Joan Peters the million dollar question – what brought about the writing of ‘From Time Immemorial?’
“That’s a tough question to answer. The short answer is, I think it was a dibbuk (inner spirit – ed.) because I don’t know how I could have done it now by myself. But it went from pillar to pillar and one question begot another and the research was fascinating to me – I love research – and I found all sorts of things I didn’t expect to find, and in the process I had no idea what I was up against when I started. And when I finished I had no idea what it was going to inspire and I’m terribly humbled and gratified by the fact that people care so much about what I found. It was there, it was all there. I just found it.”
One of the fascinating chapters in this classic is titled, “’Muftism’ and Britain’s contribution to the “Final Solution.” Here the connection between Nazi Germany and the Grand Mufti Haj Amin el-Husseini is examined. Recently this subject has been the source of more than one book, but a few decades ago it was almost untouched. Also studied is the British refusal to allow Jews into their homeland.
“The Jews had nowhere to go. The irony was that the very loss of their nation had become the source of much of the anti-Jewish antagonism. The Jews could be pushed around or held suspect, because they weren’t “from” anyplace and no place totally accept them. The more they clung to their beliefs, the more they seemed to stand out…”
“From Time Immemorial” is a permanent fixture on my office table. Despite the seemly everlasting mess which continues to grow, I can always find this book, and, as a rule, show it to just about every reporter who interviews me. The message is quite clear: If you really want to understand the Israeli-Arab conflict, this literature is a must-read. I don’t know how many of them actually follow through, but surely anyone who takes the plunge and examines the book must realize that common preconceptions are usually close to 100% wrong.
When I asked Joan if she’d continue writing she responded positively, but preferred not to go into details. I would be thrilled to receive a new Joan Peters expose, continuing to deal with Israel and present day issues. But even if she should never write another word, Joan’s place in history is assured. She is truly a modern-day wonder woman. She put it plainly, ‘the material was all there – I just found it.’ So simple and so true. But the fact is that nobody else cared enough to search for, and reveal the truth. I can only but take my hat off to Joan, while hoping and praying that she is not the last of her kind.
David Wilder and Noam Arnon in LA
Hebron: A Piece of Israel or an Obstacle to Peace in Israel
Thursday, November 18, 2010 at 7:30 p.m.
Luxe Hotel Sunset - 11461 Sunset Blvd. Los Angeles, CA