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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.davidwilder.net
      www.hebron.com (English)
      www.hebron.org.il (Hebrew)
      www.machpela.com
      www.ohrshlomo.org (Hebrew)
      www.ohrshalom.net (Hebrew)
      www.womeningreen.org
      www.zoa.org
      (others to be added)

      Cheshvan 5, 5774, 10/9/2013

      Historic meeting in Hebron with Italian Minister


      Italian Minister of Culture and Tourism, Mr. Massimo Bray, hosted by Tiph in Hebron, walked near Beit Hadassah, where he was met and greeted by David Wilder, spokesman for Hebron's Jewish Community. Following brief introductions, the minister toured the Hebron Heritage Museum and visited the community's dav-care center. The visit was very positive. It was suggested that perhaps an Italian-sponsored project, spearheaded by the minister, could try and bridge the gap between Arabs and Jews in Hebron. The project could deal with common culture between both Arabs and Jews. 

      Hebron's Jewish community welcomes such visits and hopes that other international leaders, particularly those from the EU, will follow in Minister Bray's footsteps, following his example, and meet with Hebron community leaders.

       



      Tishrei 20, 5774, 9/24/2013

      B”H, BS & BB


      B”H – Baruch HaShem, Thank G-d. Yesterday was an overwhelming success. Some 25,000 people visited the city and participated in the Music Festival. Add on 10,000 the day before, and anther few thousand today and tomorrow. That’s almost 40,000 people in Hebron.

      Of course, the murder of Gal Kobi HY”D, the Israeli soldier shot and killed is a tragedy that never should have happened. It will be difficult to console the family. Why should a twenty year old man be shot and killed by an Arab sniper? Only because he was Jewish, Israeli, and serving in the IDF, assisting to protect others living in, and visiting Hebron. And also ensuring that terrorists, such as the animal who killed him, aren’t able to travel freely around Israel, murdering Jews in Tel Aviv, or in his home city, Haifa.

      But Israelis showed their bravery and heroism, not allowing this horrendous act to prevent their coming to Hebron. As is said, some 25,000 people yesterday, and thousands today and tomorrow, and next week and next month, vote with their feet – they let their feet do the talking, showing one and all: terrorists will not prevent Jews from visiting and living in their land, their cities, and their homes.

      The shows yesterday were great. I caught the last few: Yishai Lapidot, Mendy Jerufi, and Ya’akov Shwekey. They were fantastic. Shwekey was all that was expected and more. See photos on our facebook: http://www.facebook.com/UnitedWithHebron

      Immediately following the murder, the director of yesterday’s programming spoke to Ya’akov, telling him about the terror attack. Shwekey assured him, on the spot, that he had no intentions to cancel. The show would go on, as planned.

      And what a show it was. He dedicated two special songs. One of his most famous, Tatte, meaning Father, changing some of the original words for Hebron, he dedicated to the memory of the murdered soldier. Another was sung for the IDF, the Israel Defense Forces, serving our nation and our people.  It was really something else.

      What a day it was.

      BS:  A few hours after the murder, the Prime Minister issued a directive, ordering that all measures necessary to allow Jews back into Beit HaMachpela immediately, be implemented. The one and only measure necessary is that of the signature of the Defense Minister, Moshe ‘Bugi’ Ya’alon on a piece of paper, a permit, granting permission for Jews who purchased the site to move back in.

      As might be recalled, last year the purchase was completed and Jews moved in. Two days later they were expelled. A military court ruled a couple of months ago, that the purchase was fully legal. The Jews should be allowed back in.

      We’ve been waiting and waiting and waiting.

      As of this morning, the story is that the Defense Minister ‘authorized’ the return to the building, but has yet to sign the permits. So my guess is that, because of his deeply religious practices, he doesn’t write on Chol HaMoed, the intermediary days of Succot, due to the sanctity of this week. (LOL)

      So, maybe after the holidays, Thursday night?

      BB: Well, actually it’s Bibi. Mr Prime Minister, who split Hebron in January, 1998, after promising he would never do such a thing. A few days ago he stated that anyone thinking they can uproot us from Hebron should know that it will never happen. And he promised, again. Back to Beit HaMachpela.

      Well, it seems that a Prime Minister’s directive isn’t enough. Why? Maybe (no, it can’t be) he really didn’t mean it. Maybe (no, it can’t be), the message hasn’t yet filtered down to the Defense Minister. Or maybe there are people, in roles under the Prime Minister, who can control what the Prime Minister is actually able to do, or not do, despite his position and directives. (Yes, it can be!)

      Pick one of the above: a, b, or c, or pick all of the above. Or none. Maybe its threats from the direction of the WH, where BB is supposed to go speak BS with next week with POSTUS.

      But, we have no doubt, there will be much BH – blessings from above, and in the end, all will work out ok. Because the BH has been around longer that BB or BS or even POTUS, and will still be here when they are long gone.

      Baruch HaShem.

      Happy holidays from Hebron.







      Tishrei 18, 5774, 9/22/2013

      Reaction to terror in Hebron: Keep the show going


      Short video (Hebrew) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cxsc-XHLUog
      Photos: http://tinyurl.com/kjn5d35

      -----------------------------------

      It happened again.

      In 2002, on the first day of the huge Succot celebrations, early evening, an Arab terrorist opened fire near the Avraham Avinu neighborhood. As a result, Rabbi Shlomo Shapira from Jerusalem was killed.

      Fast forward: Succot, September 2013, eleven years later. Almost the same exact time. An Arab terrorist shoots, killing an Israeli soldier, near the “Beit Merkachat” intersection in Hebron. As with Rabbi Shapira, the soldier never really had a chance. A bullet penetrated his neck, leaving an entrance and exit wound. Medical personnel did everything humanly possible. But it wasn’t enough.

      Prior to the killing, I could define today as ‘interesting.’ Actually I really don’t know if that’s the right word to use.

      Well over 10,000 people arrived in Hebron today, filling Ma’arat HaMachpela, walking the streets, visiting the Avraham Avinu neighborhood, all having a good time. One of the day’s highlights was the opening of the Cave of Otniel ben Knaz to Jewish visitors, an event occurring very few days during the year. This, because the site is located on the ‘Arab’ H1 side of the city.

      But on holidays, such as today, the 300 meter walk from the ‘Kikar HaShoter’ checkpoint to the holy site is heavily protected, allowing visitors, escorted by soldiers or police, to view and worship at the cave.

      But earlier, prior to its opening, I’d received notification of trouble. A firebomb was hurled at soldiers in the area. Rock-throwing, an almost normal occurrence in Hebron, was starting. But the security forces had the situation under control, and dozens and dozens of people walked back and forth to the place.

      Me too. Today was the first day of our special VIP tour. A busload of Hebron friends and supporters visited our newly initiated Tel Hebron overlook, on the roof of Beit Menachem, in Tel Rumeida. They also heard a short talk from Mrs. Tzippy Shlissel, and then too, participated in the walk to the fascinating Cave of Otniel.

      I had the privilege to escort a wonderful woman who I’ve known for about 15 years. Mrs. Ruth Simons is 91 years young, but you’d never know it. When we arrived at the Cave she climbed up the stairs on her own two legs, entering the site for the first time in her life.

      But, honestly, on the way there, and on the way back, I wasn’t entirely relaxed. I’ve done this many times before, and people here, well, sometimes we develop ‘antennas’ which pick up vibrations in the air. And the vibes were definitely there.

      Everything and everyone were in place – soliders, border police, regular police, but at the same time, booms from stun grenades and rubber bullets being shot at distant attackers, filled the air. It wasn’t, as it usually is, a quiet walk. I was very impressed by my guests. Ruth and her family, who didn’t seem phased in the least. They took it all in stride.

      But my insides, my gut didn’t like it. It is a disgrace for Jews to have to walk down a street to the tune of stun grenades exploding, not too far from them, on a Jewish holiday. Or on any day, for that matter.

      But we did it, and that was that.

      Later our guests were treated to a delicious lunch at the Yeshivat Shavei Hebron Succah and then visited Machpela. After they left, I recalled, for some reason, Rabbi Shlomo Shapira’s murder, as I walked past the site of that terror attack, back to the office.

      A little while later, at 6:30, I received a call from my son, who works with security in a community outside of Hebron, asking about the shooting.

      “What shooting?”

      “There was a shooting and someone was hit.”

      It didn’t take long to get preliminary details, where, when, and the victim’s condition: very critical. Together with a few others, we watched soldiers and police, running back and forth, huddling, talking in whispers. Ambulances, their red lights flashing, driving by, in all directions.

      There wasn’t too much else to do, except wait.

      Later tonight we’ll meet, and talk, to discuss our reactions.

      The first reactions are easily expressible. First, our shock and pain at a young soldier’s death, as a result of an Arab terrorist sniper’s bullet.

      But after that, the first question everyone asks is, ‘what about tomorrow?’ Tomorrow we are expecting some 50,000 people in Hebron, to participate in our Succot music festival, outside M’arat HaMachpela. This year the festival is headed up by Ya’akov Shwekey, one of the most popular Jewish/Hassdic singers in the business today. Shwekey in known to bring out big crowds, and a free concert in Hebron is sure to be a huge event.

      Eleven years ago, following Rabbi Shapira’s murder, we faced the same, identical question. And we didn’t cancel. The show went on. We hosted thousands more than we’d expected. People showed their support for Hebron, and their disdain for terror by voting with their feet, by coming into Hebron by the droves.

      We expect the same tomorrow. Of course, the show will go on. There will be pain, pain at the needless killing of another Israeli, in the line of duty. But, actually, we are all soldiers in the line of duty.

      No, not only the Jews of Hebron. Jews in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, Haifa and Beer Sheva. We are all soldiers, whether we wear khaki uniforms or not. We are living in our land, and still fighting for our land, against those who wish to take it from us. Our enemies don’t distinguish between Hebron and Tel Aviv, Sderot or Beit El. It’s all the same. And the way to fight them is to continue to live in all these places, to continue on, despite the difficulties, despite the pain and the blood. There is no choice, it’s us or them. And we don’t have any intentions to allow them to win. Whatever the cost.

      That is the way of an army, of soldiers, and that is what we all are. As will be the multitudes who will fill Hebron tomorrow.

      Succot is a feast of joy and happiness. This year, there will be a tinge of black over the blue skies of tomorrow’s concert. But one of the answers to tonight’s murder is to keep the show going, and that’s what will happen. Forever and ever and ever.







      Tishrei 8, 5774, 9/12/2013

      Atonement at the Hallowed Grounds of the Tabernacle


      Last week one of my daughters moved from the southern Hebron Hills community Eshtamoa to Shilo in Binyamin.

      Shilo is one of those places I’ve read about in the Bible, and a place passed by when traveling to communities in the northern Shomron.

      I have friends who live there, but haven’t ever really spent time at this ancient, holy place. (Next week, over Succot, we will, with G-d’s help).

      Presently Shilo is broken into two areas: the modern community and the ancient site.

      Modern Shilo was founded in 1978. Actually, I seem to recall being present at the ceremony, for the laying of the cornerstone at the new community, an event attended by Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook zt”l and other important rabbis and leaders. Today almost four hundred families live here, 40 kilometers (40 minutes) north of Jerusalem. It is quite an impressive community, with a view second to none.


       


      Ancient Shilo was Israel’s first capital. Following the exodus from Egypt, the ancient Israelites brought here the ‘Mishkan,’ the ‘tabernacle’ – a sanctuary built by Moses in the desert, and later brought into Israel by Joshua. It remained in Shilo for 369 years, until being destroyed by the ancient Philistines, shortly prior to the crowning of Saul as King of Israel.

      One of the most famous Biblical stories occurring at the Tabernacle in Shilo was the “Hannah’s prayer.” Having no children of her own, Hannah cried out to the L-rd at this holy place. Eli the High Priest, seeing her whispering, and thinking Hannah to be inebriated, reprimanded her. When Hannah replied, with tears and a broken heart, her desire for a child, and her willingness to dedicate that child to G-d, Eli promised her a son within the year. That child, of course, is Shmuel, Samuel, the prophet who led the Israelites and anointed both Saul and David.

      Yesterday, together with friends from our Hebron office, we visited ancient Shilo. We are in the process of planning a major upgrade of the Hebron Heritage museum in Beit Hadassah. One of the facets of the renovated museum will be a video/sound and light show, telling the story of Hebron and all its magnificent history to the multitudes who visit this holy city.

      The Ancient Shilo organization has recently concluded production of a new presentation about Shilo and the Tabernacle. We were invited to a sneak-preview, allowing us to learn from their experience.

      A tower, housing the auditorium, is surrounded by archeological sites and excavations. At the entrance to the tower is a Mikvah, a pool for ritual purification, probably dating to the 2nd Temple era.

      But the most amazing view is that of the site of the Tabernacle itself. Presently, archeologists believe they have discovered the actual place where this sanctuary rested for almost four centuries. We were told that fossilized burnt raisins, discovered at the site, have been dated to the exact time when the Tabernacle was burnt down and destroyed just over 3,000 years ago.

      Seeing this wondrous site and realizing its illustrious history and significance to the history of the Jewish people in Israel, is literally breathtaking.

      But the best was yet to come. Sitting in the small auditorium, overlooking the Tabernacle through glass windows, the presentation began. In just over 13 minutes, we witnessed a living, breathing experience of our heritage. Watching this amazing production, I felt like I was there, living my way through hundreds of years of history. And I wasn’t the only one who shed a tear as Hannah pleaded with G-d for a child.

      The Tel Shiloh – Ancient Shilo organization has actually renewed, at this site, Hannah’s prayer. Not too long ago 4,000 women participated in a special program at this site, called “Hannah’s Prayer.”

      After seeing the production, I can only hope that the program we put together here in Hebron, is as powerful, real and effective as this one. And of course, I highly recommend visiting this special, unique site and program.

      At this time of the year, approaching Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, it is customary to write about and speak about ‘Tshuva,’ that is, repentance. There are numerous types of repentance. Each and every individual should, and must, make an accounting of his or hers deed and actions over the past year, searching out what has to be patched up and fixed over the coming year.

      But it’s not enough to practice personal atonement. We must also, as a people, as a nation, put ourselves back together.

      Actually the word ‘tshuva’ is rooted in the word, ‘shuv,’ which means ‘return.’ We have to return to ourselves. Any deviation from our real selves is a problem, needing to be resolved. I personally believe that the first step of tshuva, return, is coming home, coming back to Israel, where Jews belong.

      But being ‘here’ is not only Tel Aviv, Haifa and Beer Sheva. Being ‘here’ is Jerusalem, Hebron, Shilo, and Beit El. Being ‘here’ means understanding that this is our home, the home of Joshua, Eli, Shmuel, and David. These are our roots, these are our past, these are our present, these are our future. If you cut off the roots of a tree, what happens to the tree?

      This must be our national accounting. Our tshuva is to stop speaking about Eretz Yisrael as ‘palestine,’ and rather, to recognize all of our land as an integral, essential, official, part of the State of Israel. Rather than negotiate away and abandon our birthright, we must renew, revitalize, and relive our gift, for our land, Eretz Yisrael, truly is a Divine gift.

      Anyone walking the hallowed ground of the ancient Tabernacle in Shilo can surely sense such sacredness.

      Happy New Year, an easy fast, and Gmar Hatima tova.