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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)

      Tammuz 11, 5770, 6/23/2010

      YehudaShaul & Arab MKs invade Hebron's Jewish Community

      Yehuda Shaul, head of Breaking the Silence, which is funded by, among others, the EU, in order to reveal 'war crimes' committed by the IDF and Israeli civilians in Hebron, in an attempt to have the community deleted from the map, today visited Hebron with 4 Knesset Members - 3 Arabs, including Muhammad Baraka, and on Jew, Dov Khenin, a Jewish member of the Arab Hadash party. Walking from Ma'arat HaMachpela to Tel Rumeida, they were escorted by members of Hebron's Jewish community, who welcomed them as would be fitting for such visitors. The police were also on-hand in order to ensure that the Hebron's Jewish community behaved in greeting their guests as in the footsteps of Avraham Avinu. The film below is presented for your enjoyment. The photos can be seen at a larger size at the Hebron web site: http://goo.gl/xXlY

      Tammuz 10, 5770, 6/22/2010

      Three days in Chevron By Alyse Lichtenfeld

      It was way back in January when my parents asked if I would be interested in extending my eighth-grade Schechter Israel trip for an extra week, the additional time to include several days in Chevron volunteering at the preschool gan. Of course they knew I would say yes— I had helped out

      I realized that this wasn’t like a Sunday barbeque on my grandparents’ condominium balcony in Highland Park.

      at the gan last year while my parents toured Chevron for a day. But this time I wouldn’t be returning to our hotel in Jerusalem. This time I would be staying alone in Chevron.

      As the rest of the Schechter class prepared for a Sunday morning departure to the airport, my friend, Sarah, a new Olah from Chicago, met me at the Lev Yerushalayim Hotel. I said goodbye to my eighth-grade classmates and Sarah and I proceeded to the central bus station where we boarded the bus to Chevron. It took about an hour until the bus crossed from Kiryat Arba into the Jewish section of Chevron. Sarah had never been to Chevron before so my dad provided me with the instructions. I was to get off at the stop by the Maarat HaMachpela, walk into the Gutnick Center snack shop and call the preschool director to take me to the gan. Naturally, I didn’t follow Dad’s instructions and instead, got off at Beit Hadassah, confident that I would recall the way to the gan by memory after last year’s visit. I could only imagine what my parents were thinking when I woke them up at 2 a.m. Chicago time and told them that Sarah and I were lost.

      After a few minutes of phone time, I tried to re-collect my bearings. I looked ahead into what seemed like an Arab neighborhood and then quickly decided to head back toward the bus stop. All the time, I kept peering toward the dusty side streets until I finally got to the point where the surroundings appeared familiar. That’s when I worked up the courage to ask the first person I saw, “Eich magi’im l’gan yeladim?” I must have understood his response because a couple of minutes later, Sarah and I heard the shouts of young children. I hustled to the next corner and there was thegan.

      Chevron security director Yoni Bleichard met me downstairs and took my luggage to his office where he e-mailed my parents to let them know I had arrived. He brought me to the gan and I immediately began working with the preschool kids, reading stories, making Shavuot decorations, serving lunch and constantly improving my Hebrew. The children are so cute and friendly. The girls, especially, liked to play with my hair and would constantly surround me and pose for pictures. It was just the way I remembered it from last year. I handed out thirty packages of stickers which I had brought from Chicago. It felt good to bring gifts from the U.S. After school, Rebbetzin Batsheva Cohen from Chabad brought me to her house. She told me to take the baby stroller along with her four-year-old son and his two friends and walk to the Beit Hadassah to pick up the Cohen’s baby. We passed many Chevron residents along the streets, both Jewish and Arab, but I was already becoming comfortable traveling alone and remembered the way around without a problem. I returned to the rebbetzin’s house with baby Menucha Rachel and then helped prepare dinner.

      After we finished eating, the Cohens showed me the apartment where I would be staying. My dad had told me that I would living at the bnei sherut girls’ dormitory with Israeli girls who were doing volunteer service in Chevron. But it turned out that there were no other girls there that week and I had the entire apartment to myself. I admit to being a little scared at first, but the building was located right next to the Cohens and the gan. Still, I could tell my parents were shocked when I called them at 4 p.m. Chicago time to tell them I was alone for the night.

      The next morning, I arrived at the gan at 8:30. I saw some of the kids in the five and six-yearold class who remembered me from last year. But my favorite age is the three and four-year-old group and I was glad to have this assignment. The girls are so cute and friendly. The boys, of course, are completely wild, fighting with each other and pretending they’re in the army, but that’s the reality of life in Chevron which is surrounded by IDF soldiers ensuring that the Jewish community is safe.

      After the gan closed for the day, I rode in the preschool van and went to Yoni’s house. Yoni and Rabbi Hochbaum were actually at my house in Highland Park last year and Yoni had told me that he had a daughter who was my age. Yoni’s daughter showed me around for a while and we made Shavuot treats for the soldiers stationed in Chevron. Every week, the community honors the soldiers with treats and pizza. I’ve seen ladies handing out tiny Tehillim books to the soldiers on my other visits. It’s obvious that the Chevron residents support and appreciate all of the soldiers.

      After leaving the Bleichards, I returned to the Cohen’s house where I spent the next few hours on their rooftop patio cooking eggplants for dinner. As I prepared the food, I could hear Arab prayer calls bellowing loudly in the background. It made me realize that this wasn’t like a Sunday barbeque on my grandparents’ condominium balcony in Highland Park.

      After dinner, I returned to my apartment and just relaxed on the bed as I listened to music and scanned for radio stations on my I-pod. I made sure to call my parents and let them know how the day went before finally falling asleep at midnight.

      The next morning was Erev Shavuot. The gan was closed so Rebbetzin Cohen had me take her children to the Avraham Avinu playground. I began thinking to myself and felt proud and responsible, knowing that for the past few days the Cohens had entrusted their young children with me, an eight-grader, whom they had never before met. It’s such a different feeling being 5000 miles away from the overprotective atmosphere of the Chicago suburbs. As I watched the Chevron children playing and running through the streets and courtyards, I saw some of the boys and girls displaying the stickers that I handed out on Sunday. The kids were so cute and vivacious!

      After bringing back the Cohen’s children, I got cleaned up and got ready to leave. There were just four days left in my one-week extension and I still had friends and family to visit in other cities. I put my stuff in Rebbetzin Cohen’s car and she drove me through Chevron’s winding streets to the Gutnick Center. Peering out of the window, I couldn’t believe that I had found the way to the gan on my own last Sunday. I know classmates who aren’t even allowed to cross busy streets near their homes. But in Israel, kids seem to grow up faster. It’s something I’ve noticed on all my previous trips.

      We arrived at the Gutnick Center and waited for my family friend, Yahel, to drive me to Kibbutz Erez near Sderot for Shavuot. As we stood near the tree-lined grounds by the gift shop, I could see the Maarat HaMachpela just a few hundred feet in the background. I looked toward the old stone steps next to the ancient building. On our first visit to Chevron, my dad explained that those were the seven steps, beyond which Jews were never allowed to pray. Yet, I had been fortunate enough to have entered the Maarat HaMachpela two different times. I’ve even met a man that actually went into the cave in 1967.

      As Yahel’s blue car pulled up, I thought about how Avraham purchased the caves and the very field upon which I was standing. I know that is why Jews still live here. I was glad that my parents, the Chevron community and the people from the Chevron Fund helped arrange my stay and I’m looking forward to my next visit to Israel and another chance to come to Chevron and work in the preschool gan.

      Tammuz 8, 5770, 6/20/2010

      We cannot let a yeshiva/shul in Israel be destroyed

      By Rabbi Pesach Lerner, Executive Vice President,
      National Council of Young Israel, execvp@youngisrael.org

      Dear Fellow Jews:
      We cannot let a yeshiva/shul in Israel be destroyed. Allow me to explain.

      The following article appeared on Arutz Sheva news on Sunday, May 9, 2010:

      The IDF's Civilian Administration issued a demolition order Sunday against the spacious building that houses Od Yosef Chai Yeshiva at Yitzhar, in Samaria.

      Local residents believe that authorities are purposely punishing the yeshiva because of a confrontation with the IDF that took place on Independence Day, and also because security forces hold the yeshiva's students responsible for various attacks against Arabs in recent months and years, including the burning of a carpet in a mosque at the nearby village of Yassuf.

      “It turns out that the authorities are making special efforts to hurt the yeshiva in an unfair and vindictive way,” a yeshiva spokesman said Sunday. “It should be noted that the building is an ornate permanent structure, with an area of 1,300 square meters, which was built with the aid of the Ministry of Housing and was approved by the various authorities to serve as an educational institution.”

      The destruction order, the residents said, cited an 11 year old work-stoppage order – one that they had never heard of until now. The building took years to build and cost over $1 million.

      I could not believe what I was reading. How could it possibly be that in Israel, Jews were going to destroy a yeshiva/shul building?

      As I researched the situation and tried to ascertain what exactly was transpiring, it seemed obvious that the Israeli government was using the pretext of a seemingly 11-year old building violation to punish the yeshiva and its students who seemingly have become a nuisance to the government.

      But to destroy a yeshiva - a place of Tefillah and Torah study - in Israel? In the event that something was amiss and the situation had to be rectified, perhaps the individuals responsible should be held accountable, but to destroy a yeshiva is quite excessive.

      Besides the Chilul Hashem, which is severe in its own right, what will we tell the Europeans the next time they want to destroy an old shul, for whatever reasons they may have? Does the Israeli government destroy a public school in Tel Aviv when its students are involved, chas v’shalom in some sort of wrongdoing?
      I had planned to be in Israel that week, so upon my arrival, I contacted the Rosh HaYeshiva of the Od Yosef Chai Yeshiva, which has been in Yitzhar for almost 10 years, since its original home, Joseph's Tomb in Shechem, was abandoned by the Israeli army and destroyed by the Arabs. Rabbi Yitzchok Shapira, the Rosh HaYeshiva, told me that the yeshiva had in fact received a demolition order, based on a violation from 11 years ago - a violation which they knew nothing about. (see attached copy of demolition order).

      Rabbi Shapira invited me to visit the yeshiva and offered to have someone pick me up. I accepted the offer, and the next afternoon, I was picked up by Rabbi Dan Marans, whom I personally know in his capacity as the director of the Zomet Institute in Alon Shvut. We drove through the Shomron to the community of Yitzhar, which is on a strategic mountaintop, overlooking Har Greizim, quite a distance from the main road.

      The yeshiva building, a beautiful multi-floored structure, stood away from the community, in its own space. The building was built entirely by Jewish workers, many of whom were former yeshiva students. The main study hall was large, the library was in the back, the lunchroom was on the lower level, and the yeshiva offices and classrooms were on the upper level. (please see attached pictures)

      I met with the Rosh HaYeshiva, Rabbi Yitzchok Shapira and the yeshiva director, Itamar Pozen. They shared with me the tzav harisa, the destruction order, and a package of documents proving their legal status (attached), and the fact that numerous departments in the Israeli government participated in the building of the yeshiva. How can we be illegal, they asked, if the government put in the infrastructure, if the government authorized the mortgage, etc.

      We discussed their speculations as to why the government, 11 years after they claimed there was a building violation, was just now threatening to destroy the yeshiva building. Rabbi Shapira told me that the Od Yosef Chai Yeshiva has been teaching its students for many years that every Jew must be “mutually responsible” for every other Jew. This movement of “mutual responsibility” threatens the government. They want us to stop promoting this idea so they are trying to distract and silence us by destroying our building

      The idea that Jews would destroy yeshiva/shul buildings under any circumstances is reprehensible. If a European country threatened to destroy a shul under the pretext of a building code violation, Jews from all walks of life – Orthodox and non-Orthodox – would demand that the order be cancelled. The protests against such an inconceivable act would be loud and numerous.

      During my visit to the yeshiva, I noticed large plaques with the names of two individuals who made large contributions to assist in the building of the yeshiva. I contacted both families and they each told me that prior to making donations to the yeshiva to help defray the costs of the construction, they had seen official documents verifying that the yeshiva had government approval to build.

      I spoke to numerous roshei yeshiva and community rabbis in Israel, and they all agreed that Jews must not destroy yeshivas/shuls. I spoke to various Israeli government officials, all of whom could not understand how such an order could be given.

      Dear friends, the yeshiva administration, the regional councils, etc., are all challenging this destructive order. Individuals within the government are asking questions, but we have a responsibility to do all that we can to ensure that this order gets overturned. We must publicly urge Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to forcefully and publically rescind this order. We cannot sit back and allow a yeshiva, a beautiful center of Torah and Tefillah, to be destroyed.

      Each of us must send daily emails, send daily faxes, and make daily phone calls to the Prime Minister of Israel protesting this inconceivable action. People need to send letters to the Israeli Embassy in Washington, DC and to the Israeli Consulate in New York.

      We must demand that our community organizations, our rabbis, our entire community, speak out. We cannot allow this Chilul Hashem, this desecration of G-d’s name, to take place. Please send an email, send a fax, and make a call, now. Tell the Prime Minister to protect the yeshiva building in Yitzhar and prevent it from being destroyed.

      And, in the merit of our speaking out, of caring for our fellow Jews and our Torah institutions, may we merit Shalom al Yisrael, peace in Israel.


      Contact Prime Minister
      Benjamin Netanyahu at:

      Telephone -

      011-972-2-670-5532 (attention: Tzvi Hauser, Cabinet Secretary of the Israel government)

      Fax (send to all three numbers) –

      011-972-2-563-2580 (attention: Tzvi Hauser, Cabinet Secretary of the Israel government)

      Email (send to all three email addresses) –

      memshala@pmo.gov.il (attention: Tzvi Hauser, Cabinet Secretary of the Israel government)
      pm_eng2@it.pmo.gov.il (underscore after pm)