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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 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)
Chabad has a very rich Hebron legacy. Today close to 200 people visited Hebron via Chabad, including many Chabad "Sluchim" based in the United States. They visited several Jewish neighborhoods, as well as Ma'arat HaMachpela. I spoke to each busload of people at Beit Hadassah for about a half hour each, photographed each of the groups, and promised them the pix would appear on my blog. So here they are!
Iran – Iran – Iran
There's a very interesting phenomenon taking place throughout the world.
A couple of years ago a small group of Christians from Texas toured with me in Hebron. After they left I tucked them back in my distant memory. Actually I didn't intentionally do so; my memory's like a slice of Swiss cheese, full of holes.
But, I guess I didn't entirely forget them. About a half a year later I found myself in Texas with a couple of days to spare, looking for something worthwhile to do. Somehow I remembered that some people from the Lone Star State had visited with me, managed to find them, and spent a few days with them. One of that group, a fellow named Mike, has become a very close personal friend.
Mike introduced me, up close, to this breathtaking trend; that, being a startling move by Christians, some of whom might be labeled 'evangelic' towards religious Judaism.
No, they're not necessarily thinking about converting, at least not all of them. And they haven't necessarily forsaken Jesus, again, at least not all of them. But, they are searching for their roots, and that pursuit leads them directly to the Bible, the 'Old Testament' otherwise known as the five books of Moses, or the Torah. Many have reached the (logical) conclusion that Judaism never 'needed' Christianity, but without Judaism there never would have been Christianity.
'Torah study groups' have blossomed, not necessarily among Jews, but rather, among these gentiles. I've seen an Iphone application which can teach Jewish blessings in Hebrew; Mike has one on his phone and uses it. I spoke at such a 'Torah center' in Texas. The charismatic man running the place told me, "I don't really know what I am, but I know that my grandmother used to light candles on Friday nights and bless me." More than likely his family were among those called "Marranos," Spanish Jews forcibly converted over 500 years ago. His Jewish roots are calling from somewhere deep down inside him, and he's beginning to answer.
I know people who do say that they no longer believe in Jesus and don't celebrate the Christian holidays, at least not the way they used to. Others, haven't made it that far, but I've visited Pastors who have, in their offices, Jewish prayer shawls (Tallit), a ram's horn (Shofar) and other Jewish, traditional prayer items. Some people have even taken up use of Tefillin, known as phylacteries. Once, when Mike was with me here in Hebron, he wanted to call someone back in Texas on Saturday night, but looking at his watch exclaimed, "he won't answer the phone now. There, it's still Shabbat." And the guy he wanted to call isn't Jewish.
I know a couple who have an amazing television program, viewed by millions around the world, who don't produce a show on Saturday, because it's Shabbat. And they aren't Jewish.
This phenomenon seems to be growing, and with it, Jewish suspicions. Not only are masses beginning to move towards Judaism. Various organizations are utilizing such practices to encourage their agenda, which is overtly missionary; converting Jews to Christianity. "Hidden missionaries" – those people who seem outwardly to be Jewish, even observant Jews, are actually attempting to 'get a foot in the door' to propagate literature and their own ideas and ideals in order to 'save' the Jews from eternal hell.
In the past other types of methods were used, like burning people at the stake. Today's world would view that as barbaric so more cultural approaches are utilized.
This being the case, with such missionary types running rampant in the US and even here in Israel, many Jews are extremely extremely suspicious of any non-Jew who tries to cozy up and get too friendly. And most especially, where money is involved. Nothing works better to convince another of genuine friendship than a few bucks, or a few tens or hundreds of thousands of them.
That being the case, huge disagreements have erupted over acceptance of money from non-Jews, and most particularly, those labeled as evangelical.
I've had many discussions with Mike concerning this issue; we are very open with each other. He decided to show me the 'real thing,' and last summer took me to the annual CUFI (Christians United for Israel) conference in Washington DC. There, for three days, over 4,000 people gathered in the Washington Convention Center, and participated in numerous lectures, study groups and gatherings. The entire event was initiated by one man: Pastor John Hagee.
I'd heard about Pastor Hagee, but really didn't know a whole lot about him. Quick checks with a few people I trust, 'in the know' led me to believe that he is straight; in other words his agenda is not to convert Jews. Knowing that, I took in a deep breath, let it out slowly, and could not believe what I was hearing or seeing.
Again, with my memory not helping too much, I'm limited as to the examples I can give, but perhaps two are enough. The last day of the conference, the thousands attending, from every state in the Union, invaded Capital Hill, lobbying their representatives and Senators. Prior to leaving for Congress, the participants were briefed as to the issues to be raised.
Religious Christians have many issues dear to their hearts: abortion, school prayer, and more. Pastor Hagee gave them a list of several topics to be discusses and requested/demanded that these, and only these, be brought up. The first issue, he said, is Iran. We have to prevent the Iranians from obtaining nuclear weapons to keep Israel safe. Two, he said, is Iran. We have to stop all investments in Iran, in an attempt to force them to stop their nuclear program, which is endangering Israel. And third, he said, is Iran. Congress must ensure that companies with previously agreements with Iran will not be penalized when they break them.
And that's all!
Iran – Iran – Iran.
The conference was amazing; it left a real mark on me.
Last night I attended a similar event: A Night to Honor Israel. But this wasn't held in Washington. It took place here, in Jerusalem.
Again, amazing. A short video showed how the Hagee ministries have distributed over fifty eight million dollars to projects in Israel, including soup kitchens, children's special needs centers, Yeshivas, - the list is endless. Organizations and communities throughout Israel, Judea, Samaria, Gush Katif (and Gush Katif refugees) and all over the country.
Again, the Pastor spoke of one basic issue: the need for Israel to be able to defend itself, to 'take care' of the Iranians, and castigating, in no uncertain terms, the Goldstone report and those who authored it.
Again, I left the event thinking to myself how history has turned upside down, how these people don't 'seem to be' but are, true genuine friends of Israel and the Jewish people. I have no doubt of Pastor John Hagee's authenticity. The kinds of words and acts he espouses and accomplishes are not the work of a phony. He is the real McCoy. "Nights to Honor Israel" are happening throughout the United States, raising money for worthy Israel projects. All initiated by Pastor Hagee and his wife, Diane.
Ah, I almost forgot the other 'proof' for the summer's conference. I don't remember everything he said during his main speech, but what I think I'll never forget was one phrase that I've repeated countless times to many people: Pastor John Hagee, a Christian preacher from San Antonio Texas declared: 'There are only two ways: there's the Torah way and there's the wrong way. The Torah way, and the wrong way."
I'm waiting to hear some more Jews say that: The Torah Way and the Wrong Way.
Thank you very very much, Pastor John Hagee!
The Arabs renounce any Jewish roots in all of Israel...But history, in reality, cannot be erased, and truth will prevail
It's difficult to know where to start: Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, King David, the Maccabees, Herod the Great, Bar Cochva, Rabbi Malkiel Ashkenazi, Menucha Rachel Shneerson Slonim, Rabbi Moshe Levinger, or perhaps my three month old granddaughter Hadar.
Actually, probably the best beginning is with Baibars, Sultan of the Mamluks in the middle 1200s. In 1260 the Mamluks conquered Hebron, expelling the occupying Crusaders. In 1267 Baibars barred Jews and Christians from Ma'arat HaMachpela, the Tomb of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs in Hebron. This monument, considered the 2nd holiest site to the Jewish people in the entire world, remained off-limits to anyone not Moslem for 700 years, until finally, during the 1967 Six-Day War, again Jews accessed this most holy of places.
The history of Ma'arat HaMachpela is well known and documented. According to the holy Zohar, it was here where Adam and Eve, the first man and woman were buried. Called the 'entrance to paradise,' it is written that souls of the deceased travel through the caves of Machpela on their way to the next world. Thousands of years later the first Jew, the irrefutable revealer of monotheism, Abraham, discovered these ancient caves and purchased them for 400 silver shekels, as is recorded in the Bible. Here Sarah was interred, as were all the Patriarchs and Matriarchs, excepting Rachel.
Over the centuries Ma'arat HaMachpela was not only a place of worship. It was also viewed in visionary terms, a symbol of the yearning of Jews to return to Zion. So much so that the revered Jewish scholar Moshe ben Maimon, the Rambam, records in his introduction to the Talmudic tractate Rosh HaShana: "And on the first day of the week, the ninth day of the month of MarCheshvan, I left Jerusalem for Hebron to kiss the graves of my forefathers in the Cave of Machpela. And on that very day I stood in the Cave and I prayed, praised be G-d for everything. And these two days, the sixth (when he prayed on Temple Mount in Jerusalem) and the ninth of Mar-Cheshvan I vowed to make as a special holiday and in which I will rejoice with prayer, food and drink. May the Lord help me to keep my vows."
One needn't have been a religious intellectual to comprehend the essence of Machpela, or of Hebron. Writing in January, 1970, Israel's first Prime Minister, David ben Gurion records: "Three cities hold a great and unique place in the ancient history of our people: Shechem, Hebron and Jerusalem," and proceeds to detail the glorious history of Hebron, from the days of the forefathers, through the reign of David, who ruled in Hebron for seven and a half years before establishing Jerusalem as the eternal capital of the Jewish people. He concluded, "we will make a great and awful mistake if we fail to settle Hebron, neighbor and predecessor of Jerusalem, with a large Jewish settlement, constantly growing and expanding, very soon…Hebron is worthy to be Jerusalem's sister."
A journalist from a distinguished American newspaper asked me if perhaps it might have been wiser to allocate Ma'arat HaMachpela a government-funded budget without adding this site to the national "Heritage program." I responded, of course, under no conditions would this be acceptable. Why?
Following the beginning of violent riots in Hebron in reaction to Prime Minister Netanyahu's announcement, the former minister of information for the PA, Mustafa Barghouti visited Hebron. I asked him, on camera, who may worship in Ma'arat HaMachpela: only Moslems or also Jews and Christians? He refused to directly answer the question, finally saying that "G-d is everywhere; people can pray wherever they want."
Isabel Kersher, writing in the NY Times, quotes Zahran Abu Qubeita. the mayor of the Arab city Yatta, in the southern Hebron Hills as declaring, “[Ma'arat HaMachpela] is an Islamic site, not a Jewish one.”
These answers must be viewed not only in the light of present politics, but rather on the background of seven centuries of Jewish inaccessibility to the building atop the Machpela caves. And accordingly, Israel, at the highest levels, must express in no uncertain terms: Ma'arat HaMachpela, in the city of Hebron, is a JEWISH holy site. This does not negate accessibility to anyone and everyone, of any and every race and religion, to visit and worship here. However, first and foremost, the Jewishness of this site must be acknowledged.
Why do Islamic political and religious leaders refuse to accept any Jewish legacy at Machpela? For the same reasons they reject any Jewish birthright at Joseph's tomb, Rachel's tomb, and Temple Mount. In fact they renounce any Jewish roots in all of Israel, preferring to espouse the 'Palestinian foundation' of the land we know and call Eretz Yisrael. Of course, the easiest way to change history is to rename and reidentify such sites, as did the Romans two thousand years ago, when following destruction of the Second Temple and expulsion of Jews from Jerusalem, they renamed that city 'Aelia Capitolina' and changed the name of the entity known as Israel to 'Palestina.'
But history, in reality, cannot be erased, and truth will prevail. For should Hebron and Machpela be blotted off the inventory of Jewish culture and tradition, surely the rest of Israel will soon follow because all of Jewish history is enrooted in the heritage which began in Hebron almost four thousand years ago.
Hebron, 2010 has moved past the 7th step.