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.
“Presently, there is no doubt whatsoever that this is Jewish land, and that there are no real, justifiable, legal Arab claims to this property. However, the State Attorney General’s office has decided that Arabs who lived on this land which they stolen from Jews have ‘protected resident status’ and refuse to allow Hebron’s Jewish community to utilize the property. This, despite a ruling by an Israeli military judicial panel of three judges which concluded that there is a firm legal basis to allow the Hebron Jewish Community to utilize this land.”
A few days ago, one family moved out. Another family sealed off two rooms of their home. The Israeli Supreme Court ruled that the buildings be emptied by April 24. They did not require the government to fulfill the other half of the original commission’s conclusions: that the buildings be transferred to Hebron’s Jewish community for public use, such as a nursery school or kindergarten.
So, as with other Jewish property in Hebron, these structures remain vacant. They can be added to a long list: Beit HaShalom, Beit HaMachpela, Beit Shapira, ‘the Shuk,’ aka, the Shalhevet neighborhood, to start with.
There are a number of points which must be stressed:
The reason the buildings were evacuated quietly is because the community agreed to accept the verdict of the original panel. In other words, despite all labels attached to us, we are law-abiding citizens, and despite the government’s continued refusal to adhere to its own agreements and obligations, we do.
We fully expect the original commission’s conclusions to be implemented. We fully expect to receive total license to utilize these buildings, as was specified in the panel’s report. We expect the government to fulfill its obligations immediately, as we have fulfilled ours.
The present government and Knesset includes many of Hebron’s staunchest friends. Ministers, deputy ministers, and MKs, in the Likud, the Jewish Home party and even in Yesh Atid, must now come through. They were not elected just to occupy a comfortable chair, a big office and drive around in a state-financed car. Their job is to accomplish what we’ve all set out to do: that is, to continue Jewish dominion in Judea and Samaria. Our presence must include all facets of every day, normal life. We cannot be excluded from our land and our property because we are Jews living in Eretz Yisrael, in the State of Israel. To the contrary, because we are Jews in Israel we must be encouraged to settle our land. That is why Jews came back to Israel – to live here.
This is a classic example of left-wing, political agendas attempting to prevent Jewish residency on our land, here in Hebron. Our representatives, in the government and in the Knesset must take affirmative action to ensure, not only that Jews won’t be expelled from their land and property, but rather will be persuaded to continue moving into such areas, as Hebron and other places throughout Judea and Samaria.
MK Orit Struk, from Hebron, whose own apartment is adjacent to Beit Ezra, said: "The government is determined to carry out the judicial recommendation of former Deputy Attorney-General Mike Blass while ignoring the decision of the Settlement Ministerial Committee to allocate Ezra House to the Jews of Hebron, in addition to the ruling of the Supreme Court to decide the issue before evacuation."
While these words are one hundred percent correct, they are not enough. This government must end continued expulsion of Jews from their homes, and perhaps, first and foremost in Hebron, the first Jewish city in Israel. We expect our friends and representatives to use their democratically-obtained authority to put an end to these disgraces. They are nothing less than an abomination, and desecration of the God’s sanctity. He didn’t give us Eretz Yisrael in order to have Jews expel Jews from their land.
We hope and pray that Beit Ezra will not remain an empty shell for very long, and that soon we will celebrate it redemption, here in Hebron. A few days ago Minister Naftali Bennett, following government approval of the ‘Open Skies’ program, was quoted as saying that the government had ‘passed its first test.’ So perhaps Beit Ezra is its second test?
Late last week my wonderful wife of almost 34 years attended a mini-high school reunion.
Ora grew up in Givatayim, on the border of Tel Aviv, in a ‘traditional’ Jewish family. Many Jewish customs were followed, but they weren’t religiously observant, or Orthodox. She attended regular public school.
Last week she traveled to Tel Aviv to visit with her class, together with their 10th-11th-12th grade teacher. She hadn’t been in touch with most of these people over the years, but had spent much time with them as a teenager.
She hasn’t stopped speaking about this reunion since. Unfortunately, her reflections aren’t overly positive. Most of the 20 or so people who were present were either never married, or are divorced, and many have ‘partners.’ I’m not sure if all of them people together have the number of children and grandchildren we have.
One of the woman told how she lived with a man for a number of years, but never married. When he became very ill, they ‘decided’ to split up. Another woman told how, after she became ill with cancer, her husband decided enough was enough, and left her.
The group sat in a living room, each person giving an account of their lives over the past decades, with children married to non-Jews, etc. etc. This was all accepted without any side comments, or exclamations.
Until my wife said that she lives in Hebron. Whoop. Everyone woke up. The ‘teacher’ remarked how ‘settlers were taking over a hill-top here and a hill-top there.’ Ora put an end to the snide observations, saying she’d come to hear what everyone was up to and to participate, without getting into political discussions. Then she went on to give them a lesson in Jewish heritage in Hebron, and later invited them to come visit. She was also the only religious person in the group.
It wasn’t all bad. One man told how he was dedicating his life to a son injured very badly in an auto accident.
But all-in-all, Ora wasn’t impressed.
The teacher was, writing a letter to the class after the event, telling them how proud she was of them, how they’d been a great class way back when, and how they were still wonderful.
I asked Ora what she was talking about, and she answered that they’d succeeded in business, had a good life style, etc.
Last Saturday night I attended a class given by a very well-known Rabbi, a learned scholar. I’d heard about him and seen some of his writings, but had never attended a class with him.
Wow! Was I in for a shock.
The class was broken into three parts. The middle section dealt with the intricacies of Jewish law and the Passover sacrifice on Temple Mount. I found that very interesting. But the beginning and end of the class dealt with a humongous battering of Zionism, the creation of the State of Israel and Israeli independence. I was stunned. The Rabbi’s attack, which I can almost classify as vicious, attempted to obliterate the ideology by which I’ve lived for almost four decades. This being that the State of Israel is, as of yet, far from perfect, but is, most definitely, a Divine gift, after a 2,000 year exile from our land. These teachings are primarily expressed in the works of Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak HaKohen Kook and his son, Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook.
The Rabbi, in other words, if I understood him correctly, basically supports a total dismantling of the State and its rebuilding. He stated, again, according to my understanding, that the framework of the State is unimportant; only the substance or essence is of any significance.
I haven’t yet had a chance to discuss this with the Rabbi. But by my way of thinking, of course the core of all bodies is the spirit. But a soul without a body is, (at least in this world) indefinable. So too, a body without a soul. They need one another. A candle unlit shines no light. A flame, without a wick, extinguishes and too, shines no light. The flame needs the wick, the candle, and the candle too, needs the flame.
So too, Israel. Without a framework, without a sovereign element, we have no way to express our unique identity as a people, as a culture. And without that tradition, what are we? Are we different from anyone else?
These two elements, as I’ve tried to articulate, seemed to be missing in the two programs outlined above. A group of sixty year old people, who have what to show for their lives? A good salary? True, money usually helps, as does a good job, but what about the essence. Where is the family, the children, the grandchildren? When my wife mentioned our kids and grandkids (in double digits plus), the group was stunned. What about other values? How can a person leave their ‘spouse’ because they are sick, at a time when they are most in need?
With all the problems and issues we have today in Israel, and that we’ve had over the years, (and who knows what the future will bring), how can we not thank G-d for the unbelievable miracle called Israel? We are commanded to express gratitude for the good granted to us, individually, and as a people. The state of Israel, after 2,000 years of exile, after a holocaust which annihilated over six million of our people, how can anyone be so blind as to not see the Divine phenomenon of our existence, in our land.
True, there is still much to fix. We are far from finished. But come Memorial day, when we reflect on what we’ve lost in order to achieve what we’ve achieved, and when we celebrate Independence Day, we must examine our values.
Independence Day is called, in Hebrew, Yom HaAtzmaut. Atzmaut, meaning independence, is also very similar to the word Azmut, which means essence. It also is very similar to the word, Atzamot, meaning bones. Bones are a framework. Like the candle. Atzmut, essence, like the flame. Together they are Atzmaut – Independence. Both are essential.
This time of the year is always special. Spring is arriving, the weather becoming really beautiful, and lots and lots of people in Hebron.
Hebron’s Passover celebration included, this year, well over 50,000 people. Wednesday and Thursday were the ‘big days’ with all of Ma’arat HaMachpela open to Jewish visitors, including the Isaac Hall, open to us only 10 days a year.
Thursday’s music festival didn’t leave any of the tens of thousands disappointed. The shows began at 12:30 in the afternoon and continued until almost 7:30, when Lipa Schmeltzer put on a show never to be forgotten. First he sang and danced a duet with Chaim Yisrael, and then continued by himself. It was a huge amount of fun.
As were the children’s events, tours, and just seeing so many wonderful people walking the streets of Hebron’s Jewish community, following in the footsteps of Abraham and Sarah, King David, and multitudes of Jews over the centuries.
That having been said, I must admit that, with all its energy and fun, and as much as I look forward to and enjoy these days, this year, my favorite event didn’t occur in Hebron.
Those of you who have read these articles over the years may remember numerous essays about Gush Katif. My favorite place in Gush Katif was, as I described it many times, the Garden of Eden in Gaza, a community called Kfar Darom. My family vacationed there several summers, having befriended a delightful family, who had adopted my oldest daughter, Bat-tzion, when she spent her year of volunteer service there.
Several articles featured the Sudri family, and among others, their oldest daughter, Tamar.
The last time I wrote about her was a few years ago, after her marriage to a wonderful man named Oneg. A couple of years ago they had their first child, a little girl.
Last week, Tamar gave birth to their first boy. Today was his ‘brit’ – circumcision. A few of us from Hebron traveled an hour and a quarter, south, to the festivity.
After the destruction and expulsion from Kfar Darom, the Sudri family was moved to an apartment building in Ashkelon. From a nice house, to an apartment. Not great, but ‘temporary.’
Honestly, I don’t remember how long they were there. Many too many years. The new homes in a new community, as they’d been promised, never materialized. About two years ago they finally received a ‘kara-villa- that is, a so-called fancy mobile home, outside a community called Nir Akiva, east of Gaza, near Netivot and Beer Sheva. The called the new community Shavei Darom, ‘Returning South.’
Speaking to one of the men there this morning, I asked about permanent housing. He pointed in the direction of a big empty area, and said, ‘there.’ “Has anything started, any building?” He shook his head no. “When?” He just shrugged his shoulders.
I get very emotional at Gush Katif – Kfar Darom events. They bring back many many memories. I walked into the small synagogue and immediately noticed the plaque on the wall. I remembered it from the Kfar Darom synagogue. A memorial sign, for those people from the community, killed there by terrorists.
On another wall, letters spelling out ‘Kfar Darom, M’az u’le’tamid’ –‘ Kfar Darom, from then and forever.’ Including, of course, photos of the community sites and people.
The baby’s brit didn’t take too much time. A great grandfather held the infant, who was named Tzvi. Afterwards, we participated in the festive meal, before heading back to Hebron.
Before the meal I asked Tamar’s mother who the baby was named for and she didn’t know. I mentioned, ‘well, Eretz Yisrael is compared to a Tzvi – a deer, I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s what’s behind the name. That would be fitting of Tamar. Later, when Oneg spoke, he did say that one of the reasons for the name was the idea I’d spoken of.
Actually, as much as I enjoyed seeing my friends, the Sudris, and participating in the celebration, my real focus was on Tamar. I’d known her since she was a little girl and had witnessed her evolvement through the most horrible events that can be imagined. Rocket attacks, terror attacks, culminating in expulsion.
I’ve seen her every once in a while, but this was special, seeing her with her husband and two small children. She glowed, radiating joy.
How? How does one reach such bliss with so many scars?
The answer, I think, is not difficult to fathom. We are in the midst of the Passover holiday, celebrating the exodus from Egypt. Jews had been enslaved for hundreds of years, had almost entirely lost their Jewish identity, having assimilated into the Egyptian culture. Yet they never gave up hope of redemption, and the Divine hand of G-d did redeem them, removing them from foreign bondage with miracles galore.
That is, in brief, the history of the Jewish people, time and time again. Could anyone have imagined that three years after a holocaust, the Jewish people would be able to found a State and victoriously fight a war of independence?
That flow of optimism, being able to see the light, even in the darkest of rooms, keeps us going; that’s what, I believe, keeps Tamar going. We all blessed the family that their next simcha – celebration, should take place back in Kfar Darom, including Tzvi’s Bar Mitzva and wedding.
And it will happen. We will go back to Kfar Darom, and Netzarim, and Neve Dekalim and all the other communities destroyed, they will be rebuilt and repopulated, they will grow and thrive, it will happen. Just as we were redeemed from Egypt – will will go back home to Kfar Darom.
Seeing Tamar, with her husband Oneg and their two small children – this is the eternal flame, this is the result of what happened some 3,300 years ago, that we still celebrate today.
This is what made this year’s Passover special for me.
Late this morning I made my way from our offices in the Avraham Avinu neighborhood to Beit Hadassah, a few minutes away, to speak with a group there. Being a few minutes early, I first went upstairs to my home. Coming downstairs, ten minutes later, a friend asked if I was going to film the ‘balagan’ outside in the street. What balagan (disturbances) I asked. “A march, with Arabs and palestinian flags, right here on the street.”
I ran up to the street, grabbed my camera from the car, and saw, a few meters in front of me, a group of Arabs, foreign anarchists and Israelis, as well as a large group of journalists, mostly Arab photographers, and a few soldiers and Hebron residents. Some of the people were wearing masks with pictures of Obama on them. Most of the pushing and shoving, centered around a banner sign they were carrying.
As I started filming, I quickly saw a true Hebron nemesis, also with a camera. Issa Amru can be described as something of a terrorist trouble-maker, a master provocateur .
Who is this guy?
The following is a letter sent today to senior IDF and police officers:
To: General Nitzan Alon Commander, Central Command
Col. Avi Bluth Hebron Brigade Commander,
Commander Itzik Rachamim Hebron Police Commander
Re: Issa Amro
This person is the center of anarchist - terrorist activity in Hebron. Activity is not confined to incitement and organizing illegal demonstrations and violence, but also includes actual military operations, including Molotov cocktails and more.
For example, a video circulated on the ambush and use of firebombs against IDF soldiers. The tape is written in Arabic “Youth against the settlements" an organization of Issa Amro and his partner Jonathan Pollack.
It should be added that Arabs entered the Admot Yishai (Tel Rumeida) neighborhood Friday night, the 8.3.13 (20 meters from a soldier’s position) and uprooted a tree and dismantling and stole a bench. Undoubtedly these operations were carried out under the command of Issa.
This activity can be carried out only after monitoring and gathering intelligence.
This person is behind a series of serious provocations.
On 19.3 he organized another provocation at Tel Rumeida, trying to cut through a barbed wire fence, executed by his brother.
Today, 20.3 was a serious provocation outside Beit Hadassah, coordinated by Amro and with the cooperation and participation of anarchist elements. Arabs marched through the streets with PLO flags, and banners. Hebron resident and a member of the Community Municipal Committee, David Wilder, was attacked and his camera broken. Security forces, rather than help him, did nothing, appearing helpless.
This series of failures could lead to bloodshed.
We demand that you take all actions necessary to put an end to these provocations and incitement, and to stop this terrorist activity immediately. Use administrative detention until you are able to find a long-term solution to completely end this hostile and dangerous activity.
We warn that any delay in dealing conclusively could be very costly.
Avraham Ben Yosef - Mayor, Hebron Municipal Council Uri Karzen – Director General, Hebron Jewish Community -------------------------------------------- To make a short story even shorter, Issa seemed to be having a good time. He fingered me, gave me a V sign, and blew me some kisses. He eventually took my Canan 5D camera, tossed it into the air and watched it bounce in the street. I think the body is ok but the 24-105, $1500 lens died.
When it was over, eventually he was arrested. The last time he went to court, the judge forbad him to participate in demonstrations in Hebron for six months. That was a few months ago. Having violated the court decision, he may now find himself warming a jail cell for a while. Probably not long enough, unless our security forces get their stuff together and find a way to rid us of this dangerous person.
Over the past few days I’ve seen numerous articles, effectively open letters to Obama, suggesting courses of action while here in Israel. I believe it much more important, not to advise the President, rather to speak to Israeli leaders, those now holding the reins of power in our country.
Most groups that I guide here in Hebron visit, among other places, the museum in Beit Hadassah. This site allows people to receive, over a few minutes, a comprehensive education about the history of Jewish Hebron, over hundreds of years.
One of the most emotional places in the museum is the memorial room, dedicated to the memory of 67 Jews slaughtered in Hebron during the riots in August, 1929. In words and photos, people can understand, in a relatively short period of time, the background to the atrocities committed by their next door neighbors, and the subsequent consequences.
A day prior to the beginning of the massacre, Thursday, August 22, a group of Jews belonging to the Hagana, the Jewish defense organization, visited Hebron and met with the Jewish community leaders. They offered them weapons, saying that Mufti Haj Amin El Husseini was inciting and trouble was about to erupt. Hebron’s Jews refused to take the weapons, explaining that they would only act as a provocation, that they’d already met with the city’s Arab leadership, who promised to protect them. As a result, when, the next day, the rioting commenced, they had no means of protection. The results are history.
Upon conclusion of this explanation, I express two thoughts to my audience: First, in 1967, during the Six Day War, Israel did not conquer and occupy a foreign city when arriving in Hebron. Rather, they had come home. And second: We must be able to protect ourselves. Not only on an individual basis; rather on a national level. When Israel puts its security in the hands of others, the only thing we receive in return are dead Jews. Oslo left Israeli security with Arafat. The result: some 2,000 people killed by Arab terror. Israel abandoned Gaza to the Arabs and have paid a price of some 13,000 rockets and missiles shot into Israel from the land we gave them.
These are the same two thoughts which Israeli leaders must recite to themselves, as well as to their guests, in the coming days. Israel is our homeland. Hebron is the heart of Israel. Beit El is the path via which the Patriarch Abraham toured our land, and was literally a stairway to Heaven. Shilo was home to our most sacred sanctuary for hundreds of years. And of course, Jerusalem is our eternal capital.
Israel is facing a seemingly lethal threat from Iran. Syrian weapons of mass destruction may fall into the hands of Hizballah and Hamas. We cannot and must not allow responsibility for our security to be in the hands of anyone else but ourselves. Not at any time. But certainly not when the man who is President of the United States’ middle name is Hussein.
While speaking of ‘settlements’ in Judea and Samaria, while discussing Jerusalem and the other holy cities in our Land, our leaders can pose simple questions to Obama and Kerry: ‘Would you, in return for a peace accord with Al-Qaeda, give them Boston or Philadelphia?” “Would you grant them total autonomy or sovereignty in a section of Washington D.C.?”
And while discussing Syria’s chemical weapons, and Iran’s nuclear weapons program, “would you allow Canada to decide if and when the United States should attack and destroy North Korea’s nuclear weapons’ facilities?
Rafael Medoff, in an op-ed piece titled, Obama, FDR and Zionism in today’s Jerusalem Post, basically expresses the bottom line: “By 1942, FDR was so averse to being seen as pro- Zionist that he rejected even a request to permit the Palestine (Jewish) Symphony Orchestra to name one of its theaters the “Roosevelt Amphitheatre… [We] asked the President about refugees, the White Paper, etc. What he proposed to do about these things. [We] made a number of suggestions to him as to what [we] thought he ought to do and the answer to all of these suggestions was ‘No’… David Niles, a close adviser to FDR, once remarked that if Roosevelt had lived (and thus Harry Truman remained vice president), he probably would not have supported the creation of Israel, and as a result the Jewish state might never have been established.”
This was the ‘almighty FDR,’ who, in 1933 said, 'The German authorities are treating the Jews shamefully and the Jews in this country are greatly excited. But this is also not a governmental affair. We can do nothing except for American citizens who happen to be made victims."
And what about the ‘almighty BHO’. How will he be quoted fifty or sixty years from now?
‘I really was very sorry, but there wasn’t anything we could do, it was too late…’
The answer, clearly, is to make sure he understands, in no uncertain terms, Israel is our country, our land. It’s not for sale, none of it, at any price. And we will make sure it stays that way, that it stays safe, at any price. Period.