Middle East 6:12 AM 3/7/2014
Inside Israel 12:16 AM 3/7/2014
Middle East 4:45 AM 3/7/2014
Life Lessons with Judy Simon
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)
As has been recently reported by the Israeli press, the Netanyahu administration, announced intentions to 'refurbish Israeli heritage sites.' As reported by Arutz 7-IsraelNationalNews, at the Hertzelia Conference a few weeks ago, the Prime Minister, referring to today's education, "bemoaned the surroundings of cultural shallowness, of diluted knowledge and spirituality," which he said "dilutes and weakens the national strength."
Am Yisrael's eternity is more important than lunch with George, Hillary, Joe or Barack,
The antidote, he said, is reminding students of their "Zionist heritage," encouraging them to find themselves in the Jewish people and the Land of Israel. His plan aims to allow them to do so by walking the length and breadth of Israel ."
Netanyahu seemed to be following in the footsteps of one of his predecessors in office, Ariel Sharon. Fifteen years ago, standing outside Ma'arat HaMachpela, the Tomb of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs in Hebron, Sharon declared, "What nation in the world has such a monument, where all the leaders of the people are buried, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and Lea?! All foreign diplomats should be brought here, all visiting tourists should be brought here, all Israeli school children should be brought here! This is our roots!"
This being the case, it would be expected that such a significant program would include first-hand experiences at such sites as Ma'arat HaMachpela and Tel Hebron, today referred to as "Tel Rumeida." These sites express, as no words or expressions ever can, the quintessential heritage, not only of the Jewish people, but of all mankind.
However, it seems that present-day political considerations are more important than the age-old legacy of Am Yisrael. Today's media reports the bewildering fact that Netanyahu's list of sites to be included in the National Heritage project does not include Ma'arat HaMachpela or Tel Hebron.
Is this fact truly perplexing? Perhaps not. It should be recalled that in January, 1997 this same Binyamin Netanyahu literally chopped up Hebron into two unequal sections, abandoning over 80% of the city to Arafat and his terrorist cronies, leaving the Jews in something of an Israeli-imposed ghetto. The land transferred to Arafat included the hills surrounding the Jewish community; these hills, Abu-Sneneh and Harat-a-Shech, became the source of two and half years of shooting attacks, constant terror on the street, in cars and in people's homes, the results of which were lethal and catastrophic.
It would be expected that the new-old Prime Minister might wish to atone for his previous sins, and place Hebron, Ma'arat HaMachpela and Tel Hebron in the forefront of a national heritage program, thereby, if not compensating for his previous errors, at least indirectly declaring, in other words, "Hebron, from Now and Forever – Hevron, Meaz u'letamid."
But, it seems, Netanyahu has yet to internalize the mistakes of over a decade ago.
Yet, Hebron today has tremendous support, in Israel and internationally. Knesset members of all factions visit, tour and meet with Hebron leaders. Last year some half a million people visited the "Jewish side" of Ma'arat HaMachpela, people of all religions and nationalities. Today MKs from the Likud and Kadima will later visit, Hebron, showing their continued support for its Jewish community.
We hope that Netanyahu will, finally, realize that Am Yisrael's eternity is more important than lunch with George, Hillary, Joe or Barack, and publicly place Hebron, together with Jerusalem, at the peak of Israeli's heritage.
This morning four MKs visited Hebron: Shlomo Molla (Kadima), Zeev Elkin, Ofir Akonis, and Tzion Pinyan, all belonging to the Likud. MK Molla toured Hebron's sites with Noam Arnon and Orit Struck, and then joined the others for a visit to Ma'arat HaMachpela. All agreed that Ma'arat HaMachpela must be included in Prime Minister Netanyahu's program- The Heritage Trail:
"Hebron and especially Ma'arat HaMachpela must be part of the heritage of the Jewish nation, therefore this is not a question of politics it’s a question of our Jewish right, without hesitation or stutter. Even in a time of peace we must ensure our access to our holy sites.Putting together a list of national heritage sites without including Ma'arat HaMachpela is like dealing with trivia rather than with substance."
MKs Elkin, Akonis and Pinyan:
We are all united in our opinion that Ma'arat HaMachpela must be included in the list of national heritage sites. We are dealing with a Jewish site that has been a part of Jewish heritage for generations and centuries, during the most difficult times, held on to by the tips of our fingernails.
MK Akonis related that he spoke with the Prime Minister's office earlier in the day expressing consternation at the fact that the Ma'ara was not included in the new list of national heritage sites. He said that he hoped to receive an answer from them later in the afternoon
MK Elkin added:
This is not my first visit and G-d willing not my last. This is one of the cornerstones of our right to Eretz Yisrael. Unfortunately, everyone who visits here can see all the restrictions on the Jewish Community.
A view of Hebron: From a resident and from a visitor
The following interview with me was conducted by a pair of Italian journalists last week.
The following text is a letter written by Dr. Preston Wolin from Chicago, after visiting Hebron. It was authored following a discussion about Hebron in his synagogue.
1. Hebron is undeniably an ancient Jewish city with a history comparable only to Jerusalem among the ones in modern Israel. As I related, my visit was the single greatest religious experience of my life. Sure my first time at the Kotel in 1978 was unbelievable and so too the other visits I have made over the years. But the Kotel is just an outer wall of an area surrounding the place that was once the Beit Hamikdash i.e. it is 'close to the place that was close to the place'. Hebron is the place. There are barriers to visiting the Machpelah. There are restrictions limiting when Jews can have complete access, and it is true that there are only 10 days when Jews get complete access to the entire
If indeed the State of Israel is the Third Temple, surely their must be a room in it for Hebron. What kind of Beit Hamikdash would it be if there were no space for our history? No spot for the blessed that are buried there? No place for the original capital city of David Hamelech?
Machpelah. However, Jews get access to half the complex every day and if they come
back for those ten days no one can stop them. The Arabs erected steps leading up to the entrance. Jews could only go up to the seventh step. For hundreds of years they were humiliated and prevented from visiting Avraham Avinu, Sarah, Isaac, Rebecca, Jacob and Laeh. Thanks to the IDF and the brave group of Jews living in Hebron and Kiryat Arba:
NO LONGER. When I visited Tel Romeida (where I saw the steps that archaeologists think led to the gates of the city), the rebuilt ancient synagogue, and, of course, the Machpelah, I realized that Hebron is an inseparable part of the Jewish history. Its importance lies within the heart of every Jew who has ever read Tanach, who has ever identified with the matriarchs, patriarchs, David and so many more. That history must be preserved for every Jew who wants or will want to see it. How is that history to be preserved if Jews do not live there? Who will relate its story? Who will show that the generations of Jews who longed to be there did not do so in vain? What are we, as a people, to say to the souls who perished there in the progrom of 1929? If the answer is to depend on the largesse of the Arab community to allow Jews to visit Hebron, we all know how that has worked out in the past. Consider what happened to the Kotel, the Temple Mount, the Mount of Olives, and Kever Yosef, to name just a few places. How about the UN? EU? Quartet? US? If history teaches us anything it is that only Jews are committed to Jews.
2. The Jewish Community of Hebron proves that it is a place of the living and not just a museum. They are the best answer to those that prevented us from visiting the Machpelah for so many years. They are the response to the souls of those that died in the pogrom of 1929. It is true that they are a tiny group of 500 surrounded by 20.000 Arabs. In fact they have been accused of 'strangling' their Arab neighbors. Funny, when I looked around and saw all of the houses (built within the last 35 years) on the hills above, it was hard for me to imagine just how a few Jews down below could be choking so many Arabs. What is really strangling them is the fact that the Jews have returned to just a few of the places that they lived in for hundreds of years. Places that they had bought long ago. Places that had been stolen. Places where Jews had been murdered. But unlike Europe this place has been a Jewish place for over 3000 years except for the period between 1929 and 1968. If they are so much of a provocation to the local Arabs, certainly that speaks volumes about the efficacy of making a policy of not wanting to irritate them. Is their self respect so poor that a small band of Jews is a threat to their way of life? Maybe so, but that is their problem and not ours. Not Israel's.
3. Ben Gurion was a great man. The proof is that he had to build a consensus among Jews. Our history is replete with the failure to do so (see below). He knew when to accept what could be done and what could not. He wisely chose to accept the Partition when others called him a coward. That decision led directly to the founding of the Jewish state. But the circumstances were far different then. Ben Gurion did not have a country of nearly 7 million people. He did not have an army rated as one of the elite in the world. Ben Gurion was not the Prime Minister of a country with a vibrant economy. He had faith, but he did not know that the Jewish ethos would prevail and prosper. Simply put the Jews are now in charge. If indeed the State of Israel is the Third Temple, surely their must be a room in it for Hebron. What kind of Beit Hamikdash would it be if there were no space for our history? No spot for the blessed that are buried there? No place for the original capital city of David Hamelech?
4. The Second Temple was indeed destroyed by 'sinat chinam' (baseless hatred). That is well illustrated not only by the tale of Kamtza/Bar Kamtza, but also history. Isaac may well be right that there would be hundreds of millions of Jews today if not for Bar Kochbah (I would assume that he would also indict Rabbi Akivah by extension.) But what does that really have to do with this issue. The Jews of the Second Temple period were beholden to the Roman Empire. If they offended their occupiers they knew they would pay dearly. Whether Bar Kochbah and Rabbi Akivah were right or wrong, the options available were limited. Neither of the choice were good: submit or revolt. In that world the slander of one Jew of another to the Romans could indeed be catastrophic. The Romans would see to it. But in this world the dream of 'Lihiot Am Chofi B'artzenu" (to be a free people in our land) has been realized. In the modern State of Israel Jews interact with each other without outside interference. They can determine their own fate. They can slander each other or they can learn to live together: observant and secular, Sepharadim and Ashkenazim, right and left wing. Is it so much to ask that all acknowledge that Hebron has an ancient and rich Jewish history that has to be preserved for us and for future generations? I think not. We can choose to be Kamtza/Bar Kamtza or we can chose not to be either. We should thank God that we have that choice.
A year ago I produced short movie concerning Tzir Tzion – Zion Road, which leads from North of Kiryat Arba, past the western gate of the Kirya, down into Hebron. It’s the only access road into the ‘Jewish area’ of Hebron.
It is very interesting that Israeli military officers, responsible for security of Jews, are more concerned about ‘easing the lives of palestinians’ than they are in providing security for Jews.
Years ago the road was closed to Arab vehicular traffic following two terrorist attacks on the same day, leaving David Cohen and Hezzi Mualem dead, killed by Arab terrorists on that street.
About a year ago the military commander in the area, Col Udi Bar Mocha told us of his decision to reopen the road to Arab traffic. He promised that only automobiles of Arabs living along that route would receive permits to travel on the road and that the drivers and others would undergo security checks. When Hebron leaders predicted that within a fairly short period of time the road would be opened to general Arab traffic we were promised and guaranteed that this would never happen. Such was promised to the select Knesset Foreign Affairs and Security Committee, which also investigated the affair.
The reason for the commander’s reopening of the road: ‘easing of palestinian lives’ in Hebron.
Our argument, opposing the opening was simple. First, any time roads are reopened to Arabs, or roadblocks are lifted, Jews are killed. Two, our experience has taught us, too many times, once concessions begin, stage two is only a matter of time.
Despite our massive attempts to prevent Tzir Tzion’s opening to Arab, a half a year ago it was opened .
Lo and behold, about two months ago we were informed that Tzir Tzion, the Zion Road, was to be opened to Arab public transportation, buses and taxis. Following several conversations with military officers in the area we were promised that this new plan would not be implemented until we were able to meet with high-ranking military commanders in charge of Judea and Samaria. Immediately we requested such meetings with various officers. Time and time again our requests were rebuffed. More often than not, the requests were ignored.
A few days ago we received notification that on Thursday the road would be open to Arab public transportation. Following urgent consultations Hebron leaders received guarantees from the highest political echelons that the road would not be opened, certainly not on Thursday.
However, yesterday, at six in the morning, Col Ben Mocha received an official permit allowing Arab public transportation on the road. The first stage was designed to be a ‘pilot,’ a one-day trial period, during which a limited amount of vehicles would be allowed on the street.
And so it was, yesterday.
Presently we expect that in the near future, we expect local and national military officers, together with political figures in the defense ministry, to decide whether or not to permanently reopen the road to further Arab traffic. Clearly, the military recommendation will be in favor.
Why? In their own words, ‘to ease Palestinian lives’ in the area.
It is very interesting that Israeli military officers, responsible for security of Jews, are more concerned about ‘easing the lives of palestinians’ than they are in providing security for Jews. They contend that the security situation now allows such ‘risks.
However, about two months ago, Rabbi Meir Chai was murdered by Arabs belonging to Abu Mazen’s Fatah movement, ‘moderate’ Arabs, our ‘peace partners. Two days ago an Israeli soldier was murdered by a ‘palestinian police officer, again, belonging to ‘the good guys,’ the moderates.
What can we expect in Hebron should the army continue to loosen their hold on the Arab population, a population which does not deny, for a moment, their goal of ridding Hebron of its Jewish community?!
The next stage: Complete reopening of Tzir Tzion to all Arab traffic; to be followed by a reopening of King David Street, called by the Arabs ‘Shuhada.’ Such ‘consideration’ can and unfortunately will almost inevitably, lead to further tragedy, bloodshed, and lose of life. It is very difficult to comprehend their priorities: ‘easing Arab life’ or protecting Jewish lives?
As I’ve finished writing, about to post, I received word that Arabs are throwing rocks at Beit Hadassah and the neighboring buildings. A neighbor called me and asked that I photograph the window in her son’s room, just broken by a rock hurled by a nearby Arab.
Isaelis soldiers, patrolling in the area of the rock-throwing were attacked by Arabs, one of whom tried to stab a soldier. The terrorist was shot and badly wounded by the soldier, who wasn't hurt.
For the past couple of weeks, ever since the 'story' broke, I've been debating with myself whether or not to write anything about it. I've learned, usually the hard way, that sometimes it's better to shut up. But usually, my second nature gets the better of me and I mouth off anyhow. That's what I seem to be doing now.
Actually, I find myself in a somewhat strange situation. I've helped out journalists before, even those I really didn't particularly care for. A number of years ago a CNN correspondent was hit in the head with a rock (thrown by an Arab) outside Beit Hadassah. The guy really wasn't a friend of ours, but, what can you do – he was bleeding. So I sent him up to my apartment to get some first aid from my wife. Another time, when a journalist's car battery died in Hebron, I helped him start up with cables. A photographer friend of mine was almost killed by a group of very angry people the night that Beit Shapiro was emptied of its Jewish residents. I didn't save him; someone else from the community arrived first. Etc. Etc. I guess it's what we call in Hebrew 'Derech Eretz' or in plainer language, just being well-mannered and polite. But I don't recall that I ever had to publicly defend a journalist. Especially one of the most well-known journalists in the field who happens to work for a paper that surely isn't a friend of ours. Well, there's a first time for everything.
I've known Ethan Bronner probably for about as long as I've worked in the business of media as spokesman for Hebron's Jewish community, primarily with the foreign and English-speaking press. Way back then, I'd guess about 13 years ago, Bronner was working for the Boston Globe. I'm not sure why I remember him; I meet so many reporters from around the world and have a lousy memory for names and faces. And truthfully, I usually prefer to forget them as fast as I can after meeting them. But, for whatever reason, when he arrived back in Israel, probably a decade after leaving, I remembered him.
Why? I'm not sure. But his name stuck in my head perhaps because he wasn't as one-sidedly biased and subjective as others. That’s not to say that I agreed with everything he wrote. Far from it. In 1996 he wrote, “Since the settlers in Hebron are among the most fervent of Jewish nationalists, believing they are part of a celestial scheme for Jewish reconquest of the Promised Land, the conflict here seems insoluble.” On the other hand, that same year, he also penned, “For years, leaders of the tiny, fortress-like Jewish settlement in the middle of this Palestinian city have said that the very idea of Palestinian police is absurd since armed Palestinians, uniformed or not, would ultimately turn their guns on Israelis. Never, these leaders argued, should such a force be permitted in Hebron, a city rich in Jewish history where the biblical patriarchs are buried, and today the last West Bank city under full Israeli control. If that came to pass, they said, the lives of every Jew -- settler or visitor -- would be at risk.” In any case, there aren’t a whole lot of journalists that can be described as being ‘somewhat objective’ concerning Hebron.
I’ve followed Bronner’s writing in the NY Times since he arrived back here, I guess about a year or so ago. I publicly attacked him in an op-ed piece written for the Jerusalem Post this past summer, marking the 80th anniversary of the 1929 riots and massacre, , when he compared the Israeli right to Hamas. On the other hand, after reading a feature he authored called Resolve of West Bank Settlers May Have Limits last September, I had to seriously consider the merits of the piece. But I really didn’t get a kick out of the positive publicity he gave to the radical left-winger Ezra Nawi in the pages of the New York Times .
So much for another NY Times bureau chief in Israel. They come, they go, but we stay.
Almost. Until a couple of weeks ago. I started catching blogs attacking Bronner because… his son joined the Israeli army. This, it seems, in the opinion of some of my best left-wing friends, is a primary reason why Bronner cannot continue to serve as the Time’s Bureau Chief. Why? Because he can no longer be…. Objective?
Ah. The truth finally revealed. Remember such bureau chiefs such as Serge Shememan, who titled Hebron Jews as ‘militants’ and ‘extremists’ . Or Deborah Sontag’s magnum opus, written as she retired from her position in Israel, Quest for Mideast Peace: How and Why It Failed , where she absolves Arafat from the ‘failed’ Barak-Arafat Camp David powwow, which led to the beginning of the Oslo War aka 2nd Intifada in October, 2000, and places the blame on Barak. (According to Tom Gross http://goo.gl/imfk - “this piece has been dubbed “the mother of all Arafat-rehab articles.””) Well, that’s OK. That’s good, objective NY Times journalism because it extols the Arabs, lambasts Israel, and most importantly, demonizes “the settlers.”
The pinnacle of the wedding celebration comes not at the end of the party, rather at the beginning
Those of you who’ve been reading my postings over the years might remember my strong bonds to Gush Katif, and particularly to Kfar Darom. Every once in a while, for one reason or another, I find myself flipping through photos that I took, prior to its destruction. It is very difficult to view the pictures; my guts begin churning and sometimes it’s even worse. The displacement of so many people, the abandonment of our land, and the catastrophic consequences, culminating in 8,000 rockets fired into Israel, the Gaza War, and of course, the present challenges of Goldstone were so totally unnecessary. All of these results were predicted, time and time again, before the expulsion, but were totally ignored by Sharon and Co. It is still beyond comprehension.
Our best friends at that time at Kfar Darom, then like family (and today with an actual family connection), was the Sudri family. We met Noam and Tali Sudri about 12 years ago, when our oldest daughter Bat-Tzion fulfilled her year of Sherut Leumi, National Service, at Kfar Darom, as a volunteer, working at the Agricultural Institute and also with the children in the community. The Sudris became Bat-Tzion’s adopted family, and they became very close. We too met them and their children, and began spending summer vacations in that “Garden of Eden,” and also Shabbat weekends with the Sudris.
A few years later they introduced another one of our daughters, also doing her volunteer service at Kfar Darom, to Tali’s younger cousin. Not too long after meeting they became engaged and married, making us ‘one of the family.’
Amost five years ago I spent Kfar Darom’s last Shabbat with Noam and Tali, their family, and everyone else who showed up. It was a Shabbat, just like any other Shabbat, but really it wasn’t. We all dined together, sang Shabbat songs, spoke Torah; but during Shabbat morning worship, prayers not normally recited on Shabbat were said; no they weren’t said, they were heart-wrenching pleas to G-d to somehow prevent the annihilation. On Shabbat a person is not permitted to mourn, yet I don’t believe there was a dry eye in the packed synagogue. Kfar Darom’s Rabbi, Avraham Schrieber, (now dean of the Yeshiva High School where my son studies, in Ashdod) spoke, saying ‘none of us know where we’ll be next Shabbat…’. Yet his voice did not quiver, rather it was filled with conviction and faith.
The next Shabbat Kfar Darom’s refugees filled a hotel in Beer Sheva.
Of course we’ve remained in contact with Noam and Tali and their family over the years. Since the expulsion they’ve lived in a temporary Kfar Darom, in a large apartment building in Ashkelon. Not quite the house they lived in, but at least it’s a roof over their heads. They’ve only been waiting almost five years for commencement of construction of their new ‘permanent homes’ in Nir Akiva, in southern Israel. Despite a multitude of promises, the deal still hasn’t been finalized. So they are forced to spend the ‘reparations’ received following the expulsion on rent in Ashkelon.
Their oldest daughter Tamar was the subject of at least one article I wrote following the expulsion. I also have an interesting photo of her, dressed all in orange. Last year, Tamar was a tour guide for Midreshet Hevron in Kiryat Arba, carrying out her year of national service.
And now I have another photo of Tamar, dressed all in white. Last night she married a wonderful man named Oneg, who studies Torah in Kiryat Gat.
The wedding was a particularly emotional event. Of course all weddings are. But this one even more so. Firstly due to the bond we have with the family of the Kalah, the bride. But on another level, also. Much of Kfar Darom’s residents were present, many of whom I hadn’t seen in quite some time. Knowing that they are still suffering because of the inconceivable stupidity of the Israeli government and the continuing turtle-speed saga of resettlement is extremely distressing.
The pinnacle of the wedding celebration comes not at the end of the party, rather at the beginning. Under the chupa, the wedding canopy, the chatan, the groom, places the ring on his new wife’s finger and then the Sheva Brachot, the seven blessings traditionally recited, accompanied by joyous singing by those present, almost completes the ceremony. But Jewish smachot, festivities, do no not end there. At each and every wedding the chatan repeats the age-old verse: If I forget thee O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither, let my tongue cleave to my palate, If I do not remember you, If I do not place Jerusalem above my highest joy. (Psalms 137:5-7) The chatan, in symbolic remembrance of the destruction of the Temple, then breaks a glass, stomping his leg down on it.
It is also customary to place ashes removed from Temple Mount, remnants from the ruins of the Beit HaMikdash, on the Chatan’s forehead. Last night the officiating Rabbi put ashes on Oneg’s forehead from the ruins of Jerusalem, and also remains from the ruins of Kfar Darom in Gush Katif.
Despite the elation of the wedding ceremony, the poignancy of the moment was heartbreaking. At most chupas the only emotion expressed is bliss. Last night, as those vestiges from Kfar Darom were placed under Oneg’s kippah, and the audience recited, together with the Chatan – ‘Im Eshkachech Yerushalayim’ – ‘If I forget thee O Jerusalem,’ I believe that even the Kallah was silently weeping. It was hard not to.
But then, with the breaking of the glass, and the resounding Mazal Tov echoing through the hall, happiness prevailed. The singing and dancing erased those few melancholy moments.
Tamar and Oneg will undoubtedly continue the tradition of building a “new house in Israel.” It is said that he who brings joy to a Chatan and Kallah is as if he were adding one stone to the rebuilding of Jerusalem. Last night, all those present, and most especially, the Chatan and Kallah, did not only begin the renewal of Jerusalem; they also commenced on a journey which will, with G-d’s help, lead them back to Gush Katif, to Kfar Darom and to the transformation of the ruins left in the sand to a beautiful, thriving, community, atoning for the horrid transgression committed by Israel almost five years ago.