Inside Israel 3:56 AM 3/9/2014
Inside Israel 8:37 AM 3/9/2014
Jewish World 5:10 AM 3/9/2014
Torah Tidbits Audio
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)
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.
Save Martin Grossman
To save one life is like saving the whole world:
We need your help today to save the life of Martin Grossman who is set to be executed on February 16th. We are only advocating that he not get the death penalty at this time. We are asking that the Governor take the time to hold a proper clemency hearing to determine if the Death Penalty is really appropriate in this case. This may not be easy for you to go out of your way to try and save the life of someone who took someone else’s life but we must do what is just and right and what the Torah teaches us is correct. Prominent Rabbis have ruled that every Jew has the responsibility to save this man’s life. Please sign the petition at the end of this story.
There is no question that Martin Grossman committed a grievous and violent act, robbing Margaret Parks of her life and her future but also robbing her family of their beloved daughter and sister and the future they hoped for her. Having counseled Martin and providing spiritual guidance to him over the course of the last 25 years, we know without any doubt that he takes full responsibility for his evil deed and that he lives (as he should) with tremendous daily guilt and remorse. He often speaks of the anguish and devastation he wreaked on Ms. Park’s family and of his impotence, being completely unable to do anything to relieve their sorrow or make amends.
His childhood history, in fact, is marked by the fact that as a young child, Martin had this very feeling of impotence imposed upon his undeveloped psyche, much too young, because he was unable to relieve the suffering of his father (a veteran who was never known to his son during healthy productive years and whom Martin only knew as an ailing and needy invalid).
1. The unfortunate arbitrary character of the death sentence in Martin
Grossman’s case. In fact, we think it is clear that if Martin were tried in a criminal court today, he would not have received the death sentence. We think you may agree that it was imposed as a result of many distinctly unusual factors that were never well understood, at various levels of the trial and appeal process. For instance, the reason that his crime was identified as “premeditated murder” was a technicality, and nobody who actually knows what took place the day he committed the crime would really use the word “premeditation” for that situation. (He was a drug-addicted youth without much guidance in the world who was surprised and taken aback by the sudden approach of an officer, and he “lost it” and tried to prevent her from turning him in. He was not knowingly committing a crime at the time he was apprehended although technically he was committing the crime of probation violation.) We would ask permission to show the following:
a. The “aggravating circumstance” was not what we would consider to be aggravating circumstance today, and in fact, did not amount to what most people consider “heinous, atrocious or cruel.”
b. The “mitigating circumstances” were not explored because of the situation including Martin’s communication deficits.
c. The crime was not what any of us today would probably consider “cold, calculated or premeditated.”
d. Martin Grossman’s history points to the high probability that he would be considered in “extreme mental and emotional disturbance” at the time of the crime, although that could not come out at the time of the trial.
e. Martin Grossman acted “out of frenzy, panic or rage” although that was also not brought out at the trial.
f. Martin’s sentence was extremely disproportionate to other criminals who receive the death sentence, and was not worse than many, many other criminals who receive considerably less punishment.
2. The fact that Martin’s mental capacity is so seriously challenged (Martin has an IQ of 77 and was uneducated, and also suffered from a seizure disorder and possible organic brain dysfunction since earliest childhood) that he probably misunderstood the nature of his crime itself and surely was not very capable of cooperating in his own defense to the degree needed, considering the gravity of his situation. At the same time, his support system of family and friends was seriously deficient for many of the same reasons, and nobody “kicked in” properly to help his defense at that critical moment. Had he been able to garner support or to provide his lawyer with vigorous assistance in defending himself it is almost certain that he would not have been sentenced to death.
3. The fact that Martin’s tragic childhood and adolescence provided a backdrop for the trial and the appeal that was never adequately presented to jury, judge or appeals courts. In the sentencing phase, 30 out of 33 of the witnesses he wanted to call in his defense were not called, and the terrible result was that he received the ultimate penalty. When he brought this issue up in post-conviction litigation, the court held that the missing 30 witnesses did not matter because they knew Martin when he was much younger than 19 (when he committed the crime) but the three who did testify knew him closer to the contemporaneous time period. In fact, that is the very reason these 30 witnesses would have so much to add to the knowledge that a fact-finder would need to conscientiously decide whether or not a man should die for his crime: what childhood circumstances went into the making of the man who stood before them? In the case of Martin Grossman, the jury decided that they knew his motivations when he killed his victim. Had they heard from the 30 witnesses who were precluded from testifying, they would have had a much different body of knowledge about his motivations. They believed his motivation was purely evil and wicked. Information from these 30 individuals would have made it much more likely that they would have believed that he was motivated by panic, confusion, and a degree of utter helplessness to manage his own emotions brought on by a deficient childhood and deprivation of the ability to mature into a responsible and confident adult.
4. Martin’s unequivocal contrition and changed nature – Rabbi Katz with The Aleph Institute has been Martin’s spiritual advisor for the past 15 years and can speak to the man that Martin has become and, as his aunt has written also, he is now a “solid, humble human being” far from the disturbed youth who shot Ms. Parks over 25 years ago. In this case, the rehabilitation given to him by the State of Florida has been effective, and Martin Grossman, far from being a hopeless criminal who must be put to death for fear of worse behavior, has become an example of correctional services effectively correcting both behavior and character.
5. Martin’s age (19) and physical state and state of mind at the time of the offense – Martin was an addict – he had been taking prescription barbiturates for seizures since early childhood and developed as an adolescent an addiction to other drugs. He was regularly high, suffered from a permanent state of paranoia and a lack, sometimes complete absence of judgment. On the night of his crime, Martin was on all kinds of drugs including PCP, Cocaine, Crystal Meth and other pills.
6. Life in prison without parole is an effective sentence to serve justice. Martin’s crime was not actually cold-blooded. His conduct since that night has been exemplary and he is a model prisoner. He did not set out to commit a crime that night over 25 years ago – it was very truly a juvenile lark that went terribly and tragically awry. Note that the medical report of Dr. Fisher, a forensic psychiatrist who studied Martin and a wealth of background information, concludes at page 12 in its final paragraph “Given the facts and diagnosis described above it would be inconsistent and highly illogical to characterize Martin’s actions during the murder as rationally directed towards the goals of avoiding arrest or avoiding law enforcement. No such goal-oriented behavior or cognition was possible given the severely altered mental state in which Martin was functioning at this time. Because he was in a psychotic state he was likewise unable to form the premeditation for the underlying felonies present in this case (robbery, burglary and escape).” For the real person who really committed the real crime, death is not necessary; correction has been working and can be expected to be 100% effective.
7. The Affidavit of Charles Brewer dated 21 July 1990. Charles Brewer, a fellow inmate in 1985, testified for the prosecution. Subsequently he provided a very disturbing affidavit that states that his testimony was not completely true and that he expected, and received, consideration for enhancing what he really knew and what he actually heard from Martin Grossman. What is most disturbing is that he appears to have been a critical witness, bringing into question the strength of the case without Brewer, who admits his testimony was tainted and improperly procured.
Moreover, the case relied on such witnesses as Brewer, the accomplice Taylor (who was sentenced to a mere three years), and others who all had something to gain by lying or at least embellishing the truth. This may have, at the very least, made the difference between life and the death sentence. We do not know what attempts, if any, were made to plead Mr. Grossman “down” on diminished criminal responsibility. We are looking into this question now.
In a death penalty system in which approximately 2% of known murderers are sentenced to death, fairness mandates that those few who are sentenced to death should be comparable to others who are similarly sentenced, and worse than those who are not. Problems with the trial of Martin Grossman have been admitted by the appeals courts (while being called “harmless” one by one, but their cumulative effect was far from harmless) and in one case, a new law was passed to say that judges were required to do things differently from the judge in Martin’s trial. In today's system, the sentence of death depends on many factors other than the moral depravity of the defendant or the actual severity of the offense. Especially in the case of Martin Grossman, it seems that it came about because of many misunderstandings that could be carefully and dispassionately explained if Martin Grossman is given a 60-day stay for the preparation of a clemency petition.
Please sign the petition today to save the life of Martin Grossman:
See (hear) the entire broadcast on: www.jmintheam.org
With Simcha Hochbaum
With Yossi Baumol
L-R: Noam Arnon, Yoni Bleichbard, Yossi Baumol,
Mordechai Yitzhar, Nachum Segal, David Wilder
On far left, Hebron Executive Director Menachem Livni
With Yoni Bleichbard and Yossi Baumol
With Bentzi Vataro
The giant and the midget
With Noam Arnon
Yoni Bleichbard, Noam Arnon, and Menachem Livni, with Nachum Segal and Yossi Baumol
This morning, still at home due to a lingering virus, I listened to Yaron Dekel on Israel radio’s Reshet Bet 'HaKol Diburim' – (It’s all talk) daily morning program. His first guest was Knesset Speaker Ruby Rivlin, who initiated Israel’s latest law, passed yesterday, granting blanket pardons to some 400 ‘criminals’ – Israelis indicted due to ‘illegal activities’ during the expulsion of 10,000 people from Gush Katif and the northern Shomron. Dekel’s questions centered around the idea that such clemency will only encourage further ‘ideological crimes’ in the future. Rivlin’s responses focused on the ‘national trauma’ caused by the expulsion and the need for a ‘national healing process,’ of which the pardons would play a major role.
the fact that some of the ‘leaders’ who initiated and implemented the expulsion still serve in public positions continues to encourage additional ideological crimes against the state in the future
These pardons are almost five years too late. As a matter of fact, they are totally superfluous. The Knesset should never have had to pass such a law because the charges against these people should never have been issued in the first place. This because the ‘disengagement – expulsion law’ was as illegal as a law can be, as can be witnessed in the Israeli supreme court’s decision which ruled “that the evacuation of settlements do harm human rights, including the right to property, freedom of occupation and proper respect for the evacuees.” The only dissenter among 11 judges, Judge Edmund Levy, lambasted the law and ruled that it should be canceled. [http://goo.gl/TW16]
The fallout from the Gush Katif catastrophe is still raining down on Israel, and will, it seems, continue to emanate deadly emissions for some time to come. Unfortunately, all our doomsday predictions, foreseen and publicized prior to the expulsion, have come true. Rockets fell on Sderot, Ashkelon and Ashdod, a war ensued, the rockets continue to fall, and another war is virtually inevitable. One can only guess what kinds of missiles are presently aimed at Tel Aviv from the very land Israeli supplied to our enemies. (Should Netanyahu and his government decide to finish off the Iranian nuclear threat undoubtedly, one of the responses will include rocket attacks from Gaza.)
The treatment of the expellees has been no less appalling, as most recently expressed by MK Uri Ariel, testifying before the special commission investigating the State’s treatment of these Israeli-Jewish refugees, saying that the “'slap in the face to expellees echoes on to this day!” . In my opinion, there’s a problem with this description: Israel’s treatment of the Gush Katif refugees is much more than a ‘slap in the face’ – it’s more like an arrow in the heart; in the heart of those people expelled and more significantly, an arrow in the heart of our existence as a state: Gush Katif residents represented the best of the best, combining hard work, ideology, patriotism and authentic mesirut nefesh – dedication and determination, even at the cost of their very lives. Such scandalous treatment of such people is an indelible stain on the entire country.
This being the case, I would like to suggest that the Knesset immediately legislate two additional laws.
One: It is not enough that the indictments against the “Gush Katif criminal” be quashed. All those people expelled from Gush Katif and the northern Shomron, along with all those who labored to prevent the expulsion must be recognized as national heroes. A state ceremony must be held, not in the Knesset, but at Temple Mount, during which they will receive a framed certificate, signed by the President, Prime Minister, Knesset speaker, and all members of Knesset, distinguishing them as national heroes.
In addition, these same ‘leaders’ must swear allegiance to maintaining the totality of Eretz Yisrael, as represented by Israeli’s eternal right to our sacred Jerusalem and Temple Mount. In other words, they must promise: Never Again. Never again will we repeat the Gush Katif disaster, anywhere in Israel: Judea, Samaria, and Jerusalem. (Perhaps, in order to avoid any claims of favoritism, Tel Aviv should also be mentioned.)
And finally, this law must guarantee that immediately upon Israel’s return to Gaza and Gush Katif, the destroyed communities will be reestablished, the expellee’s homes will be rebuilt by the State of Israel, and the former residents will be welcomed back in an additional State ceremony.
That’s the first law the Knesset must pass. But there is another one:
Two: Those responsible for the Gush Katif abandonment and expulsion, following their trials and convictions, may never, ever be pardoned. It is only a matter of time until these bogus ‘leaders’ are indicted, tried and convicted of crimes against the State of Israel. Once found guilty and sentenced, these people must serve their full sentences, without any chance of pardon or parole. Nothing, but nothing, can ever reduce the severity of their crimes, and they deserve absolutely no mercy or forgiveness.
Finally, concerning Yaron Dekel’s query concerning encouragement of additional similar ideological ‘crimes’ in the future: the fact that some of the ‘leaders’ who initiated and implemented the expulsion still serve in public positions continues to encourage additional ideological crimes against the state in the future. Recognition of Gush Katif’s residents and those indicted as national heroes will be a beginning ‘slap in the face’ to all those who demonized them, which should lead to a full-fledged spanking, which they should never forget.