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      Blessings from Hebron
      by David Wilder
      Personal Reflections on Hebron, Eretz Yisrael, Friends, Family and anything else that comes to mind.
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      David Wilder was born in New Jersey in the USA in 1954, and graduated from Case Western Reserve University with a BA in History and teacher certification in 1976. He spent 1974-75 in Jerusalem at the Hebrew University and returned to Israel upon graduation.

      For over eighteen years David Wilder has worked with the Jewish Community of Hebron. He is the English spokesman for the community, granting newspaper, television and radio interviews internationally. He initiated the Hebron internet project, including email lists of over 15,000 subscribers who receive regular news and commentaries from Hebron in English and Hebrew. David is responsible and continues to update the Hebron web sites, portraying various facets of Hebron, utilizing text, audio, video and pictures. He conducts tours of Hebron's Jewish Community and occasionally travels abroad, speaking at Hebron functions.

      David Wilder is married to Ora, a 'Sabra,' for 35 years. They lived in Kiryat Arba for 17 years and have resided at Beit Hadassah in Hebron for the past 15 years. They have seven children and many grandchildren.

      Links to sites David recommends:
      www.hebron.com (English)
      www.hebron.org.il (Hebrew)
      www.ohrshlomo.org (Hebrew)
      www.ohrshalom.net (Hebrew)
      (others to be added)

      Cheshvan 9, 5770, 10/27/2009

      Rambam Day in Hebron

      it is permissible to visit your father and mother, even if your clothes are stained and dirty
      In 1165 Moshe ben Maimon, known as Maimonides or the Rambam, visited Eretz Yisrael. In the preface to his commentary on the Talmudic tractate of Rosh Hashana he writes of his visit to Hebron.

      "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…At the edge of the field is the house of Abraham, And it is forbidden to build a home there, in respect to Abraham."
      Eight hundred and forty four years ago today, one of Judaism's greatest scholars arrived in Hebron, following his visit to Jerusalem. One can only imagine his excitement, standing next to the caves of Machpela, worshiping adjacent to the graves of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs. Perhaps we can sense a little of his exhilaration through his words, by vowing to mark his visit to Temple Mount in Jerusalem, and Ma'arat HaMachpela in Hebron, as an eternal, personal holiday.
      Reading the Rambam's account, and feeling some of his awe, I ask myself, do people today, eight and half centuries later, still experience the same wonder when visiting such holy sites such as Temple Mount and Ma'arat HaMachpela.
      A couple of weeks ago a friend of mine told me the following story:
      Several years ago a famous Rabbi visited Hebron with many of his disciples. Upon arriving, he told his Hebron host, "I almost didn't come." When asked why, what was the problem, the Rabbi answered: "When the famous holy Rabbi Chaim ben Atar (known as the Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh) traveled to the city of Meron (in the Galil) to the tomb of Rashbi (Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, renowned Jewish scholar and mystic who lived during the Talmudic era, author of the Zohar), he first imposed upon himself many hardships and suffering, by fasting, by rolling in the snow, and other physical afflictions, in order to purify himself before approaching the holy Rashbi's cave. Then, when he reached Meron, he crawled on his hands and legs to the site itself, out of fear and awe."
      The Rabbi continued: Knowing this, how could I dare allow myself to visit the caves of Machpela, the tomb of our Patriarchs and Matriarchs?!"
      His host looked at him and asked, "but you are here – you came anyhow."
      The Rabbi answered, "Yes, I did come. I decided that it is permissible to visit your father and mother, even if your clothes are stained and dirty."
      A poignant story, but with a very profound message. Ma'arat HaMachpela - Hebron, is not only the home the founders of our people, the roots of Judaism and all monotheism, the beginning of modern 'civilized' civilization. Hebron is the home of our mothers and fathers, Mom and Dad, Grandma and Grandpa – that simple, that deep. Mommy and Daddy will always welcome their children home, notwithstanding anything!
      I have the honor and privilege to work with many different people and groups, Jews and gentiles, youth and the elderly, people from all over the globe. My tours are fairly standard; I try to express the same values and information to everyone; it makes little difference to me who they are or what the represent. The material to be imparted is not only 'information' – it is much more that that – it is the essence of our very existence.
      There are those people have heard some of it before. Others know almost nothing. But when they leave, almost undoubtedly, their lives have changed.
      Not too long ago an Israeli man in his 40s visited here. He came in with a friend, and told me that he'd never been to Hebron, despite it only being an hour and a half from Tel Aviv. He also admitted that he didn't know why he had bothered to come. But, after two and a half hours of touring, he told me, 'now I'm starting to understand what's going on. I'd never understood it before.'
      What did he understand? I'm sure some of the 'political issues' that always make the news had suddenly come alive. But his words didn't just reflect politics; they reflected an inner spiritual awakening: Hebron- this is me!
      Earlier today I toured with a group of teenagers from a youth organization. About 18 years old, these kids all knew they were Jewish. But most of them didn't know a whole lot more that that, especially about Hebron. As we starting touring it was very difficult for them to listen to me; they were more interested in talking to each other. I found it frustrating and irritating, and numerous times asked them to either stop their private conversations or leave the group.
      But by the time we'd reached the Avraham Avinu neighborhood they were starting to pay attention. And when we arrived at Ma'arat HaMachpela, our last stop, they were listening. I knew that something had clicked when, telling the story of how, in 1981, a group of Jewish men were able to actually enter the authentic Machpela caves themselves, one of the young women, her mouth open and her eyes sparkling, mouthed, 'wow!'
      I don't know how much she knew about Hebron and Machpela before this trip, but I have no doubt whatsoever that the few hours here left an indelible mark on her soul.
      That is, I think, what the Rambam so succinctly expressed in the paragraph quoted at the beginning of this article.
      This is one of our major goals in Hebron – to bring Hebron alive and to the masses, to make this holy city and these holy sites accessible to all people. Many are able to actually visit these sites; others can 'virtually attend,' via our website. This is one of our goals: to bring Hebron and Ma'arat HaMachpela to as many people as possible throughout the world, to bring everyone home to Mom and Dad!
      People frequently ask how they can be a part of our mission. Presently, I have two answers: We've begun a project allowing people to become honorary citizens of Hebron. We request a minimum donation of $50. All new citizens will receive a beautiful personal certificate and updated information about Hebron. Details can be seen at http://www.hebron.com/english/article.php?id=564.
      In addition, in less than one month the New York-based Hebron Fund will host its annual Dinner. The funds raised at this event allow Hebron's Jewish community to continue to work on behalf of the Jewish people, keeping Hebron and Ma'arat HaMachpela accessible to anyone and everyone. Details can be found at: http://tinyurl.com/yjvb95o. If you can attend, great! If not, you can still select a 'Scroll of Honor Dedication" and contribute to the continued growth and development of the Jewish Community of Hebron.
      Happy Hebron-Rambam Day!

      Cheshvan 5, 5770, 10/23/2009

      Kol HaKavod to the IDF's Healthy soldiers

      These are our true fighters, motivated and talented, willing to give their lives for their land, their people and their G-d.
      Arutz 7 in Hebrew screened a short video showing yesterday's swearing-in ceremony of soldiers from the Kfir infantry brigade at the Kotel in Jerusalem. Such ceremonies are usually very emotional, with family members and friends attending, as the new soldiers complete their basic training.

      Such a ceremony is very symbolic, with the new soldiers proclaiming their willingness to give their lives for their people and for their country. However, in recent years soldiers have been called on to betray their land, Eretz Yisrael. Such orders given to expel Jews from their homes and their land are still being issued and implemented. Recently soldiers from the Shimshon unit of Kfir have been ordered to expel Jews from Homesh 10 times, including on Shabbat, Rosh HaShana Eve, and Yom Kippur Eve.

      Yesterday, the newly inducted warriors declared their allegiance, not only to the State of Israel, but also the Eretz Yisrael and to G-d, by waving banners, during the ceremony, which read, "No to expulsions from Homesh." Family members and friends in the attending audience also waved such banners, which were forcibly taken by police and security forces at the site.

      Thank G-d for such brave, healthy young men, who understand the value of Eretz Yisrael and the value of saying 'no' to such illegal commands, ordering expulsion of Jews from their land and home. Yesterday's act was particularly significant, taking place at the Kotel, adjacent the the holiest place in the world, Har HaBayit - Temple Mount and the Holy-of-Holies. 

      It's no secret the previous Prime Ministers have offered this very site to our enemies, who claim it as their own. These soldiers have made it clear: We will not have any part of expulsions, evictions, or other such immoral actions, in Homesh, Jerusalem or anywhere else.

      The army is threatening to dismiss these soldiers from the IDF following 'suitable punishment.' What a waste! These are our true fighters, motivated and talented, willing to give their lives for their land, their people and their
      G-d.  This is the real IDF.

      Kol HaKavod!!!





      Cheshvan 3, 5770, 10/21/2009

      Arab at Ma'arat HaMachpela:Tony Blair is 'a terrorist'


      Hebron: Palestinian calls Blair 'a terrorist'

      Oct. 20, 2009
      JPost.com Staff , THE JERUSALEM POST

      Palestinian guards in Hebron stopped a man who hurled abuse at EU special Mideast envoy Tony Blair on Tuesday, Israel Radio reported.

      The man, who Reuters reported was carrying a bag, yelled at Blair, calling him "a terrorist."

      The man also shouted, "He is not welcome in the land of Palestine," according to Reuters.

      Blair was quoted as telling reporters after the incident, "You know, he made his protest and that's fair enough."

      The former UK prime minister escaped the attack without injury.

      This article can also be read at http://www.jpost.com /servlet/Satellite?cid=1256037267209&pagename=JPArticle%2FShowFull


      Tishrei 28, 5770, 10/16/2009

      Hebron by Robbie Knopf

      I didn’t find a stressed or dying community but, rather a young, vibrant and content one. I saw children doing things my sister and I like to do
      - And after that, Avrham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of Machpelah facing Mamre, which is Hebron, in the land of Canaan. (Bereshit Chof Gimmel: Yud Tet)

      My name is Robbie Knopf and I am 13 years old. On November 17th 2008, I experienced the greatest honor of my life, so far, when I was honored, along with my dad, by the Hebron Fund with the Lev Avot U’Banim Award. It is a night I will always remember.

                  My introduction to Hebron began in the classrooms of Yavneh Academy in Paramus, New Jersey. I knew that Hebron was one of the 4 Holy Cities. I also knew that in the Torah, Avraham bought Maa’rat HaMachpelah in Hebron to bury Sarah.  I also knew that one of the spies sent out by Moshe, Calev, went to Hebron and davened there and as a reward got the land as his Nachalah- land portion.

      This past summer I had the opportunity to travel to Israel with 25 family members and friends for a 12 day trip during which I celebrated my Bar Mitzvah. I had the chance to visit all 4 holy cities. We started up north in the Galil and Golan, and spent a day in Sfat where we visited the shuls of the ARI and Rav Abuhav. We went on to Tevaria where we visited the graves of Rambam and Rabbi Akiva. On a Thursday in Yerushalayim I was called to the Torah and leined at the Kotel among many other Bar Mitzvah celebrations. On our last day in Israel, my family and I went to Hebron where I was called to the Torah for an aliyah in celebration of my Bar Mitzvah.

      I wasn’t sure what I was going to find in Hebron. I knew that there was controversy surrounding the city. From my father, who has supported Hebron for as long as I can remember, I heard that it was one of Israel’s most holy cites and land that had been “purchased by Avraham at above market value” so that it was very clearly Jewish property.  At some point, I realized that not everyone supported maintaining a Jewish presence in Hebron. The government’s strategy was to give away land to the Arabs to make peace. I knew that there are more Arabs then Jews in Hebron and that there is a large IDF presence there to maintain the safety of the Jewish community. What would we find in Hebron? What would the people be like? Would I feel in danger? Is it a healthy Jewish community? How many people would be davening in Maa’rat HaMachpelah? Do the Jews in Hebron live normal Israeli lives?  Is it a sad and stressful existence for the Jew there?

      My family was picked up from our hotel in Jerusalem to go to Hebron in what looked like a regular car.  My mother seemed a little nervous about that and when she asked, the driver told us that the car had bullet-proof windows. We drove through security, crossing the green line. When we arrived in Hebron, we were greeted and escorted to Maa’rat HaMachpelah by Hebron’s official spokesman, David Wilder.

       We went up many stairs where I encountered my first surprise.  On our way to the shul we passed room after room of young children being taught by their teachers. When we reached the shul, we found not a handful of people but--approximately 75 people there.  There were young and old—but all energetic. They were singing loudly. They were welcoming me and my father. After my aliyah people there danced with my dad and I in a circle. The dancing went on and on.  After that, we were taken on a tour by an American born resident of Hebron, Rabbi Simcha Hochbaum, Hebron’s director of tourism.  He seemed so familiar as though he could be our next door neighbor back in Teaneck. He gave us a tour of Maa’rat HaMachpelah.  Then we got back in the car and were driven up the hill on a winding road past many soldiers.  Our guide then showed us the first homes (trailers) in modern Hebron. I saw older kids riding bikes and smaller kids playing on a playground. People looked like they were happily going about the activities of a vital community. We also were shown the Avraham Avinu shul and the gravesite of the people who died during the tragic massacre of the Jewish community in Hebron in the 1920’s.  Then The Hebron Fund’s executive director Yossi Baumol took us to the Shalom House which is the most recently acquired building in Hebron.  We said hello to the soldier who was guarding the building.  We passed bicycles in the corridor and then saw the spaces carved out for individual families to live, often separated only by a shower curtain. We saw how families lived there without certain basic necessities such as electricity.  From the rooftop, we could see for miles.  Yossi pointed out the excellent view of the road between Kiryat Arba and Hebron.  It was easy to see what a critical and strategic location the Shalom House possesses.

      Clearly, Hebron isn’t your typical town. The residents contend with day to day problems and obstacles that are so different from anything I have ever experienced.  But, there were familiar elements also.  I didn’t find a stressed or dying community but, rather a young, vibrant and content one.  I saw children doing things my sister and I like to do.  I saw families laughing and doing laundry.  I saw a community that I felt a great deal of respect for and one which I find so natural to lend my support to.  Thank you to the Hebron Fund for giving me this opportunity to join my father in support of Hebron.

      The Hebron Fund Dinner at CitiStadium in NY is on Nov. 21 - see www.hebronfund.com or call 718-677-6886 for details and reservations.