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.
Let’s play a little name recognition game: Esther Ochana – ring a bell? Or Yehuda Shoham?
If we move forward in time: Asher Palmer and Yonatan Palmer?
All were killed because of Arabs throwing rocks at Jewish cars.
Esther Ochana, in Hebron, in January 1983, Yehuda Shoham, in June, 2001. And the Palmers, September, 2011.
Presently, three year old Adelle Biton is fighting for her life, following a rock attack on her mother’s car last night, near Ariel, in the Shomron. And according to today’s news reports, Arabs are continuing to try to kill people in the same way, from the same place where Adelle was injured, with others, last night.
Over the past few weeks Israeli leaders have been viciously assailing “Jewish nationalist’ attacks against Arabs. A few cases of Jews throwing rocks at Arabs has been reported, including one such incident in Jerusalem. The assault against such episodes reached France, when President Shimon Peres told reporters in Paris, “"Attacking Arab citizens is a terrible thing, done by a handful of people but leaving a very large stain."
I’m not in favor of unprovoked rock-throwing, or any other kind of physical attack, against anyone, Arabs, Jews, or anyone else. But, as long as I can remember, at least since I’ve lived in the Hebron area, that being about 32 years, Jews have been targets of, at the least, rock attacks. On the road going north, between Hebron – Gush Etzion –Jerusalem. And going south, towards, Beer Sheva. And even the short distance between Kiryat Arba and Hebron. During the ‘first Intifada,’ during the late 1980s, before buses had plastic windows, dozens, if not more, people were wounded when boulders hit glass windows on public transportation between Kiryat Arba and Jerusalem. Over the years these attacks grew, as a malignant cancer, throughout other places in Judea, Binyamin and Samaria. Even road 443, leaving Jerusalem towards Modi’in has become a favorite of attempted murder by rock.
Of course, these rock attacks culminated with massive shooting attacks during the Oslo War, aka the 2nd intifada, in the early 2000s.
For the past few years rock aggression has again reared its dangerous head. I recall, prior to the Palmer killing, being told that a senior officer, (now a very senior officer) instructed his troops not to get overly excited about rock-throwing. “It’s sufferable,” he was quoted as saying.
He visited the Palmers during the week of mourning, and I approached him as he left their home, querying him about this. Of course, he denied ever saying such words.
But I didn’t believe him then. And I don’t believe him today.
Rocks heaved at Jewish vehicles has almost become an Arab pastime, like baseball. And virtually nothing, but nothing, is done to stop it. The proof of that statement is that such ambushes continue, non-stop. Were proper action taken, they could be stopped. It’s a question of will. It seems that there are those who aren’t interested in preventing Jews, be they men, women, children or babies, from being injured or killed by projectiles flying through the air at moving vehicles. Here in Hebron, for the past weeks, Arabs have continued throwing rocks at Beit Hadassah and at security forces, from the border area between the Jewish/Arab parts of the city. Tear gas and stink bomb odors have permeated our homes and streets, whenever the wind changes directions. But the attacks continue, and continue, and continue. And I don’t remember hearing Peres talk about stains on the Arab population in Israel.
This is outrageous.
A couple of nights ago, international excitement seemed to be contagious. White smoke was seen pouring out of the Vatican chimney. Simultaneously, here in Israel, ‘white smoke’ was reported puffing out of the Prime Minister’s office in Jerusalem, when coalition agreements were being finalized, paving the way to a new government early next week.
But, at the moment, I don’t see any white smoke coming from anywhere. All I see is thick, ugly, smelly, black smoke, seemingly filling our skies. A black smoke, brought on by Jewish incitement, provoking Arabs, such as Peres’ ‘stain’ remarks, and other politician’s comments, people who are quick to the draw when a Jew looks cross-eyed at an Arab, but who remain speechless when Jews come under daily attack.
This kind of smoke is poisonous, and must be dispelled prior to its doing too much damage.
The firefighters today, Bibi, Boogie, Avigdor, Naftali, Yair, and the others, must take quick, firm action, leaving no questions in the minds of Arabs trying to kill Jews, that they will get back, in return, what they are attempting to do to us. That’s why there are Israeli security forces. They must be ordered, on all levels, to put out the fire, now.
One of the ways that we can bring back the white smoke is, despite the issues, to continue driving the roads, visiting communities in Judea and Samaria. As Passover approaches, there will be plentiful activities throughout Jewish communities all over Yesha. I call upon all those in Israel during Pesach, to visit and support such communities.
Here in Hebron, our semi-annual music festival will take place on Thursday of Passover. Ma’arat HaMachpela, the tomb of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs, will be entirely open, including the Isaac Hall, on both Wednesday and Thursday. Our neighbors around us must see that their attacks will not scare us away; to the contrary, more and more people will visit, and populate these holy places. And our new government must know that we will not let them sit quietly in their air-conditioned offices in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv while Jews are bombarded by rocks and boulders on the roads.
The time has come to stop this black-smoke rock-terror, for once and for all.
Late this afternoon a small group of people gathered at Hebron’s ancient cemetery, standing adjacent to a small grave stone.
News from Hebron The Hebron Press Office March 26, 2001
Terrorist gunfire kills one and injures one in Hebron At about 5:00 this afternoon an Arab sniper shot and killed a 10 month old baby girl, Shalhevet Techiya Pass, and wounded her father, Yitzhak Pass, with two bullets in the legs. They were shot at the entrance to the Avraham Avinu neighborhood. The baby was in the mother's arms at the time of the shooting and was hit in the head. Emergency medical teams arrived immediately. The father was treated and evacuated to hospital. The doctors were not able to save the baby.
A Hebron spokesman issued the following statement: For seven months the Hebron community has been shot at from Abu Sneneh and Harat a'Shech hills surrounding Hebron. Before the hills were transferred to Arafat, 4 years ago, we warned that the hills would be a source of Arab gunfire, directed at the community. We were laughed at. Following the beginning of the war, seven months ago, we again warned that if the hills were not recaptured by the Israeli army, blood would be spilled. Several times, Arab snipers have barely missed hitting soldiers and civilians in the Avraham Avinu neighborhood. This afternoon the sniper hit two people - a 10 month old baby in her mother's arms, and her father. If Ariel Sharon does not fulfill his promise to provide security for Hebron's residents - if he does not give orders to the army to retake the hills, Hebron's community will have no choice but to take appropriate action. Ariel Sharon promised security. Since he was elected, two innocent people have been killed. If Sharon does not react to today's shooting, why was he elected?
“We walked with Shalhevet in her stroller in the direction of the Avraham Avinu neighborhood, her grandparents, my wife's parents, and when we reached the entrance to the neighborhood, then, I remember the blast I felt in my legs, at the first moment I didn't understand what had happened, and when I turned around and saw that my legs were hit, I realized that I'd been shot. I lay down on the ground behind the soldier's station, my wife took Shalhevet from the stroller in the direction of a wall that could block them from the shooting, and when she held her head, she discovered that Shalhevet had been shot in the head. The soldiers started arriving, there was shooting, until I was evacuated. I remember it like it was yesterday.” (Itzik Pass, two years ago, on the 10th anniversary of the murder).
News from Hebron The Hebron Press Office March 26, 2001
Terrorist shooting update:
Hebron's leadership held an emergency meeting tonight following the sniper shooting which left Shalhevet Techiya Pass, 10 months old, dead, and her father, Itzik Pass, wounded. He was hit in the legs and is presently undergoing surgery at Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem.
Hebron's leadership has demanded that the hills surrounding Hebron be retaken by the Israel Defense forces. During the meeting is was decided that the Hebron community would stage a 24 hour a day protest in the Arab market, next to the Avraham Avinu neighborhood, until the hills are again under Israeli control. It was decided to name the hills, (presently called Abu Sneneh), the Shalhevet hills, in memory of the murdered baby. (Shalhevet means "flame" in Hebrew.)
Presently several Hebron leaders are meeting with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in Jerusalem, demanding that he fulfill his campaign promise to provide security for Jews in Judea, Samaria and Gazza. Should Sharon refuse, it is expected that massive protest demonstrations against the Sharon administration will begin throughout Israel.
Funeral plans are still pending.
Q. Shalhevet was your first born and at that time, only child. Since then your wife has given birth several times.
When Shalhevet was killed she was towards the end of her pregnancy. A few months later she gave birth to another daughter, Renana Nechama, and since then, thank G-d, we have two sons and three daughters, the last one was born two weeks ago and thank G-d, we see comfort in the children. This is one of the things that gives strength. We know that we still have reasons to continue and for what to aspire.
Q. What do you teach them, what do you tell them?
We tell them what happened, without hiding anything. I think that it's important that children, as soon as they are able to comprehend, should understand the reality and know that Hebron isn't like every other place in the world, that there are the complexities here. The children understand it, they live here and they know we're not in Tel Aviv, that here there are soldiers and Arabs, that sometimes we get hit by rocks. Sometimes they feel the realities and complexities, but the bereavement is part of our life. I don't think it should be blurred. It's important that the children should know that, first of all, there is a price for our faith, for what we think and what we do, and that we gave our most valuable possession for the sake of Eretz Yisrael, for the sake of settling the land. (Itzik Pass, two years ago, on the 10th anniversary of the murder).
Before the short memorial service began this afternoon, some of the Pass children were running around in the cemetery. Itzik picked up one of his children, laughing. His father, standing next to him, seemed very surprised to see his son laugh, and so remarked. Itzik replied, ‘a cemetery is a funny place.’
Thinking about this statement, I realized that Itzik has what to laugh about. True, he and his wife Oriya lost their first child. But the sniper’s bullet was not meant to kill only Shalhevet. It was aimed at all Hebron, at all our men, women and children. For some reason, it hit and killed a tiny baby.
But, in the end, Itzik and Oriya Pass defeated both the sniper and all those who sent him to perform his evil deed. For they are still here in Hebron, thriving in Hebron, raising their children in Hebron. Their victory is triumphal example to all, of dedication, determination, and self-sacrifice. Sure, tears can still be shed; the feeling of the loss is still tangible. But the Pass’ conquest over evil, over terror, is too, tangible.
Q. Itzik, why did you stay here in Hebron?
First of all, we are stubborn. The Jewish people are stubborn, a stiff-necked people. We are enrooted in this land. Both in our personal family, and in a more general way, this is everything. There is nothing, not murder, not Arabs, which can uproot us from here, because we are a stiff-necked people. Despite what the Jewish people have experienced, we have been able to hold our heads high. We have to understand how they lived in Galut where anyone could do whatever he wanted to Jews, and here, and here, in Eretz Yisrael, we hold our heads high, standing straight and tall, no one will ever get us out of here. (Itzik Pass, two years ago, on the 10th anniversary of the murder).
Many years ago, I have no idea what year it was, sometime after 1981, I remember being at Beit Hadassah, it was probably during one of the holidays. Standing outside was Rabbi Moshe Levinger, taking in the scene. Which was, dozens of children playing outside. I could almost feel his fulfillment, seeing all these kids playing in Hebron.
Years later, after I’d begun working with the community, I remember seeing an article by a prominent journalist, who’d interviewed me, and a neighboring Arab. I have no idea what I said during the interview, but I’ve never forgotten the Arab’s words. He told the journalist that he knew the Jews were back in Hebron to stay. Why? ‘Look at the children, I see the children, I see their eyes.’
For many years now I’ve photographed Hebron’s Purim events, when everyone gets dressed up in costumes. Once in a while, a few days before it all starts, I take a deep breath and ask myself if I really want to do this again. After all, I have, probably, thousands of Purim photos. But, when the day arrives, and I get out the camera, I’m never sorry.
Purim officially begins on Saturday night, but for me, it started today. This morning, all Hebron’s children wore their costumes, and came dressed up to school. I spent the morning running from day-care, to nursery school, to kindergarten, and then to the playground, photographing the bubbly, bouncing, kids, in their Purim best. And I realized that it was the kind of occasion you never get tired of, no matter how many times you repeat it.
Why? Just one child, with a huge grin on his or her face, posing for a picture, while proudly telling me what they’re dressed up as, well, it makes your whole world light up. A group of little girls, dressed as brides or ballerinas, singing and dancing, falling on the floor and getting up, a couple of lions, roaring as they chase one another, Mordechais and Esthers, policemen, soldiers, and medieval knights, you name it, that’s what they are. They treat me, not to a breath of fresh air, rather to a breath of fresh, new life.
As I was photographing the kids and uploading material to facebook and our web site, our neighbors were hurling rocks at Beit Hadassah, Beit Romano and Israeli security forces in the area. They are protesting the closing of a kilometer of road on the Jewish side of the city. They call it Shuhada – we call it King David Street. It’s the only place in Hebron they have no access to – they have access to 97% of the city. We have access to only 3% of Hebron. Their demonstrations include slingshots, rocks and firebombs. A guest here, celebrating their daughter’s Bat Mitzvah by giving pizza and cake to soldiers, asked me if all they have are rocks. I answered, ‘no, but that’s all they’re using today.’ And it’s true. They’re saving whatever else they have for bigger and better occasions.
So, knowing that, what keeps us going?
I guess we each have our own idea, but for me, seeing these children, so happy, so carefree, so delighted, it’s worth more than a day of sunshine. Each child is like a sunbeam, streaming down on us, filling me with an energy that’s indescribable.
So, someone might ask, what’s the difference between Purim and other costume holidays that others celebrate around the world?
Very simply: Purim is a festival of pure, unadulterated faith. An evil person, aided by a seemingly all-powerful ruler, wanted to annihilate the Jews. They came very close to succeeding. Those around didn’t see any way out. It was, as they say, all over. But G-d wasn’t about to let that happen. As hidden as He seemed to be, actually He was there, all the time. Sometimes you see Him, sometimes you don’t, but He’s there, if you know it or not.
Only two people, Mordechai and Esther, battled against the Ahmadinajed who lived thousands of years ago. How could only two be victorious against such a strong, but wicked leader, who had then the equivalent of today’s atomic bomb on his side? They did what they could, and prayed, and had faith in the L-rd above, and they won the war. The Jews were saved, and the result of that episode was the return to Israel, to Jerusalem and the rebuilding of the Temple, Beit HaMikdash.
Our struggles against the Hamans of the 21st century aren’t fought by only two. Today, back home in our land, all of us, men, women and children, by our very being in Israel, is tangible evidence of the Divine presence, which hovers above us, ensuring our everlasting life in Israel. The very fact that that, against all odds, Jewish children celebrate Purim in Hebron, is in and of itself proof; who could have ever imagined, 70 years ago, Jewish children in Hebron?
Years ago, during the intifada, called the Oslo war, a group of men wanted to visit Hebron on Purim. We rented a bullet-proof bus, and supplied them with helmets and vests, as they requested. After all, snipers were shooting at us from the surrounding hills. Such precautions were a logical necessity.
As the bus entered Kiryat Arba the men put on their paraphernalia . Then, arriving in Hebron, they looked out the bus window and saw….
Dozens of children, running around outside, in their Purim attire, playing games at the Avraham Avinu neighborhood Purim carnival. They looked at the kids, looked at themselves, took off the vests and helmets, and then stepped off the bus, into the throng of kids.
That’s the power of Purim, that’s the power of Hebron, that’s the power of children.