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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)

      Sivan 20, 5769, 6/12/2009

      Special secret preview of Netanyahu's Sunday speech

      My fellow countrymen,

      Yesterday, on the holy day of Shabbat, worshipping at a synagogue close to my Jerusalem home, I listened intently to the weekly Torah portion. It tells the story of 12 spies, sent by Moses, to study Eretz Yisrael and its residents, prior to the Israelites entering into the Land. 

      The end is quite well known; Ten of the spies opposed any attempt to conquer the land, saying that it was filled with giants and well-fortified cities and walls. Only two men, Joshua and Kalev had the courage to reject the spy's slander, and called on all the Israelites to push forward, saying that of course they could conquer Israel. 

      As a result of the people's rejection of the land G-d decreed that they should spend forty years in the desert. Almost all those alive at that time, died before entering the land and were not privileged to see the Promised Land. The ten spies died horribly tragic deaths. Joshua and Kalev were rewarded for their faith and were later leaders in Eretz Yisrael. And of course, the same day when the Israelites rejected Eretz Yisrael, Jews have suffered through the centuries. That day is Tisha b'Av, the date when the first and second Temples were destroyed. 

      I have also witnessed, in our generation, the results of forfeiting Eretz Yisrael.

      Following Menachem Begin's relinquishment of Sinai and the destruction of Yamit and other communities in the south, Israel immediately faced a deadly war in the north. Begin later resigned and lived for almost a decade in isolation.

      When Ariel Sharon abandoned Gush Katif to our enemies, and destroyed those communities, uprooting loyal citizens from their homes, we were forced to deal with two wars, from the north and from the south. Former Prime Minister Sharon has been in a coma for years. Most of the leaders directly involved with the Gush Katif fiasco have been disgraced, such as former army chief of staff Dan Halutz and former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and many others. 

      And of course, I cannot forget to mention the fate of Yitzhak Rabin, following initiating and signing of the Oslo Accords. 

      Ehud Barak agreed to a Palestinian state throughout almost all of Judea and Samaria. As did Ehud Olmert. Events speak for themselves. 

      In truth, I myself had to deal with the same fate. Following my erroneous and fatal decision to divide Hebron, abandoning  most of the city to Arafat, and my subsequent signing of the Wye accords, I was defeated at the polls by a very wide margin. I also had to deal with personal challenges, having been investigated several times by the police for crimes that never occurred. 

      I have come to a realization that, whatever the price, Eretz Yisrael, the land of Israel, including Judea and Samaria, is an intrinsic element of our people. Our Land is a
      G-d -given gift to our people, and it is not ours to give away, to anyone, at any time, for any price. 

      Of course, peace is a Divinely defined ideal; but only when peace is real, not phony. Since the Olso Accords were signed, almost 2,000 Jews have been killed in terror attacks, murdered in cold blood, by the very people who were supposed to be at peace with the State of Israel. 

      We have witnessed to formation of a new terror-entity on our southern border, which continues to fire rockets into our country. We still have no assurances that Hamas will not eventually control the Arab populations in Judea and Samaria, as they have taken over Gaza. Israel will not lend a hand to formation of another terror state on our eastern border. 

      I am very aware of demands to find a national home for the Palestinians.

      First, it should be reiterated: the State of Jordan, which was created by the British after World War Two, has a population which is 80% Palestinian; that is 80% of the population is identical to the 'palestinians' living in Judea and Samaria. It should be recalled that Jordan ruled the west bank of the Jordan River from 1950 until 1988. 

      Very clearly, Jordan is a Palestinian state and can and should be recognized as such. Any Arabs living in Judea and Samaria who do desire, should be able to receive Jordanian citizenship. 

      As for the Arabs in Gaza: it would only be natural for Gaza to be absorbed by the State of Egypt. I believe that the issues facing us are international, and should be addressed by all nations of the world, including the Egyptians. Egypt, having received the Sinai from Israel, should be an active participate in the continuing peace process. Therefore, Israel is volunteering any and all assistance to green the Sinai desert, thereby provided both food and employment for tens and hundreds of thousands of Gazans.


      Peace is not, and cannot be dependent on any one country or culture. All must play a role in bringing real peace to the world. Therefore, we expect the Arab world, the European Union, the Russians, and the United States, as well as member countries of the United Nations, to partake in funding and implementing this plan, which will allow the Palestinians to live as free citizens of their countries, without continuing to endanger the State of Israel, and without forcing Israel to divide its holy land. 

      Finally, concerning Jerusalem, there should not be any illusions about Israeli policy. Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish people for over 3,000 years, beginning with the Davidic Kingdom. After Jews were exiled from this holy city and from our holy land, Jerusalem was left desolate and abandoned. 

      Temple Mount is the holiest place in the world, site of the sacred Beit HaMikdash, the Temple. The Jewish people lost this holiest of sites because of our rejection of Eretz Yisrael during the days of Moses. I am sure that only when we, as a country, as a people, officially recognize our allegiance to this site, and via this, to our G-d in heaven, that eventually we will achieve an authentic, eternal peace. Israel will never, ever divide Jerusalem. 

      My fellow countrymen: We must be aware that there are many who will reject my proposals. In 1948 Israeli independence was rejected by the Arab world. Despite this, despite being surrounded by massive enemy forces, despite attacks on all fronts, we were victorious, because we believed in what we had to do: 100% of the Jews here in Israel believed 100% in our goals. 

      If we believe in ourselves, in our rights to our land, if we believe in our past and look to our future, if we believe in our G-d - given right to our land, then there is no doubt that we will be victorious again, today.  

      G-d bless you all.

      Sivan 17, 5769, 6/9/2009

      The Cycle of Life

      Over the years I've authored many different kinds of articles, dealing with various subjects; some political, some personal, some satire, some sad, some happy. Today's is a real mix.
      A few nights ago I attended a special wedding in Kiryat Arba. The chatan, or groom, is the son of a friend, who many of you may know, or have heard of. Gary and Andrea Cooperberg moved to Kiryat Arba in 1981, just a month or so after my wife and I settled there. Andrea is a dedicated nurse in the local medical center. Gary has been working with Yeshivat Nir Kiryat Arba for many years and is well known for his articles, titled: A Voice from Hebron.
      The Cooperbergs then lived in an apartment adjacent to ours, and when Andrea left to give birth in Jerusalem on a Shabbat morning, she sent her other children to spend the day with us. That night we received the happy news: a new baby boy now belonged to their family.
      Of course, the brit milah, the baby's circumcision was due to take place eight days later. The eighth day just happened to fall on Shabbat, Chol HaMoed Succot, the Sabbath occurring during the Succot holiday. Gary and Andrea decided that their son's brit would be at none other than Ma'arat HaMachpela – the Tomb of the Patriarchs, in Hebron. Today, that's no problem. The Ma'arat HaMachpela Authority is notified and they handle all the necessary details. However back then, 28 years ago, it wasn't so easy. Not only wasn't it easy; it was almost impossible. At that time celebrating a brit at the Ma'ara was prohibited. Supposedly, according to Islam, Moslems are forbidden to drink alcohol. Therefore, in order to 'honor' (appease) the Arabs, any acts, such as a Brit, which necessitated use of wine, were banned at this holy Jewish site. Of course, grape juice, a permitted substitute for wine, was also forbidden, because it 'looked like' wine.
      However, this did not deter the Cooperbergs. Due to the fact that the Brit was to take place on Shabbat of Succot, many people were worshiping at Ma'arat HaMachpela. The presence of an unusually large crowd didn't stir up suspicions. Andrea walked from Kiryat Arba to Hebron with the baby in a carriage, but this too was normal. At the entrance to the building were two soldiers; someone struck up a conversion with one of them, as did someone else with the other, while Andrea, unobtrusively whisked the newborn baby inside, without anyone paying any attention.
      A few minutes later, towards the end of the morning prayer service, before anyone had any idea what was happening, the Brit Milah was performed in the largest and most important room at Ma'arat HaMachpela, the Isaac Hall, known in Hebrew as Ohel Yitzhak. This room contains an opening in the floor leading down into the actual caves of Machpela and is called "haPetach l'Gan Eden" – the entrance to Paradise, the passage to the Garden of Eden.
      The baby was given a name in accordance with the site: Avi Yitzhak. Avi Yitzhak was probably the first Jew honored to have his brit in Ohel Yitzhak in literally thousands of years.

      Today, almost 28 years later, Avi Yitzhak Cooperberg is an ordained Rabbi and continues his Torah studies at one of the finest yeshivas in Jerusalem, located in the Old City, adjacent to the Kotel, the Western Wall. And a few days ago Avi Yitzhak married Ester, a lovely women whose family are friends of mine. Originally from England, Ester too has made her home in the holy land. Their beautiful wedding, overlooking Hebron, seemed to be a wonderful way to end last week.
      However, as life is, that joy was soon shattered.
      About 16 years ago ago a Yemenite family from the Israeli city of Rehovot, moved to Hebron. The father, Rabbi Inon, is a Torah scholar, who has made study and education his life's work. Orna, the mother is also a teacher. They too were privileged to raise a large family in Hebron.
      But life in Hebron is not without its perils. Some fourteen years ago Arab terrorists shot a missile into their home. Fortunately it didn't explode and no one was hurt. In later years three of their sons were wounded by terrorists in Hebron; one was seriously stabbed and the other two shot while standing on their apartment balcony. They all recovered. But this past Friday was different.
      Chenya Meshulam's name is very special. Chen means grace or charm. And she certainly was a very charming young woman. The second part of her name hints at the Name of G-d. In other words, she embodied the grace of G-d. And she really did. Just over seventeen years of age, she was on the verge of graduating from a women's religious high school in Beit El. Next year she planned on participating in a program for women's volunteer national service. That is, if she didn't get married first (as do many young women, just out of high school.)
      Last weekend all the girls in her class were having a special 'parents-daughters' Shabbat at her school. For some reason, Chenya came home to Hebron on Thursday and that night, at about midnight, she invited her friends to a late-night party. She ordered pizza and asked them what they'd like to drink. When the others answered 'hot chocolate', she went upstairs to her home and prepared that for them. At one o'clock she gave all the girls a hug and kiss and went home to sleep.
      The next day, Friday, Chenya spent about an hour and a half at my apartment with my daughter and another friend, preparing for the upcoming Shabbat. When she left Hebron at about 1:30, catching a ride into Jerusalem, heading back towards her school, she called another friend from her class, also from Hebron, and asked that they give her parents a ride, later on, to her high school for the special Shabbat.
      At about 2:15 the car Chenya was in was hit by an Arab vehicle, which refused to yield right-of-way. By the time an emergency crew was able to get Chenya out of the wrecked car, it was too late to save her.
      The pain and anguish, hearing of her sudden death was almost unbearable.
      A few hours later, just before Shabbat, Chenya Meshulam was brought to rest at the ancient Jewish cemetery in Hebron. It seemed so unreal, that this beautiful young woman was no longer here, was being buried following such a horrible, unnecessary accident. Yet there was nothing left to do but return home and bring in Shabbat.
      Saturday night: Shortly after the conclusion of Shabbat, with the pain of Friday still throbbing, we received notification: Please pray for Porat Yosef ben Shunamit.
      This four and half year old boy was the son of a couple who grew up in Hebron. The child's grandparents, Ronen and Anat Cohen, and Yisrael and Miriam Ze'ev still live in Hebron. Their married children live in the mountains of Samaria. That Shabbat, while visiting friends, the child went outside to play. At some point he must have fallen into a pond, where he was later found. Despite attempts to revive him, the child didn't survive, and he too was buried in Hebron, across the field from Chenya, on Sunday afternoon.
      Two funerals in three days, both so heartbreaking, very difficult to emotionally deal with.
      But as life will have it, our story does not end here, on such a sad note.
      Tonight - Monday night at Ma'arat HaMachpela. A joyous atmosphere, singing and dancing in the air. A marriage canopy – a chuppah, is outlined on the background of the huge ancient building atop the caves of Machpela. The bride and groom – chatan and kallah, standing side-by-side, become man and wife, and the festivity begins.
      But this is no ordinary festivity. The Chatan – the groom, Shilo – is one of fourteen children, brought up here in Hebron. He is one of the few people who had the privilege to grow up at Tel Hebron, the home of Abraham and Sarah, Yitzhak and Rivka, Ya'akov and Leah, as well as the sons of Ya'akov, Bnei Yisrael, who became the 12 tribes of Israel.

      And the Kallah is also very special. Hadas is the daughter of Gilad Zar, hy"d, security chief of the Shomron, who was killed by Arab terrorists a number of years ago. She is also the niece of Anat and Ronen Cohen, who buried a grandchild yesterday.
      How is it possible to dance at such a wedding?
      In August of 1929, 67 Jews were murdered by Arabs during a pogrom in Hebron. Over 20 of those killed were yeshiva students, who studied at the famed "Slobodka yeshiva" in the city.
      A week after the massacre, one of yeshiva students who survived, was to be married. How would the other students act, still in shock and mourning following the awful events of the previous week?
      The Rabbis of the yeshiva decreed: All of the yeshiva's students would attend the wedding; no excuses would be accepted, no exceptions were to be made. And at the wedding, all the students would dance as they'd never danced before. A wedding is a happy, joyous occasion. There's a time to mourn and a time to celebrate. At weddings, we all celebrate.


      And so it was then. And so it was tonight. Under the stars, next to Ma'arat HaMachpela, all joined hands to sing and dance, to celebrate the festive beginning of a new family, here in Hebron. The chatan and kallah radiated a unique elation saved for newlyweds. All those attending, including most of those who had participated in the two funerals, sang and danced as if they too were not only standing at the entrance to the Garden of Eden, but were actually there, in the Garden itself. 

      That is Hebron.  That is, the cycle of life.

      Sivan 15, 5769, 6/7/2009

      IDF Soldiers in Hebron Find A Home With Chabad

      Written by Zalman Nelson

      When they’re not monitoring Hebron’s network of anti-terrorist security cameras and gathering intelligence, female soldiers of the (IDF) stationed here love to hang out with Batsheva Cohen. The dynamic  Chabad representative bakes challah with the soldiers, explores questions of Jewish identity, and infuses their tour of duty here with a joyfully Jewish experience.

      “We have an unusual relationship with the local soldiers because we live so close to the base. In most areas the settlement is in one place and the base elsewhere,” Cohen told Lubavitch.com.

      The Friday challah baking sessions started after the IDF women were transferred to another Hebron base too far to walk on Shabbat to participate in meals. Cohen arranged with the base commander to pick up the women twice monthly for Jewish programming. Their time together includes challah baking, explanations of Jewish laws unique to women, and upcoming holidays.

      “We baked customary key-shaped challah bread for the first Shabbat after Passover which I later delivered to them along with wine,” said Cohen. “They all thanked me with their backs turned because they’re not allowed to take their eyes of the monitor screens while on duty.”

      Cohen, whose home becomes a magnet for tens of soldiers every Friday night, hosted 40 IDF women on  Shavuot, who helped her prepare a full dairy meal. During the meal, they played a holiday trivia contest to learn more about Shavuot.

      “We’re always looking for opportunities to engage with the local soldiers, to reach out to them,” said Cohen who hosted the entire battalion, commander included, of the base closest to the center, on a recent Shabbat.  “They army is always looking for ways to save money. I told the commander, why not send the cook home for Shabbat and come to us.”

      That Shabbat, 68 soldiers joined 20 other visitors to Hebron around the table at the Chabad center. Batsheva’s husband, Danny, leads the Shabbat dinner with lively conversation, a much needed inspiration for the soldiers.

      Hebron is the largest city in the West Bank with 100,000 Palestinians and over 800 Israelis. Home to the famous Cave of the Patriarchs, it is regarded as one of Israel’s Four Holy Cities and lies 20 miles south of Jerusalem.

      Sivan 12, 5769, 6/4/2009

      Who does the US really believe 'Palestine' belongs to?

      No other people has ever claimed Palestine as their national home.
      National Home for

      "Palestine of today, the land we now know as Palestine, was peopled by the Jews from the dawn of history until the Roman era. It is the ancestral homeland of the Jewish people. They were driven from it by force by the relentless Roman military machine and for centuries prevented from returning. At different periods various alien people succeeded them but the Jewish race had left an indelible impress upon the land.

      "Today it is a Jewish country. Every name, every landmark, every monument and every trace of whatever civilization remaining there is still Jewish. And it has ever since remained a hope, a longing, as expressed in their prayers for these nearly 2,000 years. No other people has ever claimed Palestine as their national home. No other people has ever shown an aptitude or indicated a genuine desire to make it their homeland. The land has been ruled by foreigners. Only since the beginning of the modern Zionist effort may it be said that a creative, cultural, and economic force has entered Palestine. The Jewish Nation was forced from its natural home. It did not go because it wanted to.

      "A perusal of Jewish history, a reading of Josephus, will convince the most skeptical that the grandest fight that was ever put up against an enemy was put up by the Jew. He never thought of leaving Palestine. But he was driven out. But did he, when driven out, give up his hope of getting back? Jewish history and Jewish literature give the answer to the question. The Jew even has a fast day devoted to the day of destruction of the Jewish homeland.

      "Never throughout history did they give up hope of returning there. I am told that 90 per cent of the Jews today are praying for the return of the Jewish people to its own home. The best minds among them believe in the necessity of reestablishing their Jewish land. To my mind there is something prophetic in the fact that during the ages no other nation has taken over Palestine and held it in the sense of a homeland; and there is something providential in the fact that for 1,800 years it has remained in desolation as if waiting for the return of the people."

      [Written by Representative Frank Appleby, New Jersey]