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Life Lessons with Judy Simon
Torah Tidbits Audio
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.
Links to sites David recommends:
(others to be added)
Av 28, 5768, 8/29/2008
Tomorrow, Shabbat, it will be ten years. Ten years ago, Thursday, the eve of the first day of the last month of the Hebrew calendar. Ma'arat HaMachpela, the tomb of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs was fully open to Jewish worship. In early evening Rabbi Ovadiya Yosef arrived in Hebron, the first time he had visited the city and holy site in many years. At about 11:00 PM, as he concluded speaking to the hundreds present, beepers started buzzing. A terrorist had infiltrated the Hebron neighborhood of Tel Rumeida. Very quickly Ma'arat HaMachpela emptied and Hebron residents started making their way to Tel Rumeida. Details started to filter out: the victim was Rabbi Shlomo Ra'anan, sixty three year old grandson of Israel's first chief Rabbi, Rav Avraham Yitzhak HaCohen Kook. The terrorist had stabbed him. Walking/running from the Ma'ara in the direction of the neighborhood I called a friend, a neighbor of the Ra'anans and also a paramedic. "What's his condition? " I asked. David answered me, in a voice barely audible: "There was nothing we could do, we couldn't do anything to save him. He died."
Soldiers at the bottom of the hill leading up to Tel Rumeida attempted to prevent us from climbing the hill but I was not about to give in to their demands. Running, crisscrossing the street, I escaped their outstretched arms and continued to the top. As I arrived Rebbetzin Chaya Ra'anan, Rav Shlomo's widow, was being placed in an ambulance. It wasn't clear if she too had been injured but she surely looked in shock.
Inside the neighborhood there was a smell of recently extinguished fire. The terrorist, following the murder, tossed a Molotov cocktail inside their caravan home, hoping to burn it to the ground. Fortunately neighbors were able to extinguish the fire before it spread to other caravan homes. Rabbetzin Chaya had managed to pull her dying husband outside before the living room went up in flames. Only minutes before she had been involved in a tug-of-war with the terrorist, with her fatally injured husband in the middle, being pulled by both of them. However the terrorist had a knife and continued to stab his victim, puncturing his heart, killing him. He then jumped out a window and ran across the street, only meters away, into the Arab-controlled zone of Hebron, abandoned to the PA only a year before. According to the Hebron accords, Israel security forces were forbidden to enter that area and search for the killer. As a result, that same terrorist perpetrated a second attack on Yom Kippur, some six weeks later, injuring over twenty soldiers. Still not apprehended, a few weeks later he made his way to Beer Sheva, hoping to toss some hand grenades at civilians in the city's central bus station. Only then was he captured and eventually imprisoned.
The dead rabbi was lying on the ground outside his home, covered by a blanket. A little while later he was moved into a home, his body surrounded by candles. I spent the night in the office, looking for a photo I'd taken of him not too long before. The next morning the funeral began there in Tel Rumdeida, and continued to Jerusalem, where he was buried at Har HaZaytim – the Mount of Olives, next to his illustrious grandfather and uncle, Rabbis Avraham Yitzhak HaCohen Kook, and Zvi Yehuda Kook.
My reaction was almost instantaneous: I'd been negotiating for an empty apartment in Hebron. No more negotiations, no more demands: a week later my family moved from Kiryat Arba, where we'd lived for 17 years, to Beit Hadassah. I'd already been working here for four years, so it was sort of a closure. I felt like I'd come home.
Why? Very simply: the terrorists use murder and other types of violence in an attempt to force us to leave. The only appropriate reaction is to do the opposite; not to leave, rather to move in. That's exactly what we did.
Yesterday, marking the 10th anniversary of the Rabbi's killing, a large group of people gathered at the Gutnick Center, outside Ma'arat HaMachpela. Only meters away, thousands were visiting that holy site; being the eve of the new month of Elul, the entire building was open to Jewish worshipers. Exactly as it was that fateful Thursday, ten years ago.
For a few hours several important Rabbis delivered words of comfort and words of Torah to those present, including members of the Kook-Ra'anan-Shlissel families, and many others who came to pay their respects to the Rabbi and family. Those speaking included Rabbi Eliezer Waldman, Rosh Yeshiva of the Kiryat Arba Nir Yeshiva, Rabbi Hananel Etrog, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Shavei Hevron, at Beit Romano in Hebron, Rabbi Doron Avichzar, Dean of the Netivot Dror Torah Academy at the Telem community, and Noam Arnon, who MC'd and also spoke about the connection between Rabbi Kook and Hebron.
However, the most important speaker, in my opinion, was Rav Michael Hershkovitz, Rabbi of the community Neria in the Binyamin region, and a teacher at Yeshivat Merkaz HaRav in Jerusalem. The theme of his dvar Torah was quite fitting: Learning Torah is important, but no less important is doing, implementing what you learn. He spoke at length describing how Rav Shlomo Ra'anan did just this: living in a caravan in the Hadar Adar community and following that, moving to another caravan at the Tel Rumeida neighborhood of Hebron.
For years the Rabbi studied and taught the value of settling the land of Israel, Eretz Yisrael. But realizing that words are not enough he followed in the footsteps of the teachings of his grandfather and uncle, not only talking, but also doing. This is Torah.
It's not easy living in small caravan homes. Tel Rumeida, somewhat isolated from the other neighborhoods of Hebron, is not the easiest place to live. Every morning, rain, snow or shine, the Rabbi would walk down the hill by himself to pray early morning prayers with a 'minion,' a prayer quorum of ten men. Every day he travelled back and forth to the Merkaz HaRav Yeshiva in Jerusalem, where he participated in Torah study and instruction. Not easy for a man in his late 50s, early 60s. But the Rabbi always had a smile on his face, knowing all of Hebron's children by name, always ready to help, with an easygoing personality humbly concealing his Torah genius.
Concluding his remarks, Rabbi Hershovitz added, "Rebbe Shlomo, I just want to let you know, even though you probably know from where you are, that your extended family has continued in your footsteps, following your example of Torah and deeds, settling the land, Eretz Yisrael Israel, just as you did."
Rebbetzin Chaya, sitting with her daughter Tzippy, both of whom today live in Tel Rumeida, only meters from where the Rabbi was murdered, despite the pain, couldn't help but smile, knowing that the direction she and her husband had taken was being continued by their offspring.
The Rabbi's presence could definitely be felt amongst the participants, but for sure, all still feel the pain of his death and the vacuum his murder left, for his family, for his friends and neighbors, and for all of Am Yisrael. Zechar Tzadik l'vracha - HaShem Yikom Damo.
Av 17, 5768, 8/18/2008
Tammuz 28, 5768, 7/31/2008
A few weeks ago, I bumped into some journalists in the Avraham Avinu neighborhood. Seeing me, they asked about various problems, including threatened expulsion from several buildings here in Hebron.
Finishing up their interview, they concluded by saying/asking, "I guess you don't have too much to be happy about with all of these problems." My answer: "No, you are wrong. We have a tremendous reason to be in high spirits. The very fact that we are here is reason to celebrate. The fact that today there are some 90 families and well over 300 children in Hebron, in five neighborhoods, is reason to celebrate. The fact that we are still in Beit HaShalom a year after having moved in, despite all the attempts to expel us, is something of a miracle and reason to celebrate.
"True, there are problems. There always have been problems and almost always will be - but what of it? That's the way life is. True, it could be easier; but taking into consideration where we were 60 years ago and 40 years ago, as well as the kinds of politicians running the country and the pressures from so many different sources, the very fact that we are in Hebron at all is, in my eyes, nothing less than a Divine miracle. And for that, we are truly happy."
One of the seeming issues we have today is the right to purchase property in Hebron, and the legitimacy of construction on Jewish-owned land.
For example a couple of weeks ago, on a Friday morning, we had a special visitor in Hebron. Yosef Ezra was born in Hebron in the early 1930's. However, as he related to us, his family history in Hebron goes back over 400 years. Following the expulsion from Spain in 1492, Jews scattered all over the world. Yossi Ezra's family made their way from Spain to Eretz Yisrael, and settled here in Hebron. They lived here continuously until the expulsion immediately after the 1929 riots and massacre, but returned with a small group of families in 1931.
Most of those families were again expelled in the spring of 1936. However, one family remained in Hebron: The Ezra family. Yossi's father, Ya'akov, processed dairy products and sold them to Arabs in the city. He refused to leave. He would work in Hebron during the week and return to his family in Jerusalem for Shabbat. Many times his children would come with him, running around in the streets and alleys of Hebron and playing with Arab kids.
Until November 29, 1947, that is. The United Nations approved the partition plan, dividing Eretz Yisrael between the Jews and Arabs. The Jewish leadership in Israel accepted the plan. The Arabs rejected it and declared war. Ya'akov Ezra's friends told him, "When you go to Jerusalem for Shabbat, don't come back any more." Only then was the Ezra family, 450 years in Hebron, exiled from the home. That lasted for 19 years.
Following the 1967 Six-Day War, the Ezras wanted to return to Hebron and their age-old property. But all requests fell on deaf ears. Moshe Dayan and others weren't interested in Jews returning to Hebron and refused to speak to them. But today, things have changed.
Yossi Ezra comes into the Avraham Avinu neighborhood like a long lost child coming home. Looking around behind the destroyed Jewish homes in the old "Arab shuk," he declares, "All this was an olive grove that my father worked. Twelve dunam (1,000 square meters - 10,700 feet) of land - all of it here belonged to my father. Here, you see this mosque? My father built it on his land for the Arabs who worked here, so they'd have a place to pray. All the buildings here are on my family's property."
Yosef Ezra carefully examining an ancient
Sefer Torah in the Avraham Avinu Shul. Written
in the 1100's, it was brought to Hebron by his ancestors.
Yossi Ezra has been instrumental in assisting Hebron over the past few months. A few years ago the community built a small apartment called Beit Ezra, underneath Beit Nachum v'Yehuda, in an abandoned Arab shop - itself built on Ezra's property. A military appeals panel recently ruled that the Arabs have no claim to that land. When the three judges visited the site, Ezra pulled a piece of paper from his pocket. "My father paid the water bill here. This is the receipt, from 1932."
A few meters away, inside the Avraham Avinu shul, Yossi Ezra carefully examines an ancient Sefer Torah, explaining that it was written in the 1100's and brought to Hebron by his ancestors.
Yossi Ezra is an authentic example of Hebron's fascinating history, blending the past, the present and the future.
However, the following should be clear: I mentioned earlier about "the seeming issues" plaguing Hebron, as illustrated by the struggle to continuing living in "Beit Ezra." But the roots of the issues are much deeper and, in truth, have nothing to do with building or purchasing today.
Not too long ago, a group of government representatives visited Hebron. While standing outside Ma'arat HaMachpela discussing various ways to improve conditions at the holy site, one of the young "legal experts" piped up, "But there's a problem here because Ma'arat HaMachpela is registered as belonging to the Waqf, the Muslim religious trust." One of the Hebron men scratched his head, looked at the lawyer, and reacted. "Gee, I remember reading somewhere that it was registered with someone who preceded Muhammad. Avraham, I think his name was."
This is the real issue! When Jews in the State of Israel of 2008 can conjure up such a statement as, "Ma'arat HaMachpela belongs to the Arabs" (while keeping in mind that they wouldn't allow Jews access to this site for 700 years), it's clear that something in our national and religious psyche is tainted.
On the other hand there is a cure, a medicine to alleviate all such ills. On the same day that Yossi Ezra visited Hebron, I came upon a large group outside in the Machpela garden. A group of first-graders from Efrat had come to celebrate the conclusion of studying Chumash Bereishit - the Book of Genesis. The festivity included a wonderful play, depicting Abraham's purchase of the Caves of Machpela almost 4,000 years ago.
This is the recipe to heal such a disease that threatens to destroy our roots: children outside Ma'arat HaMachpela, acting out the purchase of this sacred site. In reality, it's not only a play. It's reality! Every day, Jews who visit, pray and identify with this hallowed place are recreating and reinforcing - with their very presence - Jewish ownership of our land. This is our strength, our legacy, and our future.
Yossi Ezra represents where we came from. These children represent where we are going.
It's a good thing Abraham didn't need anyone's permission to buy Ma'arat HaMachpela.
Printed in the Jewish Press - Thursday, Aug.1, 2008
Also appearing at: http://tinyurl.com/5ns9dc
Tammuz 15, 5768, 7/18/2008
Yitzchak Herskovitz did what any good citizen would do. He went to the police and eventually to the courts. That's where the case has remained for the past sixteen years.
Tammuz 12, 5768, 7/15/2008
Tomorrow’s planned prisoner exchange is very bittersweet. Almost everyone has an opinion and all sides have some element of legitimacy. On one hand, the price is so very high; on the other hand, we have a responsibility to bring our soldiers home, dead or alive. A soldier, entering battle, must know that anything and everything will be done to bring him home, be it to his family, or to ‘kever Yisrael’ – to a Jewish grave. Yet, perhaps the swap will serve as motivation to capture more soldiers, and exchange them for other terrorist killers. But, who can forget the unbelievable ‘mesirut nefesh’ – total dedication, of Rabbi Shlomo Goren, then Chief Rabbi of the IDF, to wade through enemy mine fields to recover bodies of Israeli soldiers killed in action.
If we forget all of you, who are we, what are we, why are we?