Middle East 3:13 AM 3/7/2014
Global Agenda 8:22 AM 3/7/2014
Global Agenda 2:15 AM 3/7/2014
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)
Another common question I've had to field from journalists is, "Don't you think this has all gotten out of control?" My response is quite simple: "Of course it is totally out of control. That's not the question. The question is who is out of control?" Clearly, in my opinion, those who have lost control are those democratic institutions which are designed to protect citizens from despotic leadership.
FOLLOWING PURCHASE of Beit Hashalom for close to $1 million, the Hebron community found itself under attack from numerous sources. Rapidly the question of our legitimate presence in the building made its way to court. The original court decision found enough evidence supporting our claims to prevent immediate eviction. However, harsh restrictions were imposed, including denial to install windows and to hook up to the Hebron municipal electric grid. Only in the middle of a major snowstorm did the defense minister allow installation of windows in the building last winter.
Due to the political sensitivity of the case, we soon found ourselves opposite a Supreme Court panel hearing the various issues involved. That panel was composed of Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch and Justices Edmond Levy and Uzi Fogelman. Levy is religious. Following a break in the court hearings, Beinisch changed the panel, removing Levy and Fogelman and replacing them with Justices Ayala Procaccia, who is known to be one of the most left-wing justices on the court, and Salim Joubran, the only Arab on the court. Beinisch, it must be noted, is not known for her right-wing ideological opinions. Two leftist justices and an Arab were left to decide the fate of the Jews living in Beit Hashalom. If that's not a stacked deck, nothing is. So wrote retired District Court judge Uri Struzman, calling the court's final decision blatantly political.
In that decision, the court ruled that it would not examine the evidence presented, including proof of authentication of the legal sales documents, a video of the seller receiving and counting the money received for the building, and an audio recording of his description of the sale and receipt of the money.
Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz, when presented with new evidence in the case, specifically the audio cassette, refused to meet with community attorneys or examine the proof of purchase.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak announced only two weeks ago his intention to legalize all the illegal Beduin construction in the South. Yet he gave the go-ahead to violently expel all residents of the building in the midst of advanced high-level negotiations which would have allowed him to forgo the brutal confrontation.
These are examples of nothing less than terror - administrative terror, utilized by the highest echelons of the country's democratic institutions to further their own political beliefs against loyal citizens of the state, in this case, residents of the Hebron Jewish community.
FOLLOWING VIOLENT reactions to the extremely harsh expulsion, which included use of tear gas and stun grenades, I was asked about "red lines" - and decisions to "cross those red lines." Unfortunately we are presently facing situations where the government is crossing all the red lines that previously existed. The transformation of the judicial system, including the attorney-general and the Supreme Court, into an extended arm of the political arena ends all notions of impartiality or objectivity.
Hebron residents are often labeled extremists. However nothing could be more extreme than the above-described actions of Mazuz and Beinisch. But due to their positions and political ideologies, their extremism is considered legitimate.
It should be clear. Hebron's Jewish community opposes and rejects any and all violence aimed at innocent people, be they Arabs, Jews or anyone else. However it is unthinkable and intolerable that Israel's top leadership should change the rules in the middle of the game, expecting the other side to play by the old ones, while they play by the new. Such actions, as we have recently witnessed, quite literally push a large segment of the population into a corner with no way out, creating a dangerously volatile situation. Peace may breed peace but by the same token, extremism breeds extremism.
The real danger to Israeli society is not a few dozen kids throwing rocks while violently and illegitimately being thrown out of a home in Hebron. The true threat to our country is the warping of the fundamental institutions whose presence is supposed to protect the people rather than terrorize them. The decisions made concerning Beit Hashalom were not based upon justice, rather upon pure judicial terror.
The writer is spokesman of the Jewish community of Hebron.
A professor from Bar Ilan University, an expert on ancient affairs, investigated the value of silver thousands of years ago. He concluded that the price our Patriarch Abraham paid for Ma'arat HaMachpela, four hundred silver shekels , the caves where the Patriarchs and Matriarchs are buried, is worth, in today's terms, some $750,000. That's just a little less than what Morris Abraham and his father Mickey paid for Beit HaShalom in Hebron.
Beit HaShalom, (the "Peace house" in English) is a huge, 40,000 square foot structure, just above the main road leading from Hebron to Kiryat Arba. When it became known that the Arab owner of the building, some five years ago, was putting it up for sale, and the Abraham family heard about it, it was a done deal.
Well, not quite. It took a few years to actually complete the transaction. Jews purchasing property from Arabs in Hebron is not an everyday occurrence, and is not easily accomplished. It is a task which requires, among other things, a tremendous amount of money, fine attorneys, much time, nerves of platinum, and most of all, a huge quantity of Divine assistance.
Thank G-d, it all came together, and about 20 months ago, having received a green light from the lawyers, residents from Hebron's Jewish community moved in.
It wasn't easy. From literally the moment we moved in, there was someone trying to have us removed. There were those who claimed that we 'stole the building' from the Arab owner. There were others who said, 'we don't care if they bought it legally. Jews shouldn't be in Hebron, period. Throw them out!"
However, we had a lot going for us. First of all, the building was purchased legally. At one point the community released a film of the Arab counting the cash he received. (When he later denied the sale during a police investigation, and the police showed him the video, he exclaimed, "I later cancelled the deal and gave them the money back!")
Hebron's commanding IDF officer was ecstatic about the purchase, being that the building is located at a very strategic position, overlooking all of Kiryat Arba, just across the road, and most of Hebron. And an initial police investigation of the documents was positive. The documents were authentic.
But facts don't necessarily mean much in Israel. A court ruled that there was enough seeming evidence to prevent us from being evicted, but too many question marks to allow 'life as usual.' So a status quo was ordered. We could stay, but without making any major changes in the building. That meant, for example, that windows could not be installed in the empty spaces in the walls. Nor could the building be hooked up the Hebron electric grid. So, as winter approached, the people inside were a little cold. A small generator was running, providing minimum electricity to keep the heaters running. But a building without windows, in a snow storm, is quite a bit to weather. Big sheets of plastic in place of glass don't really do the trick.
Finally, in the middle of a snow storm, and as a result of massive public pressure, cabinet ministers started pounding on Defense Minister Ehud Barak's desk, demanding that the government allow windows to be immediately installed. The pressure worked, and finally windows were brought in. They refused to allow window shades or shutters; that was too much. But glass windows were okayed.
But the left refused to give up and intensified efforts to have the Jews residents expelled from the building. Police suddenly decided that many of the sale documents were counterfeit, but refused to reveal which ones were faked. Finally the court forced them to allow the community an opportunity to defend itself and they had no choice but to divulge which papers were suspect. The community, via a former police officer, an expert on such affairs, was able to easily dispel the doubts as to the authenticity of the documents.
At a recent Supreme Court hearing, the judges, (two of the most left-wing members of the court together with an Arab judge, hearing the case), accused the community of 'taking the building by force' from its Arab owner. In response the community gave the court new, startling evidence: an audio recording of the Arab owners saying, in plain language, that he sold the place and received full compensation for the building. He also declared that he had come under great pressure from Palestinian authority intelligence forces to 'change his story.'
Last week the Supreme Court announced its decision. The decided to ignore the facts in the case, not letting them get in the way of their own political biases. They announced that they would not get involved in the previous government decision to expel the building's residents until the question of ownership was decided in a lower court. They gave the people living there 72 hours to leave of their own accord. If they did not voluntarily evict themselves, the government would then have legal permission to expel them.
As of this writing, new families and many youth are moving into Beit HaShalom, in order to reinforce Jewish presence at that building , which clearly belongs to Hebron's Jewish community. One family, Nahum and Revital Almagor and their 15 year old daughter came from Brooklyn to participate in the struggle for the building.
Last week, a retired judge, Uri Struzman, harshly criticized the Supreme Court ruling, calling it political and a sham. Another retired Supreme Court judge, Ya'akov Turkal, said that the Supreme Court decision did not demand that the families be removed from the building, rather that the government could remove them, if they so desired. In other words, the decision of expulsion is in the hands of Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
At the moment, the building's many families: men, women and children, are willing to put up with a cold winter; (we expect that the cost to heat Beit HaShalom this winter at over $150,000 – money which the community does not presently have;) but they have no intentions of leaving their beloved home, Beit HaShalom, the building that Morris Abraham gave to the Jewish people of Hebron. A representative council of men and women from Hebron and Kiryat Arba, and other activists, has announced that the group will not initiate any violent acts against Israeli security forces, but should those forces attempt to expel them, there will be fierce resistance. However, the level of violence will be determined by the expulsion forces. MK Uri Ariel, speaking at an emergency community meeting last week, with over 1,000 people present, clearly stated that should those in the building be attacked and beaten, that they have a right to defend themselves.
Last Shabbat close to 25,000 people visited Hebron, hearing the Torah tell how Avraham Avinu purchased the Caves of Machpela some 3,800 years ago. Many of those people also visited Beit HaShalom, showing their support and encouragement. How fitting that a family named Abraham should buy a building for almost the same price Avraham Avinu paid for Ma'arat HaMachpela, a piece of property just five minutes from the first Jewish-owned land in Eretz Yisrael.