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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 6, 5769, 11/4/2008

      Beit HaShalom Update

      Last week Hebron's Jewish community presented the Supreme Court with new evidence, an audio cassette, with a recording of the seller of Beit HaShalom telling a friend that he received full compensation for the building and that he was also paid by the buyer to make certain renovations in the building. The court has yet to react to this evidence.

      In addition, fifty Knesset members, including members of the Kadima party, signed a letter to attorney general Manny Mazuz, requesting that he reinvestigate the sale of the building in light of the new evidence, and in the mean time, refrain from ordering expulsion of the Jews living there.

      Yesterday afternoon, due to various reports received, there was a possibility that the building was about to be evacuated. Hundreds of people, including many youth arrived immediately in order to be present should an expulsion be attempted. Thankfully the attempt to expel the Jewish residents did not occur.

      However, an emergency meeting of Hebron and Kiryat Arba leaders, together with other Yesha activists, was held last night. One of the decisions made was to call for a large continuous presence in the building.

      Cheshvan 1, 5769, 10/30/2008

      Beit HaShalom-New evidence proving purchase of building

      This new evidence should put an end to the argument focusing on the purchase, renovations and possession and should prove once and for all that we have evidence which is the admission of the seller himself.
      Beit HaShalom: New evidence proving purchase of the building

      Beit HaShalom: The Hebron Jewish Community presents new dramatic evidence: An audio cassette which recorded the Arab admit he sold the building and renovated the property for the buyer.  

      View (Hear) (Hebrew-Arabic) conversation of admission by Arab seller
      View relevant documents (Hebrew)

      Yesterday the Supreme Court discussed Beit HaShalom in Hebron. The discussion focused on the question of purchase and possession. This, following presentation of a report authored by an expert, testifying for the community, which contradicted the state's claim concerning validity of the purchase documents. The judges stressed throughout the discussion that even if the building was legally purchased, it is still possible to issue an expulsion order because the building was still in the possession of the Arab seller, Rajbi. For example, the judge Procatzia said, "I am struck, by the evidence presented concerning the beginning of the process and the conclusion of the process, an issue concerning purchase."

      Possession, according to the judges, is expressed by the fact that the seller continued renovations in the building. Hebron claims that these renovations were implemented for them and paid for by them. However the judges did not accept this claim and informed them, at the conclusion of the discussion, that they would probably order that the Hebron residents be expelled from the building. The building would then remain empty until the question of ownership was decided in a Jerusalem District court. The Hebron community was given 24 hours to decide if they would agree to voluntarily leave the building. The ultimatum was due to expire at twelve noon today.  

      However, the community surprised the Supreme Court and prosecution with new dramatic evidence: An audio cassette which documents the seller, Rajbi, in a friendly conversation with a friend, saying:
      that he sold Beit HaShalom to Eiub Jabber and received the full amount for the building. That he implemented renovations in the building for Eiub Jabber and was paid for his work.
      Shech Paroun brought him the money for the renovations.
      That he is under pressure from Palestinian intelligence forces.  

      Some quotes from the conversation on the cassette:  

      Faiz Rajbi: (on the story of the building) …by Allah I didn't know…

      Friend: So what are you, how did you get to this subject?

      Rajbi: I sold it to E i u b. Friend: Which Eiub? Rajbi: Eiub Jabbar

      Friend: Ah, the one in Amman?

      Rajbi: Yes, Eiub. I don't know, he sent me some money to renovate it. What he sent me (hinting) I don't know and afterwards I renovated for him and later investigated and… I was disgraced.

      Friend: OK, who brought you to renovate, who you say stole half of it?

      Rajbi: He (Eiub) sent me Shech Paroun..

      Friend: Shech Paroun?

      Rajbi: Shech Paroun. He sent him for me to renovate it (the building).

      Friend: OK, and you didn't know he was a spy and sold it to a Jew? Rajbi: How would I know? Tell me my friend, Jews – and the man who sold fled.

      Friend: You didn't know he had contact with Jews – which Jews?

      Rajbi: Never

      Friend: And the money you took, for the entire renovation? Rajbi: No.

      Friend: And the price for the building, he really paid you?

      Rajbi: Yes

      Attorney Nadav HaEtzni sent this material to the State and the court and pointed out that this new evidence should put an end to the argument focusing on the purchase, renovations and possession and should prove once and for all that we have evidence which is the admission of the seller himself.   The cassette was transferred, together with the statement signed yesterday in Attorney HaEtzni's office by the person who recorded the conversation. Concurrently the material was transferred to some of the others involved in the case but not all, and to the court. 

      In addition Attorney HaEtzni requested that the court order the identity of the signatory sealed and that any and all details concerning his identity be so sealed, for two reasons: A suspicion that his life could be put in danger A suspicion that the court proceeding could be interfered with from the moment that his identity became known, should he feel threatened. (Attorney HaEztni pointed out that this is similar to similar events which occurred with Rajbi himself, who, due to threats gave false testimony to the police and signed a false statement for the court.)  

      Of all of the versions Rajbi has given concerning the building (3 versions till now), this is the first one which was given in an open, heart-to-heart conversation with a friend, without any fear and this is the first one which is compatible with facts presented in the documents and the report of the criminal police identity squad (ignoring the twisted significances given by the prosecutor's office), this is the authentic version.  

      According to this version, Rajbi implemented the renovations in the building for Eiub, as a representative of Eiub, and in return we received payment from him. If the act of renovation is an act of his own possession, as was expressed yesterday in court by the president of the Supreme Court Bainish, "your claim is that Mr. Rajbi held the building for you in the form of a contractor, and he claims that he renovated for himself" – this question has now been fully answered.  

      As stated, this serves as admission by the person in question, and this should serve to finalize the entire case.   So writes Attorney HaEtzni to the State attorney.


      Tishrei 30, 5769, 10/29/2008

      Video: The Federman Home in Ruins

      18 years - all gone. We have to start all over again

      A video account of the destruction

      Elisheva Federman describes the Expulsion and Destruction

      The Ruins - the day after



      Tishrei 25, 5769, 10/24/2008

      The Hebron Response - 50,000 Visit Hebron

      Over the past month and a half, some 100,000 people visited Hebron. These numbers speak for themselves.

      The past few weeks have been extremely busy. So much so that finding time to put down a few words on paper has been almost impossible. But now, with the holidays over, with life returning to some kind of normalcy, the time has come.

      One of the more important stories coming out of Hebron lately was the revelation that Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak gave a green light to allow close to a thousand additional armed terrorists in uniform, aka 'palestinian police' into the H1 – Arab-controlled zone of Hebron.

      Flashback: The Year: 1996 – The United States is frenetically pressuring Israel to immediately sign and implement the 'Hebron Accords,' a direct continuation of Oslo, dividing Hebron into two, very unequal zones: H1- fully controlled by Arafat's PA, with a full Israeli withdrawal from that side of the city, comprising some 80% of Hebron, and H-2 – to be under Israeli security control but PA administrative control, comprising about 20% of the city.

      Included in the deal are the hills surrounding the Jewish neighborhoods of Hebron as well as Ma'arat HaMachpela: Abu-Sneneh to the south and Harat a'Shech to the north.

      During an immense media campaign to attempt to prevent the abandonment of most of Hebron, the Hebron Jewish Community releases a film in Hebrew and English, titled, "Hebron in Danger." Released and screened at a press conference in Jerusalem the short video predicts the results of transfer of the city and the hills to the Arabs: massive shooting attacks at the Jewish neighborhoods in the city.

      Israeli press and politicians sneeringly labeled Hebron's residents as 'hysterical' and 'panicking.' When community leaders climbed the Abu-Sneneh hills with Knesset members and government ministers to show them the danger first-hand, then Hebron Commander Col. Gaddi Shamni (now a full general, commander of the Central Region) would give his own explanation: 'of course there could be danger if there wasn't peace, but now Israeli is in the midst of a peace process – with peace there shouldn't be any danger to Hebron's Jewish residents.'

      Flashback: The eve of Rosh HaShana – the Jewish New Year, 2000: Massive gunfire erupts from Abu-Sneneh and Harat a'Shech towards the Jewish neighborhoods in Hebron; gunfire which continues for almost two years.

      Flashback: The Avraham Avinu neighborhood, March 26, 2001 at about 4:00 in the afternoon: An Arab sniper shoots and kills 10 month old Shalhevet Pass. Shalhevet was shot in the head; her father, Itzik was shot in legs; her mother, standing next to them, is uninjured.

      Flashback: November 15, 2002: Worshipers Way, between Hebron and Kiryat Arba: Following the terror in Netanya and the Adura community outside of Hebron, Israel retook security control of all of Hebron. Following the Succot holidays in 2002, then Defense Minister Binyamin Ben Eliezer again withdrew all Israeli forces from the
      H-1 zone in Hebron, leaving that side of the city under total Arab control. On Friday night, Nov. 15, three terrorists attacked Jews walking back to Kiryat Arba from Ma'arat HaMachpela. The ensuing battle left 12 men dead, including three civilian members of the Kiryat Arba emergency security squad and 9 officers and soldiers, including the commander of the Hebron region, Col. Dror Weinberg. The attack was a direct result of the abandonment of 80% of Hebron.

      Fast forward: October, 2008: Defense Minister Ehud Barak gives the OK to again allow armed terrorists in uniform, under the auspices of PA president Abu Mazen, to patrol in Hebron, with a massive reduction of Israeli troops in the H-1 zone.

      Fast forward: 2009 - ???????

      A few days ago I was up on Abu Sneneh with a small group from Hebron, and Likud MK Gilad Ardan. Looking down at the Avraham Avinu neighborhood, Beit Romano, and Ma'arat HaMachpela, I had trouble conceptualizing that the Israeli government was about to make the same mistake again, thereby placing not only the lives of Hebron's Jewish population, and the thousands who visit Hebron in jeopardy, but also Jews throughout Israel, who will again be endangered by terrorists leaving Hebron, to explode in cities all over the country.

      What is Hebron's response?

      Of course, Hebron's leadership is in contact with various public officials to attempt to pressure Barak to cancel his permit allowing more armed terrorists back into Hebron. MK Ardan demanded that the attorney general, Manny Mazuz, prevent such a fateful decision from being implemented, arguing that a 'transitional government' doesn't have the legal authority to enact such a decision.

      However, the authentic reaction is not political. Last week, during the Succot holiday, over 50,000 Jews visited Hebron. Over the past month and a half, some 100,000 people visited Hebron. These numbers speak for themselves.

      Last Thursday, the day of the Hebron music festival, thousands upon thousands packed the Ma'arat HaMachpela courtyard, participating in the joyous celebration. Hundreds of children rode on donkeys and participated in an arts and crafts festival behind the Gutnick Center. Tourists visited all Jewish neighborhoods in the city, including the Kasba and the Cave of Otniel ben Knaz. Again, Am Yisrael did not disappoint: the street were packed with visitors from all over Israel and around the world, showing their overwhelming support for Hebron and the city's Jewish community.

      True, much more work is necessary, to bring more Jews not only to visit Hebron, but also to live in Hebron, and to keep additional terrorists far, far away. But fifty thousand in one week is certainly a very good start. The is the true Hebron response – to continue to keep Hebron and Ma'arat HaMachpela open, not only for the Jews, but for those of all races and religions, allowing all to experience the wonder of the city of Abraham and Sarah.

      And B'ezrat HaShem, with G-d's help, this will help to keep the terrorists away. At the very least, it will proclaim loud and clear: We are here to stay. Hebron- Now and Forever.

      Tishrei 9, 5769, 10/8/2008


      For the past month and a half, lives of observant Jews have revolved around one particular expression – that being tshuva, meaning, in broad terms, repentance. For an entire month prior to the New Year, Rosh HaShana, special prayers are recited, Torah classes are held, and personal acts of introspection permeate our existence. This, of course, culminates on the holiest day of the year, that being tomorrow, Yom Kippur. On this day we beseech G-d to forgive our wrongdoings, be they between man and the Good L-rd, or between man and his fellowman.

      It's much easier to face G-d and ask for forgiveness from Him. In our silent prayers, be they formal or informal, we can confess to our human errors and plead for Divine clemency. G-d doesn’t wait for once in four years to sign executive orders granting pardons. It's something that can be done every day, every minute or every second of every day. And especially on Yom Kippur when we forgo just about all elements of our physical lives, abstaining from food and other earthly pleasures, to immerse ourselves in total spirituality, as much as we humanly can.

      It's much more difficult to ask forgiveness from our fellow man. Admitting mistakes to a friend, co-worker, boss or employee, or to a close family member isn't always easy. Sometimes, actually, it's very hard. But that's what this day's all about. G-d cannot grant forgiveness for issues between two people until they settle the problem themselves.

      However this is just one aspect of tshuva and forgiveness. There's at least one other side (probably more).

      The ideal of forgiving is not only a personal commitment. It is also a national obligation. Keep in mind that the word 'tshuva' literally means 'return.' In a religious sense, 'returning' from the wrong paths we've taken, and this time around, turning down the right road of holiness and purity.

      Exactly fourteen years ago, following election of Yitzhak Rabin, Israel began formally negotiating with Yassir Arafat and the PLO. Those talks led to Oslo. That curse, still with us today, has led to the murders of almost 2,000 people, in cold blood.

      Oslo led to the Hebron Accords, which divided the city, abandoning over 80% of Hebron to the Palestinian authority. Exactly eight years ago, these accords led to shooting attacks on Hebron from the hills Israel 'gave' to our enemy. The shooting continued for two years. Dozens of people in the Hebron region and over a thousand Jews throughout Israel were killed during this war.

      Oslo and Hebron led to Gush Katif. Almost 10,000 people expelled from their homes, and countless rockets fired into Israel from the land Israel abandoned to our enemies.

      A short time after the 'other side' of Hebron was vacated by Israeli security forces in favor of armed terrorists in uniform by then Defense Minister Fuad ben Eliezer in the fall of 2002, then Hebron Brigade commander, Col. Dror Weinberg held a meeting with a group of local civilian security leaders. During that meeting, on a Friday morning in November, Col. Weinberg warned that terrorists were planning a major attack, but that little more information was available. That night, Col. Dror Weinberg and eleven other men were killed during the attack he had discussed earlier that same day.

      Yesterday, speaking to a group of mostly Swedish youth at the 1929 memorial room in Beit Hadassah, I told them that history has to be learned from. In August, 1929 the Jewish leadership in Hebron believed that their Arab neighbors would shield them from any attacks, protecting them from harm's way. That leadership was wrong. That mistake cost 67 lives and the expulsion of Hebron's surviving Jewish population from the city.

      Then the Hebron accords were signed, Israeli military officers said straight out that 'our security is dependent on cooperation from the PA.' We know exactly where that cooperation led; to Jewish cemeteries, widows and orphans. And national disgrace.

      A week ago outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, once mayor of Jerusalem, in a broad newspaper interview, expressed his opinion that Israel must 'give back' just about all of Judea and Samaria, including East Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights, in exchange for peace.

      As we approach Yom Kippur, we have received solid information that Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Central Command General Gadi Shamni want to do it again. Give it another chance. 'Return' the 'other side' of Hebron to PA terrorists in uniform. They believe that Fatah forces are preferable to Hamas. (Achikam Amichai and David Rubin from Kiryat Arba were killed just over a half a year ago by Fatah 'palestinian police.)

      According to the information we have, some of which was published yesterday on ynet and more today in the Jerusalem Post, a meeting is to take place on October 15,  a week from today, between very high ranking Israeli security officers, including the head of the Civil Administration and also possibly General Noam Tivon (former Hebron military commander, serving in Hebron at the beginning of the 'Olso War' aka the Second Intifada), presently commander of forces in Judea and Samaria. During this meeting it is quite likely that details of transfer of security responsibility from Israel to the PA in over 80% of Hebron will be discussed and finalized.

      This is, I guess, in their opinion, Tshuva – returning. Not returning to G-d's ways, not returning to Eretz Yisrael and Israeli national pride. Rather, returning to the same mistakes made time and time again, leading to Israel blood being shed, to cemeteries and mourning.

      I also believe in the necessity to 'do Tshuva.' And this is what I try to express to groups I meet here in Hebron, especially when they are youth. I tell them that must do Tshuva – no, not necessarily 'religious' tshuva, keeping Shabbat and Kashrut. Rather I encourage them to fulfill another kind of tshuva – of coming home, of making Aliyah, of returning to their Homeland, coming to live here in Eretz Yisrael, in the State of Israel.

      I firmly believe that there is no more significant act that a Jew can do today than such tshuva, returning home to our Land. This is real Tshuva – not the kind espoused by Barak and Olmert, Shamni and Tivon. Keep in mind that had Gush Katif been filled with 50,000 people,  that process of expulsion could never have begun. So too in all of Judea and Samaria. The secret to our remaining in these regions is dependent on Tshuva, on Jews coming back, from all over the world, coming home to our ancient homeland. When there are a half a million Jews in Yesha, there won't be anything to talk about. This should be our number one goal: Tshuva – not only for a month and half of the year, but every day of the entire year. This is what Am Yisrael needs today, more than anything else.

      On behalf of the entire Hebron extended family, please accept our wishes for a Shana Tova, a good and happy New Year, for a 'Gmar Chatima Tova, for an easy fast, and for a quick and successful fulfillment of the mitzvah of Tshuva, coming home to Eretz Yisrael.