Middle East 4:15 AM 3/7/2014
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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)
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.
This afternoon a group of people gathered at the ancient Jewish cemetery in Hebron to participate in a memorial service on the anniversary of the killing of Hebron resident Elazar Leibovitch six years ago. Murdered at the same time were three members of the Dickstein family- the mother, father and young son.
Elazar Leibovitch was murdered, by the Hebrew calendar, on the 17th day of the month of Av. On the same date, at almost the identical hour, Shmuel HaLevy Rosenhaltz, nicknamed “the Matmid’ or perpetual student, was the first victim of the 1929 riots and massacre in Hebron. The next day, another 66 men, women and children were killed. Tomorrow a group of people will gather at the same cemetery, only a few meters from Elazar’s grave, and mark the 79th anniversary of that horrific event.
This week the Israeli government decided to commemorate these two events in a unique way. They decided to release 200 terrorists, as a ‘good-will’ gesture to Holocaust denier, Abu Mazen, presently head of the palestinian authority. In order to express support for one Jew-hater over another Jew-hater (Hamas), the Israeli government is freeing 200 terrorists from prison. Not only isn’t Israel getting anything in return; they didn’t even bother asking for anything in return. What could Israel dare request? Perhaps little things, like Abu-Mazen’s full cooperation in successfully achieving the release of Israeli POW Gilad Shalit. But no, that would be too much to ask for. This time Israeli has to give something for nothing, thereby showing Abu-Mazen’s supporters and not so much supporters just how good he is, just how strong he is, just how much he can twist the long arm of the Zionist enemy and get murderers released from jail. Without paying any price.
Of course, in their opinion, this isn’t enough. All prisoners must be released, unconditionally. But, this is a good beginning, a step in the right direction.
This is how the Olmert administration is marking the 79th anniversary of the 1929 riots, instigated and initiated by Amin el-Husseini, who later met with Hitler in Berlin, formed the Muslim Brigades, and had plans to annihilate all the Jews living in Eretz Yisrael when they expected Rommel to invade during World War Two. Amin el Husseini’s direct successor was Abu-Mazen’s predecessor, Arafat. Abu-Mazen is trying hard to follow in his footsteps.
However, the government’s decision was not enough to mark the current occasion. They had to go just one step further, stick the knife in just a little deeper.
The common rule of prisoner releases over the years has been to refrain from freeing terrorists with ‘blood on their hands.’ In other words, those that just helped, or attempted to kill but didn’t succeed, and the like, they’re ok to set free. But those who actually pulled the trigger, they’re another story.
That’s the way it was, until today. For the first time, the Israeli government decided to release a couple of ‘real terrorists,’ those who went all the way, and did the dirty act to its fullest degree.
So, who’s being released, in celebration of the anniversary of the killings in Hebron? One of the two is Ibrahim Mahmoud Mahmad, who twenty years ago murdered Yehoshua Saloma, a young Yeshiva student studying in the Kiryat Arba Yeshiva. Saloma, a new immigrant from Sweden, who came to Israel alone, had walked into Hebron from Kiryat Arba to buy some dried fruits for the upcoming Tu B’Shvat holiday. While making his purchase in the Hebron Kasba, he was brutally murdered from behind by Ibrahim Mahmoud Mahmad. Saloma is still dead. Mahmad is still alive.
And if Olmert et al have their way, he will soon be free. This is the message to the world that Israel is making on the days when Hebron is marking the murders of 68 other Jews by Arabs: 67 in 1929, and Elazar Lebovitch, 6 years ago.
Yehoshua Saloma hy"d
It’s interesting to note: Yehoshua Saloma was the first Jew to be killed in Hebron since the 1929 riots. His murderer is about to be freed by the Israeli government. Can you image Israel releasing a few of the barbarians who butchered Jews during those few hours on a summer Saturday in 1929? What’s the difference between the barbarians of 79 years ago, the barbarians of 20 years ago, the barbarians of 6 years ago, or the barbarians of today?
Ah, what’s the difference you ask? Very simple. In 1929 we could (rightfully) blame the British. Today who do we have to blame? We need only look in the mirror and point a finger at the image we see.
But, then again, it’s only a gesture.
Yitzhak Herskovitz: I want to help guarantee the survival of Israel.
The Talmud in the tractate Brachot teaches us that three prizes are obtained via hardship: Torah, the Next World, and Eretz Yisrael. Yitzhak Herskovitz has first-hand experience with the adversity involved in redeeming and settling Eretz Yisrael, the Land of Israel.
R' Yitzchak made aliyah over 20 years ago. A carpenter by trade, he remodeled the lift he used to transport his belongings to Israel into a wonderful home in Kiryat Arba. But a home outside Hebron wasn't enough to quench his thirst for settling our holy land. Back in 1988 he began proceedings to purchase a home in south Jerusalem, near Gilo, today called Givat HaMatos, bordering a neighborhood called by the Arabs, Beit Tsafafa.
The transaction took a few years to finalize but in 1992 he received the papers and the property was his.
Almost. But not quite.
That's because his new home had visitors who had no plans to leave. Arab squatters, the Salach clan had moved in and the new Jewish owner of the property didn't impress them. They stayed.
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.
During the first Magistrate court proceedings, experts proved beyond any doubt that the papers presented by the Arabs, purporting to support their claims, to be forgeries. After years and years of court sessions, the judge ruled in Herskovitz' favor. An order was issued demanding that the police remove the illegal residents from the property. Over the years some seven eviction notices have been issued. But the Salach clan is still there. The police, despite the court order, refused to expel the illegal squatters.
Following Herskovitz' victory the Arabs appealed to a Jerusalem District Court, claiming that they owned the property. The judge decided not only to hear the appeal, but also to retry the case from the very beginning, forcing Herskovitz to keep paying an attorney and bring back all his past witnesses for a second round of court sessions.
Herskovitz' attorney, Ms. Anat Ben-Dror explained that the original court verdict did not rule on ownership of the property, rather regarded the case as an 'eviction hearing.' The Arabs, after losing the first case, then filed an 'ownership suit,' and the judge fell into the trap they set for him and began hearing the case for a second time.
Herskovitz pointed out that when the Arabs made a verbal claim of ownership twelve years ago, the Magistrate Court judge told them in no uncertain terms: 'if you claim ownership, file a claim in the District Court which has authority to rule on such an issue.' The fact that they did not follow the judge's instructions then basically proved that they themselves knew that they had no case.
Not too long ago R' Yitzchak won a small victory in court. The judge ruled that the Arabs would have to deposit all back rent as well as a monetary bond covering future costs, in order for him to cancel the eviction notice issued and still standing against them. However, as of this writing they still have not paid the money, and are still living in the house.
Yitzhak Herskovitz has himself authored a number of documents concerning his property:
" I spent 15 years of my life in court. I spent hundreds of thousands of shekels in legal fees, court expenses, investigation and expert research of their documents, which the police crime laboratory and my hand writing expert found to be fabricated. All of this just to pursue justice.
The police do not enforce the law when it comes to Arabs. Should I not be upset when I see and feel the injustice of this?
I understand that there are squatter's rights when they are legitimate. But when they are illegitimate, that person is a trespasser. A trespasser is a criminal. He should be put in jail so the public will know that trespassers go to jail.
I do not believe a person can fathom the pain of what trespassing does to me. The restraint that I bear goes beyond comprehension. I have been told by many not to trust the Israeli courts. I now understand why. It goes without saying: the courts and the government are responsible to protect the property rights of their citizens.
This is the primary function of the government. This is their duty and responsibility. They must provide for the safety and security of their citizens in Hebron, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem or in Beit HaShalom and in Givat Hamatos.
Many of my of my acquaintances and friends keep telling me: Sell it and forget it!
The best answer I can give is that I love my children, I love my family and I love my people. I want them to have a home that they can come home to. We cannot allow Arabs to occupy our homes and our properties, to steal and rob our Land from us.
I want to help guarantee the survival of Israel.
(This article was first printed in the Jewish Press Magazine, Page M8, July 18, 2008 issue)
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.
It’s something of a catch 22 – whatever you do is right, and whatever you do is wrong. I know that I’ve asked myself countless times, ‘what would I do if, (G-d forbid), it was one of my sons.’ In truth, I don’t know.
Of course, with the release of two Israeli soldiers, either dead or alive, a huge dark cloud shadows their return: where is Ron Arad, whose fate is still unknown? Is he dead or alive? Is he in Lebanon or Iran? According to Israeli intelligence sources, having studied the newly-released photos of Arad, taken about 20 years ago, the pictures were taken not in Lebanon, rather in Iran. Perhaps Ron Arad is still alive, wasting away in an Iranian dungeon?
However, with enigma surrounding Ron Arad and the as of yet unknown condition of Regev and Goldwasser, at least people know their names, show some concern for them and their families. Unfortunately, it’s not that way with all Israeli MIAs, POWS. There are those, who, for one reason or another, have been forgotten, despite that fact that they wore the same uniform as the others, fought for the same country as the others, and whose fate is just as unknown as the others.
Ron Arad was captured in October, 1986. Four years earlier, in June, 1882, during the battle of Sultan Ya’akub, Israel lost three of its finest. During the battle, commanded by Ehud Barak, three tank warriors, Tzvi Feldman, born in 1956, Yehuda Katz, born in 1959, and Zacharia Baumel, born in 1960, disappeared. They may have been killed during the brutal fighting. However, there were accounts of people who saw them displayed during a parade in Syria. Their families have gathered accounts over the years, which, at the very least, raise a reasonable doubt as to their fate. Perhaps they are long gone. But perhaps not. And, if we use the Regev-Goldwasser measuring stick, what difference does it make? Why have the IDF and the Israeli government totally forgotten about these three men? Why aren’t they household names, as is Ron Arad? Why didn’t Israel demand a full report from Hizballah concerning the fate and location of these three men just as they did concerning Ron Arad? Why doesn’t the Israeli media exert pressure on the government and IDF concerning then, as they did concerning Regev, Goldwasser, Arad and Gilad Shalit? Why does Gilad Shalit’s name continue to make headlines, while most Israelis, 22 years later, have no idea who Katz, Feldman and Baumel are?
I have an answer, but don’t really like it. As a matter of fact, I despise what I think. It really stinks. It’s even worse than that. But I can’t think of any other viable reason.
These three men came from the wrong side of Israeli society. They all had Kippas on their heads. They belonged to religious tank units. Their families were not left-wing supporters of ‘peace,’ Labor, and Arabs. The men weren’t media lovelies. Rather, they were young idealistic patriots, who fought for their country, their people and their belief. Their belief hasn’t betrayed them, but their country and their people have.
But that’s not all.
It’s clear that serious negotiations for the release of Gilad Shalit will continue between Israel and Hamas. Clearly, Israel should demand information and release of the three above-discussed men. But in my opinion, that’s not enough.
Hamas terrorists are not stupid. If, as is expected, Israel receives two bodies for killer Kuntar, Hamas is going to demand an even higher price for a ‘live’ Israeli. That price will almost undoubtedly include Marwan Barghuti, a convicted murderer and leader of the ‘2nd intidada’ which claimed thousands of Israeli lives, dead, maimed and wounded. The present Israeli government will almost assuredly OK the deal. However, Israel must demand more than the release of POW Gilad Shalit. After all, Barghuti will only be one of the hundreds of terrorists freed by Israel. Israel must look towards its best friend and ally, put its foot down, and tell the United States: look at what we are being forced into in order to release one Israeli soldier. What is the price of one man? Is there a price? Yet, the price is too high. We must bring home more than one POW. When we release Barghuti and Hamas releases Shalit, you must free Jonathan Pollard. If we can do it, so can you.
At every Jewish wedding, the happiest day in a person’s life, we repeat the words, ‘If I forget thee Jerusalem….’
I add :
If we forget thee, Tzvi…
If we forget thee Yehuda…
If we forget thee Zacharia…
If we forget thee Jonathan…
If we forget all of you, who are we, what are we, why are we?