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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)

      Adar Bet 26, 5768, 4/2/2008

      Little terrorists-in-training

      You can imagine what went through the father's head: Yes, or No - Clobber him, or, Don't do it.
      You may have seen the report from Hebron, a couple of days ago about an Arab youth who stole a woman's hat, across from Ma'arat HaMachpela. A you may, or may not know, many religiously observant Jewish women keep their heads covered, as regulated by Jewish law. An Arab on a bicycle flew by her, grabbed the hat on her head, and kept going.

      A small group of Hebron residents arrived at the scene and demanded that the police and soldiers close Arab stores across from the Ma'ara, where the crime had occurred. "If you close their stores because of this, they (the shop owners) will bring you the culprit themselves!"

      To no avail. Border police lined up in front of the stores to protect the Arabs.

      Later that day the Arab was discovered, apprehended, taken to the police station and then released.

      So much for him.

      At about seven in the evening a scuffle broke out between some Arab youth outside Beit HaShalom, and some of the Jewish kids living there. One of the Arabs punched a little boy in the face and stole his bicycle. When the police arrived they asked for a description of the attacker. "Sounds familiar," they commented. They made their way to the home of the same youth who had stolen the woman's hat in the morning, and there they discovered the bicycle. The attacker was the one and the same Arab who had taken the hat hours earlier.

      A little while later, the Hebron boy who'd had his bicycle stolen, and his father, were at the police station. As they were leaving they saw the Arab who'd attacked the boy sitting alone in the waiting room. You can imagine what went through the father's head: Yes, or No - Clobber him, or, Don't do it.

      In the end, he didn't. His son went over and stuck his tongue out. And they left.

      As they exited the police station, they heard gasps and screams coming from inside. Quickly police ran out and grabbed the Hebron boy's father.

      "What did you do to him," they screamed.

      "What are you talking about?"

      "Can't you hear him? He's rolling on the floor in pain. What did you do?!?:"

      The police pulled him inside and began interrogating him. Again and again, 'what did you do."

      Finally he answered: 'my son went over and stuck his tongue out at him. Maybe he kicked him. That's all. Nothing else."

      The police officer looked at him and said: "OK - if that's your story, let's check it out. There are cameras in the waiting room. Let's see what we have on film."

      So, they all sat down together to view the Hebron night out at the movies, in the police station. And to their great surprise, and also chagrin, they discovered that it was as he'd said. He hadn't done anything to the Arab who'd punched his son.

      It seems that the little terrorist-in-training has good teachers.

      Adar Bet 17, 5768, 3/24/2008

      Purim in Hebron

      If one picture is worth a thousand words.....


      Adar Bet 6, 5768, 3/13/2008

      A Week After

      Yesterday I spent some time with a close friend of mine, whose brother is also my son-in-law. He is a Rabbi at the Yeshivat Mercaz High School. He knew all the kids who were killed last week, a week ago tonight. When I received the news on my beeper last week I immediately called him, knowing that he was in the middle of giving a class in Kiryat Arba. It took him a couple of hours to locate all the students in his class. He didn’t want to know that they were ok. He wanted to hear their voices.

      He told me an amazing story that makes your hair stand on end. One of the young men killed had been sitting in the library, studying with a friend. Suddenly he said, “let’s learn something else.” They closed their books and started a new subject: They began investigating and studying the afterlife – ‘olam haba’ – the world to come, Gan Eden – the Garden of Eden, and the other side – Gehennom – Hell.

      An hour and a half later he was dead, one of eight, shot in cold blood.

      One of the boys was shot in the shoulder and lying on the floor, played dead. But the terrorist, wanting to be sure that all were killed, went back and shot them all again, and again, and again. This boy, pretending he was dead, was shot numerous times in the stomach. When found, he still had a faint heartbeat. In the ambulance, on the way to Hadassah hospital, the paramedic told the driver, ‘it’s too far away – get to a closer hospital, Sharei Tzeddek. Otherwise he won’t make it.’ By the time they arrived he had no heartbeat. The doctors in the trauma room started pouring blood into him, and he came back from the other side, he lived. His injuries were considered ‘anush’ – almost no chance to survive. But he did. It will take a lot of time until he -recovers, but he lived.
      Thank G-d.
      Earlier this week I wrote an article called “Three Cheers for Mercaz HaRav.” As you read it, pay special attention to the last paragraph, an abbreviated translation of the words of Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook, whose thoughts are as fitting today as they were over 60 years ago.
      Tonight, as thousands and thousands around the world are marking the ‘shiva’ – the end of the week since the murders, I’m posting it here for you to read. I have no doubt that the eight neshamot – the eight souls of those holy Torah students, are praying - no not only praying, but beseeching the L-rd, from their place on high, to put an end to all suffering and to bring a full and complete redemption bimheira b’yamenu, Amen.

      Three Cheers for Mercaz HaRav

      This morning I must admit: I did something I'm not wont to do. I read an article called 'Heads to the right,' penned by Gideon Levy in Haaretz newspaper. Even stranger, I actually agreed with some of what he wrote. Not everything, of course, but bits and pieces.

      For example, the 2nd paragraph: Mercaz Harav is the flagship of the last group in Israeli society still operating in the realm of ideas. Religious Zionists are the only group, aside from the ultra-Orthodox population, whose members are willing to lay down their lives for the collective and its worldview. Right on!

      And he goes on to say: …without the Gush Emunim movement, supported by successive Israeli governments, there would be no settlements; and without the Mercaz Harav yeshiva, there would be no Gush Emunim. This institution, then, was the cradle of the settlement enterprise and its driving force. Right again!

      But of course, it can't all be good. These last lines are prefaced with: Nor can anyone ignore the damage it has caused the country. Without the settlement enterprise, peace might have reigned here already… Oops.

      And then, some of the lines are mixed: From Mercaz Harav emerged the rabbis that led the vilest move in Zionist history. Most of the delusional right-wing perpetrators and the mongers of hate for Arabs came from this flagship. Religious leaders such as Rabbis Moshe Levinger, Haim Druckman, Avraham Shapira, Yaakov Ariel, Zefania Drori, Shlomo Aviner and Dov Lior, all idolized by their students, raised generations of nationalist youths within those walls.

      All of these lines can be analyzed, but the first words are really what interest me: Mercaz Harav is the flagship of the last group in Israeli society still operating in the realm of ideas.

      Ah, those lofty ideals, which are today so blasphemed. So old-fashioned. Like these quotes:
      It's difficult in times like these: ideals, dreams and cherished hopes rise within us, only to be crushed by grim reality. It's a wonder I haven't abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical… In the meantime, I must hold on to my ideals. Perhaps the day will come when I'll be able to realize them! The Diary of a Young Girl, eds. Otto H. Frank and Mirjam Pressler, p. 332

      One needs something to believe in, something for which one can have whole-hearted enthusiasm. One needs to feel that one's life has meaning, that one is needed in this world. Hannah Senesh

      I also seem to remember, even though I cannot presently find the source, that either the poetess Rachel or Hannah Senesh asked, 'what will happen to us, here in Israel, after we've achieved our present goals. What will happen to our ideals then?'

      But for many, such ideals have lost their taste. Today their lives are based upon secular materialism, hedonism and money. And let's not forget peace. Even at the cost of survival.
      The Rabbinic leadership and student body of Mercaz HaRav must be lauded and applauded. For at least three different things:

      As we say – Sur me'ra v'aseh tov – first veer from evil and then, do good!

      Sur me'ra – Veer from Evil:
      Yesterday the so-called education minister, Yuli Tamir visited the yeshiva. When leaving she was verbally attacked by people there. Bravo. She deserved everything said to her, including 'murderer.' As 'education minister' Tamir has allowed 'nakba' (the Arab word for catastrophe, which they use to describe the 1948 War of Independence), to be taught in Israeli schools as a legitimate part of the curriculum. This is nothing less than incitement, inciting Arabs against Jews and the state of Israel. Such incitement can only lead to bloodshed. Jewish blood being shed.

      Yuli Tamir, one of the founders of Shalom Achshav, (Peace Now), is the antithesis of everything Mercaz HaRav has ever stood for. Thank G-d she was chased away.

      Sur me'ra number two: The yeshiva refused to allow Olmert to visit and pay his respects or condolences. This too is an act to be praised.

      Olmert was one of the initiators of the expulsion from Gush Katif. He has publicly declared his willingness to expel tens and hundreds of thousands of Jews from their homes in Judea and Samaria, while abandoning our land to our enemies, allowing them to continue attacking our civilian population.

      Despite continuing attacks on Israelis, Olmert stubbornly insists on continuing negotiations with the enemy, in an attempt to rid ourselves of our land. He plans on holding negotiations even during the week of the 'shiva' – the seven days of mourning for the yeshiva's murdered eight young students. He is ready to abandon Hebron and divide Jerusalem, leaving the holiest sites in the world in the hands of our enemy.

      How could Mercaz HaRav allow such a defiled person to walk in its holy midst, who, while offering 'condolences' is preparing the ground for more Israelis to be killed?

      And now, Aseh tov – Do Good: This morning, when speaking on Israel radio, Rabbi Haim Steiner, when asked why the Yeshiva was politicizing the death and mourning of its students, (referring to the decision to refuse Olmert's visit), he answered, 'this is not politics. We are people of Torah and 'yirat-shamayim' (G-d fearing.) In other words, there are issues which transcend such mundane subjects as politics. There is G-d. There is Torah. Those who study Torah, the word of G-d, those who fear and revere G-d, those who make ideas and ideals a way of life, have the ability to discern who and what surround them. Eretz Yisrael is transformed from earth to a spiritual value, far exceeding the obscure standards of life significant to the Levys, Tamirs, and Olmerts of this world. Refusing to shake hands with Olmert is not politics – it is Torah!!!

      This is why it was so important to make these points clear, from the very center of religious Zionism, Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav, during one of its most difficult moments.

      Da'at Torah – the way of Torah, is not weak and lackadaisical. Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook zt'l, son of Israel's first Chief Rabbi, Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak HaCohen Kook, and leader of Mercaz HaRav and the return to Yehuda, Shomron and Gaza following the Six Day War in 1967 wrote about his trip to Yaffo in the winter of 1941, visiting the home and Torah study hall where his father had lived and where he had grown up:

      …It was an awesome moment. I was filled and spiritually uplifted by the energy binding me during my stay at the Talmud Torah…and afterwards (I went) again to the study hall "Ohr Zoreach" which had been shelled and destroyed and ruined by the British, may their names be blotted out…and I forced myself to walk back and forth, with the many sacred memories of my childhood and later years…filled with the anger of G-d and I felt empty there, at this terrible time at this terrible place, with the deepest of thoughts and sharpest expressions and speech, from myself and from holy verses, of the abundance of curses and vengeance which should occur soon on the heads of the wicked, on the rulers of malice and its perpetrators, which G-d the redeemer will bring about and judge them as they've done to us, as they have destroyed and ruined here, so too swiftly will it be to their palaces and halls…" (Ohr l'Netivoti, 315-316)
      Amen, may it be His Will, speedily in our days.

      Adar Bet 4, 5768, 3/11/2008

      An open letter to dearest Ehud

      we have no way of preventing these rocket attacks from recurring
      Our dearest Ehud,

      We would like to express our deepest gratitude to you following your visit to Ashkelon earlier today. We found your statement there, to the Jewish people of the city quite informative and encouraging. You told the people to be prepared for more rockets - that you, the prime minister of Israel have no good new for them - that they will have to get used to it, that Israel has no way to stop the rocket attacks. That really is music to our ears.

      Ehud, you have now experienced two tastes of our missiles - coming from the north, into Haifa, Safed, Kiryat Shemona, Meron; and now also from the south, into Sderot and Ashkelon, as well as many smaller Jewish communities.

      Know, dear Ehud, that this is only the beginning. Soon we are going to up the dosage, and more rockets will rain down upon you, flooding your people from the air. We are going to shoot from the north and south, and also from the north east, hitting major populated Jewish cities, and soon after that, when the new state is established, it should come as no surprise to you when Kfar Saba and Petach Tikva are assailed. And I would suggest that your diplomatic flights in and out of our occupied land not utilize the Ben Gurion airport. We are training very hard and expect to have expert marksmen to shoot down your airplanes. We are sure you wouldn't want to be on one of those.

      And then, our friend, we will really let loose - aha - you really believe that you'll be able to take out the BIG missiles - we have news for you - our colleague Mahmoud is no Idi Amin, and not even a Sadam Hussein - and besides which, you really think Bush and his cronies in Europe will allow you to endanger world peace - Ah - wait and see.

      And you, our beloved one, will continue to tell your fellow countrymen that you have no solution to the rockets. After all, only hours ago you declared,  "Don't conduct yourselves as though the Grad rocket attacks were not a one-time thing; - we have no way of preventing these things (rocket attacks) from recurring."

      Ah, how right you are.

      So, our dearest of friends, we would like to offer you a deal - a kind of solution for you and perhaps, others. Actually you have three choices: You can either: stay where you are and try to catch the falling rockets - and die;

      or, we will offer a temporary cease-fire, allowing all of you enough time, let's say a week or so, to get on ships and planes and get out of our land while you are still alive (we will refrain from aiming at the ships and planes for that period of time);

      or finally, if you really wish to stay in our promised land, then very simply, accept that our way is right and your way is wrong. Become one of us.

      Those are your three choices, Mr. Prime Minister, who has no solution to our rocket attacks. Those are your solutions. Make your decision and make it fast, because we have no more patience, and will not wait much longer - Prime Minister EHUD  NO SOLUTION.

      Kindest regards to your lovely wife, son and daughter,
      Hassan, Ismael and Bashar

      Adar Bet 2, 5768, 3/9/2008

      Condolences to Nachum Segal

      I didn't personally know Rabbi Zev Segal zt"l. But as they say, seeing the branches, you know a lot about the roots.

      I remember many years ago, Nachum Segal, the Rabbi's son, came to Hebron to do a live broadcast on his early morning radio show, JM in the AM. But this wasn't your normal sit-down show. We went running all over Hebron, broadcasting over cell phones, the quality of which wasn't quite what it is today. I distinctly remember standing in the Tarpat-1929 section of the ancient Jewish cemetery in Hebron, not far from Tel Rumeida, with Nachum standing next to the grave of the "Matmid" - Shmuel HaLevi Rosenhaltz, who was the first Jew killed in the Hebron Massacre. "HaMatmid" - in English, the persistent one - in other words, always studying Torah. Nachum spoke about how his father knew the Matmid, and learned with him.

      That's a very special yihus - or pedigree, having learned in the Hebron Yeshiva as far back as 1929.

      Like I said, I never knew Rabbi Segal. But knowing Nachum, I can imagine what he was like. Because Nachum Segal, as tall as he is, has a heart to match. And that heart is filled with love for Am Yisrael, Eretz Yisrael and Torat Yisrael. And a whole lot of love for Hebron and Jerusalem.

      Not too long ago Nachum was here for a day, broadcasting from the Gutnick Center outside Ma'arat HaMachpela. Despite a serious medical problem which almost kept him from making the trip to Israel, he radiated. Broadcasting live, from Hebron, well that just about overcame any other kind of issue that could exist.

      Reading about Rabbi Zev Segal, and having spent time with Nachum over the years, in Hebron, at his New Jersey radio studio, and at various functions that he has hosted for Hebron, it's clear that the Rabbi educated his family with the finest education a Jewish child can receive. And he taught not only his family, rather hundreds and thousands of others, as a Rabbinic educator for decades.

      I heard yesterday about Nachum's father's passing. It's difficult to say that at 91 years old, a person's death is 'untimely,' but in this case, it certainly seemed to have been just so. Unfortunately I wasn't able to make it to the funeral in Jerusalem last night, but felt a real need to express sincere condolences, personally, and on behalf of the entire Jewish Community of Hebron and of our US office, the Hebron Fund, to Nachum and all his family.

      HaMakom Yenachem otchem betoch shaar avlei Tzion v'Yerushalayim - May the L-rd comfort you amongst the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem, and my you know no more sorrow. I have no doubt that your continued work on behalf of Am Yisrael will be an iluyi for your father's neshama, and that his memory will be blessed by your deep love of Klal Yisrael.