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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 2, 5768, 3/9/2008

      Damage control - wall-style

      I'd thought to write this morning about how Shabbat was quiet and relaxing. A Jerusalem men's choir visited Hebron and Kiryat Arba. They sang us through Sabbath morning prayers at Ma'arat HaMachpela, and it was just what the doctor ordered. Something of a cleansing of the soul.


      What can you do? Shabbat leaves us for another week and realities of life hit you back, like a punch in the nose.

      This morning Israeli radio news featured the Thursday night massacre at Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav in Jerusalem. Bibi was interviewed, as was one of the deans of the Yeshiva, Rabbi Yehoshua Magnes.

      But then.... Danny Yatom, member of the Labor party. What did he suggest? His cowardly solution is to build a wall, divided East Jerusalem from West Jerusalem, thereby 'protecting' the rest of the country from the animals on the other side.

      However, as we all know, walls usually define boundaries, and in the case, such a wall would act as a G-d forbid, future border between Israel and a new terror state, abandoning parts of Jerusalem to the enemy.

      This is, of course, Labor policy, dividing Jerusalem. Ghettoizing Israel. Living behind walls.

      When asked about such things in Hebron, like, 'why don't you build walls to protect yourselves?" I answer like this:

      "We left Eastern Europe to get OUT OF THE GHETTO. We didn't come to Israel to live in a ghetto. We say, in the national anthem HaTikva 'to be a free people in our land.' You cannot be a free people in your land living behind walls. If there's a problem, wall in the animals, (or better yet, get rid of them), but don't punish us for their crimes!"

      But I do have a new idea, concerning walls. I think the time has come to construct new walls...AROUND THE KNESSET.

      We can let them out once in a while for a breath of fresh air, but only within the boundaries of the walls. Telephone calls, monitored, once a day, for five minutes. They can even have visitors, twice a week, for a half hour at a time. But that's it.Let them experience what they are offering everyone else. This is called damage control - wall-style.

      What do you think?

      Adar 30, 5768, 3/7/2008

      Torn into pieces

      Last night was a bad dream - no, a nightmare, really really bad. The kind of events you try not to think about. After managing to express a few of my thoughts (posted in my previous blog) I managed to get some sleep. Total exhaustion forced the sleep on me, but surely it wasn't a peaceful slumber. And it didn't last very long. At about 4:30 the phone next to my bed rang. My oldest daughter, pregnant with her fourth child, was on the line, telling me the time had come to leave for the hospital. Her baby was knocking on the door, waiting to emerge into this world.

      My wife and another daughter dressed and walked five minutes down the road from Beit Hadassh where we live, to the Avraham Avinu neighborhood, where they live. Ora, my wife, left with Bat-tzion and Boaz to the hospital in Jerusalem. Ruti stayed with the other three kids, ranging in age from six to two. I dozed for a little while before giving up on any more sleep.

      I knew the day would be difficult. It was clear that I had to go to Jerusalem for the funerals. But I'd already obligated myself to conduct a tour of Hebron. A family from the US was coming in for a Bar Mitzvah tour. How could I cancel it, leaving them without a guide to the sites in Hebron, a tour that they'd been looking forward to for quite a while?

      So, I was basically torn into three pieces: one part of me was with my wife, daughter, and son-in-law, waiting for a new child/grandchild; one part of me was with the thousands in Jerusalem, mourning the murders of eight young men; and the last part of me, trying to keep myself composed, and even happy, while touring with several kids and their parents, explaining Hebron to them as I've done so many other times, as if today was just like any other day.

      Just as we were beginning, in the Tel Rumeida-Tel Hebron neighborhood, my cellphone's SMS chicken cock-a-doodle-dood. It was a message from my wife: Bat-tzion just gave birth to her fourth boy. Mazal Tov.

      I really wasn't quite sure how to react. On the one hand, an event like this is joyous. But it was difficult to feel, or express joy. I didn't even say anything to the group with me, at least not immediately. For some reason it didn't feel right. Only a little later did I spread the good news.

      But I kept asking myself: is this really where I should be - shouldn't I be in Jerusalem, at Mercaz HaRav? Of course, I couldn't let that question interfere with a tour of Hebron; after all, who knows when they'd be back again. When you've got a chance to try to show people what Hebron is all about, you really don't want to mess it up. So, the tour went on, as usual. Almost.

      The only thing I permitted myself to do, kind of releasing the frustrations, was to yell several times at one of the most despicable people I've ever come in contact with: Yehuda Shaul, founder and director of 'Breaking the Silence,' a fanaticly extremist left-wing organization, had the chutzpa to bring another group of people to Hebron, explaining to them the self-proclaimed 'war-crimes' he committed while serving in the IDF in Hebron, and pointing out the problems faced by the 'poor palestinians' who are 'oppressed' by the State of Israel, and of course, the 'racist settlers.' Several times, while passing the group, I could not contain myself: "You are supporting child killers! You are inciting to kill other other Jews."

      Usually I don't do this. Today I couldn't not say it.

      So that's the way it was - torn into three different pieces, torn by various and opposing emotions, while at the same time trying to maintain my sanity. Not easy to do.

      Chodesh tov and Shabbat shalom from Hebron.

      Adar 29, 5768, 3/6/2008

      Thoughts after the terror attack -Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav

      I was sitting in my office tonight, meeting with the director of Mattot-Arim, activist Susie Dym, when the beeper started beeping. I read it, wiped my eyes, and read it again: 20:42 - (8:42 PM) - Magen David Adom Jerusalem reports shooting inside Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav in Jerusalem. Details to follow. The beepers kept streaming, each one bringing terrible news. Shooting for somewhere in the vicinity of ten minutes, the terrorist killed eight students and wounded at least another eleven, three of whom are in critical condition.

      Listening now to the radio, the Yeshiva's director, Rabbi Sasson, spoke of how the yeshiva students all participated in a mass prayer gathering at the Kotel, the Western Wall, earlier today. This evening they were preparing Rosh Hodesh (New Month) festivities, celebrating the beginning of the new month of Adar and the upcoming Purim holiday. Only moments before the beginning of the dancing, the Rabbi said that he heard shooting in the building and immediately realized that a terrorist had infiltrated the yeshiva.

      Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav is the spiritual center of Religious Zionism, founded by Israel's first Chief Rabbi, Rav Avraham Yitzhak HaKohen Kook. His son, Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook led the movement of the Jewish people back to Yesha following the 1967 Six Day War. The Yeshiva's dean, Rabbi Avraham Shapira, died a few months ago, and his son, Rabbi Ya'akov Shapira replaced him.

      I worked at Mercaz HaRav some 15 years ago for about a year. The Yeshiva has a very unique atmosphere, very spiritual, and very Torah-oriented. Many many students fill the huge study hall, day and night, 24 hours a day. Many of the students are IDF officers, serving in elite units. The yeshiva's students are amongst the most patriotic Jews in Israel, serving their country, their land, their people, their G-d, in body and in spirit. Many of Israel's most important spiritual leaders are graduates of Mercaz HaRav.

      It is very sad to see the pictures, to hear the voices, to feel the pain of young Torah scholars, studying Torah, celebrating the joy of the month of Adar, cut down by a terrorist's bullets, for no reason other than that they are Jews.

      Earlier today I spent a couple of hours with journalists from Finland, questioning me about our presence in Hebron and in Judea and Samaria. I stressed to them that the enemy we are facing are nothing more than wild animals; only animal can perpetrate such horror attacks. Tonight another one of these animals escaped from his cage and, let loose in civilization, attacked, as does a wild lion or tiger.

      I continue hearing on the radio reports how the police and security are continuing to prepare for tomorrow's "Friday prayer on Temple Mount" referring of course, to Arab, Islamic prayer. I do not understand why the Israeli authorities are going to allow these prayers to take place, especially taking into account that according to the latest reports, the terrorist who perpetrated the murder tonight is a resident of Jabal MuKaber, a neighborhood in east Jerusalem. The first thing that should have been announced tonight is that those prayers, on Temple Mount, are canceled. The second announcement should be that any and all 'peace talks' with the Arabs are suspended until further notice.

      Third, the Knesset should meet in special session and pass a law which will allow immediate suspension of Knesset members who incite the enemy and who celebrate such murderous attacks as we've witnessed tonight.

      Now we cry together with the yeshiva, with the families of the victims, with Klal Yisrael, But crying is not enough. Israel cannot allow such terror in our eternal capital to be ignored. The enemy must be punished.

      Adar 27, 5768, 3/4/2008

      Behind the Windows

      There are times when you (I) think you've seen everything. And then something new pops up and you (I) pinch yourself, trying to discover if it's real or just a dream.

      I've been pinching myself a lot lately, and each time I'm shocked to discover that it's not a dream.

      Let me preface the forthcoming story with three short introductions.

      First, every once in a while I receive letters asking why I post such items. I can only go back to the first article I recall having written, following the murder of Nachum Hoss and Yehuda Partuche just outside Hebron in March, 1995. I remember writing then that it's important that people KNOW – that events shouldn't be the inheritance of the few – that they should be public knowledge, on the table for everyone to see, to judge, and to do something about. I still believe that, even more so today.

      Two: Despite what I am going to write, yes, I still believe in the sanctity of the State of Israel, in the Land of Israel. The State is, in my opinion, (and I know there are many who disagree for various reasons), a Divine gift for which we waited for over two thousand years. The State isn't at fault for all the problems we have, rather it's us, the people, who are screwing it up. (In short.)

      Three: I'm frequently asked, 'what can we do?' OK – we all know the standard answers: make phone calls, write letters, etc. etc. (Again, in my opinion) there are two major activities people can partake in today to make a difference, and I'm sure this isn't the first time you've ever heard this. First, you can give money, making contributions and donations to whatever interests you (like Hebron). The battles we are facing today are unbelievably expensive ($20,000 a month to heat Beit HaShalom and literally tens and more tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees). Very simply, we cannot afford do it without mucho dollars. And that means people like you, because we don't have a monopoly on money.

      However, if people REALLY want to make a difference, they have to come here to Israel – not for vacations, but to comeLIVE here, breath here, work here and 'change the way it is.' And it really can happen – it can be done. I know people don't like Aliyah speeches, but what can you do – sometimes the truth hurts. If you really believe in something, act upon it. Do it.
      After you read the next paragraphs you may ask (if you already haven't, at least a million time) why would anyone want to go live there? I relate to that as 'the Spy's question – the same thing asked by 10 of the 12 spies Moses sent to search out the land following the exodus from Egypt. They looked around and asked themselves, 'why would anyone want to live here?' We know what happened to them and the damage they caused us, up through today. We are here in Eretz Yisrael because G-d gave us this land, it is our homeland, He created to Jewish people in order that we should live here and fulfill here His commandments. Need more be said?

      OK – that was just an introduction. Now on to the good stuff.

      By this time you're probably familiar with the famous, or infamous Beit HaShalom windows. A couple of weeks ago, following a fierce snow storm, Minister Eli Yishai from Shas started banging on the cabinet-room table, demanding to know why Jews in Hebron had to live without windows. Barak finally gave his okay. Then, the fun started.
      One of my colleagues here received a call from the local Chief (named Taryk) of the Civil Administration, a branch of the defense ministry. This was a couple of days before another expected snow storm. He informed us that we could install, in Beit HaShalom, 'wooden frames with plastic' to protect its residents from the cold and rain.
      "Ha," my friend answered, "you think they're living there without any protection at all. That's what we already have there."
      So a couple of hours later Chief called back and said, "you can install aluminum window frames WITHOUT glass windows."
      My friend: "Do me a favor. I'm busy. In another day or so it's going to start snowing again. So either issue me the permits I need for windows, or leave me alone."

      A few hours later Chief called back and finally agreed to installation of windows – period.

      Wow, great – a real victory. The windows were ordered and arrived in record time. The simplest windows in Israel were ordered, in order not to upset Chief or any of his bosses. Installation began. And then the fun started. Again my friend received a call, an hysterical call, from Chief.
      "What are you doing there?"
      "Installing windows."
      "But you are also installing 'trisim' – plastic shades. You didn't get a permit to install anything made of plastic – only aluminum frames and glass windows."
      "OK, so we'll change them from plastic to aluminum."
      "But then they won't be the simplest windows, which you promised to install."
      …. – " Look, the standard for the simplest windows, set by the Ministry of Housing, demands that all windows come with shades. We are only following that."

      One of the reasons the Chief and his bosses allowed the windows was a result the community's agreement to post bond, guaranteeing not take advantage ofthe window installation in order to make other earth-shattering changes in the building. A creature named Ronit Levy, a left-wing activist dressed in military garb who works as a prosecutor for the IDF, wrote a letter to the court saying that they should consider demanding payment of our bond guarantee because we had violated the agreement and installed plastic shades.

      So, all the shades that had been installed were removed, and today the families live with glass windows in very sunlit rooms.

      Behind the scenes, or as we say in Hebron, behind the windows.

      Adar 22, 5768, 2/28/2008

      OU, Bnei Brith, & Hadassah endorsing palestinian state?

      A short time ago I received the following document. According to my sources, this was initiated by Israeli Foreign Minister Tzippy Livni.

      (A little while ago I posted an important blog entry – but that was before I received this.)

      Listed below the document are members of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs. Take note of words used, such as ' Palestinian intransigence' as opposed to 'terror' or continuing rocket attacks, etc.

      (See OU clarification on position and role on JCPA Resolution at end of document)

      The Jewish Council for Public Affairs endorsed for the first time a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

      At its annual plenum Tuesday in Atlanta, the body, an umbrella organization representing 14 national Jewish groups and 125 local Jewish community relations councils, resolved that "the organized American Jewish community should affirm its support for two independent, democratic and economically viable states -- the Jewish state of Israel and a state of Palestine-- living side-by-side in peace and security."

      The resolution also included compromise language reflecting American Jewry's "diverse views about current and future policies of the Israeli government towards settlements," and blamed the standstill in the peace process on Palestinian intransigence. It appeared to pass unanimously, though the Orthodox Union, which has been outspoken in objecting to any deal to share or divide Jerusalem, had considered abstaining. According to one of its officers, David Luchins, the O.U. was satisfied with the final text, but still felt it represented an attempt to "micromanage" the peace process.

      The resolution came about in response to recent events like the seizure of Gaza, the "reconstitution" of the Palestinian Authority and the latest U.S.-backed peace initiative, said the JCPA's senior associate executive director, Martin Raffel.

      (See also: http://tinyurl.com/2rmaqg ).

      Members of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs

      American Jewish Committee
      American Jewish Congress
      Anti-Defamation League
      B’nai B'rith
      Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life
      Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Life
      Jewish Labor Committee
      Jewish Reconstructionist Federation
      Jewish War Veterans
      National Conference on Soviet Jewry
      National Council of Jewish Women
      National Jewish Coalition for Literacy
      ORT America
      Union for Reform Judaism
      Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America
      United Jewish Communities
      United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism
      Women's League for Conservative Judaism

      February 28, 2008

      The Orthodox Union is a member agency of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) and participated in its annual conference this week.

      As reported in the media, the JCPA debated and adopted a resolution with regard to the Israeli - Palestinian peace process. The media report, however, did not fully and accurately present the Orthodox Union's position and activities with regard to the resolution; we do so here.

      The OU delegation engaged in the debate over this resolution by proposing and/or opposing provisions of or amendments to the resolution text. The following were the actions of the OU on this matter:

      > The OU attempted to remove the resolution's text which would have, for the first time, put JCPA on record in support of the "two state solution" - but we were defeated by a vote of the delegates to the JCPA.

      > The OU succeeded in inserting into the resolution's text the statement that "Israel's repeated offers to establish 'two democratic states living side by side in peace and security' have been met, time after time, by violence, incitement and terror."

      > The OU attempted to remove the resolution's text calling for American Jewish support for any negotiations by the Israeli government over the re-division of Jerusalem - but we were defeated by a vote of the delegates to the JCPA.

      > The OU succeeded in inserting into the resolution text which calls upon the American Jewish community to support Israel's insistence upon being recognized by the Palestinian Authority as a "Jewish state."

      > The OU succeeded in defeating a proposed amendment to the resolution text which would have stated that the American Jewish community views the establishment or expansion of Israeli settlements as an "impediment to peace."

      At the conclusion of the debate and amendment process, the OU delegation abstained from the vote on final passage of the resolution and informed the JCPA of our intention to file a formal, written dissent from the portions of the resolution with which the OU disagrees.