Middle East 2:16 AM 12/9/2013
Defense/Security 7:56 AM 12/9/2013
Inside Israel 1:13 AM 12/9/2013
The Derech Eretz Show
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 33 years. They lived in Kiryat Arba for 17 years and have resided at Beit Hadassah in Hebron for the past 14 years. They have seven children and many grandchildren.
Links to sites David recommends:
(others to be added)
Send Meridor to the Visitor's Gallery
There is a long-running discussion among Torah scholars as to a most significant topic. Is it a positive commandment to settle Eretz Yisrael, the Land of Israel? On the face of it, two of the greatest Torah scholars ever to walk the earth, seem to disagree. The Rambam, Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, in his seminal work, the “Yad HaChazakah,” where he discusses the 613 Biblical Torah commandments, does not include settling the land as a positive precept. The Ramban, Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman, who lived shortly after the Rambam, writes, seemingly disagreeing with his illustrious predecessor, that settling the Land of Israel is definitely a Mitzvah, a positive, Divine commandment.
However, there are many distinguished Torah scholars who rule that, in reality, there isn’t any disagreement between the two giants. The Rambam, when enumerating the Mitzvot, does not include in his list, the most basic fundamentals, upon which Judaism is based. For example, he does not write that Tshuva – repentance, is a commandment. Rather, he instructs, ‘when you do tshuva – when you repent… this is what you must do.’
Tshuva is pillar upon which Torah, and Torah observance is founded. There is no Judaism, as we know it, without Tshuva. Yet it does not appear in the Rambam’s list, not in spite of its importance, rather as a result of its major significance.
So too, with the Mitzvah of living and settling Eretz Yisrael. The Jewish people were created in order to live in this land. Without Israel, Judaism as we know it, does not exist.
This example can illustrate my feelings today, upon hearing Minister Dan Meridor’s statement on the early morning news. Meridor was asked his opinion about reports that the government was going to approve the Levy Commission Report. This report, written by three highly respected judges and attorneys, headed by former Supreme Court Edmund Levy, rejects international claims that the Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria is ‘occupation of a foreign land.’ Its adoption and implementation by the Israeli government will remove many of the politically bureaucratic hardships placed upon Jews living in Judea and Samaria, particularly in the areas of building construction and land purchase.
Meridor said, “Ramallah and Hebron are not part of the State of Israel and I don’t think that Prime Minister Netanyahu has any intentions to change this.”
I find it very difficult to stomach a Likud minister, serving in a right-wing government, state that Hebron is not part of Israel.
True, the state of Israel has yet to annex Judea and Samaria. Legally, all this land, including Hebron, is officiated via the Defense ministry. Actually, the Levy report, its findings and conclusions should be the first step changing this, leading to eventual annexation.
That, however, has no bearing on whether Hebron is part of the State of Israel. Because, without Hebron, there wouldn’t be a State of Israel. Hebron, the first Jewish city in this holy land, was the first home of Abraham, as we read in Genesis 13:18 - And Abram moved his tent, and came and dwelt by the oaks of Mamre, which are in Hebron, and built there an altar unto the L-rd.”
Here, in the first Jewish city in Eretz Yisrael, Abraham lived for decades. As did his son, grandson, and many many others after them. Here they lived and here they were buried. Ma’arat HaMachpela, their tombs, the Caves of Machpela, is the 2nd holiest site in the world, second only to Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
Here began the Davidic monarchy, prior to Jerusalem becoming our eternal capital. Here fought Bar Cochva and the Maccabees. Here Jews came following the Spanish expulsion in 1492. Here Jews lived almost continuously over the centuries, until the 1929 riots, massacre and expulsion.
In June, 1967, coming into Hebron, Israel did not conquer and occupy a foreign city. We came home.
Just as living in Israel isn’t mentioned in the Rambam’s list of Mitzvot, because of its supreme magnitude, so too, Hebron’s importance cannot be minimized because of political fears and accountings. Hebron is the roots of Judaism, it is the source of monotheism, and is an integral element in our people’s essence.
Israeli ministers, representing the State of Israel, must not humiliate Hebron, declaring in an affirmative manner that ‘Hebron is not a part of the State of Israel, and that’s the way it should stay.’ Rather they should decry this disgrace, asserting that Hebron is the Jewish people’s lifeblood, the source of our culture and tradition, and of course, Jews must have the same rights and privileges in Israel’s first Jewish city, as do Jews living in Tel Aviv or Haifa.
Meridor’s left-wing tendencies are known. Truthfully, as sad as it is, it’s no great surprise that he should make such a statement. But his presence as a Likud minister, in a Likud government, with such opinions, is scandalous.
Before Israel goes to the polls, most parties will conduct primaries to determine their candidates for the Knesset. Meridor’s own words must be publicized loud and clear,insuring that Likud voters know exactly what he thinks of Israel’s presence in Judea and Samaria, his thoughts about the Levi Commission Report, and about Hebron. This way, perhaps he will join Ehud Barak, after the elections, following Knesset and government proceedings from the visitor’s gallery.
The new year is starting off on the right foot - and if you didn't notice, that's a double entendre. Over the past month and a half, over 150,000 Jews visited Hebron. About half of them arrived during the Succot holidays. That's a good way to begin a new year. But it's only the beginning.
A few weeks ago, an Israeli court ruled that Beit HaShalom, the huge 4,000 square meter building between Hebron and Kiryat Arba, was legally purchased by the Jewish community of Hebron and must be returned to us, the rightful owners of the building.
Beit HaShalom was purchased by Morris Abraham and his family, for over a million dollars. Hebron Jews moved into the building in 2007 and lived there for 22 months. Ehud Barak, then Defense Minister, ordered the families to be forcibly expelled in the winter of 2008.
The Arab who sold the building, Rajabi, then filed suit in a Jerusalem court, demanding that the structure be returned to him. In court he admitted that he had sold the building and received money for it – he had no choice, as the transaction was videoed. However, he claimed that he'd changed his mind and returned the money. His only problem was that he had no proof, receipts or documents showing that he'd actually returned the money.
A few weeks ago the court ruled against him, and ordered the government to return the building to the Jewish owners within 30 days.
One final problem remained. According to Israeli law, properties purchased by Jews from Arabs in Judea and Samaria must be approved by the Defense Minister. Ehud Barak, a left-wing politician who only a few days ago announced his idea for a unilateral expulsion/withdrawal from Judea and Samaria, is not known to view favorably the Jewish presence in Hebron. Expectations that he might sign such a permit weren't high.
But, miracles do happen. As happened early tonight. Hebron's Jewish community received written notification that Barak ordered the Defense ministry to grant the necessary permits allowing us to return home, to return to Beit HaShalom.
Shortly, the cement blocks surrounding the building will be removed. The big padlock sealing the doors will be removed. The keys will be returned to us. Beit HaShalom has been redeemed.
We are very very happy that the Israeli government has finally recognized the legitimacy of Jewish land purchase in Hebron. It's about time. After all, the first land purchase, some 4,000 years ago, didn't need any minister's signature. When Abraham bought the Caves of Machpela, he didn't need anyone's permission. He put money on the table and, in return, received the keys. That's the way is should be.
So too, we expect the Israeli government to continue to recognize legally owned Jewish properties in Hebron, such as Beit HaMachpela and Beit Ezra.
And just in case anyone thought otherwise, yes, we will continue to buy property and buildings in Hebron, and yes, we will continue to grow and expand, and no, we have no plans to leave our holy city, not now, not ever. Hebron is here to stay, an integral element of the land of Israel and of the State of Israel. As is the Jewish community of Hebron, keeping Hebron Jewish for the Jewish people, for eternity.
Actually, the timing is just right. This Shabbat we begin reading the Torah from the start – "In the Beginning…" The greatest commentator on the Torah, Rashi, asks, why doesn't the Torah begin with laws and commandments? Why start with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? His answer is quite fitting for today's events. He answers: "Because of the thought expressed in the verse(Psalms 111:6) 'He declared to His People the strength of His works, in order that He might give them the heritage of the nations.'
For should the peoples of the word say, You are robbers, because you took by force the lands of the seven nations of Canaan, Israel may reply to them, "All the earth belongs to the Holy One blessed be He; He created it and gave it to whom He pleases; When He willed He gave it to them, and when He willed, He took it from the and gave it to us."
It is imperative to note that Rashi stresses the verse, 'He declared to His People…' – In other words, the nations of the world might realize that our Land belongs to us – the problem isn't with them. Rather we have to ensure that all OUR PEOPLE know and understand that this land, Eretz Yisrael, belongs to Am Yisrael, the people of Israel. Rashi lived almost 1,000 years ago. He knew what he was talking about.
To all those who have helped, to all those whose faith and support, and hard work have brought us to this joyous day – thank you , thank you, thank you! May we be privileged to continue to witness such wonders as we have seen today!
Yesterday I met with an Australian journalist. He had spent the previous day with Shovrim Shtika – Breaking the Silence, in Hebron. They are far left- and very anti Jewish Hebron. A countryman of the journalist, let’s call him Harry, wanted him to see ‘the other side’ so they came over to see me.
We didn’t have a lot of time, so rather than tour we sat and talked for about 40 minutes. Harry directed some questions to me, which I tried to answer to the best of my ability. Most questions I’ve heard before – it’s hard to find something new to hit me with. When we spoke about the division in the street outside, which is divided: one side for Jews and the other for Arabs, I explained that, number one, we don’t like it either. True, the Arabs can’t walk on part of the street, but then again, we are also prevented from walking on the other side. Two, the division, implemented by the army, is in place to prevent friction between Jews and Arabs, and also for security reasons, in an attempt to decrease possibilities of terror attacks against Jews.
Harry told me that ‘it doesn’t look good.’ I answered that in Israel there are many things that ‘don’t look good,’ but if they save human lives, I don’t care if it looks good or not.
Then Harry did manage to pull a rabbit out of his hat. His question wasn’t rancorous; he was asking according to what he’d been told by our enemy’s agent the day before. He asked if it was true that we had denied Arabs (he called them palestinians) dignity.
That really did stun me. Dignity? Do we deny them dignity?
First I asked him to define that – honestly I don’t remember what he replied.
Then I explained to him that Arabs have access to 97% of Hebron, while Jews have access to 3% of the city. I explained why there weren’t more Jews living in Hebron, due to political restrictions enforced by Defense Minister Ehud Barak. He must authorize all Jewish building or purchases in Hebron. Yesterday it was publicized that Barak is suggesting a 2nd unilateral ‘disengagement’ i.e. expulsion – this time from most of Judea and Samaria. (Expelling the Jews, that is. Any suggestion of expelling Arabs is, of course, racist.) So, obviously, Barak isn’t signing any permits allowing more Jews to live in Hebron.
On the other hand, purchases are very difficult to actualize, as Arabs who sell to Jews are executed. PA law defines real estate deals with Jews as a capital crime.
So who is denying dignity to whom?
Continuing, I explained how the building adjacent to us, Ma’arat HaMachpela, the Tomb of the Patriarchs, the 2nd holiest site to Jews in the world, was off-limits to Jews (and Christians) for 700 years. The Arabs still claim it belongs only to them. (See Karl Vick’s Time Magazine Blog - “It’s a mosque!” says Khaled Osaily, the mayor of Hebron. “You don’t have to be an architect to see it! Will you allow me to pray in a synagogue or a church?”)
Then, I exclaimed, forget Hebron. What about Jerusalem? What about Temple Mount? Why are Jews prevented from saying Psalms at the holiest site in the world? Why are brides arrested on their wedding day because the Waqf guard complains to Israeli police that ‘she was moving her lips?’
So who is stealing whose dignity? Who respects who?
That’s almost where our conversation ended.
Now, as we approach the holy of holies, the most sacred day of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, I think it perhaps suitable to give a few examples of dignity – of respect, for our Creator:
When 20,000 people visit Hebron over two days, worshipping at Machpela, pouring their hearts out in prayer, requesting health and happiness and the continued safety of our State of Israel against all forces seeking to destroy us.
Dignity is when an Israeli court rules that, yes, the purchase of Beit HaShalom in Hebron, for over $1,000,000 was legal, and that Jews have a right to return to that site.
Dignity is when Jews, Arabs, Druze and Christians, can offer holiday greetings one to the other. (Yesterday I received a message from a Druze officer at Machpela wishing me an ‘easy fast’. I’ve received holiday greetings from an Arab Sheik in Hebron, and have reciprocated.)
Dignity is when an Israeli police officer gives a tour of Hebron to his colleagues from other parts of Israel.
Dignity is when ranking IDF officers and police attend Hebron resident’s family celebrations.
Dignity is when Hebron residents host soldiers for Shabbat and holiday meals.
Dignity is when Hebron children distribute apples and honey to security personnel and soldiers in Hebron.
Dignity is when, every Friday, soldiers receive a “Shabbat package” with Torah lessons and ‘goodies’ to munch on.
Dignity is when the Jewish people recognize all the good their G-d has bestowed upon them, and try their best to act, and respond accordingly, thanking Him for His kindness.
Our G-d treats us with dignity – our living here in Israel, in Jerusalem, in Hebron, is one of the ways by which we return the favor, granting dignity upon Him, doing what He wants us to do.
Our neighbors have tried to deny us dignity for thousands of years. We owe them nothing. The world community at large is attempting to deny the Jewish people, as a whole, dignity, by allowing the greatest enemy of our people since Hitler, and perhaps the greatest threat to world peace, to speak at the United Nations on the holy, fast day of Yom Kippur. Achaminajad, speaking at the United Nations, the world’s most representative body, on the Day of Atonement, is the greatest denial of dignity possible, the greatest slap in the face possible, to the Jewish people.
And where was our dignity, while six million were shoveled into ovens seventy years ago? Where was the world’s dignity?
Harry, in answer to your question, we owe no one, but no one, any apologies, and certainly, despite all the above, no one will ever be able to take from us our dignity, as our source is Divine. We live in a sphere of G-d-given holiness, which, as hard as some might try, no one can ever take from us. That is our true dignity.
All photos: David Wilder
I thought about driving up to Migron, last night, this morning.
Many years ago, after moving to Kiryat Arba, while studying in a Torah “Kollel” – study program for married men, I participated in founding the local ‘Chevra Kadisha,’ that being a volunteer organization that prepared deceased people for burial. While looking for others to join in this holy work, one of the Rabbis told me, ‘sometimes, people with experience, won’t agree to participate. After a while, a person can reach a saturation point of dealing with death and dead people. They just don’t want to see it any more.’
Perhaps that explains how I feel about witnessing, and filming, continued expulsions. You can reach a point of whereby you really don’t want to see it again, or be a part of it, if you really don’t have to.
The atmosphere at such events tends to regurgitate itself. Massive security forces, male and female, in uniform – police, border police, the riot squad, IDF, and ‘shabak’ – Israeli intelligence personnel, usually noticeable because they have small earphones tucked into their ears, whispering quietly with their hands cupped, covering their mouths, dressed in suits with a weapon hidden away behind their jackets.
As the troops step down the stairs from the buses that have transported them to the site, they tend to hug each other.
Media people also mob the area, each person looking for a good picture, a unique photo representing the occasion.
And of course, there are the victims, the expellees, the people being thrown out of their homes, sacrifices, not on the altar of justice, rather on the altar of piece, which others, mistakenly, spell ‘peace.’
Additionally, others, usually young people, arriving at the scene to participate, to protest, to be amongst those being displaced.
It’s a familiar scenario, that makes me sick to my stomach.
Breaking down doors, carrying the kids out, a few others on rooftops, awaiting the moment of their eviction.
Families, or what’s left of them, marching as brave warriors, surrendering after a battle lost, some with stoic expressions and, without doubt, expressing confidence that ‘we will return.’ A few crying, a few screaming, and others, shrugging their shoulders, as if saying, what’s there to say?
At Migron the events seem to be being played out as if scripted, directed, and now in production. Even though I’m not there, the community’s execution is being broadcast live, via internet on ynet.
We’ve seen it before.
In Hebron, we’ve experienced it, many too many times. It brings back black memories of Neve Dekalim and Kfar Darom, Homesh, and way back when, Yamit.
Of course, the question on everyone’s mind is, what’s next, who’s next, where will this all end?
It’s so ironic. Watching the three-ring circus live on internet, while reading articles about the Arab who poisoned a family in Ra’nana, while hearing more and more about the Iranian threat to our existence, while Obama’s United States distances itself from Israel, rockets fired from Gaza continue hitting southern Israel and we continue tearing ourselves apart.
It makes no sense.
Actually, I almost feel a little sorry for Netanyahu. It didn’t have to be this way. He wasn’t elected to expel Jews from their homes. Yet he is following in the footsteps of his predecessors.
What happened to them? Begin flipped out, Sharon is still alive, but in hell, and Olmert may soon find himself behind bars. And even if not, the disgrace of a former Prime Minister having to defend himself against major corruption charges in a court of law, that too is a live nightmare.
One small factor Bibi hasn’t taken into consideration: Any leader, especially the Prime Minister of the state of Israel, in order to succeed, needs major ‘Sa’atya d’Shmaya’ – that is, Divine assistance. Such help is necessary all the time, but more than ever when major decisions must be reached. And following those decisions, their implementation. Particularly when people’s lives and the future existence of the state are at risk. And above all, when the eyes of Jews around the world, and through the centuries, past, present and future, bore down at you.
It really isn’t nice to spit in G-d’s face, and then turn around and ask Him to help. Tossing Jews out of their homes in Eretz Yisrael, similar to the way people throw away disposable diapers, is spitting in G-d’s face. It’s saying, ‘we really don’t have a claim to this land, but help us hold on to in anyhow – spit spit spit. ‘
It’s not an omen I can pretend to be happy about.
We are not disposables. Our land is not disposable. Our Torah is not disposable. Neither is our G-d disposable. Our presence here is not temporary.
Bibi, Arik, Ehuds, Shimon, they are the disposables. They spit in G-d’s face.
But G-d knows how to spit back.
The above, seemingly trite words, will come to pass. We will return – to Migron, and to all the other holy places disposables have expelled us from. We are permanent, from time immemorial. And we will stop the spitting at our good L-rd.