Rosh HaShana Eve. I was downstairs at Beit Hadassah, where I’d moved with my family from Kiryat Arba two years earlier. A friend of mine was examining emergency medical equipment in special lockers. We were killing time, waiting for the selichot services, special penitential prayers recited prior to the New Year, to begin.
I must have been about 11:30, when suddenly shots rang out. In Hebron, nothing can be considered strange or unexpected, but the sound of live ammunition being shot was not an everyday affair. And this gunfire was not sporadic or single shots. It was massive.
As we ran upstairs, the emergency security squad took up positions around the building and in the street. The source of the shooting was from the hills to the north of the building, Harat a’Shech. Clearly the bullets were aimed at us.
I ran up to my home and found my wife and kids crouched in a corner. Almost all the windows in my apartment face the hills from which the shooting was initiated. They didn’t know where to hide. Finally they went downstairs to an ‘underground apartment’ where one of my daughters’ and her husband were then living.
Officers and soldiers, taken by surprise, started making the rounds throughout the building. Upon reaching my apartment, and following a quick look around inside, they asked my permission to set up a temporary base in one of the rooms, clearly overlooking the hills. I agreed, and they remained there for over three weeks.
That was the beginning of what is popularly known as the ‘second intifada.’ I call it the Oslo War.
Working with journalists for years, I had told just about everyone who interviewed me that the inevitable result of the Oslo Accords would be a war. I didn’t know when it would start, or how it would start, but that eventually it would happen. And I was right. Much too unfortunately. For this war cost us hundreds of lives and thousands wounded and maimed, both physically and mentally.
This war continued for almost two and a half years. When Israel, in January of 1997 transferred the hills surrounding the Hebron Jewish Community to Arafat and the PA, Hebron leaders met with then Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, warning him that these hills would be a source of shooting attacks against the community. The Prime Minister responded, “If they shoot one bullet, I’ll send in the tanks.” Of course in September, 2000 Bibi was no longer premier, and it only took two and a half years for Israel to figuratively ‘send in the tanks,’ that is, order the IDF to retake the hills and stop the shooting once and for all.
My office walls are filled with photos of friends killed: Col. Dror Weinberg, commander of the Hebron brigade, Rabbi Eli Horowitz and his wife Dina, ten-month old Shalhevet Pas, my fourth grade daughter’s teacher, Rina Didovsky, twenty-one year old Hebron resident Elazar Leibovitch, and on the bulletin board in front of me, a photograph of Gandhi, Minister Rechavam Ze’evi, that I took on the roof of Beit Hadassah a week and a half prior to his assassination. And that’s only to name a few.
Why did this war begin? PM Ehud Barak had just returned from Camp David, where Arafat refused his offer of ninety percent of Judea and Samaria. Why the refusal? Arafat witnessed Barak’s orders to flee from Southern Lebanon, as a result of continued Israeli casualties there. Arafat decided: ‘if Hizballah can cause Jews to flee by killing them, well, I know how to kills Jews too.’ And so he declared war, and was granted a posthumous victory five years ago when Israel relinquished Gush Katif, expelling almost 10,000 people from their homes, to that same PA. Getting back, in return for our generosity, thousands of missiles rocketed into Israel. Missile attacks which continue to this very day.
This war, the Oslo War, began exactly ten years ago last week, on the eve of the Jewish New Year, the year 2000. Yet Israelis seem to have extremely short memories. Despite the shooting, not only in Hebron but throughout all of Judea and Samaria, despite the drive-by shootings, the suicide attacks, terrorist murder in all parts of Israel, people seem to have forgotten.
And most absurdly, at present we are on the verge of bringing upon ourselves, G-d forbid, a repeat performance, which began a week and a half ago in the Southern Hebron Hills. This time around it’s not Barak, Arafat and Bill. Rather, it’s Bibi, Mahmud, and Obama. The names have changed, but that’s all. The expectations are identical: Israel must concede all of Judea and Samaria, including East Jerusalem and Temple Mount, allowing the ‘return’ of who knows how many Arab ‘refugees’ while in return we get a piece of paper with adorned photos of handshakes on the White House lawn.
The current talks are, sooner or later, destined to fail. No one has any doubts about that. The big question mark is the price we’ll have to pay for our short memories. Ten years ago really wasn’t so long ago. Ask the families of those who fell during the war. It was like yesterday. So I ask, why bring this madness upon ourselves, forceing us to go through it again?