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.
It is true: there is apartheid, discrimination and security biases in Hebron. They are, however, directed not against the Arabs, rather against the Jews This week has been declared, by some of Israel’s enemies, as “Israel Apartheid Week.” I’ve seen some of the material being distributed, and of course, Hebron is granted the dubious honor as one of the best examples of so-called Israeli apartheid, discriminating against Arabs. This is another one of those international fairytales, utilized with very specific goals. The primary aim in using Hebron is the ‘judenreinization’ of the Jewish people’s second holiest city.
Some of the claims being made against Jewish Hebron and the State of Israel:
1) The main road (Rt.60) is only open to Jews. Arabs must use side roads. This is a lie. Rt. 60, from Jerusalem to Hebron, and going south to Beer Sheva, was closed to Arabs during the Oslo War (aka 2nd Intifada) due to numerous ‘drive-by shootings’ and murder of Jews. However, the road was reopened to all traffic, Jewish and Arab, a number of years ago, and so it remains accessible to all. It must be noted that Jewish vehicles are still attacked on an almost daily basis, with Arabs hurling huge rocks at passing cars in various places, such as El-Arrub, Halhul and other areas close to the entrance to Hebron.
2) Access to Kiryat Arba is restricted This is true. Security in Kiryat Arba is very heavy as a result of terror attacks within the community. This week we will mark the seventh anniversary of the murders of Rabbi Eli and Dina Horowitz, who were brutally killed in their Kiryat Arba home by Arab terrorists. Therefore, access is restricted in order to prevent further terror attacks. Arabs have access to the “Jewish zone” of Hebron, called H-2, via checkpoints leading from the H-1, Arab-controlled zone.
3) Concerning accessibility issues:
a. Following signing and implementation of the Hebron accords in January, 1997,Israel maintained security control in about 20% of the city, with 80% being totally under Arab rule. However, administratively, all of Hebron, including the "Jewish zone" remained under Arab - PA control. When the community needed to install water pipes in the roads, Arafat's permission was needed and he refused.
b. Additionally, Jews today have access to about 3% of Hebron, while Arabs have access to 97% of the city. In other words, Arabs can cross back and forth between both sides of Hebron - from H1 to H2 and back. Jews are not allowed in H1. And even in the Jewish side, H2, there are areas off limits to Jews, such as the Kasba, where Jews can visit once a week, on Shabbat, and only with IDF escort. Jewish holy sites, such as the tombs of Otniel ben Knaz and Avner ben Ner are off-limits to Jewish visitors.
c. As for the ‘shuk’ or old Arab market: These buildings were built on Jewish property purchased in 1807 by Rabbi Haim Bajaio, for the Hebron community. (That is accepted even by the Israeli courts.)The market buildings were constructed in the 1960s following the Arabs’ razing of the ancient Jewish Quarter, which had existed there since the middle 1500s. The market was closed for security reasons, over a period of years, and finally in 2001 after Arabs terrorists planted a bomb in a teddy bear between the market and the Avraham Avinu neighborhood. Fortunately soldiers found it before a child did.
d. Concerning King David Street (aka Shuhada Street, the road of the martyrs): This road was open to Arab traffic prior to the Oslo War. It was closed to Arab traffic following numerous terror attacks, including a suicide bomber who exploded and killed two people on this road. The only area of Hebron that is inaccessible to Arabs is a stretch of about a kilometer and a half. A bypass route is accessible. Excepting this, all of Hebron is open to Arabs.
e. Concerning the shops on this road: these were closed by the IDF due the security threat they posed. This too was approved by the Israeli supreme court. They have remained closed do the continued security threat in the city.
4) There is another very significant issue which must be addressed. That is continued Arab building and renovations in Hebron, as compared to Jewish building.
Jewish building is totally disallowed within the Jewish-controlled parts of Hebron. Building permits must be signed by the Defense minister, the Prime Minister and in many cases, also approved by the cabinet or a special cabinet subcommittee. It has been six years since the last building constructed was finished in the H-2, Israeli controlled area of Hebron.
However, Arab building and renovation continues at a breathtaking pace. Construction is funded to the tune of millions of dollars by countries from the European Union, including Spain, Germany, France and others. Sweden has also funneled huges amounts of money into Hebron, and specifically into the H-2 Israeli-controlled area. Arab neighborhoods surrounding Jewish neighborhoods, desolate and isolated for decades, have been taken over by organizations funded by the EU, and are being rebuilt, with the intent to fill them with released Arab terrorists, and PA security personnel. The stated goals of these building projects is, as stated on their web site: Introduction- Paragraph III: (to) counter and limit Israeli settlements inside the Old city by surrounding settlements with inhabited buildings to prevent their horizontal expansion; and to avert the urban interconnection of these settlements by increasing Arab demographic density between them.
The area east of Ma’arat HaMachpela, called the ‘eastern Kasba,’ has been turned into a virtual paradise, with hundreds of Arabs are being moved into these new homes. Arabs are granted numerous incentives, including tax exemptions, free water, and monthly allowances.
The buildings border the only road leading from Hebron to Kiryat Arba and leads to Ma’arat HaMachpela. Their goals are twofold: 1) to cut off the route between Hebron and Kiryat Arba; 2) to cut off Jewish access to Ma’arat HaMachpela.
The area behind the Jewish neighborhoods, called the ‘western Kasba’ has also been renovated, with new homes and parks, including a huge park sponsored and paid for by TIPH, the ‘neutral’ observer organization in Hebron. The ‘palestinian authority’ has opened official offices inside the Kasba, despite this area being under Israeli security control. Israeli officials have stated that these offices are ‘illegal,’ yet nothing has been done to close them.
Presently, other, desolate buildings, also taken over by the PA, are being renovated with a new goal: to create a new neighborhood connecting the two sides of the city from the west, allowing Arabs a ‘bypass route’ to the Israeli checkpoints, thereby allowing unchecked access to the Jewish areas of the city. This too is known to the Israeli authorities, but nothing is being done to stop or prevent continued construction.
Of course, the H-1, Arab-controlled area continues to grow, without any limitations.
There can be only one, inescapable conclusion. It is true: there is apartheid, discrimination and security biases in Hebron. They are, however, directed not against the Arabs, rather against the Jews. Jews have virtually no rights in the city. The Israeli authorities are doing nothing to prevent the use of foreign money to proliferate an enemy Arab population in the Jewish side of the city.
As the situation stands now, we are in the midst of the battle for Hebron.