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.