Today we marked two tragedies at the Ancient Jewish cemetery in Hebron. Tomorrow will be the third.
The first was a memorial service for Elazar Lebovitch, who was killed on a Friday afternoon, 11 years ago, on the eve of his 21st birthday. He was driving his newlywed friends to Hebron for Shabbat when terrorists shot at his car, killing him. The same terrorists also shot and killed three members of the Dickstein family. A short video from the memorial can be seen (in Hebrew) here.
The events marking this murder include a hike from Hebron into the southern Hebron Hills, to the site of the attack. Later tonight the family is sponsoring a concert of ‘songs Elazar loved.’
Immediately after Elazar’s memorial, a 2nd, short ceremony was conducted for the first victim of the 1929 riots and massacre in Hebron, yeshiva student, Shmuel Rosenhaltz. He was killed by an Arab mob late Friday afternoon on August 23, 1929, while studying at the Yeshiva, exactly 84 years ago today (by the Hebrew date). Ironically, he and Elazar were killed at almost the same time, on the same date, 73 years apart. Also, their graves are adjacent to one another.
Tomorrow will mark eighty four years since that horrid Shabbat day, when another 66 Jews were slaughtered in Hebron, by their Arab neighbors. In late afternoon, a memorial service will be conducted for them, again, at the ancient Jewish cemetery here in Hebron.
When discussing this event with visitors at the Beit Hadassah museum, in the memorial room for these people, I conclude by expressing two thoughts: In June, 1967, when Israel liberated Hebron, we did not conquer and occupy a foreign city; rather, we came back home. And second, we must always be able to protect ourselves. When we leave our security in the hands of others, the results are catastrophic.
It is well known that the day prior to start of the riots, Jews from Jerusalem, belonging to the Haganah, the Jewish defense organization, visited Hebron. Meeting with the city’s Jewish leadership, they offered them weapons and protection, due to the incitement of Haj Amin el Husseini, then the Mufti of Jerusalem. The Hebron Jews refused the weapons, saying that the Arabs would protect them and that weapons would only serve as a provocation for attacks.
As a result, when the rioting began, they had no means of protection, and were tortured and slaughtered without effective defense.
Twenty years ago, Israel signed the Oslo Accords. Since then, over 1,500 Jews have been killed in terror attacks. Israel relinquished Gaza eight years ago, and has since been the target of over 13,000 rocket attacks, sourced from the land we gave them. This past week, rockets have been shot three times into Israel.
This is why we must be able to protect ourselves, as a nation, as a people, as a country, without having to rely on anyone else. Experience has taught us the awful result of such reliance.
However, it seems that at present, I must add a third point to the first two.
As we observe these past events, it is mandatory to take a look into the future. Israel is again on the verge of beginning ‘piece talks’ with our Arab enemies. The demands on Israel, from the Arabs, the Americans, the Europeans, the Israeli left, and just about everyone else in the world, include a retreat, withdrawal and abandonment from almost all of Judea and Samaria, called the ’67 borders.’
Everything goes, including Hebron.
It is impossible, at this time, to know whether these talks will actually begin, and where they will lead. But having already gone through this before, and having had to have live with the results, the very idea of such ‘talks’ is very scary. Why? Because, in this case we are not discussing a ‘heart transplant.’ Rather we’re talking about removing a heart from a living organism and moving it to another body, leaving the first body literally heartless. That’s what will happen should Israel agree, G-d forbid, to chop up our country, giving away major parts of, if not all of, Judea and Samaria, including Hebron, Beit El, Shilo and parts of Jerusalem.
The arguments, on just about all issues, have been made many times before. (Download ‘Breaking the Lies,’ or listen to: David Wilder speaking to J Street Campus/Youth leaders in Hebron, David Wilder answers journalists' questions in Hebron, David Wilder answers questions in Hebron).
But, these talks, coming on the heels of the 1929 massacre anniversary, lead me to another point.
What was Haj Amin el Husseini’s greatest victory in 1929? There were close to 150 Jews killed throughout pre-state Israel, during those few days in August, 1929. But that wasn’t his real success. His triumph was transforming Hebron into a Judenrein city for the first time in almost 1,000 years. The last time Jews hadn’t lived in Hebron was following the Crusader conquest and occupation, between 1100 and 1260. Then Jews were permitted to worship at Machpela, but were forbidden to live in Hebron. Since their return in 1260, following the Mameluke conquest, Jews lived here continuously. Until August 27, 1929. Jews came back in 1931, and but stayed only until spring 1936, when again the British expelled them. Why should they have expelled the Jews?
A man whose family had been saved by Arabs during the riots related to me how his father wrote to the then British High Commissioner, asking why the ‘victims’ were being punished, why were the Jews being expelled?
The answer he received: ‘The Jews and Arabs can’t continue living together and there are simply more Arabs than Jews in Hebron. It’s easier to expel you than to expel them.’
This was Amin el Husseini’s greatest achievement – getting the Jews out of Hebron.
This was, of course, as he saw it, only the beginning. He had plans to annihilate all of Israel’s Jewish population following Rommel’s expected invasion during World War Two. Thankfully, that invasion never transpired.
But for the first time in almost 1,000 years, the city of Abraham was Jewless.
It is said that Amin el Husseini viewed Arafat as his successor. Arafat may be dead, but his ideas and ideals continue, via Abu Mazen, the PA and Hamas.
And now? What’s in store for Hebron? The question must be put directly to the guy at the top, the Prime Minister, Bibi Netanyahu. Which direction is he going in? What will he be willing to sacrifice? Will he too be ready to leave Abraham and Sarah as orphans, following in the footsteps of an evil Haj and an anti-Semitic British High Commissioner? Or rather, walk in the footsteps of Israel’s first Prime Minister, who, in 1970 said, “Hebron is worthy to be Jerusalem's sister.”
Or Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak HaKohen Kook, who said, following the 1929 massacre, “Those who discourage the ones trying to rebuild the Jewish community in Hebron with arguments of political expedience; those who scorn and say, 'What are those wretched Jews doing?'; those who refuse to help build Hebron — they are attacking the very roots of our people. In the future they will need to give account for their actions. If ruffians and hooligans have repaid our kindness with malice, we have only one eternal response: Jewish Hebron will once again be built, in honor and glory!
The inner meaning of Hebron is to draw strength and galvanize ourselves with the power of Netzach Yisrael, Eternal Israel.