Self-Hating Horror - Part I

Holding the position I do in Hebron grants me the dubious honor of receiving and reading various works of dribble written about those of us living in the city of Abraham. I find all sorts of garbage on various web sites circulating throughout the internet universe.

David Wilder, Hevron

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Holding the position I do in Hebron grants me the dubious honor of receiving and reading various works of dribble written about those of us living in the city of Abraham. I find all sorts of garbage on various web sites circulating throughout the internet universe.

A few days ago, I received another such article, written by someone named MJ Rosenberg, who is the Director of Policy Analysis for an organization called IPF - Israel Policy Forum. This organization's goal, as published on their web site, is "to support active and sustained American efforts aimed at resolving the conflict between Israel and its Arab neighbors. In doing so, IPF seeks to strengthen Israeli security and to further U.S. foreign policy interests in the Middle East."

Oh boy. Another one of those.

In any case, in an article dated February 11, called "Hebron Horrors", MJ Rosenberg tries to allay the so-called 'success' of the Sharm Summit. It is quite clear who Rosenberg holds responsible for the "issues which produced the violence in the first place." In order to rebut the author's view of "Hebron Horrors", I am going to try and dismantle the article, piece by piece.

And so we begin:

Rosenberg: Hebron is a city considered holy by both Jews and Muslims because of the presence there of the Cave of Machpela, traditionally thought to be the burial place of Abraham, the patriarch of both Judaism and Islam. Predominantly Arab, Jews also lived in the city, adjacent to the tomb, until 1929 when a pogrom launched by Arab fanatics resulted in the murder of 69 Jews and the end of the Jewish presence in the city.

What's missing? Several facts: (1) There was an almost continuous Jewish presence in Hebron for thousands of years; (2) The structure atop Ma'arat HaMachpela was constructed by Herod some 600 years before the birth of Muhammad; (3) The site, despite considered being 'holy' to both Jews and Muslims, was placed off-limits to anyone not Muslim, i.e., Jews and Christians, for 700 years; (3) True, the massacre was launched by fanatics, but was carried out by 'normal, everyday folk,' i.e., the Jews' next door neighbors and friends.

Rosenberg: In 1967, following the Six Day War -- with Israel now in control of the West Bank, including Hebron -- ultra-religious Jewish nationalists pressured the Israeli government to permit Jewish settlers to reclaim, and move into, properties that had belonged to the Jewish community prior to 1929.

The government refused. It arranged for Jewish worship inside the tomb but not for civilian settlement inside the city, which it considered to be both impractical and provocative. Only a tiny group of extremists (many from outside Israel) had any interest in living inside Hebron and ? in the midst of a city of 160,000 Palestinians ? they would need to be defended by hundreds, if not thousands, of soldiers. The settlers moved in anyway, establishing illegal outposts in the heart of Hebron, which have been tolerated by successive Israeli governments for 36 years. Following the Oslo agreements, the Israeli army withdrew from all Palestinian cities except Hebron, where troops remained to defend the settlers. In 1997, the Israeli army withdrew from 80% of Hebron, remaining only in an area labeled H-2 which includes the Cave of Machpela, the Casbah (Arab market) and the Jewish settlements.

1) According to the Encyclopedia Judaica: "According to the 1967 census, conducted by Israel, Hebron had 38,309 inhabitants, all of whom (excepting 106 Christians) were Muslim. Hebron has a smaller percentage of Palestinian Arab refugees than most other places of the West Bank."

2) On June 8, 1967, David Ben-Gurion said, "We now control Jerusalem and that is one of the greatest of events - one of the first things that must be done is build neighborhoods - to immediately settle the Jewish Quarter. If there are empty Arab houses, we'll put Jews in them. The same is true for Hebron - I am sure that with the current mood, the people will go." Ben-Gurion later wrote that "Hebron is a sister city to Jerusalem." Golda Meir said the Shehechiyanu blessing, thanking G-d for allowing us to reach this joyous time.

3) Yigal Allon, then a government minister, encouraged and fully backed Rabbi Moshe Levinger and the plan to reestablish a Jewish community in Hebron. Allon later built Kiryat Arba. "There have always been Jews in Hebron, the cradle of our nation, and they will remain until they are evicted by force," he said.

4) An overwhelming majority of the Jews arriving in Hebron in 1968 (as well as the present population) was and is native Israeli. In May, 1981, the Israeli government, led by Menachem Begin, officially recognized and authorized the renewal of a Jewish community in Hebron. There are no 'illegal outposts' in the center of Hebron, as claimed in the article. Some 400 settlers live in H-2 in the midst of 30,000 Palestinians. Hebron's current population consists of over 800 Jews, including almost 100 families, hundreds of children, and between 250-300 post-high school yeshiva students at Yeshivat Shavei Hevron in Beit Romano. According to statistics received from Israeli security forces, in 1997 there were approximately 100,000 Arabs living in the entire Hebron municipality (which includes Kiryat Arba - another 7,000 Jews) and about 20,000 Arabs in the H-2 Israeli-controlled side of the city. That number has decreased significantly in the past three years.

Rosenberg: Last month, I visited H-2 despite being told by an Israeli friend that it is "the worst place in the West Bank." How so? "The settlers there are religious fanatics and dedicate their lives to terrorizing the Palestinians with the goal of driving them all out. The Palestinians can't fight back because the army won't let them. On top of all that, the settlers hate the soldiers almost as much as they hate the Palestinians because the soldiers try to curb their activities. These soldiers are in a situation where they have to defend fanatics who routinely refer to them as Nazis." But, he added, "so long as the settlers are there, the soldiers must remain as well. Snipers, shooting from the hills, have killed Jews [including a two year old, Shalhevet Pass] and, so the soldiers need to be there, no matter how much they hate it."

This is simply not true. (1) All residents of Hebron are religiously observant. So are many other Jews in Israel and around the world. We are no more 'fanatical' than anyone else. (2) We dedicate our lives to living, attempting to live normal lives in very hostile surroundings. We do not 'dedicate our lives to terrorizing Palestinians.' To the contrary, they dedicate their lives trying to kill us. For two years, we were shot at, day and night. (3) Arab terror in Hebron is a fact of life: hand-grenades are hurled at automobiles; last week, an Arab attempted to kill an Israeli soldier with a knife; an Arab exploded on Hebron's main street, killing a couple from Kiryat Arba; last year, an Arab started shooting at Jewish cars on the road leading to Tel Rumeida, injuring two people. (4) Hebron's Jewish residents do not hate Israeli soldiers. In fact, we are very happy that they are here and we try to make their lives more comfortable while they are serving here, including offering them food, drink and a Shabbat meal. The only time there is friction between Jewish residents and soldiers is when the soldiers are ordered to act as police. Community leaders have repeatedly tried to prevent this, unsuccessfully. There are frequent meetings between the community leadership and local commanding officers. The community holds a party for each unit upon conclusion its service in Hebron. (5) Hebron's Jews do not 'routinely' refer to soldiers as Nazis. (6) A vast majority of soldiers do not 'hate' being in Hebron. Many of them are quite happy serving here.

[Part 1 of 2]