The Winners and the Losers

It certainly has been a momentous year. As the year ends, we traditionally bless the New Year, saying, "Let's leave this year and all its curses, and welcome the new year with all its blessings." Yet, it seems rather difficult to escape the year's curses.

David Wilder, Hevron

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It certainly has been a momentous year. As the year ends, we traditionally bless the New Year, saying, "Let's leave this year and all its curses, and welcome the new year with all its blessings." Yet, it seems rather difficult to escape the year's curses.

I recently heard a horrific story that, had the facts been slightly different, would have been headline news for a week or so. A group of soldiers were participating in an IEF (Israel Expulsion Forces) course dealing with 'values'. The officer instructing the course approached one of the soldiers, a religious, kippah-wearing Jew, and handed him two closed plastic bags. The soldier was told to open the bags, dump their contents on the floor without looking at them and stamp on them, rubbing them into the floor. The soldier did as he was told.

After a few moments, he looked down at the floor to see what he was stamping on. To his shock, he saw that it was a tallit ? a four-cornered garment with traditional fringes, used as a prayer shawl during Jewish worship services.

Army spokesmen had different excuses: the officer had apologized several times; there wasn't supposed to be a tallit in the bag, rather an Israeli flag, which the soldier was to have seen and not stamped on, explaining why not, etc., etc.

Of course, this news feature received little attention. Why should anyone care if a Jew walks all over a holy garment? After all, the state of Israel allowed its enemies to desecrate holy synagogues following our abandonment of our holy land to Jew-killers.

But can you image the tidal waves in the Israeli and world media had the plastic bag 'accidentally' contained a Koran, and if the instructor had been a 'religious' Jew?

It hasn't been easy preparing for the New Year because many of the preparations aren't very festive. Here in Hebron, we are trying to figure out how to stop the continuing injustices aimed at our Jewish community. It's no great secret that the Israeli Left, backed by international organizations, has targeted Hebron. The Mitzpe Shalhevet neighborhood, formerly the Arab shuk, is in danger of destruction, despite the fact that it is built, 100%, on Jewish property. Tel Hebron, otherwise known as Admot Yishai or Tel Rumeida, is another favorite objective of our adversaries. All sorts of interesting international two-legged creatures can be seen frequenting the area, in an attempt to cause intentional provocations, which can then be used to besmirch the neighborhood's Jewish residents.

A week or so ago, Arabs placed two caravan structures on land belonging to the Hebron ancient cemetery and have plans to build a school there. And we were notified on the eve of the first day of Rosh HaShanah, the Jewish new year - when annually all of Ma'arat HaMachpela is accessible to Jews due to the very large number of worshipers on this holy day - that the Isaac Hall, Ohel Yitzchak, will be closed to Jews, because of the beginning of the Muslim month of Ramadan.

Happy New Year! On the face of it, not an auspicious way to start the year.

This, of course, is only a partial, or 'local' list of problems. The present administration has many more plans for all of Judea and Samaria, as a few of the Dictator's principal advisors spoke of last week. Disengagement, Stage 2 ? expulsion of tens of thousands throughout Judea and Samaria, again, unilaterally, should the 'peace negotiations' reach a 'dead-end'.

It's also not easy to feel good about the new year thinking about thousands of expelled, homeless Jews ? like the families from Elei Sinai, who are living in tents outside Kibbutz Yad Mordechai, and who get an hour a day to shower in a small room "next to the gas station." And the hundreds of families living out of their suitcases in hotels, without work, without homes, and right now, without a clear or happy future.

It all sort of makes you want to cry.

And I'm sure that many of us, you and me, cried standing before G-d in prayer, not knowing why this evil decree was brought upon us, what we could have done to prevent it and what's waiting for us around the corner. It's very, very difficult to understand.

So, we may have to cry, we may have to do a lot of soul searching, we may have to grasp for something to hold on to, to keep from total collapse, but all of this, it's not enough. There's something else we have to do. We must - we have no choice - we must get up, seek out all the energy we still have, look forward, and do everything we can, on just about any and every level you can imagine. We must work for Hebron, we must work for all Eretz Yisrael, we must work for all Am Yisrael, especially here in Israel. It certainly isn't easy, but we cannot get weighed down by the events of the past summer - because that is exactly what our enemies want, be they enemies from within or enemies from without.

It was exactly five years ago when terrorists began shooting at us here in Hebron, shooting into our homes, cars, shooting at us in the streets, everywhere. Those attacks continued for two full years. And what about the people from Gush Katif, who faced mortars, terrorists and missiles for five years? They were offered tens of thousands of dollars to leave, to escape such madness, and they refused. Not only did they want to stay, but they had to be forcibly pulled out of their homes.

In Hebron, too, no one left. Rather, people moved in. We built a new apartment house, we have obtained other housing and our population continues to grow, despite the adversity.

Why? Why such stubbornness, in Hebron and in Gush Katif? Quite simply, this land is ours - it belongs to us. If we leave it, if we abandon it, we know exactly what will happen to it ? and this is what we must try and prevent, as much as we can. If we run away, we are handing our enemies their victory on a silver platter.

So it is, too, with fiends such as Ariel Sharon and Co., who, it seems, have yet to finish what they've started. And if we have anything to say about it, they will be finished long before us. True, we did not succeed in stopping the expulsion and the destruction, and that failure will remain a stain on Jewish history for eternity. But it's not the first stain; in the past, we've had to deal with worse, be it two thousand years ago or sixty years ago. However, even in the most difficult situations, the Jewish people have always pulled through, and so, too, will we today.

The traitors of the past will always be remembered as such, and the traitors of today will always be remembered as such. The heroes of the past will remain heroes for eternity, and the heroes of the present will also remain heroes for eternity. The traitors, those who betrayed their beliefs, their essence, their land, their people, their G-d - they are the real losers, because they have disengaged from themselves, from what they are, or from what they are supposed to be. The heroes are the real winners, because they have remained faithful to themselves, to their G-d, to their people, to their land, to their essence. Nothing, not eviction, not abandonment, not destruction, not even death - nothing can change that.

The ten thousand Jews of Gush Katif and northern Samaria are the real winners; they are the 'people of the year'. And just as they refused to acquiesce, so, too, the rest of us must not rest, we must not fall victim to depression, apathy, or to "What can we do, we're only going to lose anyway."

I've heard of people who want to leave Israel because of the expulsion. Mistake! This is what our enemy wants. I've heard of people, once considering aliyah, who are now reconsidering because of the expulsion. Mistake! This is exactly what our enemy wants. I've heard of people, once activists, who have 'thrown in the towel'. Mistake! This is exactly what our enemy wants.

No one can promise us victory in all our worldly struggles, but we can be assured that, regardless of the seeming outcome, 'we' will always be 'winners' and 'they' will always be losers. For that is the essence of eternal Israel. We will never, ever give up.

Shanah tovah - Happy New Year.