Gratitude beyond words The Jewish Community of Hebron extends its deepest gratitude to all the thousands and thousands of Jews and gentiles alike, around the world, who have shown overwhelming support for Hebron and the Jewish Community of Hebron. The miracle happened. By the grace of G-d, the People of Israel, having the opportunity to voice its opinion, sent Peres and his government home with a resounding NO - rejecting the OSLO PIECE ACCORDS, rejecting the abandonment of Hebron and Jerusalem. Your support and encouragement, whether by visiting Hebron, by sending letters, by participating in rallies, by praying, or in any other way possible, played an integral role in allowing us to reach this wonderful day. I must add an personal note. I know that I've written it before, but feel no choice but to repeat. This morning, I toured Hebron with visitors from the US. After visiting Ma'arat HaMachpela, we drove up to Tel Rumeida. Our first stop was the ancient Jewish cemetery. I try to take all visitors to the cemetery - it has tremendous significance to the Jewish community - both for past history and the present. There is a set of five graves in the new section: Mordechai Lapid, Shalom Lapid, Raphael Yairi, Nachum Hoss, Yehuda Partush I've taken hundreds of people to the cemetery - Together with the other plots andstories, they all see these graves. Today, knowing that finally, those people directly or indirectly responsible for their deaths have been rejected by a majority of Jews in Israel, I found it very difficult to stand there and look at their graves. Only with a very great effort was I able to explain to the visitors where we were without breaking down in tears. I hope and pray that the needless bloodshed, the needless loss of life, the terror that has plagued us throughout Israel, will come to an end. There are no illusions - those who hated us still hate us. But now, we won't continue to run away. Now, I hope and pray, we will stand strong, stand up for what is rightfully ours, acting as Israelis should, not with shame, but with pride, for our People, our Land, our Religion. No one should ever again be able to speak of "sacrifices for peace." With blessings from the city of the Patriarchs, Expecting to continue to hear only good news,
Friday, May 31, 1996
Tuesday, May 28, 1996
Day of Judgement
May 28, 1996 We have been waiting for tomorrow for four years. Since Israeli TV commentator Haim Yavine uttered one word, at 10:00 pm, almost four years ago - MAHAPACH! Mahapach, meaning reversal - upset, a change in government. Since that instant we have been waiting for the opportunity to turn the tables upside down - to once again hear that magic word:MAHAPACH! So much has happened - too much to begin to enumerate. But I feel an obligation to mention some of those who, four years ago, were here with us, and now, are not: Mordechai and Shalom Lapid, Raphael Yairi, Nachum Hoss, Yehuda Partush, Hava Wacksberg, Sarit Prigal, Ephraim Iubi, Rav Shimon Biran, Rav Ami Ulami, HY"D. The list isn't inclusive - there are many many more - these are only a few I remember from memory. By right, they, along with hundreds of others, should still be here with us today. But they are not. Tomorrow is a day of Judgement - a Day of Awe. It is a day when the Israeli People must make a choice - one of the most, if not the most, important, critical, fateful decisions made by a public body, a Jewish body, ever. Most decisions are made by a small group of people, in the heat of a crisis. Who decides war or peace, who decides life and death? Usually a few leaders, if not only one - who sits alone, pondering the future of his people, weighing the lives of his soldiers, the fate of his county, of the world. Elections may generally be important, but usually, the outcome, in spite of differences between the candidates, is not earthshattering - it doesn't have an immediate effect on the existence of a People, on the future of a Land. Tomorrow, in Israel, without trying to be overly melodramatic, the truth is, that this is exactly what we are facing. Does this mean that if Peres is reelected 'we are done for?' No - of course not. Nothing or nobody has been able to eradicate the Jewish People and nothing or nobody ever will. Israel is eternal. The prospects for the immediate future will not be easy regardless of the results of the election. If Peres wins, he will continue on his chosen path until the bubble bursts - until the Arabs have so much that even he will have to say stop - and by then it will be too late. The resulting war will be barbaric and bloody, but it will have to be fought and won. And if Bibi wins, - we mustn't live under any illusions. The policies of the last four years have left us with problems that will be very difficult to solve. Last night Faruk Ashara, Syrian Foreign Minister, all but announced a declaration of war should Bibi be elected. Arafat's terrorists have been given thousands of weapons, and they will not hesitate to turn them upon us. The nations of the world, led by the United States, will apply pressure which may be close to unbearable, trying to force a Likud government to continue capitulating to Arafat's demands. That may also lead to war. Don't be surprised, even after a Peres defeat, if he attempts to withdraw the IDF from Hebron, completing the 'long-awaited' redeployment in the city. Legally, until a new government is formed, Peres can do whatever he wants, including abandonment of Hebron. Where does this all lead? Is our future all black? Almost all of the reporters who arrive in Hebron ask me the same question: "What will you do if Peres wins?" There is only one reply: Hebron existed before Peres and Netanyahu. Hebron will continue to exist after Peres and Netanyahu. We are staying in Hebron, regardless of who wins the elections. That is our right and our obligation. "And what if... what if... what if..." There are so many hypothetical possibilities, it is impossible to prepare contingency plans for them all. We hope and pray that most all of them will never materialize, that we will never have to worry about them. And if and when IT should happen - we'll worry about it then. We have to do what we know and believe is right, not for us, but for the Jewish People, of past, present and future. That is, of course, a tremendous responsibility. But if we have been so privileged as to be where we are, when we are, we trust in G-d that He will give us the tools to make the right decisions at the right time. Such it is, not only with Hebron, but with all of Israel - the Land and the People. We don't live in easy times. But we, the citizens of the State of Israel, have been given the privilege to participate in the dream of the Jewish People, to be a part of the return to Israel after a 2,000 year exile. We believe with all our hearts that we weren't brought back here only to be thrown out again - and we won't be. How the dice will fall, how it will all work out, is a great unknown - but in the end, it will work out. There may be different directions to go in, there may be easier routes and more difficult ones, but in the end they all lead to the same place. So tomorrow's Day of Judgement isn't a question of survival or destruction - it is rather the road we will take to ensure our survival - whether it will be easier or harder. We have, to some degree, the possiblity to determine our own future. But regardless of the results we will survive - in Hebron, in Jerusalem and in Eretz Yisrael - forever.
Friday, May 10, 1996
Does Murder Pay Off? May 10, 1996 Sixteen years ago I lived in Jerusalem suburb Meveseret Yerushalayim. Lag B'Omer was on Sunday. The preceding Friday night was a normal spring Shabbat evening. Except for the helicopters flying south of us, in Jerusalem, in the area of Hadassah hospital. A friend of mine, taking an after dinner stroll with his wife turned to her and exclaimed, "something happened." One year before, shortly after Pesach, 1979, Rebbetzin Miriam Levinger, along with nine other women and forty children, left Kiryat Arba in the middle of the night for Hebron. Their destination - Beit Hadassah. Beit Hadassah, a beautiful structure in the heart of Hebron had stood empty for fifty years. Originally built in 1893 with funds contributed by Algerian Jews, Beit Hadassah served as a free medical clinic for anyone needing medical care - Jew and Arab alike. The clinic was so popular that in 1920 an additional floor was added. It was then that the well-known facade was constructed. Managed by the Hadassah Organization, Beit Hadassah served the entire Hebron community. Following the 1929 massacre Beit Hadassah turned into a vacant deserted shell, waiting for her children to return home. Even after the return to Hebron in 1968 and the founding of Kiryat Arba in 1971, Beit Hadassah remained barren, uninhabited. But not for long. The father of resettlement in Yesha, Rav Moshe Levinger, along with other Kiryat Arba citizens, decided that that time had come to return home, to return to Hebron. Shortly after Pesach in 1979, a group of 10 women and forty children, led by Rebbetzin Miriam Levinger, moved into Beit Hadassah. Entering the building via its back windows, just above the original 1893 entrance, the group hadn't really expected to succeed. But to their great surprise, no one discovered the clandestine midnight rendevous in Hebron. By first light the group had set up house in Beit Hadassah. They came with provisions for only a few days. The discovery of the Beit Hadassah women took the Begin government by surprise. Not wanting to forcibly evict women and children, Begin placed the building under siege. Surrounded by Israeli soldiers, no one was allowed in and anyone leaving was not allowed to return. Originally Begin planned to starve them out - he wanted to deny them even the basic necessities of food and water. However, after being approached, Begin agreed to allow them food, water and medical supplies. He was convinced after it was pointed out to him that following the 1973 Yom Kippur War, when Israeli forces surrounded the Egyptian Third Army, the enemy army was provided with elementary living supplies. Begin was asked, "If we gave food and water to our enemy, who only days before had killed our soldiers, mustn't we at least provide the same thing to Jewish women and children in Hebron?" The women and children lived in Beit Hadassah for over a year. One of the women, Shoshana Peretz was pregnant. During an hepatitis outbreak in the building, brought on by almost nonexistent sanitary facilities, Shoshana's friends begged her to leave, rather than risk contracting the disease. But Shoshana refused. "If I won't be allowed back in, I wont' leave." As her due date approached, the other women didn't believe their ears. Shoshana planned on giving birth inside Beit Hadassah, rather than go to a hospital. Only after receiving promises that she would be allowed to return to the building, did she agree to give birth in the hospital. The Peretz family named their new daughter Hadassah, and Shoshana returned to Beit Hadassah. Shabbat evening was very special. Yeshiva students, studying at the Hesder Yeshiva in Kiryat Arba prayed in Ma'arat HaMachpela. Following conclusion of the prayer service, the boys would sing and dance from the Ma'ara to Beit Hadassah. They would continue to sing and dance in the street in front of the building, say Shabbat Kiddush for the women, and then return to Kiryat Arba. Friday night - Erev Lag B'Omer 1980. The Yeshiva students sang and danced in front of Beit Hadassah, as they did every Friday night. Suddenly shots rang out. Hand grenades flew through the air. The singing turned into a battle for survival. From the rooftop on the building opposite Beit Hadassah Arab terrorists attacked. Six men were killed: Gershon Klein, Ya'akov Tzimmerman, Hanan Kurthammer and Shmuel Marmelstein - all Kiryat Arba Yeshiva students, Zvi Glatt, from Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav in Jerusalem, and Eli HaZe'ev, from Kiryat Arba. Many others were wounded. That same evening a number of Arabs, responsible for inciting, were deported, including Mayor Mustapha Natshe. The next morning the building from which the attack took place was blown up. The Hadassah women and children were allowed to reunite with their husbands in Hebron. Beit Hadassah became the first Jewish neighborhood in Hebron. But the price for their return was extremely high. That was sixteen years ago - fifty one years after Beit Hadassah's residents had been slaughtered by Hebron's Arabs. Today the Beit Hadassah Complex houses 25 families, a pictorial museum of the history of Hebron and a memorial room for the victims of the 1929 massacre. Tonight I will attend a special Shabbat service in front of Beit Hadassah, a memorial for the six men murdered sixteen years ago. The memorial service is an annual event, but tonight's service has special significance. Last week a reporter asked me if we have learned anything from the Arabs. My immediate reply was, "Yes - we've learned that murder pays off. Arafat the terrorist used murder to reach his goal - he is now accepted by the international community as a legitimate leader of his `people.'" And tonight, as I sit with my children in the street outside Beit Hadassah, listening to Rav Dov Lior and Rav Eliezer Waldman speak of what was, 16 years ago, I will ask myself again, will the Israeli people, in three weeks time, really give murder its victory, will the Rabin- Arafat-Peres triumvirate receive a stamp of approval- will the Israeli electorate justify the murder of the Beit Hadassah Six - along with the killing of so many others since then? That is the question - does cold-blooded, terrorist murder pay off?
Wednesday, May 1, 1996
Hebron-Past, Present and Forever
by David Wilder
NYC Rally Statement
May 1, 1996
Shalom from Hebron.
First, I must thank you for coming this evening to show your
solidarity with the Jewish Community of Hebron. Hebron does not
belong to those of us who live in Hebron-Kiryat Arba. Hebron belongs
to all the Jewish People, thoughout the ages. In spite of the fact
that your are in NY and we are here in Israel, Hebron is as much a
part of you as me.
This morning at 10:00, as we were getting ready to leave for
Jerusalem, Kiryat Arba's ambulance sirens began shrieking. Within a
few minutes the reason was clear. Seventy two year old Nisim Gudaei
was stabbed in the back by an Arab terrorist in Hebron. The
butcher knife was still sticking out of his back when he was taken to
Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem.
Nisim Gudaei, still fighting for his life as I write, is a
brilliant man, a first class Torah scholar, having studied at the
Ponevitch Yeshiva. He was the secretary of the Tel-Aviv Rabbinic
Court, learned and taught in Kiryat Arba's Hesder Yeshiva, speaks
many languages, including fluent Arabic, and it a frequent visitor to
the Arab shuk in Hebron. All the Arabs in the Kasba know Nisim - he
buys from them for years, speaks their language, and is simply, a
very nice person. He cannot be called an extremist, or a problematic
trouble-maker, even among the Arabs.
So why should an Arab choose to stab him in the back? Because he
is a Jew, living in Eretz Yisrael, residing in Kiryat Arba, walking
the streets of Hebron. It is, in the words of a friend of mine, just
like reliving 1929.
We left Kiryat Arba-Hebron to protest the planned
abandonment of Hebron. We then traveled to the Knesset, where a special debate took
place. Reporters asked my, "Why bother - what do you accomplish by
standing here in the hot weather, with all your families - men, women
and children?" My response is quite simple: We cannot just stand by
and watch a 3,700 year old Jewish city be abandoned. It is the
democratic right to protest. We are fulfilling that right. But it is
not only a right, it is an obligation. If someone tried to break into
your home, and then claim that it belongs not to you, but to him,
wouldn't you have an obligation, not only to yourself, but to your
family, to prove him wrong? That is our obligation. Our home is
being taken from us, and our family is the entire Jewish People. We
must not let it happen.
Later in the afternoon we went to the Kotel. where we prayed
before the Master of the Universe, at the holiest site to the Jewish
People. Unfortunately, Temple Mount and the Western Wall are also on
the terrorist's list. If we will succeed in preventing the fall of
Hebron, the chances are good that Jerusalem will remain united. If,
chalila, Hebron should fall, we all know what is next.
Later on we continued to a demonstration in the center of
Jerusalem. We spent an entire day protesting, before the people of
Israel, before the people of the world, before our L-rd in Heaven:
Hebron, the city of Abraham, the lifeblood of the Jewish People must
not be turned over to Arafat.
In 1929 the Arabs massacred us, leaving 67 dead. The British
expelled the remaining survivors. We waited almost 50 years to
return. Is is possible that a Jewish government will continue where
the British left off? No - it cannot be, and we will do all in our
power to prevent it.
Today, this morning, the attempted murder of Nisim Gudaei brought
back shadows of 1929 to haunt us - the Arabs haven't changed. They
will still take any opportunity to try to kill us. It makes no
difference if we are 'their friends' or not.
In a month the Israeli People will go to the polls to make perhaps
the most important decision since the founding of the State. We
will have to decide if we want an Israel with Judaism or without
Judaism, with Hebron or without Hebron, with Jerusalem, or without
Jerusalem. If any of you have Israeli citizenship, do your utmost to
be in Israel on election day. Every vote counts. Everyone must do
what they can - If not now - when?
It would be very easy, after today's events, after the terrorist
attack, after hearing Yossi Sarid promise to 'not only withdraw from
Hebron, but also remove all its Jewish residents', to feel total
despair. However, I conclude, not on a note of despair, but rather on a note of hope,
of optimism. The road before us will not be easy, but we have faith
that we weren't brought back to Israel, after a 2,000 year exile,
only to be exiled again. Thousands of people participated in
today's protests, and there are hundreds of thousands more, all over
Israel, who will not agree to see Hebron fall, at the hands of a
The army offered us, in Hebron, different forms of protection,
most of which resembled ghettoization. We refused. We will not,
under any circumstances, return to a ghetto. We have come back to
Israel, we have come back to Hebron, we have come home, to live as a
free people should live, in their home. Our home is not a ghetto.
Our home is the oldest Jewish city in the world, the roots of the
Jewish People, the beginnings of the Kingdom of Israel - the home of
David Melech Yisrael. The eternity of Hebron, as is the eternity of
Israel, is not a man-made gift - it is Divine. And in spite of the
seeming darkness, the seeming pit we are falling into, we will rise
up, as we have in the past. Eternity is a long time, eternity does
not lie and with the help of G-d, - we will not fail in our mission.
Your solidarity with Hebron, Hebron, coming from the word l'chaber, to join
together, unites us - we are one - going forward for one cause - and
we will succeed.
Thank you again.
I look forward to seeing all of you as our guests in the Jewish
Community of Hebron in the very near future.
With blessings from the city of the Patriarchs,