Thursday, June 20, 1996

A True Hero

A True HeroJune 20, 1996
Yes, earlier this week, along with many others, I watched
the swearing-in of the new Knesset, and one day later, of
the new ministers. It was a long-awaited moment.
Finally - finally! They were emotional moments.
But, as far as I am concerned, the most exciting
part of the event was not Netanyahu's acceptance speech,
or his taking the oath as prime minister.
Years ago, ten years ago, on February 12, 1986, the
news suddenly broke: Anatoly Sharansky is on his way to
Israel! Sharansky, a name known in every house in
Israel, had spent 12 years in jail. The day after his
marriage, his wife, Avital, was given permission to leave
Russia for Israel. By herself - without her husband.
Several days later, Anatoly was arrested. That was in
1974. Anatoly Sharansky spent most of the next 12 years
in Soviet Prison Camps. His wife spent those years
trying to get him released.
The stories surrounding those years are best
documented in Sharansky's book, "Fear No Evil" published
by Random House in 1988. I won't repeat the episodes
here - you are better off reading them first-hand. But
what I can say is that the heroism portrayed by the
Jewish prisoner in a Soviet Gulag, the faith and
determination of a Jew held captive because, and only
because of his Jewishness and his burning desire to be in
Israel, is a lesson second to none. And in a land where
heroism is no stranger, that is saying a great deal.
I took the bus to the airport, with literally
thousands of others, and waited outside in the cold
winter night in a parking lot at Ben-Gurion airport. The
lot had been turned into a big outdoors TV studio. Huge
television screens faces the crowd. A stage with some
chairs and a podium waited for the guest of honor to
appear.
The Israel evening news began. We all watched
breathlessly as anchorman Haim Yavine narrated the day's
events, beginning with the "spy-exchange" in Germany,
seeing Anatoly Sharansky walk across the bridge, from the
East German Hell, from the hands of the Soviet monster,
to the other side of darkness. There, greeted by the US
ambassador to West Germany, he was hustled into a car and
taken to the airport. Only later did we learn that while
walking across the bridge he had to hold his pants up for
lack of a belt.
Two plane rides later he lands at Ben Gurion
airport:
" I walk fast. A corridor, elevator, corridor. Faces
appear and disappear. "Thank G-d", they say, "Shalom,
shalom." A young man with a kippa, bearded, smiles at
me. "Shalom," and points to a door.
I burst into the room, running - but it is empty. I
turn around - Avital is sitting in the corner, a kerchief
on her head, in a dark suit. She whispers something, but
I can't hear. I walk towards her, one step, two, three.
She stands. Her lips are shaking and her eyes filled
with tears. Yes, it is her, really her my Natache - the
same girl that I promised, 12 years ago, at the airport
in Moscow, that our separation would be short. In a
desperate effort to swallow the huge lump in my throat,
strangling me, and trying to smile away the tears on my
face, I said in Hebrew: Excuse me for being a little
late."
Met by then Prime Minister Peres and Foreign
Minister Yitzhak Shamir, Sharansky asks to be taken to
the Kotel immediately. The report ends, saying that he
is already on his way to Jerusalem.
The crowd groans collectively. We had all gathered
to greet Sharansky, and he had already left the airport.
Then suddenly, the lights went on, Peres and Shamir
appear on the stage, and then, THEY arrive - HE arrives.
Holding hands, walking together, Natan and Avital, once
Anatoly and Natache, appear together. The crowd cheers
and cheers and cheers.
There were some speeches, but what I will never
forget was Natan Sharansky standing before the crowd of
thousands, having been released from jail only hours
before, speaking in Hebrew, saying,
"When I was in prison, alone, I would read from by Book
of Psalms, and repeat over and over,
`Heni Ma Tov U'MaNayim, Shevet Achim Gam Yachad - How
nice and pleasant it is, all of us, brothers and sisters,
sitting together.'
The entire crowd began singing the Hebrew words to
the traditional melody, as the Sharanskys left for
Jerusalem, for their new life together in the Land of
Israel.
I remember speaking on a late-night Thursday call-in
radio show, and talking about the importance of
Sharansky's aliyah to Israel, the symbolism, the heroism
he represents, the spiritual uplifting of the whole
country, seeing this human, this Jew, fight, against all
odds, the Soviet Union, and win. It was unbelievable -
and it happened.
And earlier this week, in the Knesset, Knesset
Yisrael, this same Natan Sharansky, took the oath of a
Member of Knesset, and the next day, as Minister of
Commerce and Industry, leading a party of 7 MK's. Seeing
this same man, having sat in jail for so many years, who
had fought so hard for his basic human rights, and having
been victorious, seeing him take such high public office
in the Land of Israel -this, for me, was an emotional
high. Natan Sharansky, in the 14th Knesset, is an
example of the strength of human will, of faith and
determination, that eventually, even with all the
hardships, can and will overcome. He incorporates in
himself a microcosm of the history of Israel.
Natan Sharansky - thank you for being a living
example to the Jewish People.

Friday, June 14, 1996

The Aftermath

The AftermathJune 14, 1996

It has been a very difficult week. Here, the Hebron region, we tend to lose
people in twos. The Lapids, Raphael Yairi and Margolit Shochat, Nachum Hoss and
Yehuda Partush, and now the Ungers - Yaron and Efrat - HY"D.

Yaron and Efrat were not, ironically, the first Hebron Ungers to be murdered.
During the 1929 massacre Shlomo and Nechama Unger were killed. They left two
small children, a boy and a girl. Those two children are still alive. One of
their grandchildren learns in Yeshivat Shavei Hebron, here in the City of the
Patriarchs.

    Yesterday, when Prime Minister Elect Benyamin Netanyahu made a condolence call
to the parents of Efrat - the Dasbergs, in Gush Etzion, the bereaved family had
two requests: not to withdraw from Hebron and to build two new Jewish
neighborhoods in Kiryat Arba-Hebron, named after the couple.

    Netanyahu and his wife Sara later said that they intended to encourage Efrat's
family, but they found themselves strengthened from the visit.

    What happens after a horror such as this? My son's class, together will all
the Yeshiva junior high school found themselves in a quandary. Yaron was in
charge of the end-of-year graduation celebrations. Should there be a party or
not? (You might recall that all Purim celebrations were cancelled this year
following the bus blasts in Jerusalem.) The children sat together with the
faculty and decided to have a celebration, but to change some of the content.
When Elazar brought home the invitation this afternoon, the first event listed
was a memorial to the slain teacher and his wife.

    My younger son, finishing fourth grade, is having an end-of-year party on
Sunday night. Of course, I will attend. But I will miss the public memorial
taking place at the same time at the Kiryat Arba Sports Center.

    In short, such tragic murders have a way of effecting all people's lives. It
is very sad.

    How do we keep going? We do just that - life goes on. As with the junior
high school decision, the celebration will take place. It will be subdued,
there is no doubt, but the most fitting way to honor the memory of Yaron and
Efrat is only to keep going. The terrorist's goal is to disrupt life, and
eventually destroy it - to make life so difficult that we get up and leave.
But that, we will not do, under any circumstances. That is what the killers
don't understand.

    So even though this Shabbat isn't like last week, the joy over the election
results has been replaced by grief, it is still Shabbat. The loss of two
precious people hurts, hurts very much - but we will not allow their deaths to
have been in vain. They lived their beliefs to the fullest, and we too will
continue. In spite of everything.

Thursday, June 13, 1996

First Fruits


First Fruits
June 13, 1996                                                                                                                               

The holiday of Shavouth honors the anniversary of the giving of the Torah to Am Yisrael. However, in
the Torah, this holiday is not referred to as such; rather, it is referred to as the holiday of the first fruits. 
Thousands of years ago Jews living in Eretz Yisrael would parade to Jerusalem, celebrating the renewed
growth of the first fruits of the year.  Why should we, in the 20th century, continue to celebrate this
holiday?
     There are many kinds of fruits.  There is fruit that grows on trees, fruit that nourishes our bodies. 
However, there are other kinds of fruit.  There is "the fruit of our stomach, ", i.e., our children, a part of
ourselves, our continuance.  There is "the fruit of our labor" - the results of our doings, our work.  There
is almost always something special about the "first" - be it the "firstborn" or the "first dollar" earned in the
a new business.  
     The first fruit of the Jewish People is the Patriarch Abraham. The first fruit in the Land of Israel
is the city of Hebron.  Hebron, representing the roots of the Jewish People in the Land of Israel, has
nourished the spirit of the Am Yisrael throughout the centuries.  But Hebron, the first capital of King
David, is not only the roots, it is also the fruit.  For Hebron today, the Hebron of 50 Jewish families living
amidst 80,000 Arabs,  is the result of the yearnings of generations.
     One of the major landmarks in Hebron is the tomb of Ruth and Jessie at Tel Rumeda.  Ruth, the
great-grandmother of David, King of Israel and grandmother to Jessie, David's father, also represents the
first fruit - the desire to be a part of Am Yisrael in Eretz Yisrael.  On the holiday of Shavout Jews from
Hebron-Kiryat Arba gather at this ancient site, the original Hebron, and read Megilat Ruth, the story of
a young woman who realized the holiness of Israel and joined the People of Israel of her own free choice. 
The result of her decision was the eternal Kingdom of David - "David Melech Yisrael - Chai v'kiam" -
David, King of Israel, lives through eternity.  David began his reign in Hebron, where he absorbed the
strength and sanctity of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs, preparing him to continue onward to Jerusalem,
the eternal capital of Israel.
     Hebron today is a continuation of the original Hebron, marking the first settlement in Judea and
Samaria after the six-day war, and the springboard for the continued building and settlement in these
areas.  Hebron still represents the first fruit - viewed as a pioneer, to be the first, to set the example.  The
residents of the Jewish Community of Hebron, together with the citizens of Kiryat Arba are doing their
best to fulfill this mission, the roots of which are thousands of years old.  We too, are the first fruits of the
return of Am Yisrael to Eretz Yisrael after 2,000 years of exile.  We pray for the strength, both physical
and spiritual, to be worthy of this honor and responsibility.  It is from Hebron that we will continue
forward to a united Jerusalem, forever.
Happy Shavouth.

Monday, June 10, 1996

A Legacy

A LegacyJune 10, 1996

This morning at 6:00 am I woke up my 15-year old
son, Elazar, for school. At 6:25 he heard on the radio
that his Bible teacher, Yaron Unger, was killed in a
terrorist attack. When Elazar went to sleep
last night, Yaron Unger was still alive. This afternoon
he, together with all his classmates and all of Kiryat
Arba, attended the funeral of Yaron and Efrat (Effi)
Unger at Gush Etziyon.

TWO - two people - young, idealistic, full of
energy, full of love of life, love of Torah, love of
Israel. The Unger family included two children, Dvir,
aged two and Ishai, aged seven months. Ishai was in the
back seat of the car when it was shot at. During the
funeral it was said that Dvir cried all last night,
asking for his father. Effi Unger was pregnant, just
concluding her second month.

It is always difficult to go to a funeral, and more
difficult when the deceased is a victim of senseless
terror. But to stand by the fresh graves of two people,
husband and wife, with so much yet to accomplish, leaving
two orphans - there are no words.

Almost all cried, some wailed, others stood in the
burning sun, stunned, numb. This isn't the first time,
and unfortunately, probably won't be the last. In spite
of the hope somewhere deep down inside me that I'd be
able to stop writing these articles, stop granting
endless interviews to the news media, "no, we don't want
to take revenge - our security is in the hands of the
IDF," in spite of the hope, deep down I knew - we all
knew. I suppose that's what I meant when I said and
wrote that "we don't have any illusions."

But this time it was a little different - a little,
a lot. The Ungers weren't murdered outside Kiryat Arba,
or in Hebron. They were killed near Beit Shemesh, inside
the `Green Line,' inside `Israel proper.' Past terrorist
attacks of this kind, where an automobile is shot at by a
second vehicle passing the victims at high speed, cutting
them off, shooting at them, and then escaping, took place
only in Yesha. Tens of people have been killed and
wounded in such attacks. But this has never happened
outside of Yesha. The terrorists who perpetrated
yesterday's murder probably escaped to Bethlehem or
Hebron. The exact location isn't clear. But wherever
they went, they have where to hide.

So what are we to do? Not long ago I wrote that
there will no longer be any `sacrifices for peace.' And
the Ungers are not sacrifices for peace - they are
victims of War. One of the major obstacles to a real
peace over the last four years was the constant running
away - the refusal to accept the reality as it really was
- to realize the status of war. Actually the problem
didn't begin four years ago - it began with the
commencement of the Intifada, close to ten years ago. At
that time the late Yitzhak Rabin was Defense Minister.

From then on, literally to this day, the declared war on
Jews in Israel by Arabs was totally ignored. A war can
never be won when it is entirely defensive. Defense may
stop an enemy attack, but it won't lead to victory. Only
initiative leads to victory, and that demands a knowledge
that war is being fought - if you don't know you're
fighting a war, you never take any initiative. That's
the way it's been here for years. As a result, there is
no moral in the army, soldiers are afraid to fight and
officers fear Commissions of Inquiry.

Presently the Arabs are holding a gun to our
collective head. As has been reported over the last
week, we are being told, point blank: "If we don't
receive what we want, the intifada will return."
Violence and terrorism are the name of the game. Arafat
is ready to declare his palestinian state with Jerusalem
as its capital.

This does not sound like a peace-loving people. One
does not negotiate with a gun to ones head. Never.
Those who declare war must know, and will know, that we
will fight back. We don't want to fight - we don't crave
bloodshed. But if they continue to attack us, we will
not stand idly by, as the exiting government has done for
the past four years. The Arabs expected to receive all
of Israel on a silver platter, and they expected to be
able to carve us up, as part of the process. The new
government, under Benyamin Netanyahu, must not and will
not allow this to happen.

This morning we lost an additional five soldiers in
Lebanon. Together with the loss of Yaron and Efrat,
today has been a very difficult day. And the near future
may not be much easier. It is very possible that as Bibi
takes office Katusha rockets will be falling on our
northern border and Arafat will be, effectively,
declaring war throughout Judea, Samaria and Gazza. Bibi
and the Israeli people aren't going to have an easy time
of it.

Tonight I asked my son to show me the last subject
he studied with Yaron Unger. He opened his Bible to the
Book of Ezra, Chapter 10, verse 4. This was the last
verse Yaron taught the class:
"Arise, for it is your task: we also will be with you: be
of good courage and do it."

Thas is Yaron and Efrat Unger's legacy. Let us not fail them.

Friday, June 7, 1996

Interim - Where Do We Go From Here

Hebron-Past, Present and Forever
by David Wilder
Interim - Where Do We Go From Here
June 7, 1996

We have had all of a week to start getting used to the MaHapach - the fall of
Labor and the rise of Bibi, and the rumor mills are working full time. "Arik is
out" ... "Redeployment in Hebron, in spite of everything." There are the big
two Ariel Sharon and Hebron. And I don't believe either one.

Bibi isn't stupid. You don't get elected Prime Minister by doing dumb
things. Bibi knows exactly why he was elected - he knows what the Israeli
people want. And he knows that in another four years he will face a reelection
campaign - and four years has a way of creeping up on you. That was Labor's
mistake - (at least, one of many). They thought that the four years would never
end. But, thank G-d, they did.

So, after having worked so hard to get Bibi elected, now we have to give him
a little credit and a little time. Decisions about an issue as important and as
sensitive as Hebron aren't decided overnight. They also aren't decided without
a Defense Minister, a Foreign Minister, and a government.

We shouldn't fool ourselves and expect that everything Bibi does will be 100%
agreeable with us. I'll be a little surprised if he calls us ands asks us what
we think he should do. After all, we elected him to do that work - it's his
headache. I have no doubt that he will not redeploy Israeli forces in Hebron -
he will not give the city to "palestinian soldiers." He will initiate a policy
of expansion and development throughout Israel, including Hebron.

He also will not forget Arik Sharon and his centrality in the election
victory. A few words about Arik - Hebron has many friends, but none like Arik
Sharon. He doesn't only talk - he does. He is a real bulldozer. He is
personally responsible for literally hundreds of thousands of dollars that have
reached Hebron's institutions. He is a real doer. And he deserves all the
credit for it. He backed out of the Likud race for Prime Minister, in spite of
his personal goals, because he looks first at the good of Israel, and not at his
own desires. He brought together David Levi and Bibi - (almost a big a miracle
as the election results), and unified them with Raful. Had that not been done,
there would have been four candidates for Prime Minister: Peres, Bibi, Raful and
David Levi. Had that happened, at best, today we would be facing a runoff
election.

Arik convinced the religious parties and the "Haradim" to back the Likud and
Bibi, and to vote. That too, was no small feat.
And have not doubt - if I know it, so does Bibi. He won't leave Arik Sharon
out in the cold. So far he hasn't made any public statements. We have to give
him a little time. Let's wait for the results before jumping to conclusions.


Where do we go from here? The "we" in the question should be capitalized -
"WE". - All of us - not just in Hebron, but all over the country. There is
little doubt that there are tremendous political differences between two halves
of Israel's citizens. That has been clear since the 1980's, when the first
national unity governments were formed. But the last four years have witnessed
a polarization that could tear the country apart. The fact that the 'enemy' was
turned into the friend, and the 'brother' into the enemy is a symptom of a
greater illness. The animosity generated between 'left' and 'right' could tear
the country apart. So, how do we solve the problem?

The answer doesn't depend on compromising values. It is, rather, a question
of defining values, and setting priorities. The most important value known in
Judaism is UNITY. (For those of you who read Hebrew, see Em HaBanim Smacha by
Rav Yisachar Shlomo Teichtel HY"D - especially the last chapter, called "Unity
and Shalom - The Rectification of Israel.) There is no greater strength in
Israel than Unity. So how - how do we bridge the gaps that seemingly divide two
segments of the population?

In short, there are two stages: short-term and long-term. First, we must all
reach agreement that we cannot ignore each other and that we cannot and must not
relate to each other as separate peoples. "Settlers" are not subhuman
extremists, just as the far-left "Meretz" supporters are not monsters. There
must be a mutual acceptance that allows us to disagree, without totally
alienating each other. We must accept the legitimacy of all others to exist.
The past four years have seen an attempt to dehumanize and delegitimize the
Israeli 'right.' Not all 'right-wing' activites were 'purely' motivated. We
must accept the fact that there are different philosophies of life, that we must
all live with.

How then, can we continue implementing our policies? First of all, we don't
have to trample the 'left.' We don't have to make decisions and 'shove them
down their throats.' Not everything has to be done tomorrow. There will be
changes in policy, as dictated by the results of the elections. But Bibi
doesn't have to, and shouldn't implement these changes the way Rabin and Peres
did.

A in-depth discussion of values and priorities is perhaps the topic of a
separate article. But the overlying goal of whatever is done must be to keep
the peace within the family - as Bibi said - first there must be peace between
the Jews. If there isn't peace among ourselves, we'll never reach and maintain
a true peace with our neighbors.

If we are aware of this goal, and make efforts to achieve it, we will, with the
help of G-d, succeed.

Saturday, June 1, 1996

If I Forget Thee, Hebron...


     What will happen if Hebron is abandoned and relinquished to Arafat?  How will it affect us here in Israel?  The resulting catastrophe will be two-sided. First, there is the security issue.  Hebron is well known to be major pillar of Hamas terrorism.  Hamas has promised to continue terrorist attacks against Israelis and Jews throughout the world.  They were responsible for bus bombings in Jerusalem and the suicide attack in Tel Aviv.  Most Hebron Arabs refused to participate in the PNC elections last January because of Hamas pressure and threats.      Hamas terrorism, of course, threatens Jews living in, and visiting Hebron and Kiryat Arba.  However, the real danger is not in Hebron.  It is in Jerusalem, Tel- Aviv and other Israeli cities.  Hebron will become a breeding ground, a nest of Hamas terrorists.  The attacks will be planned in Hebron, and the city will serve as a refuge following perpetration.      National Religious Party MK Hanan Porat quoted a high-ranking police official, who spoke of the planned redeployment in Hebron.  He said, "I fear the results of an IDF withdrawal from Hebron.  We have lists of hundreds of Hamas supporters living in Hebron who have signed written statements, agreeing to commit suicide attacks throughout Israel.  As long as we are in Hebron, we have some control over them.  Once we leave, it will be that much more difficult to prevent them from carrying out their missions."      Physical security is only one side of the problem. The  other side, is, perhaps, more dangerous.  Hebron was the first Jewish City in the Land of Israel.  The Tombs of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs, Avraham, Yitzhak, Ya'akov, Sarah, Rivka, and Lea, located in the Cave of Machpela, is the second holiest site in the world for the Jewish People.  The Kingdom of Israel began in Hebron. King David ruled here for over seven years before moving the capital to Jerusalem.  If Jerusalem is characterized as the heart of the Jewish People, then Hebron can only be  described as the roots of the Jewish People.      Jews lived continuously in Hebron for thousands of years.  Jews exiled from Spain settled the famous Jewish Quarter in 1540.  Famous Rabbis and scholars made Hebron their home.  Until 1929.  Until the horrid massacre in August left 67 dead.  The survivors were exiled from the city.  The age-old Jewish Community of Hebron came to an abrupt end.      We came back to Hebron in 1967 as a result of the Six Day War.  We founded the city of Kiryat Arba and resettled the Jewish Quarter in Hebron.  Hundreds of thousands of Jews from all over the world arrive in Hebron, praying at Ma'arat HaMachpela.  What will happen to the Jewish People if they cut off their roots?  How can we conceive of Jewish education in the State of Israel following abandonment of the City of the Patriarchs.  What will we tell our children and our grandchildren when they ask us, "Why can't we visit the Tombs of the Patriarchs in Hebron?  How will we answer when they ask, "How could a Jewish government withdraw from the city of Abraham?      The spiritual dilemma caused by abandonment of Hebron will be almost beyond rectification. When you chop up the roots of a tree, the branches dry up and eventually die.  When you cut off the roots of a nation, the results may be cataclysmic.      Hebron, City of the Patriarchs, must never be abandoned.  The roots of the Jewish People must not be allowed to wither up. Hebron is a Jewish city which must remain in Jewish hands forever