A few days ago one of my sons visited the Chai family in Shavei Shomron. He lived in that community for a number of years and knowing the family wanted to pay a condolence call. At their home he heard the following story, which he later related to me. I've also seen it in print, and it's true.
Twelve years ago a man was involved in a very serious automobile accident, and was determined by the doctors to be clinically dead. However, miracle of miracles, somehow they managed to prevent his death. He eventually woke up, and following a lengthy hospitalization, fully recovered and was sent home.
After his recovery, this man told his family the following: In fact, I was dead, and was sent to the next world. There, I cried before the holy court, telling them that my wife had just given birth to a son, and how could I leave them now, my wife a widow and my son an orphan. I told them that I wanted to learn Torah with my new son. After a while they came back and notified me that my request was accepted. I would be able to return to this world, for twelve years.
That man was Rabbi Meir Chai. Last week, today, he was killed, exactly twelve years to the day of the auto accident, over a decade ago. He was on his way home to the birthday party for the son born to him 12 years before.
Rabbi Chai's father-in-law was in Uman, at the Tomb of Rabbi Nachman from Breslov when the murder occurred. Speaking at the funeral, he told that he'd gone to Uman to try to have the decree annulled, but that he hadn't succeeded. His son-in-law, Rabbi Meir Chai, returned to 'the next world' exactly as he'd been told he would, twelve years earlier.
A light extinguished, peace violated, a life lost December 24, 2009
Many years ago, when my oldest son, now 28, was in his first year of high school, he woke up one morning only to hear that one of his teachers had been murdered the night before in a terrorist attack. He never forgot that teacher, and named his first son in his memory.
An hour ago my youngest son, now in his first year of high school, called us and said that one of the other boys in his class had just been notified that his father was killed in a terrorist attack near his home in the Shomron.
The terror victim, Rabbi Meir Avshalom Chai, 45 years old, father of seven, had been a neighbor of my oldest son, when he lived in that community, Shavei Shomron.
It’s been quite some time since I experienced the sensations I presently feel, but as they return, so do the black memories of years of killing and bloodshed. It’s a horrible feeling, and it’s hard to shake the premonition that ‘it’s starting again.’ But if, as may very well happen, 1,000 terrorists are released for Gilad Shalit in the next few weeks, may G-d have mercy on all of us.
We’ve been through it before, after other terrorist swaps, and it is far from being pleasant. To the contrary, it’s a recipe for major warfare against Jews in Israel, be they in Tel Aviv, Hebron, or Haifa.
I work with many different kinds of groups, and spend hours answering questions about ‘human rights for palestinians’ in Hebron and other places in Israel. What my interrogators rarely discuss is the right of Israelis, of Jews, to live. To live, period! They tend to ignore the Arab terror, or equate it to graffiti, rock-throwing, or security measures implemented to protect Jewish lives, to prevent killing. But the right of Jews to simply live, to raise their families, to watch their kids get married, to play with their grandchildren, that is all mundane, of no significance or importance.
Yesterday a young woman, a Jewish woman from New York, tried to convince me of the supremacy of non-violence. Even someone attacked shouldn’t hit back – all the world’s problems can and should be dealt with and solved passively.
Tell that to my son’s classmate.
It’s difficult for me now even to write. Here I am, sitting at home, enjoying my children and my new grandchildren, knowing that a family has just been destroyed, that those seven kids won’t ever celebrate the joy of a birthday, Bar or Bat Mitzvah, a wedding or any other event, with their father; that this man, taken so abruptly and barbarically, will never have the ‘nachas’ the pleasure, of playing with his grandchildren – only because he was a Jew, living in his land, doing his best for his family, for his people, for his G-d.
I only hope that where he is now, he will stand before the L-rd, praying for his children and his widow, for his people, for his land, that they should be comforted. Meir means to radiate light, AvShalom, means the father of peace, Chai means life. This man radiated light, peace and life. He not only radiated – he taught, as does a Rabbi. Rabbi Meir Avshalom Chai – a light extinguished, a peace violated, a life lost. So sad, so tragic, so unnecessary.
It is our job to ensure that his light is rekindled, that his life never forgotten and that the goals he set for himself, his family and his people, be fulfilled. And so we will. May his memory be a blessing, HaShem Yikom Damo - may G-d avenge his blood.
‘(After the war) …the Jewish leaders strengthened Jerusalem and refused to allow the enemy to raise his head. When the enemy leader saw that the Jews were strong, he feared them and began moving his large army. The Jewish leaders suspected the enemy and also began moving his army too. When the enemy saw the huge Jewish army he decided to act utilizing deception. He sent representatives with kind words, promised not to harm them, and invited them to a meal with him. The Jewish leader believed the deceptive promises, sent his soldiers home, and arrived with little protection. The enemy leader entrapped him, captured him, and after a few days, murdered him and his sons.
This was the tragic end of the Jewish hero who was victorious in war but was slain when he believe the deceptive words of his enemy’.
Who is this tragic Jewish leader, felled by words and promises of peace? Sounds very familiar, no? We’ve been hearing these deceptions for how many years now? This could be written and titled the ‘annals of Oslo.’ But no, this story is slightly older than Oslo, Rabin, Peres, Sharon, Olmert, Livni and the others. The above paragraph is an approximate translation from Dr. Haggi Ben-Artzi’s publication called the Scroll of Hanukkah, based upon the “Books of the Maccabees” The leader, murdered by the Greek Tarifon, was none other than Yonatan, one of the five sons of Mattetayhu, who liberated Beit HaMikdash and Eretz Yisrael from the Greeks. This truly heroic warrior feel for the trick. He believed the call for peace. But after it happened then, well over 2,000 years ago, why do we, Am Yisrael, continue to fall prey to the same exact scenario? The only factors that have changed are the names and the nationality of the enemy. Otherwise, the situation is virtually identical. Yet we continue to send home the soldiers, only to be stabbed in the back.
Yesterday we all read Ehud Olmert’s ‘peace plan, offered to today’s Tarifon, called Abu Mazen or Mahmud Abbas, so-called president of the Palestinian terrorist organization. Thank G-d, just as in Egypt, God hardened Pharoh’s heart, so too, with Abu Mazen, who rejected Olmert’s offer, which included expulsion of tens and tens and more tens of thousands of Jews, and destruction of places such as Hebron, Kiryat Arba and many more communities in Judea and Samaria. There are no words. It is totally unbelievable, incomprehensible.
This week, the week of Hanukkah, the holiday of revealed miracle, we witnessed other such disasters, such as Barak’s frontal attack on religious Judaism (shades of Hellenized Jews). Another example of anti-Jewish, selective law enforcement happened here in Hebron, only two days ago. Kiryat Arba resident Ofer Ochana was detained by police and interrogated because he dared to play Jewish music from loudspeakers atop the Gutnick Center, outside Ma’arat HaMachpela. Following the interrogation he was warned that should he again sound music from the loudspeakers, he would be immediately arrested.
The organization for Human Rights in Yesha, led by Hebron’s Orit Struck, wrote a letter to police officials and others, questioning this action, accusing them of ‘selective law enforcement: “For years Jewish worshipers at the Cave of the Patriarchs have complained about the unreasonable and illegal noise of loudspeakers sounding the Muslim calls to prayer into the area assigned exclusively for Jewish worship, and in the Machpela courtyard. There is no need for this because these areas are not used for Muslim prayer (excepting 10 days a year). Two years ago a professional examination was carried out in order to measure the noise level compared to conventional criteria. The results, delivered to the Hevron DCO reported that ‘if the regulations to prevent hazards (unreasonable noise) from 1990 were applied in this case, the noise levels recorded very highly exceed permissible levels….Your action yesterday can only be defined as selective law enforcement, represents serious denial of freedom of expression and freedom of worship, and only encourages violent reactions. I ask you to explain why this extreme step was taken and, why you do not enforce the law equally, allowing freedom of expression and worship equally to the two religions.” (See full text http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/135075 )
Let’s keep in mind that the building atop the caves of Machpela was built by Herod some 600 years before Muhammad was born, but that makes no difference to a confused Hellenized Israel leadership, who prefer to not to follow in the footsteps of the Maccabees. Such a decree is preposterous.
Then again, there are miracles today, as there were then. Today, the eve of the last night of Hanukkah, 20 year old Tzviya Sariel was released from jail, after being held for over 45 days because she refused to identify herself and cooperate with the ‘authorities’ following expulsion from an ‘illegal settlement’ outside Migron in the Binyamin region. When the judge ordered her release the state appealed to a Municipal court – releasing this little terrorist is unheard of! – but the judge overruled the appeal and tonight, finally, she’ll be able to participate in candle-lighting with her family. A true Hanukkah miracle.
This week in Hebron we witnesses another kind of Jewish hero. Visiting with us was Dmitiry Salita, a 27 year old Russian born Jew, presently living in Brooklyn with his new wife Alona. Last week Salita competed for the World Boxing Association’s welterweight championship. (It was the first match he ever lost.) A Ba’al Tshuva (a Jew returning to observant, orthodox Judaism) at the age of 14, Dmitiry began boxing a year earlier and is today, one of the best in the world. True, it is unusual to find Jewish boxers, especially orthodox ones, but when I asked him about this he said, ‘G-d gives people different talents. This is mine and through boxing I can, in my way, further Israel and Judaism.’ Salita’s boxing trunks are adorned with a Magen David, a star of David. (The interview with Dmitiry Salita can be seen at: http://www.hebron.com/english/article.php?id=605 together with a sparring match here in Hebron.
I’m not sure I’d ever want to be a boxer, or get into the ring with Dmitiry Salita, but seeing a Jew with no fear, willing to get into that ring, leaves me with a feeling of pride and honor.
Hanukkah is a holiday of light and faith. A little light pushes away a lot of darkness. A little faith displaces much doubt. One last miracle. Lately the ‘human rights’ organization, B’tzelem, has requested that a representative from Hebron speak with groups they bring into the city. (That, in and of itself is a miracle!) I spoke with one of those groups not too long ago, for about 25 minutes, answering their questions. One of the women on the group was kind enough to record the conversation and transcribe it. The transcription isn’t 100% accurate, but, relatively speaking, it’s not bad. The last question I was asked dealt with whether or not we, in Hebron, had failed in achieving our goals. My answer, as she transcribed it:
Look, success and failure are very relative. If you’re asking me, do I think we’ve failed? No, I don’t think we’ve failed. The fact that I live here today, as far as I’m concerned is a success. The fact that there are things we haven’t succeeded to do, there are ups and there are downs, we’ve been exiled from Israel for the last 2000 years, Hebron for the last 700 years. It’s very difficult to get everything. There are problems and there are issues we have to deal with, sometimes you’re able to achieve what you want, sometimes it takes long to achieve what you want. I think that most of the goals you’re trying to achieve, you eventually will achieve. I don’t believe that God brought us back after 2000 years to throw us out again.
I know it sounds weird but I think our presence today in Israel everywhere – in Hebron, in Tel Aviv, in Haifa or Be’er Sheba is a miracle, it’s also a miracle, because if anybody here had been behind the fences in Auschwitz in 1944 and someone came and poked you on the shoulder and on one side there’s chimneys and smoke and the other side of that there’s fences, and somebody says ‘you know something, don’t worry about it, everything’s going to be ok, in another 40 years we’re going to have a Jewish state and there are going to be people that come and invade us, and we’re going to win’, then the guy would look at you and say ‘you’re nuts, you’re out of your mind, you need to wake up! This is the fence and we can’t get out and there’s the smoke and that’s it’. And we’re here today. And if that’s not a miracle, nothing is. 1967 was a miracle, 1973 was a larger miracle and – I don’t have time now – but I can give you miracles that happen here in Hebron one after the other after the other. You know, it’s tangible, you can touch it.
Do I think that we have problems? Of course we have problems. There are things we haven’t succeeded, we haven’t succeeded perhaps in explaining ourselves well enough. But in order to be able to express yourself you have to have a form in which to express yourself. We know where the media is, the Israeli media and the world media and that’s one of the ways I ask you also... And I do thank you very much for this opportunity because in most cases groups like this that come in aren’t interested in even hearing what the other side have to say and I think it’s very praiseworthy that despite differences of opinion that are huge there’s a willingness at least to allow people to hear a little bit of another side and I think that’s important and significant and so I thank you for that. But do I think I’ve failed. It’s difficult but whether I call that failure, no. [http://shwaiarabe.blogspot.com/]
Wishing all of you continued light, enabling you to see the miracles that occur all the time, even after Hanukkah is over.
No more music at Ma'arat HaMachpela? December 20/21 2009
For the first time in years - probably as a result of a direct order from the new Commander of the Central Region, it will be forbidden to play Jewish prayer music at the Ma’arat HaMachpela courtyard.
For years, Jewish visitors arriving at the Ma’arat HaMachpela have been greeted by Jewish music, played from loudspeakers atop the Gutnick Center, outside Ma’arat HaMachpela. The lyrics of all the songs are taken from the Jewish liturgy, changing from time to time depending on the time of year: the Ten Days of Repentance, Elul – Selichot, holiday prayer melodies, Shabbat songs and so on.
Yesterday, for the first time in years, these prayer melodies were banned: Ofer Ochana a resident of Kiryat Arba, was summoned by the police, interrogated, and charged with a criminal offense.
Following the investigation he was warned that if he dared to again play music over the speakers - would be arrested immediately. From information we received, this is probably a direct order of the new Commander of the Central region, who also demanded that the police carefully examine the law and find a criminal offense that could be attributed to Ochana. After tedious searches the police discovered several laws relating to noise being publicly broadcast via a business in a residential neighborhood. Ochana, who also directs a store and a banquet hall inside the building, was summoned, interrogated and warned. His speakers were disabled, and the music which delighted the hearts of the many visitors to Hebron, was silenced.
As a result of these baffling measures, the organization Human Rights in Yesha contacted regional police commander Itzik Rachamim, in a letter titled: Selective law enforcement regarding loudspeakers in the vicinity of Ma’arat HaMachpela.
The letter reads as follows:
"For years Jewish worshipers at Ma’arat HaMachpela have complained about the unreasonable and illegal noise of loudspeakers sounding the Muslim calls to prayer into the area assigned exclusively for Jewish worship, and in the Machpela courtyard. There is no need for this because these areas are not used for Muslim prayer (excepting 10 days a year.) Two years ago a professional examination was carried out in to measure the noise level compared to conventional criteria. The results, delivered to the Hebron DCO reported that "if the regulations to prevent hazards (unreasonable noise) from 1990 were applied in this case, the noise levels recorded very highly exceed permissible levels." Despite these official inquiries, nothing was done to stop the daily disturbances which greatly impaired daily Jewish worship at the site. This, despite the fact that the Supreme Court recognized the right of prayer as one the foremost human rights
In light of this, it is very puzzling why Mr. Ofer Ochana is being invested for playing Jewish prayer music from the speakers (with far less intensity than the Muslim prayer calls), from the Gutnick Center, an area allocated for Jewish worship with the specific goal of creating an atmosphere of Jewish worship. Much graver is the threat that he would be arrested immediately if he dared to again play Jewish music in this area while no similar criminal steps were taken towards the Arab muezzin. If the criterion which you utilize to examine the decision whether to conduct a criminal investigation and threaten detention is a suspicion of "breach of peace" (the language of Section 194 (a) of the Penal Code) - then there is enough to push the public Jewish worshipers at the Ma’arat HaMachpela to take steps which will be understood to reveal that their welfare and tranquility have been violated by the muezzin’s call to prayer. Is unadulterated strength the way in which you think law should be enforced? Your actions yesterday can only be defined as selective law enforcement, and represents serious denial of freedom of expression and freedom of worship, and encourages violent reactions. I ask you to explain why this extreme step was taken and, why you do not enforce the law equally, allowing freedom of expression and worship equally to the two religions."
A Copy of this letter was sent to the Minister of Religious Affairs, other ministers and Knesset members.
Ma'arat HaMachpela: Audio levels don't top legal limits
Hebron police today requested that the Environmental Protection Ministry perform noise measurements in the vicinity of Ma'arat HaMachpela, the Tomb of the Patriarchs.
When the ministry inspectors arrived, Ofer Ochana was asked to begin broadcasting music over loudspeakers from the roof of the Gutnick Center in order to perform the tests. It should be remembered that only a few days ago he was warned that he would be immediately arrested should he broadcast the music, defined as 'public noise.'
The examination concluded that the audio levels do not exceed the legal limitations.
On the other hand, the intensity of the sound produced by speakers of the Arab muezzin, also tested by the Environment Ministry, was found to exceed the limits permitted by law.
As a result it is expected that the Hebron police will reach two important decisions:
1. The Arab muezzin should be immediately detained, commencing a criminal investigation against him
2. The Jewish songs will be allowed to continue playing, as has been customary for many years.
Today, Shas MK Rabbi Haim Amsalem sent a letter to Minister of Public Security Yitzhak Aharonovitch on this matter:
MK Amsalem's letter stated:
For years Jews have complained about the unreasonably loud audio sound from the mosque loudspeakers directed straight into the area allocated to Jews at Ma'arat HaMachpela.
Two years ago a professional examination to measure the noise level was carried out, and found that the speakers exceed permissible levels by a very large rate. To this day nothing was done to stop the phenomenon, although the High Court recognized the right of prayer as one the foremost human rights (HCJ 466/06, 10356/02 , 10497/02)].
In light of this, the police action to stop the Jewish prayer melodies, broadcast from speakers of the Gutnick Center, within the Jewish area of the Ma'ara courtyard, thereby enforcing the law only against Jews, is a very serious.
The steps taken by the police against Mr. Ofer Ochana represent selective law enforcement, and is a serious breach of freedom of expression and freedom of worship.
I request that you order the police to immediately annul this unfair decision.