As the weather changes, as winter moves into spring and summer, as the meteorological temperature rises, so too, the geopolitical climate is ascending at a rapid pace.
It wasn't too many weeks ago that rumors of Bibi's intended US speech, declaring intentions to immediately recognize a 'palestinian state' within temporary borders, abounded. Commentators expected such an announcement, perhaps in the Premier's address before Congress in May.
Then disaster struck. The Fogel butchery in Itamar seemed to throw a wrench into the mechanics of Bibi's seemingly well-oiled machinery. Photographs of a baby stabbed in the heart and a father with his throat cut are not conducive to peace plans.
Then, again, Arab terror struck in the heart of Jerusalem, adjacent to the Central Bus station. Again, murder, targeted at the body and soul of every Jew in Israel, only because they are Jews, in Israel. It makes no difference that the one fatality was a non-Jew from England. Terror is terror is terror.
Suddenly Bibi's new 'piece' initiative seemed to get stuck.
Our Arab neighbors, not wanting to get pulled deep into Netanyahu's suggested quicksand, totally rejecting any form of 'temporary statehood,' began pushing for a unilateral declaration of 'palestinian statehood.' Building upon anti-Israel sentiment in South America, several countries announced their recognition of a 'palestinian state' in pre-1967 Judea and Samaria, part of which is presently partially controlled by the 'palestinian authority.' The winds of the new 'state' are quickly transforming into a political tornado, picking up speed and international support. The time and place seem to be September at the United Nations, when the UN will be asked to recognize 'palestine' as a full-fledged member of the world community.
It must be clear without mincing any words. Nothing has changed within the Arab thought process. Abu Mazen has not repented. He still denies the Holocaust. He has not apologized for his role, planning terror attacks against Jews for decades, including his financing of the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre. He continues to honor terrorists. This month his advisor Sabri Saidam, exclaimed that palestinian weapons must be turned towards Israel. Under his auspices, a town square in El-Birah was named in honor of terrorist Dalal Mughrabi, who participated in the 1978 Coast Road massacre. The 'palestinian authority, continuing to incite against Israel and Jews, is nothing less than a PTA – a 'palestinian terror organization.'
This has not prevented UN secretary general Ban from castigating Israel, labeling Israel's presence in Judea and Samaria as 'occupation,' and 'morally, politically, unsustainable.'
As Ban speaks, Arabs are killing Arabs in Libya and Syria, while other Arab tyrants are cranking up their killing machines in order to deflect any attempts to dethrone them. Yet, it is the 'Israeli occupation' that occupies the United Nations leadership.
Israeli politicians and other public figures have started reacting to the September Accords. This morning Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau, a well-known, veteran right-wing leader, suggested that Israel annex parts of Judea and Samaria in reaction to declaration of a 'palestinian state.' Landau isn't the first to make such a declaration. However, Landau's solution is partial and lacking, in that he proclaimed that the 'large settlement blocks within the national consensus' should be made part of sovereign Israel.
And so I ask, what about Hebron?
Actually, there is no doubt in my mind that all of Judea and Samaria are part of Israel, and as such, should be officially annexed. However, if the state of Israel, for whatever reason, prefers to establish an annexation process, declaring statehood in Judea and Samaria little by little, what better a place to begin than Hebron?!
Recently Education minister Saar announced that all Israeli schoolchildren should and would visit Hebron and Ma'arat HaMachpela. In a survey conducted amongst high school teachers, over seventy eight percent supported this decision. As reported on Kol Yisrael radio on March 21, the head of the teacher's union, Ron Erez, commented that "this result proves that educators are not only teaching with an aim of achievement, rather they are also looking at the roots of our state, our education, and deepening those roots, bond them to Eretz Yisrael."
David began his rule in Hebron, and remained here for over seven years, thereby immersing himself, not as an individual, but as King of Israel, in the sanctity of our Patriarchs and Matriarchs, prior to moving up to Jerusalem, the eternal capital of Israel. Following in the footsteps of David, it would seem natural that still today, Hebron is the place to start.
Jewish Hebron is, in the eyes of the world, a seeming question mark. How can Israel dare allow Jews to live in the first Jewish city in Israel? Hebron is, in their opinion, the epitome of Israeli intransigence and foreign occupation.
The time has come to put an end to any such question marks. Hebron, the roots of our people, is, always was, and always will be, a Jewish, Israeli city. The fact that Arabs too live here, so what! That cannot and does not erase the core significance of Hebron, throughout the generations, to the Jewish people.
For seven hundred years Jews were forcibly prevented from accessing building atop the caves of Machpela, the 2ndholiest site in the world. Yet Jews did not forget their roots, yearning for the day when they could return to visit, worship and identify at this sacred monument.
As such, nothing could be more fitting than a declaration of "Hebron First." On the day that the UN declares acceptance of a 'palestinian state' the Knesset should vote to extend full Israeli sovereignty on the city of Hebron, again declaring the Jewish people's allegiance to our age-old heritage. This historic event will open the eyes of the world-at-large, proving to them that we, the Jewish people in the State of Israel, will never, ever, abandon our ancient homeland.
And they will know: Hebron First is only the beginning.
Seven years ago. Friday night. March 7, 2003. Two Arab terrorists cut through a fence on the eastern side of Kiryat Arba. Knowing that the fence emits an electronic signal if touched, they prop the cut-out piece of fence back in place. A few minutes later a security patrol arrives, searches the area, and seeing nothing, leaves. Most probably the signal sent from the fence originated as a result of an animal touching it.
The terrorists remove the cut-out piece of fence and climb through, into Kiryat Arba. The time is about 8:30 PM. Walking down the street they see a Jewish woman and attempt to kill her. She runs and their gun jams. The terrorists see a porch leading into an open apartment across the street and run in. There they find Rabbi Eli and Dina Horowitz in the midst of their Shabbat evening meal. Rabbi Eli screams and is immediately shot to death. Dina flees into a back room but is trapped, with nowhere to go. She too screams. Until the terrorists shoot and kill her too.
Rabbi Eli and Dina Horowitz
The apartment is surrounded and a battle begins The terrorists are finally overcome and eliminated.
Some of the Horowitz' children and grandchildren were supposed to spend that Shabbat with them, but had to cancel. So the death toll was only two. ONLY?!
No, not ONLY. Two, of hundreds and thousands of Jews murdered and maimed, scarred physically and psychologically, for the rest of their lives. Targeted because they are Jews, in Israel. Anywhere in Israel, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, Beer Sheva, Hebron, Beit El, you name it. Jews who were visiting, students, tourists, also blotted out, Jews in Israel. Young, old, children, babies, couples. Living people. Dead.
The account of the Horowitz murders sounds familiar, no? Friday night, breaking into a house, killing Jews.
Similar, but certainly not the same.
Late last Friday night, at 1:45 in the morning, my pager beeped. Actually I didn't hear it, even though it's very close to me, even when I sleep. But Friday night sleep overcame the beeps. But a couple of my kids, still awake in the living room, did hear it and wondered what message might be sent at that hour, on Shabbat night.
The next day we found out: "As a result of terrorists' penetrating the Itamar community in the Shomron (Samaria), and the murder of several Jews, security has requested to be alert and prepared, in case several attacks were planned to occur simultaneously."
I tried not to talk about it too much on Shabbat. There was nothing we could do, and on Shabbat you're not supposed to mourn. But Saturday night, when the full extent of the terror became known, the internal anger, frustration and gloom bubbled over into a gushing rage.
There isn't too much that can be added to whatever has been said, in writing or orally, about the slaughter of the Fogels. Perhaps one of the best pieces was written by Ariel Sharon's son Gilad. It can be viewed here. Earlier yesterday, before reading this article, a journalist suggested that perhaps Abu Mazen really does want peace. I replied with several answers, but started with a simple analogy. Take a big monkey, dress him in an expensive suit, adorn a tie around his neck, and he looks just like you, right. Except that it's still a monkey. Like it or not.
So too it is with our neighbors.
Sharon's article and example is a bit more descriptive than mine.
One primary thought has been sitting on me since the Friday night massacre. Only today do I feel the ability to express it. During times of crisis people get upset if the supposed 'good guys' are exposed as the 'bad guys.' But what can you do? The truth must be told, like it or not.
Of course, those directly responsible for the slaughter on Friday night are the animals who perpetrated that horrific crime. But who stands behind them? Where is the source of incitement, leading to such an inhuman act of barbarity?
The source, in my opinion, are the people, the Israelis, who allowed Jewish police to shoot plastic bullets at other Jews, Jewish civilians, before expelling them from their homes and destroying them a couple of weeks ago. The source of incitement continues with Jews, Jewish leaders, who continue to espouse support for declaration of a 'palestinian state,' planning to announce these intentions within the next couple of months in Washington. The source of incitement leading to the butchering of the Fogel family are Jewish leaders who are willing to again abandon our land and our people, 'returning' all the heavily Arab-populated cities in Judea and Samaria to monkeys dressed up as people.
We've already gone through this, before. Thousands have died and been injured. Why do it again. What has changed? The people are the same, the religion is the same, the mentality is the same and the goals are the same: to wipe a Jewish Israel off the map. And the ends justify the means. Like cutting the throats of babies, and stabbing them in the heart.
Before Olso we warned. The warnings were ignored. Before the Hebron Accords, we warned. The warnings were ignored. Before Gush Katif we warned. The warnings were ignored. We continue to warn. And they continue to ignore. And Jews are shot by Jews; And Jews are expelled from their land by Jews; And Jews continue to be cut to pieces by our 'piece partners' who have nothing to lose. I mean, why not. The United States, the EU, and the Israeli left won't allow the piece process to end, regardless of how many Jews are disposed of along the way.
But the incitement begins at home, with those in positions of power, who target their own people, sending strong signals to our neighbors. A lesson learned quite well: If Jews can do it to Jews, we can do it too.
This time of the year, according to the Jewish calendar, there are four special Sabbaths. This week, the Shabbat prior to the Purim holiday, we call Zachor. In the 25th chapter of Devarim – Deuteronomy, we read:'Remember what Amalek did to you on the way, upon your departure from Egypt'... 'You shall erase the memory of Amalek from beneath the heavens, you shall not forget.'
Amalek, is a nation of evil, the antithesis of good, the antithesis of the Jewish people. Their goal was (is) to eradicate all good from the world, and in the process, to annihilate the Jewish people. Some examples of present day Amaleks are easy to identify: Hitler and his crew; Ahmadinejad and company in Iran. And there are others, too. It's the story of Purim, of Esther and Mordechai, two Jews, facing off against Amalek, against Haman, second only to the King, who intended to finish off the Jewish people. As Hitler, Ahmadinejad, and others.
We are commanded, every day, Zachor. Remember. This Shabbat is a special commandment, prior to Purim, Zachor. Remember.
We didn't have enough to remember? The Hatuel family, Shalhevet, Rabbi Ra'anan, the Diksteins, Elazar Lebovitch, the Horowitz', and so many others? It still wasn't enough. We didn't remember enough. So now, every year, from now on, when we repeat Zachor, prior to Purim, other names will be illuminated in our collective memory: Yoav, Elad, Hadas,Udi, Ruti.
Zachor. Remember. Zachor. Never Forget. Zachor.
If we remember as we should, maybe we'll eventually learn, and act accordingly.
This week has been declared, by some of Israel's enemies, as "Israel Apartheid Week." I've seen some of the material being distributed, and of course, Hebron is granted the dubious honor as one of the best examples of so-called Israeli apartheid, discriminating against Arabs. This is another one of those international fairytales, utilized with very specific goals. The primary aim in using Hebron is the 'judenreinization' of the Jewish people's second holiest city.
Some of the claims being made against Jewish Hebron and the State of Israel:
1)The main road (Rt.60) is only open to Jews. Arabs must use side roads. This is a lie. Rt. 60, from Jerusalem to Hebron, and going south to Beer Sheva, was closed to Arabs during the Oslo War (aka 2nd Intifada) due to numerous 'drive-by shootings' and murder of Jews. However, the road was reopened to all traffic, Jewish and Arab, a number of years ago, and so it remains accessible to all. It must be noted that Jewish vehicles are still attacked on an almost daily basis, with Arabs hurling huge rocks at passing cars in various places, such as El-Arrub, Halhul and other areas close to the entrance to Hebron.
2)Access to Kiryat Arba is restricted This is true. Security in Kiryat Arba is very heavy as a result of terror attacks within the community. This week we will mark the seventh anniversary of the murders of Rabbi Eli and Dina Horowitz, who were brutally killed in their Kiryat Arba home by Arab terrorists. Therefore, access is restricted in order to prevent further terror attacks. Arabs have access to the "Jewish zone" of Hebron, called H-2, via checkpoints leading from the H-1, Arab-controlled zone.
3)Concerning accessibility issues:
a.Following signing and implementation of the Hebron accords in January, 1997, Israel maintained security control in about 20% of the city, with 80% being totally under Arab rule. However, administratively, all of Hebron, including the "Jewish zone" remained under Arab - PA control. When the community needed to install water pipes in the roads, Arafat's permission was needed and he refused.
b.Additionally, Jews today have access to about 3% of Hebron, while Arabs have access to 97% of the city. In other words, Arabs can cross back and forth between both sides of Hebron - from H1 to H2 and back. Jews are not allowed in H1. And even in the Jewish side, H2, there are areas off limits to Jews, such as the Kasba, where Jews can visit once a week, on Shabbat, and only with IDF escort. Jewish holy sites, such as the tombs of Otniel ben Knaz and Avner ben Ner are off-limits to Jewish visitors.
c. As for the 'shuk' or old Arab market: These buildings were built on Jewish property purchased in 1807 by Rabbi Haim Bajaio, for the Hebron community. (That is accepted even by the Israeli courts.)The market buildings were constructed in the 1960s following the Arabs' razing of the ancient Jewish Quarter, which had existed there since the middle 1500s. The market was closed for security reasons, over a period of years, and finally in 2001 after Arabs terrorists planted a bomb in a teddy bear between the market and the Avraham Avinu neighborhood. Fortunately soldiers found it before a child did.
d.Concerning King David Street (aka Shuhada Street, the road of the martyrs): This road was open to Arab traffic prior to the Oslo War. It was closed to Arab traffic following numerous terror attacks, including a suicide bomber who exploded and killed two people on this road. The only area of Hebron that is inaccessible to Arabs is a stretch of about a kilometer and a half. A bypass route is accessible. Excepting this, all of Hebron is open to Arabs.
e.Concerning the shops on this road: these were closed by the IDF due the security threat they posed. This too was approved by the Israeli supreme court. They have remained closed do the continued security threat in the city.
4) There is another very significant issue which must be addressed. That is continued Arab building and renovations in Hebron, as compared to Jewish building.
Jewish building is totally disallowed within the Jewish-controlled parts of Hebron. Building permits must be signed by the Defense minister, the Prime Minister and in many cases, also approved by the cabinet or a special cabinet subcommittee. It has been six years since the last building constructed was finished in the H-2, Israeli controlled area of Hebron.
However, Arab building and renovation continues at a breathtaking pace. Construction is funded to the tune of millions of dollars by countries from the European Union, including Spain, Germany, France and others. Sweden has also funneled huges amounts of money into Hebron, and specifically into the H-2 Israeli-controlled area. Arab neighborhoods surrounding Jewish neighborhoods, desolate and isolated for decades, have been taken over by organizations funded by the EU, and are being rebuilt, with the intent to fill them with released Arab terrorists, and PA security personnel. The stated goals of these building projects is, as stated on their web site: [http://www.hebronrc.org/docs/AR-2008.pdf] Introduction- Paragraph III: (to) counter and limit Israeli settlements inside the Old city by surrounding settlements with inhabited buildings to prevent their horizontal expansion; and to avert the urban interconnection of these settlements by increasing Arab demographic density between them.
The area east of Ma'arat HaMachpela, called the 'eastern Kasba,' has been turned into a virtual paradise, with hundreds of Arabs are being moved into these new homes. Arabs are granted numerous incentives, including tax exemptions, free water, and monthly allowances. The buildings border the only road leading from Hebron to Kiryat Arba and leads to Ma'arat HaMachpela. Their goals are twofold: 1) to cut off the route between Hebron and Kiryat Arba; 2) to cut off Jewish access to Ma'arat HaMachpela.
The area behind the Jewish neighborhoods, called the 'western Kasba' has also been renovated, with new homes and parks, including a huge park sponsored and paid for by TIPH, the 'neutral' observer organization in Hebron. The 'palestinian authority' has opened official offices inside the Kasba, despite this area being under Israeli security control. Israeli officials have stated that these offices are 'illegal,' yet nothing has been done to close them.
Presently, other, desolate buildings, also taken over by the PA, are being renovated with a new goal: to create a new neighborhood connecting the two sides of the city from the west, allowing Arabs a 'bypass route' to the Israeli checkpoints, thereby allowing unchecked access to the Jewish areas of the city. This too is known to the Israeli authorities, but nothing is being done to stop or prevent continued construction.
Of course, the H-1, Arab-controlled area continues to grow, without any limitations.
There can be only one, inescapable conclusion. It is true: there is apartheid, discrimination and security biases in Hebron. They are, however, directed not against the Arabs, rather against the Jews. Jews have virtually no rights in the city. The Israeli authorities are doing nothing to prevent the use of foreign money to proliferate an enemy Arab population in the Jewish side of the city.
As the situation stands now, we are in the midst of the battle for Hebron.
This past Shabbat afternoon, we held a special Sabbath luncheon. It was attended by Hebron executive director Menachem Livni, Mayor Avraham Ben Yosef, Rabbi Simcha Hochbaum, Noam Arnon and myself, and of course with our respective wives. However, the guests of honor were from out-of-town: Hebron Fund president Teddy Pollack and the special guest, Mr. Ari Lieberman, the new director of the Hebron Fund.
Ari Lieberman outside Ma'arat HaMachpela
The Hebron Fund, founded almost 30 years ago, operates out of Brooklyn, New York and is an essential element of Hebron's work in the United States. The Fund serves as the center of Hebron's numerous activities in the States, which focus on educational projects, lecture tours, and fund-raising. Over the years Hebron representatives, through the Hebron Fund, have traveled far and wide across the United States, touching base in many states and cities, including California, Washington, Colorado, Atlanta, Texas, Chicago, Boston, Baltimore, Miami, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and other places as well.
Being based in New York, the Fund has sponsored many an event in the tri-state area, including an annual 'dinner' which continues to grow in popularity, and has, in the past conducted concerts, ferry rides in the Hudson, parlor meetings and Shabbatons. Additionally the Hebron Fund has initiated 'Hebron missions' in Israeli, visiting communities in Judea and Samaria, while focusing, of course, on Hebron. One the most special and unique events of the year is the annual "Chaye Sarah Shabbat" in Hebron, when over 20,000 people gather in this holy city to read, in that week's Torah portion, Abraham's purchase of the Caves of Machpela. A large contingent of Hebron's friends from the US usually arrive in Israel a few days before Shabbat, tour, and then spend that awesome day with multitudes, before leaving on Saturday night.
Of course, the Hebron Fund, in conjunction with the Hebron Jewish community, sponsors fabulous tours of Hebron, usually led by Rabbi Simcha Hochbaum, with a helping hand from Noam Arnon and myself when needed; thereby showing people what Hebron is all about, first-hand. Anybody and everybody attending these tours cannot help but leave Hebron uplifted, having undergone one of the strongest spiritual happenings they could ever hope to experience.
The past Hebron Fund director, Yossi Baumol, worked with the Hebron community for five years, and concluded his work a couple of months ago. Yossi toiled tirelessly on behalf of Hebron, and this is the place to publicly express our gratitude for his dedication to Hebron's Jewish Community. We, of course, wish him the best of luck in all future endeavors.
This week we were privileged to meet the new Fund Director, Ari Lieberman. Having spent a few days with him, I can attest to his wisdom, determination, energy and bubbling enthusiasm. Ari flew in from New York with Fund president Teddy Pollack, and the two men participated in a number of meetings and tours, aimed at welcoming Ari to the team. The highlight of their visit was the special Shabbat meal, when everyone, as part of a 'dvar Torah,' (Torah speech) welcomed Ari in their own words.
The tomb of Jesse and Ruth Rabbi Efrem Goldberg on right - Ari, front center
Yesterday afternoon Ari and I toured with a group from Boca Raton, Florida, not far from Ari's stomping grounds, that being the nearby city of Hollywood. He has a lot going for him. A high-tech executive, with a background full of success, Ari seems exquisitely suitable for his position with the Hebron Fund. However, in my opinion, his most impressive feature is personality. I've met and worked with many many people over the years. You can't always read a person's face the first time you meet. But Ari was an immediate 'like.' And as we continued discussions and spent Shabbat together, I knew that my first impressions were 100% correct. As a matter of fact, those impressions continued to grow. Perhaps the most important characteristic needed for such a position is being a 'people person,' someone whose personality emanates excitement and an overflowing belief in what they're doing. It's a special kind of charisma, and in my book, Ari Lieberman has it. In English, Ari means lion. Ari's roar really isn't scary. To the contrary, it's very inviting. It's a roar for Hebron.
Tonight Ari will be heading back to the US to continue what he's started here in Hebron. We, of course, wish him the best of luck, much 'Si'atya d'Smayia' – that is Divine assistance from above, and most of all, that he should always exude the same love for Hebron and Israel that he radiated here.