Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Beit Ezra in Hebron

Beit Ezra in Hebron
December 17, 2012
Following the Six-Day War in 1967, past residents of the Old City in Jerusalem who had been expelled during the War of Independence in 1948 asked for, and were granted a meeting with then Defense Minister Moshe Dayan. They requested permission to return to their homes and property in the Old City, confiscated and occupied by Jordan. Dayan consented, and, as a result, Jerusalem’s Jewish Quarter today flourishes.
Simultaneously, past Hebron inhabitants, who had been expelled in 1929, and again in 1936, requested a similar meeting with Dayan, in order to return to their homes in the recently liberated city of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs. Dayan refused to meet them.
So I heard from Hebron residents, some of whom no longer alive, years ago.
The story of Hebron’s Jewish property is a reason for heartache and chagrin. Hebron Jews lost most of their assets following expulsion by the British following the 1929 riots. As I was told by a survivor of those riots: “My father wrote to the British High Commissioner and asked why the victims had been punished – why the Jews were expelled after being slaughtered. His answer: ‘I knew you couldn’t continue living together and being that there were more Arabs than Jews it was easier to expel the Jews.’”
The untainted authenticity of Jewish land ownership is Hebron is indisputable. The “Jewish Quarter,” presently known as the Avraham Avinu neighborhood, was originally populated by Karites some 1,000 years ago. This land was purchased from them by Rabbi Malchiel Ashkenazi, himself exiled to Turkey from Spain in 1492. In 1540 he bought that area from the Karites and moved, with a small community, to Hebron. This neighborhood existed until the 1929 riots, massacre and exile.
Five dunam  (5,000 sq. meters)  of land adjacent to this place was purchased by Rabbi Chaim Bajaiyo for the community in 1807 from the Kashkol family in Hebron. This too remained under Jewish hands until 1929. In the early 1960s this property was taken over and occupied by Hebron merchants, who built a retail and wholesale market at the site.
Receipt of water bill paid by Yaakov Ezra
Receipt for water paid by Yaakov Ezra
Yosef Ezra is a ninth generation Hebronite. He and his father, Ya’akov Ezra, were the last Jews to leave Hebron, following the Nov. 29, 1947 UN decision to partition Israel. His father, who worked closely with Arabs, produced cheese and other milk products. He worked in Hebron during the week and spent Shabbat with his family in Jerusalem. Until November, 1947, when Hebron’s Arabs told him not to return to this holy city.
The Ezra property, within the boundaries of these two areas was stolen, according to Yossi Ezra by the Awawi family, who had worked with his father. Then fifteen, Yosef Ezra still remembers this family, who worked for his father, grazing sheep.
Yosef Ezra outside Beit Ezra
Yosef Ezra outside Beit Ezra
Presently, there is no doubt whatsoever that this is Jewish land, and that there are no real, justifiable, legal Arab claims to this property. However, the State Attorney General’s office has decided that Arabs who lived on this land which they stolen from Jews have ‘protected resident status’ and refuse to allow Hebron’s Jewish communityto utilize the property. This, despite a ruling by an Israeli military judicial panel of three judges which concluded that there is a firm legal basis to allow the Hebron Jewish Community to utilize this land.

Military panel visiting in Hebron
Today the State informed the Israeli Supreme Court of their decision to expel the two families living in Beit Ezra. The expulsion is due to occur towards the end of April. That is, following the elections. Bibi Netanyahu isn’t interested in photos and videos of Jews expelled from their homes in Hebron before the elections. It wouldn’t win him any mandates.
The decision also expressed a possibility that the property will be made available to Hebron’s Jewish community, after the families have been expelled.
Mitzpe Shalhevet - before and after
We’ve been through this before. Back in Janurary, 2006 the Israeli government made a similar promise, whereby, following voluntary exit of homes in “Mitzpe Shalhevet,” other families would be allowed back in, with full permission and government permits. This offer was made with the knowledge and consent of the defense and prime ministers. After all the families moved out, then Attorney General Manny Mazuz nixed the deal. We were left with nothing.

Shalhevet Pass HY"D
In January, 1997, when the Hebron Accords, which split Hebron, leaving most of the city in the hands of the Palestinian Authority, were signed and implemented by Bibi Netanyahu, another government decision was passed, calling for, and promising, the continued growth and wellbeing of Hebron’s Jewish community. It’s hard to understand how a Prime Minister, whose actions brought upon this community two and a half years of shooting attacks, murders, and other terror acts, who promised to ensure the expansion of Hebron’s Jewish Community, can allow continued shrinkageof Hebron’s housing and neighborhoods. Beit HaMachpela, Beit HaShalom, now Beit Ezra, not to mention refusal of any permits to plan or build new homes, are not examples of good will, growth, and well-being. To the contrary, they seem to be examples of how to bring about the deletion of Hebron’s Jewish community from the map.
So, what is it with you, Bibi? Perhaps the time has arrived to come clean. Will the property really be returned to us, or is this another political spin, designed to prevent more votes from draining away from the Likud? Let the electorate know exactly where you stand concerning Hebron, before January 22, 2013. For a start, give us back Beit Ezra. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Red Ribbons and Khaki Green Uniforms

Yesterday morning I awoke to a cute headline in the nrg-maariv news site. It read “Hebron Arabs: If Israeli Soldiers Return – We’ll Beat Them Up Again.”

Last week an IDF patrol in Hebron, just past a checkpoint dividing two parts of the city, spotted a uniformed ‘palestinian policeman’ in an area where he shouldn’t have been. While attempting to arrest him they were attacked by an Arab mob. Despite the fact that their lives were in danger, rather than shoot or use hand grenades against the attackers, the soldiers took cover in a butcher store, threw potatoes at the Arabs, and finally ran for their lives.
A similar event occurred a few days later up north, in Shechem. Anonymous IDF commanders, uncomfortable with the situation, explained that the ‘rules of combat’ are very complex and that soldiers are too highly restricted in the measures they may use, even to defend themselves.
Seeing the headline, I mentioned to several of my friends that this Arab chutzpah cannot go unanswered. Arabs, exclaiming that they will ‘beat up’ Jewish-Israeli soldiers, must be answered, in the harshest of terms.
Last night they received an answer.

There is one main road leading from Kiryat Arba into Hebron. At the bottom of the winding, hilly road, is a right turn, to Ma’arat HaMachpela and Hebron’s Jewish community. To the left is a checkpoint, manned by Israeli border police. Last night, at about 7:30, during a routine check, a 17 year old Arab man attacked a border policeman, knocking him to the ground, and then pulled out a pistol, placing it on the fallen man’s temple. A second officer, a border policewoman, present at the site, seeing the events transpiring, loaded her gun and, without hesitating, shot the Arab terrorist three times, killing him.
It later turned out that the Arab’s gun was a fake, toy pistol. However, made out of black metal, it certainly looked like the real thing. The woman border guard did exactly what she had to, and thank G-d for that. A partial response to the Arabs quoted at the beginning of this article. The Arabs play for keeps. But so do we. Seeing Israeli soldiers run from marauding, rioting Arabs is a disgrace. Hearing a policewoman say, “I did what I was taught to do, I was only doing my job,” is a ‘Kiddush HaShem, a sanctification of G-d’s name.
For two thousand years, in exile from our land, Jews had no choice but to run. Today, we must stand strong and tall, as did the Maccabees, 2,300 years ago, thereby bequeathing us Hanukkah.
The holiday of lights, as Hanukkah is called, takes on many expressions and variations. For example: A few days ago we marked the 21st anniversary of the passing of friend and fellow Hebron resident Yona Heiken. Yona was a fascinating man, who I remember well, showing me his original IBM computer, which cost, probably close to 30 years ago, over $10,000. Yona and Malka made Aliyah, that is came to live in Israel, from the US, directly to Hebron. That was quite a move, and Malka has been here ever since. Yona survived a critical injury, being stabbed by an Arab terrorist in the back while in the Kasba. He ran after the terrorist, shooting until he finally hit him, and then, somehow, made his way back to Beit Hadassah, where he collapsed. A real close call. But a few years later he fell to cancer, leaving Malka and their large family here in Hebron.
Every year, at the memorial event, Malka finds interesting people to speak about various subjects. This year, her in-laws provided the evening’s attraction. Avigdor Sharon, among other things, produces wine. He spoke about the process, and brought several different wines to taste. They were very good.
As interesting as he was, his wife, Adi, was, in my opinion, the highlight. She has written several books, including a true story about her mother, who escaped from Romania with siblings, during World War Two. Finally boarding an overcrowded boat to Israel, they made it as far as Haifa, where the British, refusing to allow them into Israel, sent them to Cyprus for a year. At seventeen she finally made it to Israel, fulfilling her dream. Here, she found herself at Kibbutz Yavneh, working as a lookout in a tower, all by herself, night after night. Armed with a World War Two Czech rifle, she was told to watch for Egyptian airplanes trying to invade Israel and get to Tel Aviv. And if she saw a plane? She was to shoot it down.
One night, suddenly, she heard a buzz in the heavens above. She froze, searching the sky. And then, there it was, an Egyptian plane, flying low, above her. What to do? She raised the Czech rifle, pull the trigger, and shot, straight into the plane, which plummeted to the earth. A young refugee woman from Romania shot down an enemy war plane, with a rifle, all by herself! Iron Dome, sixty four years ago. If this isn’t heroism, I don’t know what is.
This is the same heroism displayed by the young border policewoman who shot and killed a terrorist last night in Hebron. This is the legacy of our ancestors, Mattityahu, Yehuda, and all the others, who fought, against all odds, and won.

As I write this, another group of heroes are celebrating these happy days. Hebron’s children are being treated to a Hanukkah play, complete with games, riddles, prizes, and of course, sufganiot, the traditional Hanukkah jelly donut. Seeing these joyous children in Hebron is a realization that the dream which began almost 4,000 years ago here in Hebron, has borne much fruit, which we have observed over the centuries and are privileged to witness here today.

Chodesh tov – Happy New Month, and Hanukkah Sameach – Happy Hanukkah!
All photos: David Wilder

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Get out the candles!

Get out the candles!
Dec. 4, 2012
 The cards seem to be falling, almost as planned. Our Arab neighbors asked the international anti-Israel organization, otherwise known as the United Nations, for recognition in their efforts to delete Israel from the world map. They approached the number one warrior, General Assembly, who consulted with his Defense cabinet, the Security council, which vetoed the idea, realizing the negative consequences. So the General decided to go it alone.  As such, palestine was created by General Assembly and his friends.
The key word in that last sentence is, of course, created. From scratch. Because it never really existed. At least, not as an Arab entity.  So, we’re going back to the days of‘Creation’ when G-d created the heavens, the earth, and of course, now, palestine.
Israel did as expected. The UN’s greatest nemesis declared parts of ‘palestine’ to actually be part of Israel.
Actually, everyone already knew that the four and a half mile area labeled E1 is as much of Israel as is Tel Aviv. The land, on the outskirts of Jerusalem, extending to Ma’aleh Adumim, is as Jewish as Rye bread.  Well, almost everyone. Jodi Rudoren, in the NY Times, labels the area ‘contentious.’  Others call this ‘illegal Israeli settlement.’
Then again, what is considered ‘Israeli settlement’ in ‘conquered’ ‘palestinian’ land? Again, Ms. Rudoren serves as a faithful messenger of world opinion. Writing about ‘East Jerusalem,’ she mentions neighborhoods such as French Hill, Ramot. Also, Har Homa, Givat HaMatos, and Pisgat Zeev.  
Not too long ago, when VP Biden visited Israel, the White House flipped over when it was announced that some 1,500 new apartments would be built in Ramat Shlomo, also classified a ‘settlement.’ The plan was quickly scrapped. Until yesterday.
Of course, anyone who has ever visited Jerusalem knows that these are all normal neighborhoods in Israel’s capitol city. Any thought of ‘withdrawal’ from Ramot or French Hill or Ramat Shlomo is about as far-fetched as whatever your head can come with.
The resulting uproar, from Israel’s front and backyard, was expected. After all, who cares that just north of us, a desperate Arab mass murderer is arming chemical weapons for use on ‘rebels.’ 
But that takes back seat to Jewish imperialism and expansionism. Ambassadors are being recalled. Israeli envoys are being scolded. And Israeli political leftists are decrying Netanyahu’s outrageous move. Ha’aretz newspaper: “Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert says he was dismayed by Israel’s “offending” response to the “extraordinary courage” shown by President Obama’s Administration in their defense of Israel at the United Nations. “I was utterly surprised,” he said.”
Ok, so what’s next? It seems that the whole world is against us. Again. There are those who suggest that Obama and the Europeans will ‘use this’ against our attempts to end Iran’s nuclear threat.
What should Israel do next? Buckle under to world pressure or tell them all to jump in the lake?
In a few days we begin celebrating Hanukkah, the festival of lights.  During the days of the Maccabees, there was tremendous pressure on the Jews to fold to Greek pressure, and assimilate into Hellenistic culture. The Maccabees refused, declaring war on this attempt to spiritually destroy Judaism.  Then too, the few fought the many. And they won. As such, we celebrate Hanukkah, marking eight days with candles lit every evening.  There were many miracles. A tiny drop of pure olive oil lasted for eight days. And the military victory was no less a Divine phenomenon.
As we approach these festive days of wonder, again finding ourselves being oppressed by the ‘Greeks’ of today, once more, we should show our independence.  Every day during Hanukkah, another seed should be planted. For example, the first night, we should be given permits allowing us to move back into Beit HaMachpela in Hebron. The second night, permits should be issued returning the ‘Shalhevet neighborhood’ – the area of the old Arab market, to Hebron’s Jewish community. Etc. Etc.
Not only in Hebron, but throughout Judea and Samaria. And in Jerusalem. Three thousand new apartments should be transformed into 30,000 new apartment buildings. And let’s not forget: Netanyahu should announce plans to rebuild Gush Katif, thereby ending, once and for all, rocket attacks into Israel.
This will put an end to the figment of world imagination, called ‘palestine.’
Everyone will get upset? So what! Almost 2,200 years ago many were upset at Judah Maccabee, his father and brothers. Yet they did what they did. Thank G-d.
And if anyone has any doubts about our Creator’s tangible presence today, as in the days of the Maccabees, just remember that a couple of weeks ago, a ‘giant hand’ was swooping rockets, launched at Israel, out of the sky. What more could we ask for?
Therefore, the present issues are easily solved: do what you’ve gotta do and then just get out the candles!