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November 20, 2008: Lunacy

November 20, 2008

It seems fairly pervasive. And I’ll provide just two examples here, both touching on issues I’ve raised in the last day or two:

In response to increased launching of rockets from Gaza, Defense Minister Barak placed a closure on Gaza several days ago. Barak, however, has now received an official IDF assessment saying that the closures are not hurting Hamas at all, because it is using the dozens of tunnels under the Philadelphi Corridor to bring in whatever they wish (other than fuel).

Yet in spite of the fact that what is being done is not proving effective, the closures will remain in effect. Explained a ministry of defense official:

“We cannot allow the Palestinians to fire rockets into our cities without a response.”

This really inspires confidence that our cities are well defended, does it not?

To understand this statement, however, you must read the subtext: We don’t want to do a major military operation into Gaza, but if we do nothing we’ll be pressured in that direction. And so, we re instituting the closures. Even though they have no effect on Hamas, they give the Israeli people the impression that we’re tough.

One might weep from this.


And then we have the on-going situation with Beit HaShalom in Hevron. Today I noted a piece on this subject that ran on YNet, written by Dror Etkes, who is with the very far left Yesh Din organization. The title of the piece: “Yet another illegal settlement.” Subtitle: “Takeover of disputed Hebron home another illegal attempt to create new settlement.” Huh?

Yes, lunacy, but studied lunacy with an agenda. I am sharing it here to show what the good people of Hevron contend with in terms of accusations. Why call Beit HaShalom an “illegal settlement”? Because these are buzz words intended to immediately defame and delegitimize.

Etkes speaks of displacing Palestinians who have lived in the area for generations and secret plots by the Jews.


Because positions such as his are so often encountered in the media (and YNet was content to run this), I thought it important to touch very briefly on the facts and the background here.

The Jewish connection to Hevron is impeccable and ancient. It begins with the Torah and Avraham’s purchase there of a burial cave and surrounding fields. It continues with King David, who was anointed king there and ruled from that city for seven years. Judah Maccabee did battle in Hevron in the second century BCE, when the city was re-established as Jewish, following destruction of the First Temple. In Second Temple times, Herod built the huge structure that stands atop the original burial caves, which remains to this day.

In the two millennia since, there has been a pattern of Jews holding fast to this city — either as a remnant people or in larger numbers, at different historical times. I cannot but merely mention this complex history here: In the 15th and 16th centuries, Sephardi Jews from Spain and Portugal established a vibrant community that lasted for 400 years. They were joined by Kabbalists and then in the late 17th and early 18th century by Ashkenazi Jews including Lubavitch Hassidim. A major synagogue had been constructed, and other substantial buildings, within a Jewish quarter. There was scholarship and commerce.


The destruction of this ancient and venerable community came with the Arab massacres of 1929.

The violence was instigated by the Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Mufti of Jerusalem, who later became an active supporter of the Nazis. He was, it should be noted, the mentor of Yasser Arafat.

The Mufti’s goal, quite simply, was the elimination of the Jewish community of Hevron. To that end he instigated and made false charges that Jews had set fire to the Al Aksa Mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. (Just as the Islamic Movement of Israel makes similar charges today.)

The Arab rioting began following inflammatory sermons and went on for hours, with the indiscriminate slaughter of women, children and the aged. The rioters, wielding weapons, went from house to house, crying, “Slaughter the Jews.”

The British, who controlled the area under the Mandate for Palestine, decided it was easier to move the survivors out of Hevron than to defend them. Thus the ancient community came to an end.


When the British pulled out, and the War of Independence was over, the Jordanians controlled the area, and they made it entirely Judenrein. No re-establishment of the ancient community was possible.

This possibility arose only after 1967, when Israel gained control of Judea, and of Hevron. And even then, there were difficulties as successive governments showed considerable reluctance to cooperate.

A core of committed and courageous people has persisted, however. They have been called kooks, and worse, but they have a vision that is solid. They understand that the legacy that is Hevron and the Ma’arat Hamachpelah — the Cave of the Patriarchs — cannot be abandoned. Not if we are to hold our heads up and claim our rightful place in this land. Not if we are to remember who we are.

There is no way to surrender our heritage because of Arab violence. And they know full well that no Jew would be permitted to pray at the Machpelah if not for the presence of the Jewish community there. Influential Muslims in the area have conceded as much. (Look what happened when the Tomb of Joseph was turned over to the PA and subsequently vandalized and destroyed.) They know, as well, that our claim to Jerusalem is weakened if Hevron is relinquished.

Ultimately, the people returned to the area that was the old Jewish Quarter of Hevron, and they acquired buildings that had been Jewish. Acquired them through meticulous legal processes and purchases — not via illegal seizures. They acquired other buildings for residential purposes legally as well


With the unfortunate advent of Oslo and its subsequent agreements, much of Hevron was officially turned over to the PA. But not all of it. There is an official agreement — signed by Binyamin Netanyahu and Yasser Arafat — with regard to a division of the city, with one portion — roughly 20% — controlled by Israel; it includes the Machpelah and what was the old Jewish Quarter. Jews have a right to live there. Understand: Jews have a right to live there. This is not remotely an “illegal settlement.”

Actually, the Jewish community of Hevron felt threatened by this agreement, as the Arabs were irritated that they hadn’t gotten the whole city, and represented the Jews as interlopers. There has been Arab violence over the years — none more horrendous than the murder in 2001 of ten month old Shalhevet Pass, who was shot by a sniper on a nearby hill who aimed directly at her head.

As to the building under question now, which is firmly and solidly within the area under Israeli control: No one was living in it for years before the Jews moved in. No Arabs were displaced. Understand this as well.


I am absolutely convinced of the legitimacy of the Jewish purchase of Beit HaShalom, just as I am convinced of the insidious political motivations of the government officials who would push out the residents now. For a detailed run down of the legal issues, you might want to see the Hebron website at:


I am not confident that justice will be done in this matter, just as justice has not been done in several similar incidents over the years. But I am confident that the Jewish community of Hevron will persist. The very least we can do for them is to understand their position and to salute their courage.

What is encouraging is that a greater number of Israeli citizens, not resident in Hevron, have gotten weary with what is going on and are ready to stand with them.


Right now the IDF is saying they may forcibly evacuate the building after Shabbat — as many visitors are expected over Shabbat because of the Torah reading regarding Avraham’s purchase of the cave.

I have also noted that Minister of Religious Affairs Yitzhak Cohen is urging that nothing be done until after the elections in February:

“This is an explosive public issue that could lead to the worst of all. Dealing with this crisis should be to the point and disconnected from any political influences.” (emphasis added)

To which I say Amen.




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