Faith in Chevron

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Beit Hadassah
30 Aug 2007

A minyan of cars weaved its way through the tan and green countryside of the Judean Hills. My husband and I lagged behind because we had stopped to pick up trempistim, hitchhikers. Arab villages with their minarets popped into view during most of the ride to Kiryat Arba. We drove through well kept Kiryat Arba and then made a left to Chevron with its piles of garbage decorating the scenery. It was Friday, the Moslem holy day. Not many Arabs were on the streets. We pulled into the parking lot in proximity to the Ma’arat HaMachpela, The Tomb of the Patriarchs. Our mission was to help strengthen our fellow Jews in Chevron who had recently experienced another expulsion from their homes.

Chevron is the first Jewish city in history. Chevron is the place where the Jewish patriarchs lived and were buried. The building atop the burial cave was constructed by Jews during the time of the Second Holy Temple, about two thousand years ago. Chevron is numbered among the four holy cities along with Jerusalem, Tiberias and Safed. The Jewish community in Chevron existed until the Arab pogroms of 1929 when Arabs brutally murdered, raped and burned 67 Jews to death. These were the same Arabs that the Jews had worked and celebrated with. The British just looked on. One Jewish British soldier attempted in naught to save the Jews. The Arabs also dispossessed the Jewish community of properties that included hundreds of acres of real estate. In 1948 the Jordanians took control of Chevron, destroying Jewish property. The Avraham Aveinu synagogue was turned into a sheep and donkey pen. Other Jewish property was turned into public bathrooms.

It is interesting to note that the Arabs called Chevron “the property of the Zionist enemy.” While the Arabs acknowledged this fact, the government in 1967, as well as successive governments, failed to understand this. Despite Israel’s victory in the Six Day War, the government did not support Jews returning to Chevron. The Jews took it back by beginning to re-settle in Chevron. Rabbi Moshe and Miriam Levinger, accompanied by other supporters spent the Passover seder in Chevron in 1968. On Rosh Chodesh Iyar (the first day of the Hebrew month of Iyar) in 1979 Miriam Levinger and other Jewish heroines moved into Beit Hadassah. They were instrumental in re-establishing a Jewish presence in this former Jewish hospital. In 1995 the Israeli government closed the Arab shuk area which was close to the Jewish community. Following the 2001 murder of eight month-old Shalhevet Pas by an Arab sharpshooter, as she was being held in her father’s arms near the playground of the Avraham Aveinu neighborhood, the Jewish community, in need of more housing, returned to the shuk area.

Equipped with orange flags with blue lettering proclaiming “The Land of Israel is for the Nation of Israel” and with placards describing our support for the small beleaguered Jewish Chevron community, we walked through the main street. Arab shopkeepers and pedestrians looked on.

When we reached the Shalhevet neighborhood (the former shuk area) we all gasped at the sight. Destruction was everywhere. It was difficult to imagine that fellow Jews had smashed, ripped and broken to bits the apartments and synagogue/Beit Midrash, named in memory of Shalhevet Pas. The government had not ordered the soldiers and police to destroy this area. It had been executed out of malice. Earlier that day 3,000 soldiers and policemen had descended on the homes of two Jewish Chevron families in a nearby structure. Due to the influx of supporters who had barricaded themselves within the apartments, the troops had a difficult time extricating the families and their supporters. It took them hours to succeed in this expulsion. This led to the rampage on the other apartments and synagogue.

Noam Arnon, the spokesmen for the Jewish community of Chevron, explained how the Left, despite their being a minority, can push the right button and the courts will do their bidding. “The Left uses the courts to exile us from our land,” he stated emphatically. Noam then led us to the site of the expulsion of the two Jewish families.

The word expulsion would always conjure up the infamous expulsion of 1492. Non-Jew against Jew. The summer of 2005 in Gush Katif changed that image. Jew expelling Jew. The Chevron Jewish community has endured numerous expulsions as well, albeit on a smaller scale. Chevron resident Orit Strock came to speak with us as we were viewing, with heavy hearts, the destroyed synagogue. Orit told us how the armed forces searched for anything and everything to destroy. One soldier was about to throw the yahrzeit candle in memory of Shalhevet into the garbage when a friend of Orit’s asked him if she could have it. “These terrible acts caused us a lot of anger, but it did not cause us to despair. It took seven fights and arrests until my family was allowed to live in our home,” Orit explained.

We passed by the trailer used by Rabbi Danny Cohen, a Chabad emissary. He gives Torah classes and has minyanim (prayer quorums) in the trailer. He has received an eviction notice. He told, a Chabad news site, “We were compelled to buy this mobile unit because it is forbidden to erect new structures in Chevron and now they want us to move this too. In Chevron one can witness outright discrimination. While Arabs have been building as much as they want, Jews are forbidden to build even the smallest structure. This mobile unit is not a permanent building and still the authorities ordered the emissaries not to use it in the city.”

From this site of destruction we moved on to the Avraham Aveinu neighborhood. We called for children and their parents to come out so that we could distribute the Shabbat cakes, snacks and toys we had brought. Doctor Jazz made balloons in various shapes to give to the thrilled youngsters. Rabbi Moshe Levinger addressed us and thanked us for our support. Nadia Matar, one of the founders of Women in Green, who had organized this visit to Chevron spoke, “You are the mighty ones of the Nation of Israel. We love you. Be strong. You strengthen us.”

Our next stop was Beit Hadassah, which had been a Jewish-owned and run hospital which had given free medical care to Jew and Arab alike before the 1929 pogrom. Noam Arnon explained that the character of the Jewish Chevron community is one of gemilat chassadim, loving-kindness. Today Beit Hadassah is home to approximately thirty Jewish families.

When we entered the historical structure to announce that the families should come down to the small park next to Beit Hadassah, some of the children were reticent to come down. We were told that due to the weekly Friday visits to Chevron by leftists, the children were suspicious of strangers. We explained that we are fellow Jews who support their living in Chevron. A rebbe appeared with a group of young boys. They took a break from Torah learning to receive the gifts that we had brought.

On my way out I approached that morning’s small group of leftists who call themselves, B’nai Avraham, the children of Avraham. I asked one of the men if their guide had spoken about the pogrom of 1929. He responded, “Oh, there is no need to. We know about that.” If he really understood the Jewish history of Chevron he would be blowing up balloons for the brave Jewish children of Chevron.

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The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.