Hevron (Image credit: Michael Miller)
I managed to make it to Hevron for Shabbat Chayei Sarah along with roughly 35,000 other Jews, in what was both a spiritual and eye-opening experience.
I caught a ride with one of my Temple Mount buddies in his ambulance (he works for Hatzalah – it pays to have connections in unusual places), which was the first and, G-d willing, last time I’ll ever need to use an ambulance.
We arrived at Hevron and I made my way to my hosts in the Tel Rumeida neighborhood. Going there, I saw Jews pitching tents, mingling, setting up camp, and parking their RVs and other private vehicles alongside the road. It’s been awhile since I’ve seen so many Jews in a given place at once.
I reached my hosts, put my stuff down and made my way to say tehillim by the gravesite of Yishai and Ruth (King David’s father and great-grandmother) as well as say hello to some of my buddies who set up camp there with several other young adults.
Afterwards, I headed to the outside part of the Cave of Machpelah, and lo and behold swarms of Jews gathered together to say Kabbalat Shabbat/Ma’ariv in unison and dance while davening. It truly was inspirational - you could feel the intensity, vibration, and strength of our joy and excitement through the holy stone floor of Hevron.
Hevron (Image credit: Michael Miller)
I walked back to my hosts and we enjoyed a delicious meal, full of meaningful divrei Torah and songs.I then made my way to Rabbi Simcha Hochbaum’s place in the Avraham Avinu neighborhood for some more divrei Torah and singing, because I appreciate his combination of Rabbi Meir Kahane and Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach’s approaches, and he also makes my neshama (soul) feel so warm and fuzzy inside. I decided to not go to the political panel taking place that evening because the last thing I wanted to hear over Shabbat was something frustrating that would just upset me.
I woke up the following morning trying to find Rabbi Hochbaum’s minyan, but instead I met Bentzi Gopshtain and Baruch Ben Yosef and decided to join their minyan instead (being that they made the minyan, I knew I was in the right one to begin with). Outside, there was a massive Kiddush full of rugelach and cholent; Baruch Marzel, with the help of several others, helped serve the hungry guests.
I went back to my hosts’ place for lunch, and was hoping that the army would let us go to the kazba this year in Area A (areas under Arab administration according to the Oslo Accords). For those who don’t know, the Muslim kazba is like the Machaneh Yehuda Market in Jerusalem, full of open-vendor stores and tourists of all kinds. However, they didn’t allow us in this year due to “security concerns,” but to make up for that, they let us visit the gravesite of Otniel Ben Kenaz, the first Biblical Judge.
Beit Hadassah (Image credit: Michael Miller)
And so, at around 2 p.m., under military escort (yes, during the day), we went through the security doors and into Area A. I was never there before as a Jew, so I made a shehechiyanu and continued several hundred meters straight towards the grave. When we first walked in I saw Arabs in the streets staring at us together with leftists from Peace Now, B’Tselem, and other wonderful “humanitarian” organizations, taking pictures of the Jews and gushing, waiting for us to do something “stupid” - though the army was very good in keeping the peace between the two sides.
I saw their buildings, malls, and houses. When they cry occupation, not only is it complete BS, but it’s a total lie. They have a very good life there (maybe not under the PA, but that’s their problem). Being in Area A, it felt like a Saturday and not a Shabbat, with Arabs filming me, Facebook live-ing me on their many social media networks and even making the letter “C” with their thumbs and index fingers as if holding a camera to make fun of the fact that they can film us on Shabbat but as Jews we can’t film them.
This brief 30-minute visit proved to me how horribly wrong and lethal the Oslo Accords were for the Jews in the Jewish state; how much we gave up in return for a fake “peace.” Whoever says “Hevron is ours,” or “Hevron forever,” or some other slogan is either delusional, fooling himself/herself, or even worse: is being very dishonest regarding the reality on the ground.
Until you are there, physically standing there with your own two feet and seeing the reality with your own eyes (and not through artificial, cheap, and ridiculous pictures or Facebook videos) then you truly can’t begin to even grasp the chillul Hashem (desecration of G-d’s name) that we have caused ourselves. My heart broke - we are far from having Hevron back in Jewish hands. If Areas A and B were under our control, we could help solve the housing crisis.
When I was walking back from the gravesite, I spoke with a couple of soldiers and said to them, “Eventually this place will be ours again.” To this they retorted, “Who would want to live here, I’d rather live in Tel Aviv.” Well, if we fixed this place up and made it look nice instead of it smelling like a garbage dump, then Jews would be more willing to live here. As we approached the exit, I saw the army pushing the Arabs back so they would not “confront” us, but before we left I said: “לשנה הבאה בחברון הבנויה” (next year in rebuilt Hevron).
Due to the fact that some stupid Jews started up with stupid leftists calling each other names and other various slogans I won’t repeat here, the army intervened after we left and closed off the Otniel Ben Kenaz area due to “security concerns,” and so a flood of Jews were left waiting at the security gate for a visit that would never happen.
Once we left, I decided to join Rabbi Simcha Hochbaum’s tour in English of the various gravesites, mikva’ot, and Hevron homes in the area. It’s always inspiring to hear of the challenges the people there went through and, sadly, are still going through, whether they may be physical or legal challenges. We then davened mincha at the kever of Yishai and Ruth, and I decided to stay there for a while afterwards. I made my way back to my host’s house for seudah shlishit, more songs, and some camaraderie. We made havdala and left the City of the Patriarchs.
Grave of Ruth and Yishai (Image credit: Michael Miller)