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Monday, August 04, 2003

It's All About A Shack Between Kiryat Arba and Hebron by David Wilder

The Jewish Community of Hebron
August 4, 2003

Late yesterday afternoon my sixteen year old son approached me and asked
that I show up at the Hebron Heroes neighborhood with my camera at about ten
o'clock in the evening. He told me that another attempt was being made to
reestablish the site, which has been created, destroyed and evacuated three
or four times - I've lost count.

The neighborhood, (labeled an 'outpost' by various political groups) was
originated following the murder of twelve men - nine soldiers and three
Kiryat Arba emergency squad civilians, on November 15 of last year. The day
after the deadly attack Prime Minister Ariel Sharon visited the location and
immediately declared that a new neighborhood, connecting Kiryat Arba and
Hebron, should be created. Of course, this is the same Ariel Sharon who, a
few years ago, publicly stated that Israeli youth should 'grab hilltops and
settle them.' We know the fate of 'hilltops' settled by Israeli youth during
the Sharon administration. Just as we know the fortune of the new
neighborhood founded between Hebron and Kiryat Arba.

Thank G-d, youth don't give up fast. Persistence is the name of the game.
Time after time, winter and summer, youngsters from Kiryat Arba and Hebron
have tried to reestablish the Hebron Heroes neighborhood. They pitch tents,
build temporary fences, find some old furniture, and build make-shift huts
in an attempt to establish a presence on the empty land between Hebron and
Kiryat Arba. Sometimes near the road, other times closer to the fence
surrounding the Kirya, wherever, never surrendering.

The last time they were evicted was only a few days ago - when, at about
four in the morning I received a beeper message requesting my presence, with
my camera, to record the inevitable. By the time I arrived the males had
already been evicted, but I was in time for the girls, who too, were pulled,
pushed and carried away. Soldiers and police removed Israeli flags hung from
short poles, flags, which more than anything else, signify our attachment to
our land. The furniture, mattresses and other belongs were dumped on the
ground in a pile, and from there, onto an awaiting army truck.

See more pictures at http://www.hebron.com/news/hebheroevic.htm

It took only a short time for the kids to regroup, and last night they did
it again. Small groups walked through the south gate of Kiryat Arba,
carrying small sheets of corrugated metal, lined with wooden planks. Others
carried down the tools, nails, etc. It didn't take much time until the new
dwelling was standing, complete with a flag hanging from the roof.

Of course, the Kiryat Arba-Hebron youth weren't the only ones to mobilize. A
short time later IDF jeeps, officers, soldiers, and police had invaded the
area. One of the officers, a Lt. Colonel name Tzachi, speaking to others
surrounding him, showed his total ignorance of the events unfolding in front
of his eyes. He said, "I despise the use of young children who have no idea
what they are doing." This officer, presently a regiment commander, later
stood about fifty meters from the group and announced through a megaphone
that the area was a 'closed military zone' and that anyone not leaving
within fifteen minutes would be arrested.

At about eleven thirty the action began. Two policemen, backed by a bunch of
soldiers turned cops, marched past the hut, turned left, and found
themselves face-to-face with a group of young men. The police walked up to a
tall sixteen year old and pounced on him, literally jumped him, as if he was
a dangerous criminal. The already familiar free-for-all scuffle started and,
after about fifteen minutes ended, with the boy being dragged off into an
awaiting police car. He, along with three others, were arrested during the
course of the next two and a half hours.

I can testify that it isn't easy watching such scenes, especially when they
turn brutal, as happened last night. One soldier, extremely agitated,
screamed at some of the kids with fire in his eyes, "I told you that I will
grind you up." Fifteen year old Betzalel Lebovitch, whose brother Elazar was
killed by Arab terrorists a year ago on the eve of his 21st birthday, was
standing next to me. He pointed at an officer and asked that I photograph
him because, 'he is beating kids murderously.' As I aimed the camera several
police and soldiers swooped down, grabbed Betzalel, and swiftly pushed him
towards another police car. He too spent the night in jail. Not because he
did anything, rather because he pointed his finger at a brute.

See more pictures at http://www.hebron.com/news/pinuifailed.htm

The security forces tried again and again to reach the hut, but were
unsuccessful. At about 1:00 AM a soldier lunged at a ninth grader named
David, who is small for his age. The soldier, grabbing him in an almost
strangling bear hug, started carrying him towards the police vehicles. A
huge uproar centered around them and others who were trying to clear the
way, leading to the boy losing conscious for a short time. After being
revived, he was given oxygen and released. It was a pretty horrible sight.

A short time later Hebron's military commander, Col. Haggai Mordechai
finally showed up, and seeing the kids with torn shirts and scratched arms
and shoulders, put an end to the madness. As Col. Mordechai sent his
fighting forces away from the scene, a thirteen year old girl from Kiryat
Arba named Liora, stationed herself in front of him, looked him in the eye
and said, "Why do your soldiers act this way? None of us want to hit
soldiers, but why do they hit us?

Why do they grin when talking about how they hit this person or clobbered
someone else? Don't you understand that we are not against the army -
we are here because twelve men were killed here, this is our land, and we
don't agree with the government's policies? If the soldiers would respect us,
nothing would happen. We would just go home. We would come back again,
and again, but there wouldn't be this kind of violence. Why can't they respect
us the way we respect them?"

On Wednesday night, Tisha b'Av eve, sitting on the floor, reading the Book
of Lamentations, I think I'll have a hard time concentrating on the book's
major theme, that being the destruction, thousands of years ago, of the
Temple in Jerusalem. I have a feeling I'll be thinking about that little
hut, and asking myself, if we can't even build a shack, between Kiryat Arba
and Hebron, how will be ever be able to rebuild our Temple - Beit HaMikdash?

With blessings from Hebron,

This is David Wilder

Kol hakavod, David. Without you, how would we know?