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Monday, September 29, 2003

Person of the Year by David Wilder

in full at Arutz Sheva
. . . I participated in early morning prayers at Ma’arat HaMachpela, the Tomb of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs. It is difficult to characterize one’s own prayer, but I found my worship to be troubled. Reflecting on the past year was very painful. For many years, while living in Kiryat Arba before moving to Hebron, I prayed at the same synagogue with my friend Rabbi Eli Horowitz, sitting one row behind him. Year after year I would not only see his prayer, but in many cases actually sense it, especially during the High Holy Days of Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur.

It was only a few months ago that Rabbi Eli Horowitz and his dear wife Dina were cut down in their apartment, murdered while eating their Sabbath meal on a Friday night. This Rosh HaShana, his image seemed to be constantly before my eyes.

On Saturday morning, during prayers, a friend of mine said something to me about the year starting off with a ‘bang.’

When I asked him what he was talking about, he looked at me with surprise and asked, “What, you don’t know?” When I shrugged, he added, “Negahot – a terrorist infiltrated last night, started shooting, and killed two people.”

Just as we were sitting down to eat on Friday night, so, too, Eyal and Sarah Yeberbaum, together with friends Shai and Shira Abraham and some other guests, were dipping an apple in honey. Negahot, their home, is about ten miles south-west of Hebron. . .

Eyal Yeberbaum, 27 years old, had served in Negahot while still in the army and, after marrying a year ago, brought his bride to live in this beautifully scenic community. The Yeberbaums, together with their neighbors the Abrahams and some other guests, welcomed the New Year with hope and expectation for a happy, sweet and good year.

It was just after nine o’clock when their dinner was interrupted by sharp knocking at the door. Eyal asked twice, “who’s there”, but received only a garbled, unclear answer. When he slowly opened the door, weapon in hand, a twenty-one year old terrorist from a nearby Arab village opened fire with an automatic rifle, killing Yeberbaum.

A guest in the house quickly shot at the terrorist, preventing him from entering the home. The terrorist, standing outside, started blasting his rifle at the ‘caravan’ home, whose walls are constructed of plasterboard. As a result of this shooting, seven month old Shaked Abraham, infant daughter of Shai and Shira, was hit in the chest. Her father, an ambulance driver, together with his wife, attempted to resuscitate their daughter; to no avail. She died in their arms. Two other guests were slightly wounded.

Soldiers serving in Negahot quickly arrived at the site and within two minutes killed the Arab attacker. It was later learned that the murderer, Mahmoud Hamdan, was recently released from an Israeli prison after serving thirteen months because he planned to blow himself up in a suicide attack against Israelis. An Arab gets a year in jail for attempted murder, is released, and then fulfills his wish by killing a baby and a 27-year-old man on the eve of the New Year.

At the end of every year, it is customary in certain circles to crown a ‘person of the year.’ I spent some time thinking about who is my ‘person of the year.’ In the end, I decided that my choice is not one particular person, rather, it is a collective – Am Yisrael, living in Eretz Yisrael – the people of Israel, living in the Land of Israel, they are my ‘person of the year.’

Sure, people like Rabbi Eli and Dina Horowitz, Shaked Abraham and Eyal Yeberbaum. Not only them though – also Eli and Dina’s children, Shaked’s parents, and so many others who have been afflicted by Arab terror, which has left hundreds and thousands of dead and wounded. These are the people who are continuing to live – who are not giving up, are not leaving their homes, and have not despaired of their dream. These are the people of the year – and they are not just in Yesha - Judea, Samaria and Gaza. They are from Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, and Hadera and Haifa, Eilat and Shlomi – continuing to live – to dip an apple in honey, wishing each other a happy, sweet and good New Year, despite the difficulties, despite the pain. This is the real Am Yisrael, which has returned home – to our eternal home, our only home, Eretz Yisrael.

With blessings from Hebron, with blessings for a happy and better New Year, from all of Hebron’s men, women and children.