Thursday, August 31, 2017

Anti-Jewish Violence in Pre-State Palestine/1929 Massacres

Anti-Jewish Violence in Pre-State Palestine/1929 Massacres 

Arab violence against Jews is often alleged to have begun with the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 or as a result of Israel's capture in 1967 of territories occupied by Jordan. But even before the Mandate for Palestine was assigned to Great Britain by the Allies at the San Remo Conference (April 1920) and endorsed by the League of Nations (July 1922), Palestinian Arabs were carrying out organized attacks against Jewish communities in Palestine. Systematic violence began in early 1920 with murderous assaults by groups of local Arabs against settlements in the north and by Muslim pilgrims against Jerusalem's Jews. Again in 1921, Arab rioters attacked Jews in Jaffa and its environs. The primary agitator behind these attacks was Haj Amin al Husseini, who marshalled Arab discontent over Jewish immigration into violent riots.
In 1929, Husseini and his associates fomented a violent jihad as they called upon Muslims to "defend" their holy places from the Jews. As a result, pogroms were carried out across Palestine. Arab villagers sympathetic to Jews were often targets of murderous attacks by their Arab brethren as well. British forces were sharply criticized for not policing the territory adequately, for sympathizing with the Arabs, and for standing by and allowing havoc to be wreaked upon Jewish communities in Palestine.
In 1936, the Arab Higher Committee, led by Grand Mufti Husseini, launched a campaign of anti-Jewish violence across Palestine. Accompanied by a six-month-long strike, the campaign became known as "The Arab Revolt." As the British increasingly became targets of Arab violence, they used massive force to suppress the aggression. The revolt was finally quashed in 1939. The resulting White Paper of 1939 reversed British commitment to a Jewish State (the raison d'etre of the Mandate) and drastically limited Jewish immigration into Palestine.
1920-21: Attacks and Riots
Josef Trumpeldor
Organized anti-Jewish violence began in earnest at the beginning of 1920. In January, Arab villagers attacked Tel Hai, a Jewish settlement in the Galilee near the Syrian border (then under French control), killing two members. Two months later, on March 1, 1920, hundreds of Arabs from a nearby village descended on Tel Hai again, killing six more Jews. Among them was Josef Trumpeldor — a Russian wartime hero who had fought in the Russo-Japanese war and who organized the defense of the settlements in the Galilee.
During the months of March and April, over a dozen Jewish agricultural settlements in the Galilee were attacked by armed Palestinian Arabs. These included Kfar Tavor, Degania, Rosh Pina, Ayelet Hashahar, Mishmar Hayarden, Kfar Giladi and Metulla. (Four of these — Hamara, Kfar Giladi, Metulla and Bnei Yehuda were evacuated after being repeatedly attacked, and the latter was completely abandoned.)
Around the same time, during the Passover and Easter holidays, a group of Palestinian Arab "Nebi Musa" pilgrims (making their annual pilgrimage from Jerusalem to the site they believed was Moses' tomb), were incited by Haj Amin al Husseini's anti-Jewish rhetoric to ransack the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem and launch violent anti-Jewish riots. The violence, which took place between April 4 and April 7, claimed the lives of nine people — five Jews and four Arabs — and left 244 wounded, the vast majority Jews. The British military administration, sympathetic to the Arabs, did not allow the Jews to arm themselves.
Jewish victims of Nebi Musa riots

Ze'ev Jabotinsky
Ze'ev (Vladimir ) Jabotinsky, a Russian journalist and Zionist activist, organized the defense of the Old City Jews with demobilized soldiers from the Jewish Legion who had participated in the British military campaign against the Ottomans. (Jabotinsky and Trumpeldor had organized and helped lead the Jewish volunteer military units that had fought alongside the British.) When the British authorities finally quelled the riots, Jabotinsky and 19 associates were arrested for possession of illegal weapons. Jabotinsky was stripped of his commission in Palestine, and was sentenced to 15 years of penal servitude. The Arab aggressors, by contrast, received much lighter sentences. Worldwide protests, however, forced the British to shorten and eventually revoke the sentences of Jabotinsky and his associates (as well as the incarcerated Arabs).
Haj Amin al Husseini
Meanwhile, Haj Amin al Husseini and other Arab leaders continued to incite  against the Jews. On May 1, 1921, Arab rioters and policemen with knives, pistols and rifles took to the streets of Jaffa, beating and murdering Jews, and looting Jewish homes and stores. Twenty-seven Jews were killed and 150 were wounded. Attacks by Arab villagers spread to the Jewish communities of Petach Tikvah, Rehovot, Hadera, and as far north as Haifa. According to an Interim Report on the Civil Administration of Palestine to the League of Nation, dated June 1921:
Troops were employed and suppressed the disturbances, and the attacks on the [Jewish] colonies were dispersed with considerable loss to the [Arab] attackers. Martial law was proclaimed over the area affected, but much excitement prevailed for several days in Jaffa and the neighboring districts, and for some weeks there was considerable unrest. 88 persons were killed and 238 injured, most of them slightly, in these disturbances, and there was much looting and destruction of property. There were no casualties among the troops…
A commission of inquiry, led by Sir Thomas Haycraft, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in Palestine, was set up to investigate the causes and circumstances of the riots and concluded that the violence was due to Arab resentment of Jewish immigrants to Palestine. As a result, the British High Commissioner, Sir Herbert Samuel, ordered a temporary halt to Jewish immigration. Ships carrying Jews were not allowed to land in Palestine.
In November 1921, another Arab attack on the Jewish quarter of the Old City was repelled by the Haganah, Jewish defense volunteers.
1928-1929: Jihad against Jews
Between 1918 and 1928, the Jewish population in Palestine doubled, to about 150,000. Palestinian Arabs were concerned about this and their leaders, with Haj Amin al Husseini at the forefront, fanned the flames of hatred and suspicion. Husseini, now the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, used the Western (Wailing) Wall — the last remnant of the Jewish Holy Temple compound — as a focal point for his anti-Zionist campaign.
In September 1928, a small group of Jews erected a "mechitza" (a divider to separate men and women during prayers) for Yom Kippur prayers at the Western Wall. The British forcibly dismantled the divider, but Husseini used this incident as a pretext to incite Muslims. He accused the Jews of attempting to seize Muslim holy sites, including the al Aqsa Mosque.
Arab rioters on Temple Mount, 1929 (from: Pillar of Fire)
A virulent propaganda campaign calling for jihad against the Jews resulted in the frequent beating and stoning of Jews worshipping at the Wall and culminated in widespread, murderous riots across Palestine in August 1929.
August 15, 1929 was Tisha B'Av, the day on which Jews commemorate the destruction of the Holy Temple. Thousands of Jews marched to the Wall to protest British restrictions on Jewish prayer there, and to reaffirm their Jewish connection to the holy site. They displayed their nationalistic fervor by singing Hatikvah (later to become Israel's national anthem). The following day, mobs of armed Arab worshippers inflamed by anti-Jewish sermons, fell upon Jewish worshippers at the Wall, destroying Jewish prayer books and notes placed between the stones of the wall. On August 17, a Jewish boy was killed by Arabs during ensuing riots in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Bukharan.
According to the Davar newspaper of August 20, 1929, incitement against the Jews was rampant, especially in the Jerusalem and Hebron area. Rumors were spread that Jews had cursed Islam and intended to take over their holy places; Muslims were told that it was their duty to take revenge. "Defend the Holy Places" became the battle cry.
On August 23, more than 1000 Arabs launched attacks on Jews throughout Jerusalem. Forty-seven people were killed. This was followed by widespread attacks on Jews throughout Palestine. Again, the British forbade Jews to organize armed self-defense units and within several days, 133 Jews had been killed and 339 wounded. Arab attackers sustained high numbers of casualties (116), almost all of whom were killed by British police trying to quell the violence. Jewish leaders reported that Arab attacks showed evidence of organized warfare; Arab assaults on Jewish communities extended from as far south as Hebron to Haifa, Safed, Mahanaim and Pekiin in the north. A state of emergency was declared and martial law was imposed by the British.
1929 Hebron Massacre
A trail of blood running down the stairs of a Jewish home in Hebron
According to Dutch-Canadian journalist Pierre Van Passen who was in Palestine at the time, fabricated pictures of Muslim holy sites in ruins were handed out to Hebron Arabs as they were leaving their mosques on Friday, August 23, 1929. The captions on the pictures claimed that the Dome of the Rock was bombed by the Zionists. That evening, armed Arabs broke into the Yeshiva (Talmudic academy) and murdered the lone student they found. The following day, an enraged Arab mob wielding knives, axes, and iron bars destroyed the Yeshiva and slaughtered the rest of the students there. A delegation of Jewish residents on their way to the police station was lynched by an Arab mob. The mob then proceeded to massacre Hebron's Jews — both Sephardi and Ashkenazi — who had lived peacefully with their Arab neighbors for years. With only one British officer supervising, the Arab police made no attempt to prevent the massacre.
The head of Hebron's Ashkenazi community, Rabbi Ya'akov Slonim, had been on good terms with his Arab colleagues and offered his home as a refuge to Hebron's Jews, believing that they would be spared. But the mob broke in and killed the Rabbi, members of his family and all those assembled there. Van Passen gave the following account, revealing an attempted cover-up by British officials:
Photo of some of the members of the Slonim family, murdered in the massacre
What occurred in the upper chambers of Slonim's house could be seen when we found the twelve-foot-high ceiling splashed with blood. The rooms looked like a slaughterhouse. When I visited the place in the company of Captain Marek Schwartz, a former Austrian artillery officer, Mr. Abraham Goldberg of New York, and Mr. Ernst Davies, correspondent of the old Berliner Tageblatt, the blood stood in a huge pool on the slightly sagging stone floor of the house. Clocks, crockery, tables and windows had been smashed to smithereens. Of the unlooted articles, not a single item had been left intact except a large black-and-white photograph of Dr. Theodore Herzl, the founder of political Zionism. Around the picture's frame the murderers had draped the blood-drenched underwear of a woman.
We stood silently contemplating the scene of slaughter when the door was flung open by a British solder with fixed bayonet. In strolled Mr. Keith-Roach, governor of the Jaffa district, followed by a colonel of the Green Howards battalion of the King's African Rifles. They took a hasty glance around that awful room, and Mr. Roach remarked to his companion, "Shall we have lunch now or drive to Jerusalem first?"
In Jerusalem the Government published a refutation of the rumors that the dead Jews of Hebron had been tortured before they had their throats slit. This made me rush back to that city accompanied by two medical men, Dr. Dantziger and Dr. Ticho. I intended to gather up the severed sexual organs and the cut-off women's breasts we had seen lying scattered over the floor and in the beds. But when we came to Hebron a telephone call from Jerusalem had ordered our access barred to the Slonim house. [Van Passen, Pierre, Days of Our Years, Hillman-Curl, Inc., New York 1939]
In total, sixty-seven Jews were killed and 60 were wounded. The Jewish community in Hebron was destroyed.
Those who survived the Hebron massacre became refugees
In 1931, the community attempted to rebuild, but during the riots of 1936, the British authorities evacuated Hebron's Jewish residents and did not allow them to return to their homes. Hebron, one of the four cities holy to Jews, which, for many centuries, had a Jewish presence, remained Judenrein for over 30 years. It was only in 1968, after Hebron came under Israel's control, that Jews resettled there.
1929 Safed Massacre
Barely a week after the Hebron massacre, Safed, another one of the four Jewish holy cities, was subject to the same depredations. On August 29, 1929, Arabs from Safed and nearby villages assaulted and murdered their Jewish neighbors, burning and pillaging their homes. Witnesses called it a pogrom. Eighteen Jews were killed, 40 wounded, and 200 houses were burned and looted.
The following is an eyewitness account by David Hacohen, who immigrated in 1907 to Israel from Russia and later served in the Israeli Knesset from 1949-69: 
I believe I was the first Jew to reach Safed from the outside after the massacre there. One Friday morning we heard that there had been a pogrom in Safed. We read the official announcement:
"On August 29, at 6:15, disturbances broke out in Safed. The army arrived on the scene at 8:35 and immediately restored order. There were some fatal casualties and many houses were burnt. The Jewish inhabitants were at once transferred to safety. Since then calm has prevailed in Safed" ...
...We had enough experience not to trust the reassuring official announcement...
We set out on Saturday morning. When at noon we entered the town through the main road, I could not believe my eyes. . . I met some of the town's Jewish elders, who fell on my neck weeping bitterly... Inside the houses I saw the mutilated and burned bodies of the victims of the massacre, and the burned body of a woman tied to the grille of a window. Going from house to house, I counted ten bodies that had not yet been collected. I saw the destruction and the signs of fire. Even in my grimmest thoughts I had not imagined that this was how I would find Safed where "calm prevailed."
The local Jews gave me a detailed description of how the tragedy had started. The pogrom began on the afternoon of Thursday, August 29, and was carried out by Arabs from Safed and from the nearby villages, armed with weapons and tins of kerosene. Advancing on the street of the Sefardi Jews from Kfar Meron and Ein Zeitim, they looted and set fire to houses, urging each other on to continue with the killing. They slaughtered the schoolteacher, Aphriat, together with his wife and mother, and cut the lawyer, Toledano, to pieces with their knives. Bursting into the orphanages, they smashed the children's heads and cut off their hands. I myself saw the victims. Yitshak Mammon, a native of Safed who lived with an Arab family, was murdered with indescribable brutality: he was stabbed again and again, until his body became a bloody sieve, and then he was trampled to death. Throughout the whole pogrom the police did not fire a single shot. The British police commander, Farradav, walked up and down the main street of the town, where everything was quiet, and did not go down to the scene of the massacre... Instead of protecting the Jewish population and its property, the police commander had evacuated four thousand Jews from their homes to the courtyard of Government House, leaving their homes to be looted and burned. While the looting and killing were still going on, the police were searching the Jews for arms... [Hacohen, David, Time to Tell: An Israeli Life 1898-1984, English translation from the original Hebrew, Cornwall Books, New York 1985]
Toward the end of 1935 and the beginning of 1936, Arab demonstrations were held against Jewish immigration and purchase of land in Palestine. Tensions between the Arab and Jewish population grew. On April 15, 1936, Arabs attacked Jewish vehicles on the highway and murdered three Jews. The following night, two Arabs were shot by unidentified masked gunmen, in what the Arab community believed to be a reprisal attack by Jews. The gunmen were not identified, but soon false rumors were spread that Jews had murdered Arabs in the Jaffa area, upon which a Jewish bus was attacked and local Jews were assaulted. Within days, Arab mobs were assaulting and murdering random Jews and destroying Jewish property.
The violence — including murders, ambushes, plunder and arson — quickly spread throughout the country, and was accompanied by a general Arab strike to put a stop to Jewish immigration and the sale of property to Jews, and to demand the establishment of an Arab national government. It was the beginning of a three-year-long campaign of terrorism against Jews and British soldiers and officials, orchestrated by the Arab High Command led by Haj Amin al Husseini and known as the "Arab Revolt."
Onslaught of Arab Terror, 1936:
April 15, 1936: 3 Jews in Tulkarm killed by Arabs.
April 19: 9 Jews in Jaffa killed by Arabs.
April 20: 5 Jews in Jaffa killed by Arabs.
April 22: Jewish woman in Jaffa killed by Arabs.
April 26: Jewish houses in Nazareth and Beit Shean burned by Arabs.
April 26: An Arab mob beats up Jewish boy in Jerusalem.
April 28: 4 Jewish farm workers in Migdal injured by Arabs.
April 29: Arabs burn down a Jewish forest in Balfouriya.
April 29: Arab mob forms in Jerusalem, but British police break it up before Jews harmed.
May 1: 2 Jews in Haifa killed by Arabs.
May 3: Arab mob burns down Jewish timber yard in Haifa.
May 4: Jewish orchards in Mishmar Ha-Emek burned by Arabs.
May 4: Arabs destroy 200 acres of wheat in Ramat David.
May 5: 500 orange trees uprooted in Tel Mond by Arabs.
May 7: Arabs fire on Jewish bus in Beit Dagan.
May 10: Arabs burn crops and haystacks in Givat Ada.
May 10: Arabs uproot newly planted olive grove in Zikhron Yaakov.
May 11: Arabs burn Jewish crops in Ramat David.
May 12: Arabs burn threshing floor in Zikhron Yaakov.
May 13: 2 elderly Jews murdered by Arabs in Old City.
May 13: Jewish shops in Haifa stoned by Arabs.
May 13: More orchards burned in Mishmar Ha-Emek.
May 16: 3 Jews in Jerusalem exiting a cinema are shot dead by Arabs.
May 19: Arabs kill a Jew in the Old City of Jerusalem.
May 20: 2 Jews wounded during Arab attack on bus.
May 24: Arabs severely wound a Jewish guard at Majd el Krum.
May 25: Arabs kill a Jew at Hebrew University.
From May 30 - June 13, 1936, in more than 11 attacks, the Arabs destroy over 30,000 trees planted by Jews, as well as many fruit orchards,crops and barns. Telephone wires are cut throughout the district, roads are barricaded, and bridges and culverts are mined. Volunteers from Syria and Iraq aid the Arabs in their attacks.
May 31: Jew at Givat Shaul killed by Arabs.
June 1: Jewish bus passenger killed by Arab rifle fire.
June 5: 5 Jewish passengers injured when Arabs threw bomb at bus in Haifa.
June 6: Jewish girl severely injured by Arab fire while traveling on bus.
June 8: Arabs attack Jews on their way to the Dead Sea Potash works.
In the third month of terror (June 16 - July 17) campaign, 9 Jews were killed, mostly in Arab ambushes on buses, and 75,000 trees planted by Jews were destroyed.
The Arab campaign of murder, intimidation, and sabotage continued through 1939, and on occasion, sparked isolated Jewish reprisals. According to the Report of the British government for 1937:
The [Arab] terrorist campaign took the form of isolated murder and attempted murder; of sporadic cases of armed attacks on military, police and civilian road transport; on Jewish settlements and on both Arab and Jewish private property..." In 1938, public security in Palestine "continued to cause the administration grave preoccupation. [Report by the British Government to the Council of the League of Nations on the Administration of Palestine and Trans-Jordan for the year 1937]
According to the Report of the British government for 1938:
The main difference between the course of events in 1938 and that in 1937 lay in the gradual development during 1938 of Arab gang warfare on organized and to a certain extent co-ordinated lines. By the end of the year, as the result of the arrival in the autumn of large military reinforcements, this gang organization was first dislocated and finally reduced to comparative impotence in the field. But in the towns terrorism persisted and the roads were still largely unsafe for normal traffic. In fact, the events of 1938 succeeded in seriously affecting the economic and social life of the country to an extent far greater than was the case in 1937. [Report by the British Government to the Council of the League of Nations on the Administration of Palestine and Trans-Jordan for the year 1938]
1938 Tiberias Massacre
On October 2 1938, an organized groups of Arab attackers massacred 21 Jews — including three women and 10 children between the ages of one and twelve — in the Old Jewish Quarter of Tiberias. The Arabs stabbed, shot and burned their victims. The New York Times described the organized rampage:
New York Times article about the Tiberias massacre
Not since the riots of 1929, when Arabs fell on Jewish men, most of whom were rabbinical students, as well as women and children, in the ancient towns of Hebron and Safed, has there been in Palestine such a slaughter as the attack of last night. The main synagogue of the town was destroyed by fire, and the district offices, the police station and the British police billet were fired on.
The attack apparently was well organized, since the Arab gang, before descending on Tiberias, cut all telephone communications. Coming in two parties from opposite directions at a given signal, which was a whistle blown from the hills surrounding the town, the firing began simultaneously in all quarters...
...The bandits rushed to the central synagogue and, finding there a beadle named Jacob Zaltz, killed him and then set the building afire...
...the Arabs broke in and stabbed and burned to death Mr. Kabin [an elderly American Jew who had recently come to Palestine] and his sister...
From there the bandits went on to the house of Joshua Ben Arieh, where they stabbed and burned to death Joshua, his wife and one son, and then shot dead his infant son. In the same house three children of Shlomo Leimer, aged 8, 10, and 12, were stabbed and burned to death. Proceeding farther, the Arabs broke into the house of Shimon Mizrahi, where they killed his wife and five children, ranging in ages from 1 to 12 years, and then set fire to the house.... [New York Times, Oct. 4, 1938]
The three-year campaign of violence was finally suppressed in 1939, after which a British White Paper limited Jewish immigration into Palestine. As a result, many of the Jews fleeing Nazi Germany were denied a haven from destruction.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Hebron - Holy Sites - Ma´arat HaMachpela, etc. - Cave of the Patriarchs

Hebron -  Holy Sites - Ma´arat HaMachpela, etc. - Cave of the Patriarchs 

The Cave of Machpela was the first land purchase by a Jew in Eretz Yisrael. For this reason it is a unique site in the annals of Jewish history. The great sages of the Jewish People teach that Abraham purchased the Cave of Machpela for the full market price rather than receive it as a gift, so that the nations of that world would never be able to dispute the eternal ownership by the People of Israel. Later, for the very same reason, Jacob and King David purchased the city of Shechem and the city of Jerusalem respectively. This idea is expressed in the following Midrash (Biblical commentary). (Gen./Beresheet Rabba 79:7):
Said Rabbi Yuden the son of Simon: ” This is one of the three places that the nations (of the world) can never castigate the Jewish people and say “you are occupying stolen territory”. These are the three places: The Cave of the Machpela, the Holy Temple Mount and Joseph’s burial site. The Cave of the Machpela because it is said: ”And Abraham counted out to Ephron the money he had spoken of to the sons of Het--four hundred shekels of valid currency” (Gen. 23:16).
The three places: The Cave of Machpela-the earliest land purchase site, together with Shechem and Jerusalem, are the genuine of continued Jewish settlement in the Land of Israel. These are the very locations where the nations of the world have attempted to claim: ”You are occupying stolen property.” A special significance is attributed by Jewish scholars, to the purchase of the Cave of the Machpela as they compare it to the Ten Commandments:
“Said Rabbi Eliezer: How much ink is spilled and how many quills are worn out in the writing of the words: ‘The sons of Het’, (who sold the site to Abraham) [for these words, ‘the sons of Het’ are mentioned] ten times-corresponding to the same number of the Ten Commandments”. (Gen. Rabba 58:8).
The very detailed description of the purchase of the Cave of the Machpela by Abraham, the cornerstone of the Jewish People’s affiliation to Eretz Yisrael, is equated to the Ten Commandments - the very basis of the Torah given to the people of Israel. The purchase of the Cave of the Machpela prior to any other place in the Land of Israel--even before Jerusalem-the site of the Holy Temple--is not perceived by our sages as a mere coincidence. On the contrary, they tell us that Abraham, knowingly and willingly relinquished his right to conquer or purchase Jerusalem as a condition to buying the Cave of the Machpela. This action postponed the acquisition of Jerusalem by more than eight centuries. The following Midrashic illustration from “Pirkei Derabi Eliezer”(Chap. 36) serves as a basis for this teaching:
Abraham advised the Jebusites of his wish to buy the Cave of the Machpela, at a good price, for gold and a legal deed to the place that would be a burial site.
Were they Jebusites? Weren’t they Hittites?--but they were named Jebusites because of their proximity to Jebusite city.
They did not agree. He (Abraham) began kneeling and bowing to them, as it is said: ”And Abraham bowed in front of the people of the land”. They said to him: We know that the All-Mighty will give all of these lands to you and your descendants; enter into an oath with us that the sons of Israel will inherit the city of Jebus only with the consent of the Jebusite people.
Later he purchased the Cave of the Machpela with gold and an everlasting deed. When the people of Israel came into the Land of Israel, they wanted to enter into the Jebusite city. However, they were unable to do so because of Abraham’s oath and covenant with the Jebusites, as it is said: ”And the Jebusite-the settlers of Jerusalem, they (The people of Israel) did not inherit it. (Judges 1:21)
This Midrash comes to teach us, not that Avraham really relinquished Jerusalem, but that he saw Hebron as the foundation of the Jewish People in Israel, without which, we would never reach the holiness of Jerusalem.

The year was 1979. Ten women and forty children had recently moved into the basement floor of Beit Hadassah in Hebron, and set up house, as best as possible. Sort of like an urban kibbutz. A large eating area and several rooms for the mothers and their children. Swings hanging between tree branches and makeshift see-saws comprised the playground. Showers were a bucket of water poured over the head outside, blocked off from the others by a flimsy curtain. Running water was a luxury not yet available.
One morning Miriam Levinger, waking up her six-year old son, suddenly opened her eyes in shock. A registered nurse, Miriam's own eyes darkened as she looked into her son's eyes. What she saw was yellow. Literally. The child wasn't scared. He was sick. Without any running water, without normal sanitary facilities, living in a filthy building vacant for years, jaundice was a real possibility. Seeing her son's yellow eyes, Miriam Levinger knew that the disease had arrived. She also knew that jaundice is very contagious and would likely spread quickly from child to child.
As she describes it, Miriam was certain that the Beit Hadassah venture would soon be over. She was sure that as soon as the other women heard that her son was infected with jaundice, they would all leave, immediately. Girding her strength, and ready for the worst, she started making the rounds. "My son has jaundice." "Oh, really. What else is new this morning?" And that's the way is was, from one to the other. "O.K. -- it will pass -- he'll be healthy soon." Not one woman left.
One of the women was pregnant, and of course, jaundice and pregnancy are not overly compatible. "Shoshana, you can't stay here and risk infection." Shoshana's reply: If I leave, I won't be able to return. I'm staying." (Beit Hadassah was then under siege -- anyone who left couldn't go back, and no one else was allowed in.) "But Shoshana?". "No buts -- I'm not leaving. Miriam will take care of me."
Shoshana, after receiving special permission to leave Beit Hadassah and return, later gave birth to a little girl, named her Hadassah, and returned to Beit Hadassah.
The Beit Hadassah women and children all survived one of the first tests of their will and determination: jaundice.
Almost exactly eleven years ago the Ze'ev family was enjoying their Passover holiday meal at the new home they had just finished building in Shilo, in the Shomron. As is customary, during the meal the younger Ze'ev children 'stole' a piece of Matza, needed to later complete the traditional ceremonies. As the time approached to conclude the meal, their father Yisrael, and mother, Miriam, looked at the eight kids and asked them to return the Matza. "What will you give us if we give it back," they asked. "Well, what do you want?" What do children usually ask for - a basketball, a doll, a book, or maybe a bicycle. But this time the kids had a different idea in mind. Glancing at their sister, Isca, then 18 years old, they took a deep breath and answered.
Watching them closely, Isca smiled to herself. A first-class instigator, Isca had coached her younger siblings well, one by one.
"We want to go live in Hebron. If we can go live in Hebron, we'll give you the Matza back. Otherwise?"
Yisrael and Miriam looked at each other and shrugged. "O.K.," Yisrael answered, "if that's what you want, that's what you'll get. Now, go get the Matza."
And that's how the Ze'ev family decided to move to Hebron.
Almost exactly a year later, troublemaker Isca received her own personal reward. Isca had already been living and working in Kiryat Arba for a year, performing her national volunteer service at Midreshet Hevron. Now, living in Hebron, not far from Rabbi Moshe and Rebbetzin Miriam Levinger, Isca's sparkling personality drew the attention of one of the Levinger daughters. She decided to play matchmaker and arranged a meeting between Isca and one of her brothers. Soon after there was an engagement party and then a wedding. Isca Ze'ev married the little boy who came down with jaundice in Beit Hadassah, sixteen years earlier, Shlomo Levinger.
For most of their married life the young Levingers, today parents of four, lived in the same building where Shlomo spent a year of his early childhood. But this time, rather than live in the basement, Shlomo and his family lived on the top floor of Beit Hadassah. I have a personal affinity to the Shlomo, Isca and their children, as we have been neighbors for almost seven years, living across the hall from each other. But a few days ago, on Friday, we bid them farewell.
Early Friday morning the movers arrived, packed up their truck, and chugged up a very steep hill, about 3 minutes away. No, they aren't leaving Hebron. Rather, the Levingers became the first family to move into Hebron's newest building in the Admot Ishai (Tel Rumeida) neighborhood. The new building, called "Beit Menachem" in honor of the Lubavitcher Rebbi, Rabbi Menachem M. Shneerson, will house seven families and a Torah study hall. The site's official dedication will take place during Hebron's upcoming Passover festivities.
I think it very auspicious that the Levinger family initiate this new apartment building. Directly under their apartment is the Hebron Archaeological Park, which contains artifacts from 4,500 to 1,500 years old, including a wall from the days of Abraham and a house from the era of King Hezekiah, some 2,700 years ago.
What could be more fitting than to have a representative of Hebron's 'first family,' a son of Rabbi Moshe and Rebbetzin Miriam Levinger, known as the 'father and mother' of Hebron's modern Jewish community, be the first to move into this new edifice?
To me, this site could be called Tel Aviv. Why? Today's Israeli metropolis is named after Theodore Herzl's book, Altneuland, which literally means 'old -- new land,' with 'Tel' [the name for a hill containing the remains of an ancient city-ed] representing the old and 'Aviv' (which means spring in Hebrew), representing the new. However, the authentic 'old' is here in Hebron, the roots of our existence, at the site called Tel Hebron. And the new is directly above the old -- a beautiful new apartment complex, the buds of the rebirth of the Jewish People in the City of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs.
It won't be long before "Beit Menachem" will be full of families with many children running around. These families and children are the blossoms on the trees planted by Abraham and Sarah, almost 4,000 years ago, at this very site. We thank G-d for the privilege to follow in the footsteps of such esteemed ancestors, being able to rebuild and live in the real Tel Aviv.

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The Abraham Avinu Synagogue (Hebrew: בית הכנסת על שם אברהם אבינו) was built by Hakham Malkiel Ashkenazi in the Jewish Quarter of Hebron in 1540. The domed structure represented the physical center of the Jewish Quarter of Hebron, and became the spiritual center of the Jewish Community there and a major center for the study of Kabalah. It was restored in 1738 and enlarged in 1864.
In 1929, residents of the Jewish Quarter of Hebron were murdered and raped and their homes destroyed  by Arab rioters during the 1929 Hebron massacre after incitement by Muslim clerics.
Jordan took control of the area in 1948, and after this time a wholesale market, trash dump and public toilet were placed on the site of the Jewish Quarter. A goat and donkey pen was placed on the ruins of the Synagogue.
When Israel won control over the West Bank after the Six Day War in 1967, a gradual return of Jews took place to the Jewish Quarter in Hebron. In 1976 the Israeli Government ordered evacuation of the animal pen, enabling the remnants of the synagogue to be uncovered, and the Synagogue was rebuilt.
Today, the rebuilt synagogue is used each Friday night by the Jewish residents of Hebron to hold prayer services. The synagogue is also open to visitors each day of the week so they can learn about the history of the synagogue, and hold private services.
  • The Tomb of Jesse and Ruth (Kever Rut v´Ishai)
  • The Ancient Jewish Cemetery

Pesach 1968 - Jews return to Hebron to celebrate Pesach.
Erev Rosh HaShana 1971 - Jews move from the Hebron Military Compound to the newly founded Kiryat Arba
Erev Rosh Hodesh Iyar 1979 - Jews Return to the city of Hebron
A week and a half after Pesach a group of 10 women and 40 children left Kiryat Arba in the middle of the night, driven in a truck through the deserted streets of Hebron. They made their way to the abandoned Beit Hadassah building, originally built in the 1870s as a medical clinic for Jews and Arabs in Hebron, abandoned since the 1929 riots.
The women and children, assisted by men, climb into Beit Hadassah through a back window, bringing with them only minimal supplies. They swept some of the decades-old dust from the floor, spread out some mattresses, and went to sleep.
When they awoke in the morning the children began singing: v'shavu banim l'gvulam - the children have returned home. Soldiers guarding on the roof of the building, coming down to investigate, were astounded at the sight of the women and children. Quickly they reported to their superiors, and soon the "Beit Hadassah women" were a national issue.
Prime Minister Menachem Begin was not in favor of Jewish settlement in the heart of the city, but opposed physically expelling the group. He ordered the building surrounded by police and soldiers, and decreed that nothing, including food and water, be allowed into the building. Begin was soon visited by Rabbi Moshe Levinger, whose wife Miriam and many of his children were among those inside Beit Hadassah.
"When the Israeli army surrounded the Egyptian third army in Sinai during the Yom Kippur War, we gave the enemy soldiers food, water and medical supplies. If this is what we supplied Egyptian soldiers who had attacked and killed our soldiers, at the very least allow the women and children in Hebron the same."
Begin had no choice but to agree. The women and children lived like this, under siege, for two months. No one was allowed in and anyone leaving would not be allowed to return.
One day a little boy in Beit Hadassah had a tooth-ache and left for a dentist in Kiryat Arba. When he arrived back at Beit Hadassah the soldier guarding at the entrance refused to allow him back in. The little boy started crying, saying, "I want my Ema (mother)." At that time the Israeli cabinet was in session, and a note was relayed to the Prime Minister that a little boy was crying outside Beit Hadassah because he wasn’t allowed back in. Following a discussion by the cabinet, the little boy was permitted to return to his mother in Beit Hadassah.

After over two months the women and children were allowed to leave and return, but no one else was allowed in. They lived this way for a year.
On Friday nights, following Shabbat prayers at Ma'arat HaMachpela, the worshipers, including students from the Kiryat Arba Nir Yeshiva, would dance to Beit Hadassah, sing and dance in front of the building, recite Kiddush for the women, and then return to Kiryat Arba. In early May of 1980, a year after the women first arrived at Beit Hadassah, the group of men was attacked by terrorists stationed on the roof of a building across from Beit Hadassah. The Arab terrorists, shooting and throwing hand grenades killed six men and wounded twenty. Later that week the Israeli government finally issued official authorization for the renewal of a Jewish community in Hebron.
On June 11 of this year, exactly twenty years after the murder at Beit Hadassah, a new building in memory of those men killed was dedicated in Hebron. Beit HaShisha, the House of the Six, will house six new families. This beautiful structure will eternalize the names of six young men who gave their lives in Hebron, and who deaths led to the return of Jews to the heart of the city. Hebron's Jewish community had to wait twenty years to memorialize these men, but that dream is now a reality.


The Cave of Othniel Ben Knaz - First Judge of Israel

This ancient burial cave has been the site of prayers for generations. 

Otniel ben Knaz Gallery

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Tucked away in what is today a residential street in Hebron is a burial cave which for generations has been venerated as the Tomb of Othniel, the first judge of Israel. Othniel, (also pronounced Otniel or Osniel), was considered a heroic Jewish leader who brought the Jewish people back to their roots after the death of Joshua. Referred to as Othniel Ben Knaz, he is mentioned both in the Book of Joshua and Judges.
It states in Judges 1:12-13"And Caleb said, "He that shall smite Kiriat-Sepher and capture it; to him will I give Achsah my daughter for a wife. And Othniel the son of Knaz, Caleb's younger brother, captured it; and he gave him Achsah his daughter for a wife."
This story is also mentioned in Joshua 15:17.
The text continues in Judges 3:9-11, "And the children of Israel cried to the Lord, and the Lord raised up a savior (champion) to the children of Israel who saved them; Othniel the son of Knaz, Caleb's brother, who was younger than he. And the spirit of the Lord came upon him, and he judged Israel; and he went out to war, and the Lord delivered into his hands Cushan-rishathaim the king of Aram; and his hand prevailed upon Cushan-rishathaim. And the land had rest forty years; then Othniel the son of Kenaz died." 

Othniel is also mentioned in I Chronicles 4:13  and in the Talmud in Sotah 11b
There is a strong connection with Hebron to the story of Caleb. He, along with Joshua, was one of the twelve scouts to investigate the land of Israel during the wandering in the desert. Hebron was one of the main sites where the scouts arrived. They later brought back ill reports of the land, however Joshua and Caleb, disagreed and spoke positively of the land despite the perceived struggles. (Numbers 13:22

A Midrash says that during this visit, Caleb visited the Cave of Machpela, burial site of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs.

Later, in the Book of Joshua, Caleb is blessed with Hebron as an inheritance, as it states, "And Joshua blessed him, and gave Hebron to Caleb the son of Jephunneh for an inheritance. Hebron, therefore, became the inheritance of Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite to this day, because he fulfilled the will of the Lord God of Israel. And the name of Hebron before was Kiriat-Arba... And the land had rest from war." (Joshua 14: 13-15).
The Tomb of Othniel
About 200 meters west of Beit Hadassah, at the top of a rocky incline, is a burial cave. In what is known toward as Policeman's Square in a busy residential street, is a site revered for generations as a burial cave. The site corresponds with how the Mishna, in Bava Batra 101 describes the traditional burial practices of the Jewish people of that time period.
Throughout the generations, it has been revered as the tomb of Othniel Ben Knaz, brother (kinsman) of Caleb. The site has been mentioned by many travelers over the generations.
One such traveler was Menachem Mendel of Kamenitz, who ended up remaining in Israel and becoming the first hotelier in the Land of Israel. He wrote about his travels in his 1839 book entitled Sefer Korot Ha-Itim, later translated into English as Book of the Occurrences of the Times to Jeshurun in the Land of Israel. Menehem Mendel wrote, "outside of the city [of Hebron] I went to the grave of Othniel ben Kenaz and, next to him, are laid to rest 9 students in niches in the wall of a shelter standing in a vineyard. I gave 20 pa’res to the owner of the vineyard." 
Another author and traveler who reports visiting the tomb was J. J. Benjamin, also known as Benjamin II, a reference to the famous Benjamin of Tudela, the writer and traveler who visited Israel circa 1165. Benjamin writes in his book Eight Years in Asia and Africa (Hanover, 1858), "Likewise outside the city, towards the south, in a vineyard, which was purchased by the Jews, are the graves of the father of King David and of the first Judge, Othniel, the son of Kinah."
Visiting the Tomb Today
Popular times for pilgrimages to the site include Tisha B'Av and Lag Ba'Omer. Since 1997, the site has been designated in the H1 territory. Numerous legal battles have taken place in recent years over prayer rights. However despite the tension, visitors still come to pay their respects to the leader of the Jewish people in from ancient times.

Tomb of Abner Ben Ner
King Saul's top fighter Abner Ben Ner was part of the tumultuous history of the Jewish kingdom. His final resting place is in Hebron, the capital city under King David.
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(Photo: "Tomb of Avner Ben Ner, Commander of the Army of Israel.")
The Tomb of Abner Ben Ner is one of the many gravesites of Biblical figures located in Hebron as described in II Samuel 3:32.  "And they buried Abner in Hebron, and the king raised his voice and wept on Abner's grave, and all the people wept." According to a medieval Jewish tradition,  he was buried near the Tomb of Machpela, which corresponds to the present-day location of the site.
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(Photo: Outside of the Tomb of Abner. Source: Shavei Hebron)
The story of Abner Ben Ner is fraught with intrigue during the trying times of King David, as described in Samuel, Books I and II. Abner ben Ner was King Saul's cousin and commander-in-chief of his army. After King Saul died in battle, Abner appointed his son, Ishbosheth, as king, leading to rival factions being created. The text described a dramatic battle of self-defense between Abner and Asahel. Abner later met his death at the hands of Yoav, the brother of Asahel at the Battle of Gibeon.
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(Photo: Courtyard of the Tomb of Abner Ben Ner complex. Source: Shavei Hebron)
According to tradition, the head of Saul's son Ishboshet, was buried by Avner's grave, as described in the Bible, "And David commanded the young men, and they slew them... and hanged them up beside the pool in Hebron. But the head of Ishbosheth they took and buried in the grave of Abner in Hebron."  - II Samuel - Chapter 4:12. 
a woman prayer at the tomb of abner ben ner by david wilder
(Photo: A woman prays in the Tomb of Abner Ben Ner. Photo by David Wilder)
Today, the picturesque Tomb of Abner is a stone structure with several rooms arranged around a courtyard with a Mameluke-style gate, near the Tomb of the Patriarchs. For generations Jewish people have paid their respects to the Patriachs and Matriarchs at the ancient Tomb of Machpela. The nearby Tomb of Abner receives its share of visitors as well.
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(Photo: Courtyard of the Tomb of Abner Ben Ner complex. Source: Shavei Hebron)
The building where the tomb was housed fell into disrepair over the years due to neglect. It was refurbished in the mid-1990s. In 1997, the Hebron Redeployment Agreement divided the city into H1, controlled by the PA and H2, controlled by Israel. Since then the Tomb of Abner is technically under Israeli jurisdiction but is accessible to Jewish residents and visitors only 10 times a year. These ten times include Rosh Hashannah, one day during the Ten Days of Repentance, Yom Kippur, certain days during chol hamoed Sukkot, Shabbat Parshat Chaya Sarah, certain days during chol hamoed Passover, and on Rosh Chodesh Elul, for the annual Hilulat Avot, the celebration commemorating the Patriarchs. On these days, the Isaac Hall in the Tomb of Machpela is also open. These prayer rights came after many petitions and official requests to the government.
Avner ben Ner's grave is chronicled in various accounts of travelers who visited Hebron throughout history. Rabbi Moses Basola visited Hebron in the year 1522. He stated, "Abner's grave is in the middle of Hebron; the Muslims built a mosque above it." His travelogue has been reprinted in the book In Zion and Jerusalem: The Itinerary of Rabbi Moses Basola (1521 - 1523).
In Zion and Jerusalem The Itinerary of Rabbi Moses Basola with white border
(Photo: Cover of the reprint of Rabbi Moses Basola's historic travelogue. Source:Amazon)
In Sefer Yihus ha-Tzaddiqim (Book of Genealogy of the Righteous) a Jewish visitor writes, "At the entrance to the market in Hebron, at the top of the hill against the wall, Abner ben Ner is buried, in a church, in a cave." The book is a collection of Jewish pilgrimage literature first printed by Gershom ben Asher of Scarmela in Mantua, Italy in 1561. The book was reprinted by Abraham Moshe Lunz in Jerusalem, 1896.
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(Photo: Front page of Sefer Yihus ha-Tzaddiqim, reprinted by Abraham Lunz. Source: Penn Library)
The Tomb of Avner is referenced by Menahem Mendel of Kamenitz, owner of one of the first hotels in the Land of Israel. Before making Israel his permenant home, he wrote of his visits to the land in a book entitled Sefer Korot Ha-Itim, published in 1839. He writes:
"Here I write of the graves of the righteous to which I paid my respects. Hebron – Described above is the character and order of behavior of those coming to pray at the Cave of ha-Machpelah. I went there, between the stores, over the grave of Avner ben Ner and was required to pay a Yishmaeli – the grave was in his courtyard – to allow me to enter." For the full text in its English translation see, Book of the Occurrences of the Times to Jeshurun in the Land of Israel.
Another author and traveler who reports visiting the tomb was J. J. Benjamin, also known as Benjamin II, a reference to the famous Benjamin of Tudela, the writer and traveler who visited Israel circa 1165. Benjamin writes in his book Eight Years in Asia and Africa (Hanover, 1858):
"On leaving the Sepulchre of the Patriarchs, and proceeding on the road leading to the Jewish quarter, to the left of the courtyard, is seen a Turkish dwelling house, by the side of which is a small grotto, to which there is a descent of several steps. This is the tomb of Abner, captain of King Saul. It is held in much esteem by the Arabs, and the proprietor of it takes care that it is always kept in the best order. He requires from those who visit it a small gratuity." 
In 1912, the famous British-born Jewish scholar Israel Abrahams wrote:
"Hebron was the seat of David’s rule over Judea. Abner was slain here by Joab, and was buried here – they still show Abner’s tomb in the garden of a large house within the city. By the pool at Hebron were slain the murderers of Ishbosheth..." The report comes from his travel writings entitled The Book of Delight and Other Papers.
In modern times, Abner Ben Ner has sparkled the imagination of the creators of popular culture as well. In the 1960 film David and Goliath, Abner is performed by Italian actor Massimo Serato with King Saul played by veteran director Orson Welles. He is portrayed in the 1961 British-Israeli drama A Story of David by Welsh actor David Davies. In the 1976 television miniseries, The Story of David, the younger Abner is performed by Israeli actor Yehuda Efroni and the older Abner is portrayed by British actor Brian Blessed. In the 1985 American drama King David he is played by English actor John Castle with the King David role played by Richard Gere. In the 1997 musical King David, written by Tim Rice and Alan Menken, Abner is played by American actor Timothy Shew. In the 1997 TV movie David, he is played by Richard Ashcroft. In the Brazilian television series Rei Davi (King David) created in 2012, Abner is portrayed by actor Iran Malfitano.
* Holy Tombs by Michael Ish Shalom (Jerusalem, Rabbi Kook Foundation Publishing House, 1948)
* Sacred Tombs (Sepulchral Monuments in Palestine) (Hebrew) by Zeev Vilnay. (Jerusalem, Rabbi Kook Foundation Publishing House 1951)
* Tombs of the Righteous in the Land of Israel (Hebrew) by Dr. Zvi Ilan, (Jerusalem: Kanah, 1997) 
* Sites in Hebron (United With Hebron Book 4) by David Wilder, (Amazon Digital Services, Inc., 2012)

In 1925, the largest and most important Yeshiva in Kovna, Lithuania moved to Eretz Yisrael. Following a short stay in Jaffa, the Yeshiva settled in Hebron. The Rosh Yeshiva was Rav Moshe Mordechai Epstein. Rav Natan Tzvi Finkle, one of the most important leaders of the Musar movement, was Mashgiach, the spiritual director.

In Hebron the Yeshiva originally numbered about 120 students. By 1929 there were close to 200 students. Yeshivat Knesset Yisrael turned out to be the largest Yeshiva in Israel. Men from Europe, America and Israel studied here. They excelled in Torah study and were famous for their modern, fashionable dress. Many of the Yeshiva's students were later recognized as major Torah scholars.
For the short time that the Yeshiva, and other accompanying institutions were in Hebron, they brought about a notable spiritual and economic renewal to the city, which had suffered greatly following the first World War.

May 2 1980
Zvi Menachem ben Shmuel Chaim - Zvi (Howie) Glatt, Gershon Klein, Ya'akov Zimmerman, Hanan Krauthammer, Eli HaZe'ev, and Shmuel Mermelstein were murdered in front of the Beit Hadassah in Hebron on Friday evening, May 2, 1980. They were there to make Kiddush and give strength to the women and children who moved into Beit Hadassah to re-establish the Jewish Community in Hebron. ?
Today there are Jewish families living not only in Beit Hadassah but also in Beit Hashishah (named after the '6' boys hy"d). They are also remembered in the new Hebron Museum which has opened several exhibits including an interactive film.
  • Tzvi Glatt
    Tzvi Glatt
  • Gershon Klein
    Gershon Klein
  • Ya'akov Zimmerman
    Ya'akov Zimmerman
  • Eli HaZe'ev
    Eli HaZe'ev
  • Hanan Krauthammer
    Hanan Krauthammer
  • Shmuel Mermelstein
    Shmuel Mermelstein
  • An Israeli soldier guarding, outside Beit Hadassah, after the attack.
    An Israeli soldier guarding, outside Beit Hadassah, after the attack.
  • The building, destroyed by the Israeli army, the day after the attack.
    The building, destroyed by the Israeli army, the day after the attack.
  • The building on the right, opposite Beit Hadassah, was a garage. From this rooftop Arab terrorists attacked on Friday night, May 13, 1980.
    The building on the right, opposite Beit Hadassah, was a garage. From this rooftop Arab terrorists attacked on Friday night, May 13, 1980.
  • Dancing outside Beit Hadassah - 1980
    Dancing outside Beit Hadassah - 1980