Religious Persecution in the City of Abraham.
An Interview with David Wilder the Spokesman for the Hebron Jewish Community.
December 4, 2008 - Audio, 18.75 MIN
(Links at bottom of page to download free viewers.)
Today Jewish families were dragged out of their home by riot police in Hebron, some were seriously hurt. We called David Wilder in Hebron whose daughter and grandchildren were some of those evicted.
This is David Billington with you for Bible in the News.
We have with us David Wilder, the spokesman for the Jewish Community in Hebron. David, welcome to Bible in the News.
(David Wilder--DW) Thank you, good to be back with you.
(David Billington--DB) There is a prophecy in Jeremiah 23 which I'm sure you're aware of:
"Men shall buy fields for money, and subscribe evidences, and seal them, and take witnesses in the land of Benjamin, and in the places about Jerusalem, and in the cities of Judah, and in the cities of the mountains, and in the cities of the valley, and in the cities of the south: for I will cause their captivity to return, saith the LORD."
Now God has caused the captivity of the Jewish people to return and come back to cities such as Hebron. But today a Jewish man bought a building, now called 'peace house' in Hebron for money, subscribed evidences, taken witnesses -- done all the paper work and now the government has evicted the Jews. Can you describe for our listeners the events surrounding 'peace house' that have led up to today?
(DW) Going back almost five years. Maurice Abraham from Brooklyn, New York, began the transaction by which he purchased this huge building, thirty-five to forty thousand square feet, on the main road leading down into the city of Hevron. About twenty months ago that transaction was completed and families moved inside and have lived there for almost two years now. Almost immediately there were attempts made to try and have us expelled from the building by the Israeli left and people who were from the prosecutor’s office, from government and it continued on various paths for quite a long time. It reached a peak a few weeks ago when the supreme court said that it refused to examine the evidence that we had brought. We had documents that had been authenticised. We brought a film of the Arab counting the money. We brought a tape of him saying he’s sold the property. The court refused to look at this evidence. Rather they said if the government wanted they could throw us out. They didn’t order them to throw us out but if they wanted they were able to. This was immediately interpreted by the media and the politicians not as permission but rather as a court command. A court order.
For the last couple of weeks we have been trying to prevent this from actually happening. Recently we began very, very high level talks with people in the defense establishment, the defense ministry, working under the defense minister Barak - Ehud Barak. We tried to explain to them that the court did not order us out. That the supreme court decision as was said by others was a a political decision. Any decision by Barak to expel us has nothing to do with justice rather it is all political. And we also offered them alternatives which would have allowed them to in their eyes uphold the law yet we would be able to stay there until the case was heard and decided by a lower court. That reached also something of a pinnacle with a very long meeting last night between representatives of the community, our legal team and people in the defense ministry and they seemed to be taking this seriously. They seemed to feel that there was a way to avoid violent confrontation. The result of that trust that we had with them culminated today when Ehud Barak sent in hundreds and hundreds of forces, riot squad, police and soldiers. You name it and they were there. To violently and forcibly expel the families that were there and the people that had come in to support us.
(DB) So, this building is obviously very important to you. Can you explain why David, this building is important to the Hebron Jewish community?
(DW) First of all as I tried to explain to many journalists that came in, if a person puts a for sale sign outside and you happen to like the property and you have the financial means to purchase it, then you go ahead and do it... and once you've paid the money then it's yours. And that would seem to be the way it is anywhere in the world except in Hevron. Whereby that’s exactly what we did do. A property came up for sale a person was interested in buying it. He was able to supply the money, yet we were not able to take the property and legally be able to use it. This is of course something of a problem and it is quite unfortunate.
The building besides that very fact is very very large; it would allow us to probably build apartments there, we might be able to put a school in there, maybe even move our offices up there. I don’t know, but it is a large building. It gives us a lot of room to play with. To expand the community a little bit. It’s also on a very strategic point. It’s very high up. The roof is quite high. It overlooks all of Hevron and the nearby neighbourhood of Kiryat Arba. So as far the IDF - the Israeli Defense force - was concerned, it was very positive that we were there because they could use it strategically. It provided them with an advantage they didn’t have when we weren’t there. It was also between the suburb community of Kiryat Arba and the city of Hevron. This building sort-of acted like a link between the two communities sort of bringing us closer which we also thought was very important.
(DB) Okay. I'm just going to read you something here David from an Associated Press article, so they said:
"In recent years, the government has failed to dismantle dozens of unauthorized squatter camps, despite promises to the U.S. to do so. And its resolve is now being tested by a few dozen militant settlers holed up in a house in the West Bank city of Hebron, in defiance of a Supreme Court eviction order."
This is obviously very distorted and they're using the term militants to describe the residents of peace house, the same term the media uses to describe Arab terrorists. How would you describe the residents of peace house seeing you know them personally?
(DW) Well, one of the family’s that has lived there for the last twenty months is my daughter and my son-in-law and three of my grandchildren. My son-in-law studied in a Yeshiva - in a Torah academy for many years and has presently begun working on his BA in a very fine technological college in Jerusalem. My daughter is a young woman and she is a house keeper. She takes care of the three kids. The oldest one who I think is probably about five and a half. I wouldn’t call either one of them militants nor would I call any of the children militants. All of the other families in the building include; a Rabbi; includes the head of a children's Talmud, Torah - Torah School; includes an electrician; includes a teacher - one of my son’s teachers in the previous years, lives in that building with his wife and children. But many years ago there was a reporter for a major New York newspaper, every time he talked about Hevron he would talk about the extremists in Hevron. One time he came in with one of his editors and I asked him in front of his editorwhy he always used the word extremist, and he said “Well, you’re yearning, and you’re zealots and your this and your that.” And I said “Yes, but you never use those words. You always use the word extremist, which creates a certain image.” And he said “Yes, well everyone knows what I mean.” This is the same kind of thing. As far as many people of the world are concerned we are monsters. We breathe fire. We have horns and tails. Unfortunately this is an image which is backed by the Israeli media and the Israeli left and we try of course to take that image apart. However, sometimes it's very difficult to do. Because for many people they don't care whether we legally bought that building or not they consider our very presence in Hevron is illegal and illegitimate. And they say we don’t care if its illegal or not, they shouldn’t be there. This is something that we have to try to break through and overcome and try to show people that... There’s a big sign we put outside the building a couple of days ago which says, I have some photos of it - I have to post it up on the web, it says "God gave Israel to the Jews". You know that's the bottom line. Okay the bottom line we read in the Bible, we read in the Torah that the land of Israel Eretz Israel is a God-given gift to the Jewish people. This is our home. It has been home to the Jewish people for almost four thousand years. And you read the prophecy from Jeremiah. Even before that, you know, the days of Abraham, the days of King David - the beginning of the Judean monarchy started here in Hevron and Jews have lived here continuously for literally thousands of years. So when people ask me, when journalists come in and say to me “How do you deal with the fact that you are extremists.” I say to them "I don't understand what makes me an extremist I tend to think of, when you say the word extremists, I tend to think of Hamas and Hizbollah and the Red Brigade and all sorts of organizations that go around. Al Qaida, these nuts that went through India killing so many hundreds of people, including some very righteous Jewish people. That’s what I call extremists. I, myself, and the other people I have talked about - my son-inlaw, my daughter and all of their neighbours. We are not extremists. We live an ideal. We are idealists. And because we are idealists and we believe in living what we believe. We believe in doing what we believe and not just talking about it. So that brands us with this unfortunate term. Which you are right, this is what everyone used to call terrorists and there are people who think we are terrorists. What can I say?
(DB) The media is obviously very biased against the Jewish community of Hebron. Where would you direct people to, to get more information or balanced reporting?
(DW) First of all there are two major web sites today which are very, very important. The first one which is basically a news site. I have a blog there and we work together very closely, is Arutz Sheva. Israel National News. Israelnationalnews.com is very, very important. People who want to know the truth can find it there. And of course people can also watch the Hevron website: hebron.com We have news and we have photographs, and we have information about the community and the history and whatever people like to know about Hevron the past and the present. I think that if people watch those two sites should be able to get a fairly good idea of what’s going on here, truthfully and accurately as opposed to what they would see on other web sites, unfortunately.
(DB) Ehud Olmert condemned the "disgrace and contempt, and the wild and inciting voices against the authority of the state and the rule of law." Why in your opinion is Olmert, himself surrounded by corruption charges, suddenly so concerned about the 'rule of law' and absolutely bent on driving the residents from this building?
(DW) Look, when a person has the kind of problems that Olmert has he wants to direct attention elsewhere. Anywhere except him. I think that what he's looking for. I’ve heard this a number of times over the past couple of weeks concerning the rule of law. It's very unfortunately been the thing that the media here doesn't pick up and put out.
The supreme court ruling that I mentioned earlier, the Supreme Court in Israel consists of a number of judges and the entire court does not hear cases does the United States Supreme Court, rather you have panels of judges and the panels of judges are usually appointed by the president of the supreme court to hear a particular case. The president of the supreme court is a woman named Dorit Beinish she is extremely left wing. In the middle of this case she changed the panels because there were a couple of people on the panel that she seemed to feel who did not necessarily agree with her outlook or political outlook on life she changed the panels in the middle of the hearing so that the panel that made the final decision included herself, a woman judge who is even more left wing than she is and an Arab judge. And these are the three people who are going to lay down the rule of law for us to have to abide by. They change the rules in the middle of the game and say that we have to abide by the new rules. Of course this is ridiculous. Not only do we have a responsibility but an obligation not to abide by those laws because they are so distorted because they are so corrupt and the fact that Olmert is disturbed by this doesn't bother bother me at all. Ehud Olmert is going to find himself very very soon in a court of law and very well might find himself behind bars and then we'll see what he has to say about the rule of law.
(DB)Tzipi Livni just returned from Brussels where she was criticized for the Israeli governments policy towards the settlements. What kind of role do you feel foreign governments, in this case Europe, play in the events that transpire in your town of Hebron?
(DW) Look, today we're on the way to a new political map. Both in the United States and in Israel. We have a new administration coming in Washington with Obama and Joe Biden and now Hilary Clinton and the rest of his team which is..many of the people there are certainly not pro Israel but they are very pro Arab. Some of them we know from the past, we’ve seen how they’ve dealt with things from the past with Israel and the like. The Europeans have never been very big pro-Israel people, certainly not people like us that live throughout Judea and Samaria and of course we are going to an election in Israel in another month and a half. We are going into a new political climate. It’s not clear how long it’s going to take for the Obama administration to start to deal with issues like Israel and the problems between Israel and our Arab neighbours here, on the other hand I am not sure how the Israeli administration is going to be like. In the past the Americans and the Europeans haven't had to put too much pressure on Israel because our own politia ns have been doing it all by themselves. As matter of fact there are things that when Ariel Sharon was Prime Minister and Olmert had to persuade George Bush to let him go ahead with the expulsion form Gush Katif which in the beginning they did not agree with. According to a report that I have seen Bush asked Olmert when he was in Washington last week why he was so intent in giving the Golan Heights back to the Syrians. When Olmert said something about a strategic peace Bush said why do you believe in that? Here is an American president saying to the Israeli prime minister. However it certainly wouldn’t surprise me if we see a continued pressure on the State of Israel both from the United States and from Europe in the near future. I hope that the Israeli government that comes into power will know how to stand up under this pressure and rebut it and say look we’ve done so much and we're paying such a price for what we’ve done. The fact that we gave Gush Katif to the Arabs and now they are shooting missiles into our cities and into Sderot and Ashkelon from the very land we gave them. There’s a limit. We’ve learned the lesson too many times the hard way and we are not going to do it again.
(DB) Well I would like to thank-you David for taking the time out to speak with us on The Bible in the News. Shalom and may there soon be peace in Jewish Hebron.
Hebron and Peace House were featured in the Bible Magazine, Volume 21 No. 2, available in pdf or as a back issue.
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