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Opinion

Mr. Obama, Hebron is an eternal home for Jews

Eighty years after a massacre of Jews here and despite ongoing Arab threats, we yearn for peace. But will Obama's pressure on settlements force us to leave?

By David Wilder / August 24, 2009



Hebron, West Bank

The Obama administration is pressuring Israel to agree to a total building freeze of Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank). It may not be long before Israelis are forced to withdraw from places such as Hebron, in order to "prevent terror" and "achieve peace."

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It's commonly thought that "if only" Israel would give up all land outside the 1967 borders, then peace would be at hand. However, Arab terror against Jews did not begin after the Six-Day War in 1967.

Eighty years ago today, Arabs massacred 67 Jews in Hebron and wounded 70 more. Incited by the grand mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin el-Husseini, and shouting "Kill the Jews!", the perpetrators raped, mutilated, tortured, beheaded, or dismembered men, women, children, and even babies in a two-day spree of violence. The victims were guilty of no crime. Jews had lived there for hundreds of years in peace with their neighbors. But Arab instigators preached hateful sermons and spread malicious rumors that boiled over into bloodshed.

Of the many accounts of betrayal and courage that day in 1929, here are two:

Ben-tzion Gershon, a doctor and pharmacist who treated Jews and Arabs in Hebron, defied his wife's warnings and opened the door to an Arab woman who feigned that she was about to give birth. The woman moved aside, and a murderous mob stormed in and gang-raped his wife. When Dr. Gershon begged them to stop, they answered: "If you don't want to see it, you don't have to" – and gouged his eyes out before killing him, according to the testimony of one of Gershon's daughter.

Some Arabs showed great courage in protecting Jews that day. One Arab landlord refused to allow his Jewish tenants to be murdered. He stood fast outside the door of their home, even when a fellow Arab put a sword to his throat and drew blood. The landlord refused to budge and finally the mob relented.

As British High Commissioner Sir John Chancellor put it: "I do not think that history records many worse horrors in the last few hundred years...."

Three days after the massacre the ruling British expelled the surviving victims from Hebron, leaving the city without a Jewish presence for the first time since 1260.

It wasn't until 1967, following the Six-Day War, that Jews returned to Hebron. They did not occupy a foreign city; rather they came back home, to the first Jewish city in the land of Israel. They returned to worship at the Caves of Machpela, the second-holiest site in the world to Jews, after Temple Mount in Jerusalem. This site had been declared off limits to Jews and Christians for 700 years. Today it is open to all who desire to visit this hallowed burial ground for the Hebrew patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Hebron is not just the source of Judaism. It is the source of monotheism for all peoples of the world.

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