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?

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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."

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.

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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.

The only reason that the Caves of Machpela are still accessible to Jews is because there is a permanent Jewish presence in the city. The disappearance of the Jewish community of Hebron would be tantamount to abandoning the founders of our people. Would any American dream of abandoning Philadelphia, Boston, or Mount Vernon to the Taliban or Al Qaeda, "in the name of peace"? Today, I proudly live in Hebron, along with hundreds of other Jews. Despite media reports, our goal is not to expel the Arabs living here. Anyone of any race or religion should be able to live in Hebron.

However, we demand that our Arab neighbors accept the fact that the Jews have an eternal, legitimate right to live in the first Jewish city in the land of Israel. This is our goal: to live normal lives, just as anyone else, anywhere in Israel. Our goal is to ensure that our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren will be able to live in Hebron. Our goal is to make sure that all Jews will have access to the caves, that Jews will never again be told that this holy site is off limits. Eviction from Hebron, the first Jewish city in Israel, would be tantamount to acquiescence that can only be defined as a reward for terrorism, continuing in the footsteps of el-Husseini.

In 2000, then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak wrote a letter to Hebron's Jewish community, declaring: "The right of Jews to live tranquilly in the city of the Forefathers securely, protected from all danger, is not disputed. The test of the renewed Hebron Jewish community, which is the same test of the Arab majority, is the ability to develop good neighborly relationships."

Hebron's Jewish community could not agree more with this statement. The time has come for our Arab neighbors to stop shooting at us, to stop trying to kill us for no other reason than we are Jews living in Hebron. Perhaps they believe that by killing us, or by attempting to, they will scare us away. They could not be further from the truth, because Hebron is the heart of the Jewish people, the lifeblood from which the Jewish people derives its sanctity. This is a simple truth that everyone should not only understand, but also accept. We truly hope and pray for the day when true peace will prevail, both in Hebron, throughout the land of Israel, and all over the world.

Eighty years later, Hebron's Jewish community symbolizes the eternity of the Jewish people in the land of Israel and a clear victory over Arab terror. In Hebron, the Jews have returned home.

David Wilder is the spokesman for the Jewish Community of Hebron.

For a different perspective, see Walter Rodgers' Why Israel will thwart Obama on settlements.

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