HebronPast, Present and Forever -- February 5, 1999
Two subjects have become major topics of the current elections:
Tel Rumeida and Bibi's new campaign slogan.
Tel Rumeida? Yes! Labor candidate Ehud Barak has turned Tel Rumeida
into a campaign issue. In what way? For example, a few days ago,
on Tuesday, Feb. 2nd, as quoted in Ha'Artetz newspaper: "We
have clear red lines. Yitzhar and Tel Rumeida
are one thing; But Alphei Menashe, Gush Etzion, Ariel, Nirit,
the Jordan Valley settlements and many other places are part of
the State of Israel in the permanent settlement as well."
In other words, Tel Rumeida is NOT part of the State of Israel,
according to Barak.
What exactly is Tel Rumeida? This Hebron neighborhood is very
special. The word Rumeida, in Arabic, has something to do with
a fire that occurred well over 1,000 years ago and for some reason
the name stuck. However, the real name of this site is not Tel
Rumeida. Rather, it is Tel Hebron. For this is the site of the
original Hebron the home of Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca,
Jacob and Lea.
According to archeologists, a huge, ancient wall found here originated
during the days of Joshua. Later, this site was the location of
King David's first palace the first capital of the Kingdom of
Judea, where David went following the death of King Saul. Visitors
can see here the Tomb of Jessie and Ruth Jessie, King David's
father, and Ruth, his great grandmother.
Other excavations have unearthed ruins from two thousand years
ago, during the time of the Second Temple. Only a few months ago
a superficial excavation discovered 40 clay jugs four thousand
years old. Some of this pottery was intact, and some of the jugs
contained jewelry inside them. When I take tourists to visit this
neighborhood I tell them, "You literally have 4,000 years
of Jewish history here, under your feet. This is the roots of
the Jewish People, the roots of monotheism. Our history began
here. This is the original Hebron, the first Jewish city in Israel."
Tel Rumeida today is a small Jewish neighborhood. Small, not because
this is the way we want it, but because we have denied the ability
to build, or to bring in prefabricated structures. Seven families
live today in this area, living in what we call 'caravans' or
mobile homes. Each caravan is about 45 square meters in size.
One family, who we frequently visit while touring, has two caravans
90 square meters. The reason: they recently celebrated the birth
of their 12th child. So they need a little extra room. Another
family in Tel Rumeida came from Russia, not too many years ago.
The wife, Anna, is one of Israel's premiere musicians. Tel Rumeida
is also home to Hebron director Rabbi Hillel Horowitz and his
family. And of course, I must mention another family, a family
which experienced tremendous tragedy a few months ago: Rabbanit
Chaya Ra'anan. Her husband, Rabbi Shlomo Ra'anan, the sixty three
year old grandson of Rabbi Abraham Isaac HaCohen Kook, Israel's
first Chief Rabbi, was brutally murdered by an Arab
terrorist less than six months ago.
These are some of the seven families living today at the site
of Israel's first Jewish city. This is the neighborhood of the
'extremists' which, according to Barak, is NOT a part of
the State of Israel. This is a land area which, according to Barak,
WILL BE GIVEN TO ARAFAT, as part of a final status
(A few weeks ago an Israeli archeologist who excavated at Tel
Rumeida, and who is also a wellknown activist of Shalom Achshav
Peace Now, in the Israeli left, told us, "This is the second
most important archeological site in Israel, second only to Jerusalem."
He added, "Unfortunately, it belongs to Arafat.")
This is where Barak draws the line.
The second topic I mentioned is Bibi's campaign slogan, which
says: Netanyahu: A strong leader for a strong people. (Well, they
got half of it right. We are a strong people. Whether or not Netanyahu
is a strong leader is another story.)
Why is this a controversial subject? For some reason, people object
to the use of the word 'strength'. It seems to have negative connotations.
This, I personally find difficult to comprehend. Strength does
not necessarily mean physical strength. What about moral and ethical
strength, spiritual strength, or what might be called assertiveness
i.e. standing up for what you believe in?
What I find interesting is that the same people who negate
Tel Rumeida also object to this campaign slogan. And the reason
seems to be fairly obvious. They prefer weakness. They prefer
mediocrity. They prefer a fuzzy and obscure identity. They cannot
identify with Abraham or King David or Joshua, because these central
figures in the history of our People were strong and assertive.
They cannot associate with a people like the Maccabees, who revolted
against the Greeks, or BarKochva, who led the revolt against
the Romans following the fall of the Second Temple. Both the Maccabees
and Bar Kochva battled in ancient Hebron. For they represent the
antithesis of 'good Jews'. They prefer Jews who kowtow to the
demands of others, who prefer Washington and Geneva to Hebron
and Yitzhar (a community in the Shomron). They prefer to erase
our past, thereby stunting our future.
A people unwilling to honor its past, cannot honor its future.
Of course we always have to look forward, but when we look at
ourselves in the mirror of history, we are our past. If we despise
our past, we despise our present. And in the future, we too will
be disregarded. The measure of who we are Israelis and Jews
this is our past and our strength. That is why, obviously, Barak
rejects not only the 'strength' in the campaign slogan, but also
the historic identity with Tel Rumeida.
We, to the contrary, have a different measure of strength, a strength
which is inextricably bound up with Tel Rumeida with Abraham
and King David, with Joshua and the Maccabees. And with seven
families who are keeping this ancient holy site accessible for
all the Jewish people.
(Note: The present administration has recently granted permission
to build at Tel Rumeida. Hopefully, following archeological excavations
due to begin shortly, new houses will be built at this site and
the population will be doubled.)