Rambling ...

I'm an Irish Girl, A Dubliner, with the 'Gift of the Gab' ... I like to talk & to tell you things. In Celtic times news, views and comment were carried from place to place by wandering Seanachaí ~ Storytellers ~ who relied on their host's hospitality and appreciation. I will need that from you too, as I venture to share Politics, Poetry, Laughter, Love, Life & everything in-between ... from Bog to Blog!!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Honouring Hebron!!

The First Documented Massacre of Jews in the Holy Land!

This past month marked the 82nd Anniversary of the 1929 massacre of 67 Jews ~ men, women and children ~ by "palestinian" Arabs in the town of Hebron.  I'm late in remembering & Honouring Hebron this month because of the 'Beck Business', which actually turned into pretty much of a damp squib, Baruch Ha'Shem!!

Actually, August 24th was the Yahrzeit (Yiddish for "a year's time" or the anniversary of the death of  loved ones) of the day the murderous Pogrom began.  When the three days of murder, mutilation, torture, rape and pillaging ended, the British "protectors" evacuated some 700 survivors, thereby ending the existence of one the most ancient Jewish communities in Eretz Yisrael.  Jews had lived in Hebron for 3,000 years, and the community that Arabs attacked in 1929 had continuously resided peacefully in Hebron since the end of the 15th century C.E.  

The attack was incited by  the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, who claimed that Jews were endangering Muslim holy sites on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. (This exact tactic was successfully repeated in September 2000 by the Grand Mufti's nephew and "spiritual" heir, Yassir Arafat, Y'mach Shemo, to launch the "Second Intifada", thereby diverting attention from Arafat's refusal to make peace with Israel at Camp David.)  No Jew was able to live in Hebron from 1929 until 1967, when Israel conquered Hebron during the Six-Day War.  We didn't whinge & whine about forced exile, or compensation or "refugee rights" following this horrific pogrom, perhaps that is why it is rarely remembered by the world??  At a time when Israel is regularly accused of ethnic cleansing and apartheid, even by a former President of the United States,  it is useful to remember who are the real perpetrators of ethnic cleansing in the Holy Land.  And it isn't Jews !!!!!

In 1967,  Jewish pioneers ~ the people the world roundly condemns as "settlers" ~ moved back to Hebron to re-establish our ancient community ......  three millenia earlier,  Avraham purchased the cave of Machpelah to bury Sara, his wife. It was the first parcel of land owned by the Jewish people in Eretz Yisrael, our still promised land.  Ever since, we revere Hebron as the burial site of our matriarchs and patriarchs. Conquered, massacred and expelled over the centuries, we have always returned to this sacred & special place in our land. 

After 1267, under Muslim rule, no Jews were permitted to pray inside the magnificent enclosure, built by King Herod in the 1st century, that still surrounds the burial caves. But following the expulsion of All Jews from Spain at the end of the 15th century, a small group of our Orthodox rebuilt a community of study and prayer in Hebron.  In August 1929, that community was suddenly and brutally attacked. Incited by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem ~ who claimed that Jews were endangering Muslim holy sites on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem ~ sound familiar today????   Arab rioters swept through Eretz Yisrael.  The violence began in Jerusalem and soon spread to Hebron, Motza, and Safed, all old Jewish communities that supposedly lived in harmony with their Arab neighbours, rather than Zionist settlements.   In Hebron, the carnage was horrendous. 

On Friday, August 23rd, 1929,  as Shabbat approached,  Hell erupted!  Arab youths started throwing rocks at the Yeshiva students. That afternoon, one student, Shmuel Rosenholtz, went to the Slobodka Yeshiva,  Knesset Yisrael-Slobodka, alone.  Arab rioters later broke in and killed him, and that was only the beginning. Friday night, Rabbi Ya’acov Slonim’s son invited any fearful Jews to stay in his house. The Rabbi was highly regarded in the community, and he had a gun. Many Jews took him up on this offer, and many Jews were eventually murdered there.  As early as 8:00 a.m. on Saturday, Arabs began to gather en masse. They came in mobs, armed with clubs, knives and axes. While the women and children threw stones, the men ransacked Jewish houses and destroyed Jewish property. With only a single police officer in Hebron,  Arabs entered Jewish courtyards with no opposition.  There are many indications that the Arabs, as well as the British had advance warning of the disturbances, yet the British did nothing to try to head them off. There was one British policeman in Hebron, Raymond Cafferata. He commanded a force of 18 mounted police and 15 on foot. Of these, all but one were Arabs.

Rabbi Slonim, who had tried to shelter the Jewish population, was approached by the rioters and offered a deal. If all the Ashkenazi yeshiva students were given over to the Arabs, the rioters would spare the lives of the Sephardi community.  Rabbi Slonim refused to turn over the students and was killed on the spot. In the end, 12 Sephardi Jews and 55 Ashkenazi Jews were murdered there. The one policeman offered safety to any who reached the police station at Beit Romano.  The police station turned into a shelter for the Jews on the morning of August 24th. It also became a synagogue as the Orthodox there and said Shacharit. As they finished davening, they began to hear noises outside the building. Thousands of Arabs descended from Har Hebron, shouting "Kill the Jews!" in Arabic. They even tried to break down the doors of the station. The Jews  inside were besieged in Beit Romano for three days. Each night, ten men were allowed to leave to attend a funeral in Hebron’s ancient Jewish cemetery for the murdered Jews of the day.

In the Anglo-Palestine Bank, where 23 corpses were discovered, blood covered the tile floor. That day, three children under the age of five were murdered. Teenage girls, their mothers and grandmothers were raped and killed. Rabbis and their students were castrated before they were slain.  A surviving yeshiva student recounted that he "had seen greater horrors than Dante in hell."     The butchery in Hebron was  "without equal in the history of the country since the destruction of the Temple." Sir Walter Shaw, chairman of the British Royal investigation, concluded that "unspeakable atrocities" had occurred.   Babies were beheaded. Old Rabbis were castrated. There were incidents of rape, torture and mutilation. Hands and fingers were torn off bodies.

"On hearing screams in a room I went up a sort of tunnel passage and saw an Arab in the act of cutting off a child's head with a sword. He had already hit him and was having another cut, but on seeing me he tried to aim the stroke at me, but missed; he was practically on the muzzle of my rifle. I shot him low in the groin. Behind him was a Jewish woman smothered in blood with a man I recognized as a[n Arab] police constable named Issa Sherif from Jaffa in mufti. He was standing over the woman with a dagger in his hand. He saw me and bolted into a room close by and tried to shut me out-shouting in Arabic, "Your Honour, I am a policeman." ... I got into the room and shot him."
(Bernard Wasserstein, The British in Palestine: The Mandatory Government and the Arab-Jewish Conflict 1917-1929, Oxford England, Basil Blackwell, 1991)

When the slaughter finally subsided, 67 Jews had been murdered. Three days later, British soldiers evacuated 484 survivors, including 153 children, to Jerusalem. Forcibly evacuated & "resettled" in Jerusalem!   Some Jewish families tried to move back to Hebron, but were removed by the British authorities in 1936 at the start of the Arab revolt. In 1948, the War of Independence granted Israel statehood, but further cut the Jews off from Hebron, a city that was captured by King Abdullah's Arab Legion and annexed to Jordan.  It wasn't until 1967 that Hebron was returned to Eretz Yisrael.

A small group of  Zionist Pioneers returned to Hebron to rebuild the destroyed community. "What was in the past in Hebron," declared their matriarch Miriam Levinger, "is what will happen in the future. Always!"  The Jewish community of Hebron ~ some 700 people ~ recently celebrated the 44th anniversary of their return. All the other ancient peoples have vanished. But Jews, a community of memory, still live in Hebron. Eretz Yisrael .... our land for 3,300 years.  Hebron Jews are relentlessly vilified as fanatics who illegally occupy someone else's land.  Nothing could be further from the truth. 

"For I will make an end of all the nations where I dispersed you, but of you I will not make an end"  ~ Yirmiyahu 30.11 ~

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