Hebron-Past, Present and Forever
by David Wilder
August 27, 1995
On Friday evening, before the beginning of Shabbat prayers, a good friend of mine, (and
one of the best tour guides in the country), Haim Mageni, approached me and asked me if I
recognized the pictures in last weeks' newspapers. I responded no, I hadn't seen anything out of
the ordinary - what was he referring to? Haim had brought a summer adult education group,
studying at Hebrew University, to Hebron two weeks earlier. I spoke to them in the Avraham
Avinu neighborhood, answered some questions, and showed them our video-film. One of the
members of the group was a woman from the US who has just arrived back in Israel.
Unfortunately her picture was in all the Israeli papers during the week. Her name was Joan
Davenny Hy"d, who was killed while riding in an Egged bus from her apartment in Rechavia to
the Mt. Scopus campus. An American, Joan lived in Connecticut, and taught at the Ezra Academy
Day school in Woodbridge. She came to Israel to for a sabbatical.
The truth is that I meet a lot of people in Hebron, and rarely do I remember all the faces or
names. I didn't recall Joan Davenny having been with the group. In spite of the fact that all
murders in Israel are extremely upsetting, I found it somewhat traumatic knowing that one of our
most recent visitors to Hebron, one of the people I had spoken with, was dead, murdered by
another Arab terrorist, seeking the blood of more Jews.
Last week the army closed the Caves of the Patriarchs for the entire week to both Jews and
Arabs. The reason given was to allow the special police-army security units a vacation. (I
wonder if the country closes up when the Chief-of-Staff takes a couple of weeks off?) In any case,
Ma'arat HaMachpela reopened on Thursday afternoon at 12:00 in the afternoon. The Hebrew
date was the 28th of Tamuz, the day before the commencement of the last month of the year,
Elul. This is a very special day, which usually sees thousands of people arriving in Hebron to pray.
This year was no exception. Over 10,000 people traveled from all parts of the country to pray at
the Caves of the Patriarchs. Buses were still arriving at 10:00 at night.
It is extremely difficult to describe such a sight. Thousands and thousands of people,
lining up to enter the 2,000 year-old structure, covering the ancient burial caves of the Patriarchs
and Matriarchs. The rooms inside were so crowded that it was almost impossible to move around.
Hundreds of men and women, formed groups outside, in the courtyard, beseeching the G-d of
Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Prayers are individual and private, but I have the impression that
many people prayed for the opportunity to be able to pray at this same site at the same time next
I spent some time taking small groups around the city, visiting Beit Hadassah, Beit
Romano, and the Avraham Avinu Synagogue. We walked the whole way. One woman asked me
several times if it wasn't dangerous to walk the streets of Hebron - shouldn't we have an army
escort? I finally asked her where she was from and she replyed, Jerusalem. I asked her if it was
safe to ride a bus in Jerusalem, or Ramat Gan, or anywhere else in the country. She didn't answer
me, but she stopped asking if it was dangerous to walk the streets of Hebron.
If it's not clearly understood from these two accounts I've given, the point I'm trying to
make is that we are all in this together. It doesn't make any difference if it's Jerusalem, Tel-Aviv,
Haifa, Eilat, Hebron, or even Woodbridge, Connecticut. In the end it catches up to everyone.
Netania, Hadera, Beit Leid, - the problem isn't at any specifically designated spot - it's
everywhere. The question isn't where, rather it's what are we going to do about it. The only
thing I know for sure is that running away isn't going to solve anything, it's just going to make
things worse. And that is the present direction - running away, attempting to escape. First we
have to stop that - then we can continue, not going backwards, but forwards.