Exactly 20 years ago, Rosh HaShana eve, about 11:30 pm. I was downstairs at Beit Hadassah, near the museum, taking a look at emergency supplies with my friend Uri Karzen, when it started. Massive shooting. Unlike anything we’d heard before. After a few minutes I ran upstairs to my apartment and found my wife and kids sitting on the floor near the door, away from the windows.
Little did we know that this was the beginning of what’d we’d predicted all along, that is, the Oslo war, otherwise known as the 2nd intifada, which continued for over 2 years. And countless deaths.
All our windows faced north to the Harat a’Shech hills, not too far from us, one of the sources of the gunfire. Almost immediately IDF soldiers were stationed inside our apartment, taking over one of our children’s rooms, where they remained for close to a month. They sandbagged one of the windows and used it as a station from which to shoot back. Eventually they moved out and up to the roof of the building. But the shooting continued.
And virtually nothing concrete was done to stop it.
September, 2000 – less than three years since the ‘Hebron Accords,’ abandoning most of Hebron to Arafat and the terrorists, had been signed and implemented. At that time, January of 1997, the Prime Minister was Binyamin Netanyahu, not yet a year into his first term as premier. He had promised Hebron leaders, during a meeting that winter, that if one shot was fired, the army would retake the hills.
Except that in September, 2000 he was no longer prime minister and his replacement had no plans to send in the army. So rather than end the nightmare quickly, the IDF’s hands were tied behind their back, shooting at nothing but hills and empty buildings, accomplishing nothing except adding to the very noisy nights, and eventually, days too.
For two and a half years we lived behind sandbags. Miraculously, people weren’t killed on a daily basis. But tragedy did strike when a terrorist shot and killed Shalhevet Pas, a 10 month old infant in the Avraham Avinu neighborhood.
It was 20 years ago, but feels like yesterday.
My apartment was hit too, despite the sandbags. Here too a Divine miracle prevented two of my kids from being hit, with bullets striking inches from them.
During that time, not one family left Hebron.
Looking back, I have no idea how we got through it. My articles, photos and memories paint a bleak picture of one-sided warfare, which came to an end only after the Passover attack in Netanya at the Park hotel in April 2002.
A number of years ago I attended the CUFI conference in Washington DC. During a briefing prior to a mass lobby program on Capitol Hill, one of the directors of the program, who happened to be Jewish, pointed out that the only thing Israel had to give for peace was land.
When he finished and took questions, I stood up and introduced myself and mentioned that I lived in Hebron, in Israel. Five thousand people stood up and applauded. I then asked, why land for peace? Why not peace for peace? And the 5,000 people again stood on their feet and applauded.
Needless to say, the speaker was a bit taken aback.
I have no recollection as to his answer. But ironically, on just about the same date that the Oslo War started, and the same date as the signing of the Oslo Accords, that being Sept. 13, 1993, Israel is signing accords with the UAE and Bahrain, and soon with Oman and other Arab countries, whereby the price is – peace for peace.
I’m not living under any illusions. I have no idea how long these peace accords will last. Maybe a year, maybe a decade, maybe for 100 years. I don’t know. But the very acceptance of the State of Israel by countries long considered to be lethal enemies, and the legitimacy granted of peace for peace and not land for peace, is really rather amazing. True, at present, these countries find themselves with a common goal with Israel against Iran, and who knows what they will do if and when this threat is erased. Yet, a first step has been taken, which can never ever be deleted, regardless of the future.
I hope and pray that this should be an omen for the coming New Year. It should be peaceful, happy and healthy for all of us.