Golden Calves

March 31, 2004


Last night, after a full night at the Hazon David Synagogue, I was unsure as to whether I should spend another night there. We knew it was only a matter of time until the troops showed up to evict us and obliterate the synagogue, but the exact time and date were still a question mark. I decided to sleep at home.
At 4:30 in the morning the phone started ringing and I knew the time had come. Quickly dressing, I made my way downstairs to drive to the site, five minutes away. I met my neighbor, who is also an ambulance driver. Knowing the necessity for emergency medical crews and ambulances at such events, his presence was a necessity. I decided to accompany him, rather than drive myself.

However, the road between Hebron and Kiryat Arba had been closed, with the synagogue site being blocked off by an army jeep, parked horizontally in the middle of the street. They wouldn’t even let the ambulance through. So, I walked a couple of minutes to the site and arrived just in time to witness the huge army D9 bulldozer start to demolish the tent which housed the synagogue.

The fifty or so youth spending the night at the synagogue had been expelled easily at about four o’clock, being forcibly and violently removed. They were taken to Kiryat Arba (across the street – maybe 50 meters away) and locked in. In other words, the gates to Kiryat Arba were closed and locked. The contents of the synagogue, the books, Torah Scroll and furniture, were removed. Then the D9 began its ugly work. And it didn’t take too long. Within a few minutes the synagogue was plowed into the ground.

A while later, when the gates to Kiryat Arba were opened, and others from Hebron were able to reach the site, everyone immediately started ‘rebuilding’ the synagogue. Rocks which had formed the foundation of the structure were gathered and piled one on top of the other, the beginnings of a low wall, encompassing the area of the synagogue. This was too much for the security forces, which again went to work, attempting to finish what they had started. The goal: destroy the wall!

The site was declared a ‘closed military zone’ and all people were ordered to leave, or else… Of course, no one left. Everyone sat down where they were, and a group of men began early morning prayers. The security forces, police, and border police tried to move people out, without success. And then, off and on, for a good part of the day, violence would erupt when the police decided that enough was enough – the ‘rebuilding’ had gone too far.

As of this writing, at about 4:00 in the afternoon, the atmosphere has somewhat relaxed. The police know that they are not going to be able to evict everyone – people will just keep coming back, while the Hebron-Kiryat Arba residents know that they will not be able to totally restore the synagogue today, immediately. So, for the time being, everyone is sitting around, waiting to see what the ‘other side’ plans to do.

This is one of the sickest situations I have ever witnessed since coming to Israel some 30 years ago. If, in any other country in the world, a government decision brought about the violent annihilation of a synagogue, newspaper headlines would scream ‘Anti-Semitism’ and ‘Racism.’ International Jewish organizations would demand immediate restoration and harsh measures to be brought against the perpetrators. Only in the State of Israel, under Ariel Sharon, can a synagogue, built in memory of two Jews murdered by terrorists in the midst of a war, be ‘justifiably’ wiped off the face of the earth, having been declared an ‘illegal outpost.’ It is unfathomable.

Despite the horror of today’s actions, it is incumbent upon us to realize what is actually happening. Only hours ago the IDF Chief of Staff announced that other ‘illegal outposts’ would be uprooted. The army is ready to “carry out what it’s required to do.” What does this mean?

Understand – this does not just refer to ‘outposts,’ be they ‘legal’ or ‘illegal.’ Ariel Sharon intends to implement such actions throughout all of Gaza and most of Judea and Samaria. He intends to give the orders and expects the army and other security forces to ‘carry out what it’s required to do.” To evict people from their homes. To bulldoze entire communities into the ground. To abandon Eretz Yisrael to our enemies – our blood- thirsty next-door neighbors whose only desire is the destruction of the state of Israel.
Soldiers are supposed to obey orders. That’s what ‘soldiering’ is all about. This morning I saw different kinds of soldiers. I saw officers who were very unhappy with what they had been commanded to do, but had no alternative to carrying out their orders. Then, there were others, who showed little emotion, one way or the other. But there were those who were happy – they smiled, laughed, and enjoyed their evil deed – evicting men, women and children from their synagogue, a place of worship, and their land. They could joke about it, they could make fun of the women, weeping, trying to explain why they could not abandon the synagogue. “Don’t you have a synagogue in your neighborhood,” one of the women cried out to the soldiers who were dragging her away.

These are the ones that really bother me. It is written, that while Moses was still on Mt. Sinai, after having received the Ten Commandments, the Jews far below began worshiping a golden calf. G-d ordered Moses to leave the mount and deal with the people. As Moses reached the bottom of Mt Sinai, he became furious. Not so much due to the fact that the people had built a golden calf and were using it for idol worship. Rather, because there were those who were joyously singing and dancing around the calf. To commit such a crime, that is one thing, but to be happy about it – that is unthinkable. Some commentators explain that this is the reason why Moses threw down and broke the first tablets of the law, because of the merriment expressed by some of the people.

Such it is here too. The legitimacy of this morning’s actions might be debated. It is a complicated political issue, to which there are different opinions. But to be happy about it? That is, in my opinion, equivalent to dancing around the golden calf. But in this case, there may be many more than one calf. There may be many golden calves. And if there are those who enjoy forcibly evicting people from their homes, we are in a very sad state. I hope and pray that the golden calves will be quickly melted down, and that all people will recognize the right of the Jewish people to their land – to Eretz Yisrael – to ALL of Eretz Yisrael. Then we will all have reason to be joyous – singing and dancing together, not around a golden calf, but in honor of our golden G-d-given land.

With blessings from Hebron.

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