Keep Your Spirits UP

July 12, 2004

During my Israel National Radio weekly show, “Blessings from Hebron,” (first broadcast every Monday at 5:00 PM Israel time – http://www.israelnationalradio.com), I interviewed Hebron resident Yifat Alkobi, who spoke about Shalhevet’s father and Uncle, Itzik Pass and Matti Shvu, both of whom are still in jail and are being denied the basic rights afforded to other prisoners. I again repeat, a new web site has been established, including an online petition calling for their release, and until then, demanding that they be allowed periodic vacations, as are permitted murderers, rapists and others. The web site address is: http://www.releasepass.com/ – please send this address to all your friends and ask them to sign the petition and send it on to their friends. The goal is to obtain at least 5,000 signatures, which will be presented to Israeli president Moshe Katzav, who has the power to pardon the two men.

In addition, the phone and fax numbers of Katzav, Internal Security minister Tzachi HaNegbi and Shabak (intelligence) chief, Avi Dichter, (via the Prime Minister’s office), are posted. Please call and fax these men – it is imperative to let them know that the public, in Israel and around the world, cares about the fate of Itzik Pass and Matti Shvu. Recently President Katzav, together with Justice Minister Tommy Lapid, decided to reduce the sentences of terrorists ‘with blood on their hands,’ i.e. murderers, including Shalhevet Pass’ killer. How is it possible that Israel shows mercy to these creatures, while torturing bereaved families? The continued incarceration of Pass and Shvu, and the denial of visits home, is clearly torture, both to the men, their wives and children and their parents. They have clearly suffered enough. It is time to let them go home.
Yifat also spoke about her own trial, brought about due to a protest, together with three other women, following the Uzeri home on Hill 26, almost two years ago. It should be remembered that Nati Uzeri was murdered in this home, just outside Kiryat Arba, in front of his wife and children. Only a few months later, in the dark of night, Israeli security forces illegally destroyed the house, evicting the widow and orphans, and pulling shack down upon all its belongings. Yifat and the other women, protesting this atrocity, were arrested for being present in a ‘closed military zone,’ as it was so declared, and for ‘abandoning their children,’ as a result of keeping their children with them during the protest.
Now I would like to add on a third episode, which Yifat did not speak about. About a month and a half ago the Hebron police arrested fifteen year old Akiva Lebovitch. He was charged with various ‘crimes’ in Hebron. During the interrogation, the police demanded that Akiva be fingerprinted and photographed, for police records. When he refused to submit to the police request, he was taken to court, where a hearing was held. The prosecutor told the judge that the police were willing to forgo the fingerprints, because no fingerprints were found at the site of the crime. The judge, hearing this, ruled that Akiva need not be fingerprinted.

Last week, the police called the Lebovitch home and asked that Akiva return to the station for a further, brief interrogation. Despite the fact that such telephone requests are not official and non-binding, Akiva’s parents decided to comply. When Akiva arrived at the police station, he was told that now he must supply fingerprints to the interrogators. Having already been subjected to this demand, and following the court ruling which denied the police Akiva’s fingerprints, the youth refused. Upon his refusal, the police handcuffed the fifteen year old, and again took him to court, demanding that he comply with the fingerprint demand. He was cuffed for several hours before the court session began. The demand, according to the police representative, was based upon ‘new evidence.’ When asked why a fifteen year old had been handcuffed for several hours, the police representative replies, ‘the handcuffing was justified because Akiva was
‘disrupting a police investigation.’
The judge ruled that the arrest was illegal. Akiva’s father is now suing the police for 30,000 shekels for false arrest.
It should be noted that Akiva’s brother Elazar, was murdered by terrorists almost two years ago, on the eve of his twenty-first birthday. Elazar was killed by the same terrorists who shot and killed three members of the Dickstein family from Psagot. In a couple of weeks, on the anniversary of the killings, the Dicksteins and the Lebovitch’s will sponsor a joint memorial march to the site of the murders, which will be followed by a special Torah class (Tish) conducted by Rabbi Moti Elon and a concert of ‘songs that Elazar loved.’
Following these three horror stories, you ask, ‘so, what’s the good news?”
You might expect that episodes such as those just described might paralyze people in Hebron. Yet nothing could be further from the truth. Almost all the children and teenagers in Hebron are participating in this summer’s recreation/camp program, either as campers or as counselors. Tomorrow I’m one of the adult escorts for a children’s two-day venture to the upper Galil – hiking, canoeing, getting wet, and having fun. Hebron’s women are leaving on an annual ‘women’s vacation,’ enjoying a few days without husbands or kids, or anyone else to bother them, (yes, including the police!)
This summer, Hebron is full of people, literally. This past Shabbat afternoon, dozens of guests walked the streets, visiting friends and participating in a tour of the Kasba, led by Noam Arnon. I toured with a group of about 25 people, mostly from the Machon Meir Jewish Studies Center in Jerusalem. A middle-aged woman who joined the group told me that she only discovered her Judaism less than two years ago. As soon as she realized that she belonged to the people of Israel, she left the United States and made Aliyah. This Shabbat was her first trip to Hebron. Wow!
And Shabbat isn’t the only time people visit. We have busloads of people here every day of the week. Our director of tourism, Simcha Hochbaum (simcha@hebron.org.il), really has his hands full. We have Hebron-initiated tours from Jerusalem on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. And usually there are others on private tours the other days. Remember, last week I told you about the special Hebron Fund mission, from August 7th to 13th – Sunday to Friday. You can get more information by calling 718-677-6886.
So, despite it all, there are good things too. This summer promises to be a lot of fun for young and old alike, with, hopefully, much good news. So keep your spirits up, and together with us, have a good time.
With blessings from Hebron.

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