Monday, Feb. 2, 2015 was a great day in Hebron.
The first element of this special day was the rededication of the Hebron Heritage Museum and the premiere screening of our new movie, called ‘Embracing Eternity.’
The museum was actually founded by Hebron resident Shmuel Mushnik about 25 years ago. Working single-handedly, he arranged stunning exhibits, using photographs as well as his own artwork, to show visitors the glorious history of this holy city. Glorious, and also sad. For one of the rooms depicts the 1929 riots and massacre, which subsequently led to the expulsion of the surviving Jews, the first time in almost 1,000 years that Jews did not reside in Hebron.
At a minimum, tens of thousands of people, of all religions, visited and learned about Hebron at the museum, over the years.
Recently it was decided to upgrade the exhibits, utilized modern technology to better bring Hebron to the masses. The work on this project is still continuing. It must also be mentioned that the museum is dedicated to the memory of Mr. Herschel Fink, a long-time Hebron supporter. The project is headed up by Hebron’s own Rabbi Hillel Horowitz, a close friend of the Fink family.
Yesterday the new film, Embracing Eternity, was screened for the first time. Here too, this production is professionalism at its best. The story itself takes the viewer through a virtual time-tunnel, allowing people to actually relive major events in Hebron’s 4000 year old history. Presently in Hebrew, the film will soon be shown also in English, and eventually, in other languages too.
The other major happening yesterday in Hebron was the visit of Israeli President Reuvan Rubi Rivlin. Rivlin is no stranger to Hebron. In the past he has visited numerous times. And his connection to the city of the Patriarchs didn’t begin 30 years ago. Rather, many decades ago, when his grandparents lived in the city. President Rivlin is a “Rivlin’ from both his father’s and mother’s side of the family. His mother’s family was ‘Chabad’ with associations as far back as students of the Ba’al Shem Tov. His father’s side was associated with the Vilna Gaon. And many of his ancestors lived in Hebron.
So, when Rivlin yesterday said, ‘today I ventured on a journey of roots, and that didn’t encompass flying to eastern Europe, rather, by a much easier route, that being an hour’s drive to Hebron,’ he wasn’t exaggerating.
The president visited Kiryat Arba, Ma’arat HaMachpela, the newly dedicated museum, and then spoke beautifully at the outdoors ceremony.
It should be noted that he is the first ‘president’ to visit Hebron since Ezer Weitzmann’s arrival in 1998, paying a condolence call to the Ra’anan family following the murder of Rabbi Shlomo Ra’anan HY’D.
Interestingly, Rivlin was among the first Israeli soldiers to reach Hebron when liberated in the 1967 Six Day War. I asked him how it felt to be back, now as president. On film, he spoke about his family’s connection to the city, but didn’t really answer. Later, with the camera off, he said, with genuine modesty, that this visit to Hebron was no different from any other of his visits here.
In reply, I told him that perhaps for him, it wasn’t any different. But for us, having the honor to host the President of the State of Israel, it was very different.
And it really was an honor, and a pleasure. True, we don’t necessarily agree with everything he says and does, but so it is with any public figure. What cannot be debated is that President Reuvan Rivlin is an authentic lover of Am Yisrael and Eretz Yisrael, and an overwhelming supporter of Hebron.
Welcome, Mr. President.