Bringing the dead back to life
David Wilder, Eretz.Org
Hebron, Erev Pesach 5778-2018
One of the most basic, fundamental beliefs in Judaism is that of the revival of the dead.
The most common understand of this is that the day will come, at some point in the future, when all deceased will rise up out of their graves. What will occur following is anybody’s guess; there are various opinions.
But the underlying element is easily comprehendible: G-d gave us life, took us back with death, and again grants us life. The process can be exemplified simply by the planting of a flower or tree. A seed, from a previous source of life, is planted in the ground. There it decomposes. From that decomposition comes new life.
However, there are numerous levels of human resurrection.
For example, some 2,000 years ago, Jews were exiled from their homeland. First from Jerusalem and Judea, then from all Eretz Yisrael. Scattered, they managed, for the most part, to remain in large groups, such as those that settled in Babylon, aka Iraq, then ancient Mesopotamia.
But that exile also scattered, and Jews found themselves in small conclaves, literally throughout the four corners of the world. Persecuted, murdered, and expelled from place to place, with no tangible roots.
Except perhaps one: Next year in Jerusalem.
When? No one knew. How? No one had any idea?
But the idea, the ideal, the most deep-rooted expression of faith never wavered.
The Jews reached the bottom of a seemingly bottomless pit. Just as a body in a grave, almost totally disintegrates. Until…
Poof, out of nowhere, the cadaver breaths again.
That is what happened to the Jewish people.
Beginning not 100 years ago, rather almost 300 years ago, in the middle of the 1700s, when students of two of the most revered Rabbis of their era, The GRA, the Gaon from Vilna, and Rabbi Yisrael Baal Shem – the Baal Shem Tov, started sending their students to the then barren, almost uninhabitable land of Israel.
That was the beginning. Leading to Bafour, the 1921 League of Nations resolution, the 1947 partition plan, the 1948 declaration of the State of Israel.
And so it continues.
Jerusalem’s reunification in 1967.
And too, Hebron.
Today we have, should anyone need it, archeological evidence of an almost continuous Jewish community in Hebron from the days of Abraham, ie, for almost 4,000 years.
Of course the timeline isn’t totally continuous. The Romans expelled Jews from the city following the failure of the revolts after the destruction of the 2nd Temple. But we know for sure that Jews were here then. I have seen a coin, minted during the last, that is the 4th year, of the Jewish revolt, with the words, ‘for the redemption of Jerusalem’ written on it. This treasure was discovered near ancient Tel Hebron.
And to make a long story short, the last time Jews were exiled from Hebron, prior to 1929, was when the Crusaders invaded and occupied parts of Israel, including Hebron, in the year 1100. But the Jews came back, about a hundred years later, after the Crusaders had been sent on their way.
During the 1929 riots and massacre, at least 67 Jews were slaughtered. The ruling British, following in the footsteps of the Crusaders, decided that Jews and Arabs could no longer live together in Hebron, and tossed out the Jews.
Excepting a short reprieve, from 1931 to 1936, Hebron was Judenrein. And let’s not forget that Ma’arat HaMachpela was off-limits to Jews for 700 years, from 1267 until 1967.
Hebron too was totally off-limits; During the 1948 War of Independence the area was conquered and occupied by the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordon.
Who ever thought Jews could ever, possibly return, to Hebron, to the Tomb of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs? It was no different than a body buried deep in the ground. Dead forever, for all intents and purposes.
Exactly 50 years ago today, on the eve of Passover, in 1968, pioneers such as Rabbi Moshe Levinger and Rabbi Eliezer Waldman, with their families and others, brought Jewish Hebron back to life.
Renting out a hotel in the city, over 100 people participated in the first Passover festival in Hebron in decades. Support came from throughout Israel.
A few weeks later, realizing that Hebron should not again be abandoned, the Israeli government settled those Jews in what was then the Hebron military compound, where they lived for two and a half years.
Jews had come home, the dead resuscitated. The unimaginable had happened
And it all started today, fifty years ago.
Chag Pesach sameach. Happy Passover.