by David Wilder
A couple of years ago I heard a story. Hair-raising.
Probably, years ago, I would have posted it immediately. Maybe. But maybe not. It’s so…unreal, but it’s true.
A few days ago an article popped up on my computer screen. I decided that the time had come. Especially now.
August is usually a difficult time of year. Usually coinciding with the Hebrew month of Av, when we commemorate the destruction of the Temples in Jerusalem. And the 1929 riots and massacres, which left about 160 murdered Jews, 67 of them in Hebron. And most recently, the expulsion from Gush Katif, a horror which we are still paying a very heavy price for, 13 years later.
So this episode fits in rather well. Hold on tight.
One caveat. I’m leaving out the names of the individuals involved. I’m not sure that the family would be agreeable to me publicizing them. If they happen to see this, and let me, I’ll be happy to amend it.
So, it goes like this.
I was standing outside here, at Beit Hadassah. It was late afternoon. A youngish man was walking around. Seeing me, he asked if I’d been here, in Hebron, on the night of the terror attack, in May, 1980, when six men were murdered by Arab terrorists. (Just for your knowledge, one of the four terrorists, Taysir Abu Sneneh, is now the mayor of Arab Hebron.)
I hadn’t been here. We moved to Kiryat Arba a year later. We started talking, and I asked why he wanted to know. He told me that his uncle was one of those murdered. We spoke about the attack. I showed him the ‘parochet’, the curtain on the Holy Ark in the Beit Hadassah synagogue, with names of the six men killed that night on it. And the building adjacent to Beit Hadassah, called the House of the Six, in their memory. Then we went down to the museum. He stood next to his Uncle’s picture there, and I photographed them. There was a strong resemblance.
When we went back outside, he turned to me and said, “I’ll tell you a story that you’ve never heard before.”
And it went something like this.
First, some introduction.
At that time, 1980, an organization called Matzpen, which means compass, (this is the article that popped up on my screen) was actively working against Israeli presence in Judea and Samaria, sort of an early iteration of Peace Now, Breaking the Silence and others. One day in late April, 1980, some members of the group met with some Arabs in Hebron, concerning the pre-Jewish Hebron community. At that time, there was a small group of women and children living, if you can call it that, here at Beit Hadassah.
They had moved into the building a year prior, under the leadership of Rabbi Moshe and Miriam Levinger. Only women and children. All odds had been against their presence at the site, for even 24 hours. To their surprise, then Prime Minister Menachem Begin didn’t immediately throw them out. Instead he put them under siege, not allowing anything into the building, including food and water. But they didn’t leave, as he’d expected.
After a short time he was convinced to allow them food, water and medical supplies. In order to bring anything else it, it had to be smuggled through a back window, sometimes in the middle of the night.
Eventually the women and children were allowed to stay, leave and come back, but that was it. No one else.
On Friday nights, men from Kiryat Arba, including students from the newly founded yeshiva, after prayer at Ma’arat HaMachpela, would sing and dance in front of Beit Hadassah before heading back up the hill to the Kiriyah.
On the first Friday night in May, a year after the women and children had moved in, terrorists on the roof of a building across the street from the building opened fire and hurled hand grenades, killing six and wounding twenty.
That terror attack had been planned, will full knowledge of members of the Jewish group, Matzpen, about a week earlier.
This is what the man standing in front of me told me.
I asked the obvious question: How do you know?
He answered unhesitatingly: During the shiva, the week of mourning following the murder, the cousin of one of the men killed, and also an active member of Matzpen, visited the family, and said to the grandmother, “I’m so sorry. I didn’t know he’d be there that night.”