30 kilometers south of Jerusalem and sitting some 3050ft above sea level stands the city of Hebron. As the burial place of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob it is known as “The city of the patriarchs” and is inhabited by over 165,000 Palestinian Arabs and approximately 500 Jews.
The city of Hebron is of special significance to me personally as my last name Efune, was originally Jephunneh. The name Jephunneh originates from the biblical character Caleb ben Jephunneh one of the 12 spies that Moses send to spy out the land of Israel. Upon return, 10 of the spies slandered the land claiming “The land through which we have passed is a land that devours its inhabitants” two of the spies Caleb and Joshua ben Nun defended the land saying “The land that we passed through to spy it out – the land is very, very good!” Caleb was rewarded by being given the city of Hebron, as is documented in the book of Joshua.
Anyone who visits Hebron is enchanted by the warmth of the community and inspired by the sacrifices that its residents make on a regular basis. As one of Judaism’s four holy cities the ancient stones are rich with vibrant history, and of course the Cave of the Patriarchs is frequented by visitors from far and wide. The city also bears a particular dark stain that will forever haunt its hallowed streets.
Coming up on the 23rd and 24th of August is the 80th anniversary of the Hebron Massacre when 67 Jews were brutally murdered in cold blood by an Arab mob. Many more were wounded.
Baruch Katinka, a member of the Haganah tells about his encounter with Eliezer Dan Slonim Dwek, one of the community leaders and a prominent banker, right before the massacre:
“Two days before the massacre, they told us about a need to go to Hebron with 10-12 people with weapons in order to defend the place. I believe we were 10 men and 2 women… We came to Hebron after midnight, and went into the house of Eliezer Dan Slonim Dwek, the head of the bank in the area and the head of the community. We woke him up and told him that we brought weapons and people. He started yelling and said that if he wanted any weapons he would request them but there’s no need for them because he has an understanding with the Arabs, they need the credit, they’re under his influence, and that they will not harm him. On the contrary he said, new faces in Hebron might just tease them. During the argument, two Arab policemen went in and ordered us to go to the Police. The officer Cafferata met us in pyjamas and asked us who we were and what were we doing. We said we came for a walk. The officer preached us how dare we walk around during this time and said we must go back to Jerusalem escorted by the police. Two men stayed with suitcases in Dwek’s house. They had the bombs with them, but the day after they came back to Jerusalem too, because Dwek forced them to leave. The next day, the massacre occurred”
Cafferata, the British chief of police in Hebron at the time later testified:
“On hearing screams in a room I went up a sort of tunnel passage and saw an Arab in the act of cutting off a child’s head with a sword. He had already hit him and was having another cut, but on seeing me he tried to aim the stroke at me, but missed; he was practically on the muzzle of my rifle. I shot him low in the groin. Behind him was a Jewish woman smothered in blood with a man I recognized as an Arab police constable named Issa Sheriff from Jaffa. He was standing over the woman with a dagger in his hand. He saw me and bolted into a room close by and tried to shut me out-shouting in Arabic, “Your Honor, I am a policeman.” I got into the room and shot him.”
80 years on we once again commemorate the souls of the slain martyrs, but this particular tragedy is of monumental contemporary significance to all Jews that care about peace in our holy land and are constantly striving to achieve that. The reason being is that it shouts some obvious truths that seem to have been removed from the calculations of most of the power players in the game of global problem solving.
From the story of Eliezer Dan Slonim Dwek we must learn that when there is even a minute possibility that lives are threatened it is categorically forbidden to behave in a passive fashion, as Jews we must protect ourselves at all costs, the value of life is immeasurable.
Some of the Jews of Hebron at that time had been friends with the local Arabs for many years and in a heartbeat everything turned around when Arabs slaughtered their Jewish neighbors. Today people are fond of the term co-existence, pre 1929 the Muslims and Jews in Hebron would have been a perfect model for this, what happened?
Today, even those Palestinian Arabs that are supposedly partners for peace declare openly and often that elimination of the entire “Zionist entity” is their goal.
The Fatah constitution article 12 entitled “Goals” reads: Complete liberation of Palestine, and eradication of Zionist economic, political, military and cultural existence.
Article 19 continues: Armed struggle is a strategy and not a tactic, and the Palestinian Arab People’s armed revolution is a decisive factor in the liberation fight and in uprooting the Zionist existence, and this struggle will not cease unless the Zionist state is demolished and Palestine is completely liberated.
It takes two to co-exist and there is only one willing to do so. Sadly, there is none we can trust and we are left with the responsibility to protect our people.
The ancient city of Hebron talks to us today! Are we listening?