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Jul 13, 2008

Touring in Eretz Yisrael: Hebron: Rocking the Casbah (not!)

This edition of the Touring in Eretz Yisrael series is about Shabbos in Hebron.

Someone put together a group of families from our shul to go to Hebron for Shabbos this week. We joined the group, as Hebron is always an exciting, and inspiring, place to go visit, especially for a Shabbos stay.

We were a group of about 10 families plus a few individuals. Most went on the armored bus, but we drove our car (along with two other familes), due to a shortage of space on the bus.

Friday afternoon we drove down to the Hebron area. We started off the trip with a visit to the Noam Federman farm in Hebron. Federman has been in and out of jail and house arrest for many years for 'extremist' activities, some of which have been proven false. He moved a few years ago out of Hebron proper and bought this farm on the outskirts. He raises some sheep and goats, has some fruit trees, and lives off the land. We had some activities on the farm, such as feeding the goats, kids rode the horse, we made fresh pita bread on the saaj (not sure of proper spelling), a rock climbing wall for kids, and relaxing in the open field with a guitar and everyone's company.

Rafi G.'s hand feeding a goat

Noam Federman looking on

Pita baking on the saaj

a "Settler Scarecrow" (dubbed by me). Not sure if meant to scare away the crows, invading Arabs, or police coming to arrest Noam...

After we spent some time enjoying the farm life, we moved on as it was getting closer to Shabbos. We went to visit a fairly new "community" on a hilltop on the outskirts of Hebron/Kiryat Arba. I think it was called "Maalei Gal", and is a community of three families right now.

They met with us and described the ideology of living in practical solitude among a sea of people, both Arabs and government, who want you out. Some of them move from place to place every year or two as they get thrown out of each place, usually by the government.

The person living in this house (really a caravan), had gotten hold of an old Egged bus in disuse and lived in it for almost a year and a half! Only then did he get a caravan/container and attach it to his bus/house to add a living room and another bedroom. It was really funky.

Yifat Alkoby, one of the residents, met with us and explained how and why they live there. Yifat is more famous for having been involved in an incident in January of 2007 in which she was videoed in Hebron "attacking" a Palestinian. The video actually only showed her screaming at the Palestinian and did not show what led up to it, but she is awaiting trial for that harassment. I asked her about it and she did not seem worried. She said her trial is due in a few months and whatever will be will be ok. Hashem takes care of us. The whole story was nothing big.

The community "park"

Then we went to Hebron for SHabbos. We settled in in the Beitar Guest House. We davened at "the Me'arah" and had a great Shabbos. The kids had a great time hanging out with the soldiers who seemed to enjoy all the kids talking to them (I am surprised they do not get tired of it). They made friends with a few of the soldiers and the soldiers gave them a bit of a tour as they allwed the kids to come along on one of the patrols. We visited a resident who is an artist named Shmuel Muchnik. He is an amazing artist and had a room full of beautiful paintings.

We were then supposed to join the weekly tour of the Casbah. The Casbah is the market in Hebron. Much of the property within is owned by the Jewish community, but it has been declared a closed military zone and Jews cannot go in. They only allow Jews in with the army once a week (I think) under very tight security. They recently started limiting the Casbah tours to a maximum of 30 people, so my family, and most of our group, did not make it in. Maybe next time. That was the one disappointment - not being able to rock the Casbah. Instead somebody else gave us a tour of another part of Hebron.

This is the building that until a year ago were populated by residents. the High Court threw them out calling it a provocation, even though all had been legally purchased from the Arab owners, and even though it is all property that had been owned by jews before the 1929 massacre and then taken by the Arabs. Everything is now gutted. You can still see sinks and some cabinets attached to the walls. They just sit empty, and they are within the Jewish area, so I am not sure what the provocation is.

One ironic item of graffiti the guide pointed out to us was this (written in Hebrew so it rhymed, but I am translating it to English so it does not rhyme):
Dear Sharon:
I wanted to say tehillim for you, but the seforim were locked away in the container.
I wanted to daven for you, but the shuls were burned down and destroyed.
I wanted to cross my fingers for you, but the yasamnikim (riot police) broke them

You can never get enough of Hebron!


  1. Wow. I wish I had been able to spend a Shabbos there...

  2. Yifat Alkoby is a disgrace to the settler movement. God forbid anyone should find inspiration in her ways.

    She actually deserves a month or two in jail for her Chilul Hashem.

    Rabbi Ari Enkin


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