NSWJBD/Honest Reporting Israel Mission Day 4
Today was a day for true ‘honest reporting’…writes Diane Shteinman
We were taken to see areas about which there is much confusing reporting, thus enabling us to understand the true situation base don facts on the ground.
Those areas were Hebron and Gush Etzion.
Our first ports of call were in Hebron led by the spokesman for the Jewish community, David Wilder. David is a longtime resident and activist who initially showed us the basic layout of Hebron and where the Israeli and Palestinian control of the area differentiated – Hebron was divided in 1997, with H1 Palestinian-only, now with an Arab population of 125,000. H2 is mixed, with today 15,000 Arabs and 850 Jews. Palestinians can move between the two areas freely but Jews are limited to H2.
Significantly, David showed us archaeological diggings from post-1967 but recently halted, which reveal evidence of the Jewish presence in the area 4,000, 3,000 and 2,000 years ago.
The next enlightening visit was to a historical museum in the Hadassah building showing photographic evidence of Jewish community activities in Hebron from the late 19th century, culminating in graphic images of the horrendous massacre of Jews in 1929.
The important visit to Ma’arat HaMachpela (the Cave/Tomb of the Patriarchs) was a first time for most of our group and proved to be absolutely riveting. David regaled us with stories of the initial purchase of the land by Avraham Avinu and the history of the construction and administration by Jews, Christians and Muslims over the centuries, up to the present day.
Following this we inspected parts of Gush Etzion, including Efrat, Betar and the beautiful Neve Daniel. Our guest speaker Ian Lawrence emphasized that these areas are part of the ‘consensus’ bloc which will stay part of Israel proper as part of any peace agreement.
A heart-warming project we visited at a crossroads inside Gush Etzion was a soldiers coffee and cake lounge called “Warm Corner”, established by a local widow whose husband was killed by terrorists who fired on his car, and staffed by volunteers. The place aims to express gratitude to the soldiers for the largely misunderstood service to the local people.
Our touring for the day culminated in lunch at the Gavna restaurant, with its spectacular views of the Gush and the Judean Hills beyond.
We returned to Jerusalem for Shabbat and an incredibly warm and moving experience at the Kotel, surrounded by praying, singing and dancing Jews from all corners of the earth and a beautiful family-style meal in the Old City. Echoes of ‘Shabbat Shalom’ were heard from everyone we met.