The significance of this meeting wasn’t so much the words spoken, rather its actual happening. A decade ago, Jews in Hebron were being shot at by Arabs from the hills surrounding the Jewish community. Years ago meetings between Jews and Arabs were common; yet following Oslo, the Hebron Accords, and the Oslo War – 2nd intifada, such meetings became a thing of history.
I don’t expect that all of us present agree on all issues. To the contrary, certainly we don’t. But the Sheikh represents an alternative to the Palestinian Authority, a terrorist organization overtly backing the expulsion of Jews from all Judea and Samaria, while covertly working for the liberation of all ‘Palestine’ aka the State of Israel.
I found the meeting with the Sheikh to be a refreshing change from the normal animosity displayed between Jews and Arabs. I’m not living under any illusions. The gaps are very wide and Sheikh Jabari is only one person. However, there aren’t too many Arab leaders who would prevent destruction of a Jewish house of worship, who would publicly declare willingness to live with Jews in Hebron, and who would meet a large group of American Jews in his tent on a Friday. Our past has taught us ‘Chabdahu v’chashdehu’ – meaning, ‘honor them and suspect them.’ But I have a feeling that there are many more Arabs in Judea and Samaria who would prefer living within the state of Israel as opposed to ‘Palestine,’ and who could easily identify with Sheikh Jabari as their leader, rather than Arafat, Abu Mazen, or Marwan Barghutti. Of course, most normal Arab people would never say so publicly, fearing for their lives. A fatwa, that is a death warrant, has been issued against the Sheikh several times as a result of his meetings and pronouncements concerning Israel and Jews. But he is a brave man, with a large backing, who isn’t scared to say what he believes, even knowing how ‘unpopular’ it will make him with his Arab brethren.
That was Chaye Sarah, 5772 – 2011. A fun, interesting, and enjoyable Shabbat, together with thousands and thousands, here in Hebron. The day will come though, when fifteen or twenty thousand Jews in Hebron for a Shabbat will be normal and regular, when Jews will be able to live, not in small ghetto-like neighborhoods, but rather, throughout the city, as should be. As we say, bimheira b’yamenu – speedily in our days – Amen!