Shabbat morning was filled with prayers at the Ma’arat HaMachpela. We were thrilled to see the hundreds of tents and lean-to’s set up by the thousands of visitors to Hebron that Shabbat. Carlebach melodies could be heard filling the air, and groups of men danced joyously while reciting the prayers.
We joined the Hebron Fund at the Gutnick Center for kiddush, and then AFSI Board Member Ken Abramowitz gave a compelling and erudite talk on the threat to western civilization posed by the Arabs.
Sunday morning we began touring the disputed areas of Jerusalem with Arieh King, who was recently elected to the Jerusalem City Council on the slate of the United Jerusalem Party. He explained that the laws are enforced only against Jews, not Arabs. Only Jews need security guards. Building in Jerusalem for Jews is frozen. National park plans for the city have just been frozen. Arieh is hoping that Naftali Bennett, Minister of Jerusalem Affairs, will be helpful in righting the many discriminatory policies against Jews in the holy city.
We drove to N. Jerusalem, to Atarot – an area that had once hosted an international airport, but is now closed as Arab squatters have taken over. Former Prime Minister Levi Eshkol was one of the first pioneers in Atarot. The land was bought by the JNF and it was a thriving area until 1948 when Arabs conquered the village and Jews were evacuated. In 1967 the Jews regained the airport, expanded it, and built an industrial area. The Jewish residents did not return, however. They were re-settled near Petach Tikva in B’nei Atarot. Today, Arab building goes on unchecked. The JNF does not want to interfere. They claim it is a political issue, even though the building is on proven Israeli owned land.
We looked out at the ugly security fence. Arieh explained that the area behind the wall, although fully Arab, is still in Jerusalem. The red signs warning Jews to stay out are put in place by the Israeli government. They are illegal. Jerusalem is the Jewish capital. Jews cannot be banned from it. We dared to drive our bus past the forbidding signs and through the Calandia checkpoint into the Arab section. We saw huge illegal billboards, owned by the sons of Mahmoud Abbas, carrying messages entirely in Arabic. We found ourselves on the Calandia-Jaba Road, built illegally, without Israel’s permission, by U.S. Aid. Taking this shortcut through the Arab areas, we were able to swing back past Pisgat Ze’ev and N’vei Yaakov, home to 70,000 Jews, in no time at all.
Arieh then took us to Beit Hanina, an Arab city in Jerusalem with one Jewish apartment complex. Chana Yichi greeted us at Beit HaSheva where she occupies one of seven apartments. Unfortunately, even in this one Jewish enclave, an Arab family has been allowed to move in. This will probably eventually bring in more Arabs, forcing the Jews to leave.
We drove to Kidmat Zion in eastern Jerusalem, with Dan Luria of Ateret Cohanim. He reminded us that 215,000 Jews live in eastern Jerusalem. There are plans for 300 families to be living in Kidmat Zion, and there are already 110 families living in Ma’aleh HaZaytim. Passing some of the nine gates of the Old City, we saw the Arab cemetery built outside Shaar HaRachamim. Since Moshiach is supposed to arrive through this gate, it is said that the Arabs have deliberately built the cemetery there to prevent his arrival.
After lunch we drove down to enter the Old City through the Flowers Gate, into the Muslim Quarter. Dan took us to the few Jewish homes and the Ateret Cohanim Yeshiva, which struggles to keep a foothold in the Old City. Children are escorted to and from school by security guards; playgrounds are on roof-tops. The effort to gain more Jewish areas is ongoing and overwhelming.