Many years ago, an Arab called a friend of his. “They’re after me, they want to kill me and my family. No one will help us. What can we do?” His friend, realizing the seriousness of the situation, quickly answered. “Come to my house. I’ll keep you here until it’s safe for you elsewhere.” The Arab and his family lived with his friend for quite a while.
He had been cooperating with the Israeli security forces, feeding them information over an extended time. When he was ‘discovered,’ the security forces abandoned him. The ‘friend’ who refused to leave him to his fate, and instead saved his life was Noam Arnon, and the place was Hebron.
Sitting in an office next to a person for almost 15 years, and living upstairs from him for almost 11 years, provides you with a perspective about that someone which other people don’t normally have.
There are several traits that stand out when thinking about Noam. The first is a habit that most people (at least most that I know) don’t have. He listens. He hears what other people have to say. And many times what he hears influences what he does, even if it means changing his mind.
Our Sages teach that it is supremely important to have a lev tov, a good heart. Noam Arnon certainly qualifies for this distinctly positive attribute. It is written that a lev tov encompasses several different qualities: A “good eye” – through which a person sees most everything through a positive looking glass. This is vintage Noam. Despite his extremely high standards and ideals, he almost always observes events, including personal affronts, from an optimistic and constructive viewpoint.
This can be, for people like me, working with him, very frustrating, as I do not always see people and events with that same “good eye.”
The same above-mentioned teaching also speaks of being a “good friend and neighbor.” I can attest to Noam’s adherence to both of these attributes. There are few people I know who are as loyal as he is to his friends, sticking up for them whatever the situation may be. And as a neighbor, I think he would bend over backwards and give the shirt off his back, should the situation so demand.
The fourth trait mentioned is a person who knows how to ‘plan for the future,’ and understand ‘what’s coming next.’ Advanced planning is always recommended, but not always easy to do. Planning ahead doesn’t just mean setting up next week’s schedule. Rather it entails vision; it necessitates thinking not only about tomorrow, but also about next year, a decade from now, and even further into the future.
Perhaps one of the best examples of Noam’s vision was his founding of Midreshet Hevron. Initiated some 30 years ago, this organization has utilized tours and lectures to reach out to thousands and thousands of people, children and adults, teachers and tour guides, tourists and Sabras, introducing them not only to Hebron, but to the wonders of the Judean Desert, the southern Hebron Hills, and many other sites. When the Midrasha was founded, it would have been impossible to foresee its influence on so many thousands of people. But it has left an indelible mark on all those it has educated.
Lastly the teaching speaks of the most complementary trait, that of a “good heart.” Probably the best example of Noam’s “good heart” is related in the first paragraph of this article. Another instance I remember is when a group of gentiles visited Ma’arat HaMachpela. Some of the Jewish people present at the Ma’ara began acting in a repulsive manner. Noam reacted quickly, rebuking them, asking, “Is it not written that Abraham is the father of many nations? Why shouldn’t others have the privilege to visit here too?”
Noam Arnon is a man of many talents. He has toiled as a leader within Yesha for decades. For many years he was the official spokesperson for Gush Emunim and continued as spokesman for Hebron’s Jewish community. He is a superb tour guide, whose tours of Hebron have international prominence. A more recent project has included taking hundreds of Israelis serving in the IDF, on historical tours – from privates, to fighter pilots, to high-ranking officers. Many of the people had never before been to Hebron and their opinion of the city was based solely on what they read and saw in the media. Following their tour of Hebron, a visit which includes absolutely no politics, just history, many of them than begin to comprehend the significance of Hebron to the Jewish people. This is due to Noam’s extraordinary efforts, showing them Hebron as the roots of the Jewish people.
On one hand, Noam has a poetic neshama, and is the regular leader of the Shabbat Carlebach services Friday nights at Ma’arat HaMachpela. It is not an exaggeration to say that Noam is spiritually bonded to Judaism’s 2nd holiest site.
Very rarely does he miss praying at the Ma’ara, almost three times a day, seven days a week.
On the other hand, Noam Arnon is an authentic intellectual, a man who continues his formal education to this very day; a man who is well-read, and whose dream it is to write. He has already authored a number of books and pamphlets about Hebron, including a short history of Hebron and Ma’arat HaMachpela, the relationship between Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak Kook and Hebron, and a compilation of Jewish sources dealing with Ma’arat HaMachpela. This is surely only the beginning. The future will definitely see major publications pumped out of his printer. Frequently he tells friends, “let me just sit and write, that’s all I really want to do.”
Anyone who knows Noam and his abilities is not about to allow him to “just” sit back and write. His leadership, which has included participation on the Hebron Jewish community’s local council for many years, is still vital. Perhaps when one day he retires, he’ll be allowed the luxury to “just sit and write.” But not yet.
It is quite fitting that Noam Arnon was awarded the Moskowitz Prize for Zionism. The Moskowitzes, Dr. Irving and Cherna, are paradigm Zionists, who will be remembered in the annals of Jewish history, as are the Rothchilds and Montefiores. There are many people in the world who are willing to express opinions and mouth support for the Jewish people in Eretz Yisrael. There are very few who are willing and able to bestow the type of support the Moskowitzes have provided over the years. The decision to award the Moskowitz Prize to Noam Arnon is doubly important. Of course, it recognizes his life’s work for Am Yisrael, Eretz Yisrael and Hebron. But it also recognizes the fundamental importance of Hebron to the Jewish people. Nothing could be more natural than Noam Arnon, Hebron, and the Moskowitzes coming together as one, binding them as links in a chain, giving honor to all three: the bestower, the bestowed and our common roots: Hebron.
Many times I’m asked what Noam’s like. My answer is very short and simple; Noam is, as his name implies. In English, I guess the best translation of noam is pleasant, conveying relaxation and quiet, or perhaps best put, peace of mind. This best describes Noam and his personality. Personally it is an honor to call him a friend and colleague. On behalf of the Hebron Jewish Community, it is a pleasure to wish him a hearty Mazal Tov on reception of this worthy distinction.
He should be privileged to continue working “his way”- “the way of noam” or in Hebrew, darchei noam.