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September 2, 2014 / 7 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘tour’

Zechut Avot : An Eternal Birthright

Monday, August 5th, 2013

The first time was many years ago. I had just concluded explanations about Yeshivat Knesset Yisrael” which arrived in Hebron from Slobodka, in Lithuania in 1924. The Hebron Heritage Museum at Beit Hadassah features an exhibit about this illustrious Torah-learning academy, nicknamed the ‘Hebron Yeshiva,’ which includes a ‘class picture’ from 1928.

As I finished my brief account, an older man approached me, put his finger on a picture of one of the yeshiva students and asked me, ‘do you see him? That’s me.’

That was Rabbi Dov Cohen, a phenomenal Torah genius, who, following my tour, came back to Hebron and gave us his tour.

I always thought that this was a ‘once in a lifetime event,’ having someone point themselves out in a photo taken so many decades ago, here in Hebron.

But it happened again.

On Friday afternoon the Farbstein family came into Hebron for Shabbat. Rabbi Moshe Mordechai Farbstein, today dean of the ‘Hebron yeshiva,’ now located in Jerusalem, arrived with his wife and many grandchildren. And his mother, Rabbanit Chana Farbstein.

Chana Farbstein was born in 1923. Her father was Rabbi Yechezkel Sarna, a Torah giant. Her grandfather was the legendary Rabbi Moshe Mordechai Epstein, dean of the yeshiva, located then located in Slobodka, which, a year or so later, moved to Hebron. Chana lived in Hebron until the 1929 riots, in an apartment next to Eliezer Dan Slonim and his family.

Friday afternoon, before Shabbat, the Farbsteins took a short tour of Hebron, which began in the museum. When we approached the Hebron Yeshiva exhibit, she moved, as hypnotized, to one of the photos on the bottom row, stared at it, and then pointed to a small girl in the right corner, saying, ‘that’s me.’ To her right, a young woman had her hand on little Chana’s shoulder. ‘That’s my mother.’

A ‘once in a lifetime event.’ And it happened to me for a second time.

Chana later told us that she must have been about four years old at the time the photo was taken.

Even though she was barely five and a half at the time of the riots, she remembered them quite clearly: “I remember a big truck going through the streets. They were throwing rocks at our house and calling out my father’s name ‘Chezkel.’ They were looking for him. It was our good luck, he was in Jerusalem.”

“Do you remember what was told to you, what was going on?”

“No one had to explain. We knew exactly what was happening.”

She said that on Saturday afternoon, her family was removed from Hebron and taken to the ‘Strauss Building’ in Jerusalem, across the street from ‘Bikor Cholim hospital. Asked when she ‘left’ the city,’ she replied: “We didn’t leave. The British came, on Shabbat, and took us to Jerusalem.”

Later she also spoke about remembering the pain of having to pray at the 7th step at Ma’arat HaMachpela, not being allowed to enter the structure. “We would stand there for a few minutes, and then leave.”

Were relations with Arabs always poor? “No, when we went shopping in the market an Arab with a large round basket would go with us. We would put the produce we wanted into the basket, he would carry it and later bring it to our home.”

Chana Farbstein is a phenomenal woman. She also stood with us on Friday afternoon, at the cemetery in Hebron, where 59 of the 67 massacre victims are buried. Her son, Rabbi Moshe Mordechai Farbstein, recited two Psalms at the site, his voice breaking, sensing the atrocities and pain of the events occurring 84 years ago.

The next morning, Mrs. Farbstein walked from Beit Hadassah to Ma’arat HaMachpela for morning prayers, and later in the afternoon, to the Avraham Avinu neighborhood to attend a special class presented by her daughter-in-law, Dr. Esther Farbstein, an expert on Holocaust studies, author of the book, “Hidden in Thunder.”

After Shabbat, as I arrived to interview her, I found her sweeping the floor.

Her son, Rabbi Farbstein, told me that that last winter she had been very ill, and there was grave concern that she might not recover. But recover she did, and despite only meeting her for the first time, her inner strength and iron will were quite obvious.

What a Cup of Soup Means

Monday, February 11th, 2013

For most people, we live our lives within circles. We travel from our homes to our work, an occasional night out and perhaps, if we are lucky, once or twice a year, we break out of the circle and fly off or drive off somewhere exciting for a few weeks. And then we return to our circles and remember the last vacation or dream of the next.

A few among us break this pattern and spend part of their lives flying very often as part of their jobs. As I organized this year’s MEGAComm (www.megacomm.org), I met two of these men. One came from India, one came from Canada. In addition to an amazing day of sessions and all, I had a chance to take each around a bit.

It is quite an experience to see your country, your world, through another’s eyes. On the first day, I took our guest from New Delhi around the walls of the Old City, parked on Mt. Zion, and walked with him through the Jewish Quarter and a bit of the Arab shuk (open market/bazaar). On the way down to the Kotel, the Western Wall, a woman stopped us.

She had a cup of hot liquid (soup, I guess) in her hand. I thought she was asking for money, as often happens there. Usually, I give a few coins, here and there. But this time, I realized that I had left the car with only my keys and cellular phone. I began to apologize when she said she didn’t want money.

She then handed me the soup and said, “could you give this to Shoshana?”

Almost as a reflex, I took the hot soup but looked at her in confusion, “who is Shoshana?”

“She’s sitting at the bottom on the steps, on the way to the Kotel,” she answered.

Now, I’ve never met Shoshana and it all seemed a bit strange. On the other hand, why not? So, I took the soup and set off with my guest, explaining about various sites in the Old City while carrying a warm cup of soup.

After a few minutes of walking, I came to the top of the many steps that lead down to the plaza where the Kotel stands. I’ve never counted the steps…but there are dozens of them – at a guess, I would say at least 50-60. I had planned to go about half way down where the view is incredible. Apparently, God and Shoshana’s friend had other plans. So, I gave my quick explanation, aware the soup would get cold.

Then I glanced down the steps – and found not one woman, but two, sitting on the side in chairs hoping people would give them money. Which was Shoshana?

I approached the first, “Are you Shoshana?” I asked her and she said she was not.

I approached the second, already sure this was the intended recipient. She already was looking at the soup, “Shoshana?” I asked and she confirmed that she was, gratefully took the soup, and thanked me – even gave me a blessing.

I think my guest from India was wondering in what kind of society does a stranger hand you a cup of soup? In what world do you then go searching to deliver it?

We walked down to the Kotel plaza; I explained about how this was retaining wall for our ancient Temples. I pointed to the levels of stone and explained about how the land on the other side is so much higher that a century or two ago, Arabs would throw garbage down on the Jewish worshipers and so a generous man from Europe donated funds to add the smaller stones and raise the level of the Wall.

I explained about how we turn to this Wall, the Western Wall of the Temple Mount, three times a day in our prayers and finally we began to climb back up those 60 or so stairs. Around 30 stairs up, a man stopped us, took my guest’s hand and as he began blessing him in rapid fire Hebrew (not a word of which could my friend understand), the man tied a red string around his wrist. Then he turned to me, carefully tying a string around my wrist as well.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/a-soldiers-mother/what-a-cup-of-soup-means/2013/02/11/

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