One event in recent history explains what so many Israelis feel deep inside about their Arab neighbors.
It took place 90 years ago this week, on August 24, 1929, when a bloodthirsty Arab mob in Hebron raped, tortured, stabbed, hanged, burned, and sexually mutilated 67 of their Jewish neighbors.
That bloody day paled in comparison with the horrors that would decimate European Jewry ten years and one week later, but in the small and relatively peaceful confines of the British-run mandate of Palestine, it left a terrifying and indelible impression.
On that day, which fell on Shabbat, an Arab woman knocked on the door of the local pharmacist, Gershon Ben-Zion, who had served Jews and Arabs for decades. She was crying for help, but when Ben-Zion rushed to open his door to her, an angry Arab mob of locals and area villagers rushed in. They raped and murdered 20-year-old Esther, then cut off the hands of her mother, Zehava, and let her die in agony. And all the while they tortured Gershon who was watching this horror until he, too, died.
The baker, Rabbi Noach Immerman, was burned alive inside his own oven.
When the rioters broke into Shlomo and Nechama Unger’s home, they thought the couple were Christian tourists, so they asked, and Shlomo stood up and answered: I am a Jew. He and his wife were slaughtered on the spot.
Children ages three, four and five were murdered indiscriminately in front of their pleading parents.
There are 67 similar stories.
That pogrom took place 90 years ago, but many Israelis are convinced to this day that nothing has really changed. Our Arab neighbors prove time and again that they harbor the same kind of bestial hatred towards the Jews, and they are not ashamed of it. They brag of those murders. A few years ago, a Hamas-affiliated TV channel interviewed an elderly woman who was a small girl when she witnessed the Hebron massacre. She recalled those vile killings the way one recalls a birthday party, or a sweet, sunny afternoon with the family.
To this day, Palestinian education, Palestinian social discourse, and the Palestinian psyche are focused on murdering Jews. Their children are taught that killing a Jew is an honorable thing to do, which will elevate them to the status of national heroes.
Hamas leaders openly urge their troops to cut out Jewish hearts and eat them. And they would if they could.
Muslim preachers cite selectively from Islamic homilies to portray Jews as the sons of pigs and monkeys. There are rich archives of videos documenting these blatantly anti-Semitic teachings which put to shame Hitler’s Mein Kampf with their virile hatred – visit the Palestinian Media Watch website and click on practically any video.
This hatred affects Palestinian politics so deeply, that this year, when Israel decided to cut from the customs it collects for the Palestinian Authority the salaries slated for Palestinian terrorists who sit in Israeli security prisons, PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas refused to accept the remaining amount, preferring instead to cut thousands of government employees’ salaries by half.
Because Jewish death is by far more precious to him than Palestinian life.
As we mark the 90th anniversary of the Hebron massacre, it is clear why so many Israelis continue to believe that Arab hatred is still boiling as ferociously as it did on that Shabbat morning in 1929. And while Israel is struggling with the need to balance humane and democratic values with the need to secure the lives of its citizens, rest assured: had the situation been reversed, that moral conflict would have lasted a very short time.
The decimation of the Jewish community of Hebron took three hours.