Chol HaMo'ed Tiyul to the Kotel/Chevron amidst War


                                          By Moshe Burt


This Pesach has seen a rapid succession of Pigu'im marking a major acceleration in the intensity of the War.  On Seder night, the scene was the Park Hotel in Netanya where hundreds who gathered to spend a joyous Seder away from home had their hopes and, in many cases, their lives shattered and ended by a Murderous Arab Islamakazi bomber.  This attack was followed, in rapid succession by similar events in Elon Moreh, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa and Efrat during the period of Seder night through Sunday (2nd day of Chol HaMo'ed).    And we've seen Israel's responses -- re-entering Ramallah, Bitounia, Beit Jalla, Tul Karem, Jenin, etc. and re-entering including Arafat's Office Complex where IDF is camped out literally on the doorstep, a few meters from where Arafat, his murderous criminal crew and the assasins of Rehavim Ze'evi, Z'tl, are holed up.  The IDF has turned off all vital services including water and light, leaving Arafat with a cellphone with no battery charge left.   The Jerusalem Post website; <> quotes a Foreign Ministry report that 125 Jews have been killed and hundreds of others wounded during this bloody month of March, 2002. 


It is against the background of the current level of this 18 months of War, which Israel finally seems, for now, to be fighting like a war (like the war of survival that it is),  that a number of Beit Shemesh families (some 40 people) traveled on Sunday morning first to the Kotel, then to Kever Rachel and then on to Chevron.


We boarded our chartered bus shortly after 8AM and arrived near the Kotel at 9:15AM.   Yours truly, a Kohain, rushed through the Old City to the Kotel for Birkat Cohanim at 9:45AM.  I made it with but a couple of moments to spare.


It seems that usually the Minnionim at the Kotel would be Mussaf by 9:45AM, but today they were only at Birkat Kohanim for Shacharit at 9:45AM.  We left the Kotel area at 10:30AM for Kever Rachel arriving there at 10:50 AM.   Upon arrival, the army turned us away without explanation.  We then continued on to Chevron arriving there at 12 Noon.  While on the bus heading for Chevron, it was announced that the concert scheduled there for 3PM was cancelled due to security complications.  It was then announced that we were to be leaving for the return trip home at 2 PM.


A tour was arranged for our group which began by entering the Ma'arat HaMachpela.  As a Kohen, I refrained from entering the Ma'arat and instead went visiting a number of friends in Chevron.  


My first visit was to Mishpacha Chaiken who live in the building called Beit Schneerson.  There, I visited with the son of Malka Chaiken, a former Philadelphian, who has lived in Chevron for many years.   Her husband was niftar a number of years ago, having been killed by an Arab terrorist.  Through the years, Malka has earned great respect as Tzaddeiket and for her enormous Hochnossat Orchim. 




Next, I walked down the main street a bit to visit Mishpocha Wilder who live in Beit Hadassah.  There, I found David and Ora Wilder and their children at home.  David is Internationally known as being spokesman for the Jewish Community of Chevron.  The Wilders are also, as everyone in Chevron is, masters of that famous Chevron hospitality which was handed down for hundreds of generations from the time of Avraham Aveinu.


Finally, I walked back up the street in the direction of of Beit Schneerson and stopped to see Dovid and Vered Shirel.  Dovid was my host back in 1998 when I came to Chevron for Shabbat while in Israel for my summer vacation.   That, for me was a memorable Shabbat some 9 months before I actually made Aliyah.  After visiting with Dovid for a bit, he drove me back to the steps of the Ma'arat HaMachpela on his way to a meeting.


The others in our group were taken on a tour of the Jewish neighborhoods of Chevron and given a history lesson about Chevron and the Avot and Emot.  The residents of Chevron were happy to see us all and swelcomed us into their homes.   Despite the cancellation of the concert, souveniers, food, beverages and cotton candy were available.   Impromtu music was provided including melodies by Aryeh Sonnenberg, our own "Guitar Man."   


Had I known that the departure time was moved back to 3 PM, I would have also made the effort to visit with the Levingers and some others.  However, that was not to be.   Also, throughout our stay, I heard occasional booms some distance away.   David Wilder told me that these booms were rockets and mortars being fired from the Arab areas of Chevron and that they occur daily.


We left Chevron at 3PM and as we rode the bus back to Ramat Beit Shemesh, we heard reports on the radio of the Haifa Pigu'a where an Islamakazi took some 15 lives and injured approximately 30.  Then, upon arrival home, I heard, by radio and then by internet, about the Pigu'a at the Efrat Medical Center where the Islamakazi killed himself and injured 3 people.


As a postscript, tonight, an Islamakazi blew himself up in a car on Jerusalem's Rehov Hanevi'im, not far from the Old City, after being pulled over by the police.  The casualty count stands at 3 including the critically injured policeman who was attempting to investigate the suspicious vehicle.   The conditions of the other 2 injured are unknown at the time this article is being written.   The Jerusalem Post reports that, "  An initial investigation revealed the driver was wearing an explosive vest which he detonated upon being stopped by the police officer. "


"The terrorist was apparently heading for the downtown section of the city.  Jerusalem police chief Cmdr. Mickey Levy confirmed the reports, saying police forces deployed around the city are on extremely high alert. "


It seems that Arafat, even while being surrounded and totally cut-off from the world, has kept his consecutive Pigu'a streak intact.   This even as it's been reported by the Jerusalem Post that "IDF tanks and personnel moved overnight into towns and  cities throughout the West Bank, including Bethlehem, Kalkilya and Tul karem, in an effort to arrest terrorists and halt possible terror activity in Israel. "


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