Jewish settlers in the West Bank are often criticized and considered to be oppressive occupiers. My own experiences, while visiting Jewish settlements in those territories, does lend some support to these accusations. There is much hatred and disdain, among those Jewish settlers, toward the Arabs. Sometimes they are abusive toward their Arab neighbors. The buildings they live in clash, esthetically, with the countryside while the Arab houses seem to compliment it. On the other hand, these settlements do provide a source of employment for many Arabs who live in extreme poverty.
One settlement, in particular, has been a source of great controversy: the settlement within the city of Hebron. Hebron is considered sacred by Jew and Muslim alike. The patriarchs are reputed to be buried there and the Arabs call it “al-Khalil” (“the friend”). Though the Jewish presence in Hebron dates to remote antiquity, due to various persecutions and restrictions, there was no known Jewish community there (in modern times) until the middle of the 16th century. By the 20th century there were established Sephardic and Ashkenazic communities in Hebron.
In 1929 many of the local Arabs rose up and massacred 67 Jews. Men, women and children. Their brutality knew no bounds and they even murdered the Jewish doctor who had freely given his time and skill on behalf of those same Arabs. They slaughtered his family, beheaded him and threw his head into the toilet. So I was told. Much to their credit, some Arab families risked their own lives and hid some 435 Jews in their homes. On one of my visits to Hebron, I visited the local Jewish cemetery (where the victims are buried). As I stood there, a very old Arab man was walking by and noticed me. He stood there and stared. I would have liked to know what role, if any, he played in that tragedy.
Somehow, I acquired a book that deals with this incident. It was printed very soon afterward and includes photos of some of the victims along with their biographies. For some odd reason, the first page or two are missing and somebody had torn out the photo of one of the victims. In any event, this massacre occurred on the 23rd and 24th of August so we just passed the 81st anniversary of this event. Let this post be a memorial to the victims listed in this book:
1) Rabbi Yisrael Shlomo Zalman Vilinski 26 years old.
2) Shlomo Yitzhak Broyda 28 years old.
3) Shmuel Aizik Bernstein 26 years old.
4) Meshulam Shraga Mitevski 26 years old.
5) Dov Lipin 26 years old.
6) Chayim Shalom Alter Cher 25 years old.
7) Yisrael Mordechai haCohen Kaplan 25 years old.
8) Moshe Aharon Rifas (?) 24 years old.
9) Shlomo Yagel 25 years old
10) Yisrael Hillel haCohen Kaplinski 23 years old.
11) Shmuel haLevi Rosenholtz 23 years old.
12) Ze’ev haLevi Berman 23 years old.
13) Aharon David Sheinberg 24 years old.
14) Tzvi haLevi Froyman 21 years old.
15) Moshe haLevi Reizman 17 years old.
16) Avraham Dov Shapira 18 years old.
17) Binyamin haLevi Horowitz 20 years old.
18) Yissachar Eliyahu Sendrov 17 years old.
19) Aharon David Epstein 17 years old.
20) Yisrael Lazarovski 17 years old.
21) Ze’ev Greenberg 17 years old.
22) Eliyahu Dov Haichal 17 years old.
23) Ya’akov Vexler 17 years old.
24) Chayim Zelig Krasner 16 years old.
25) Tzvi Heller 15 years old.
Some of these young men were Americans, sons of wealthy families from places like Chicago and Cincinnati. They relinquished the easy life for a life of hardship and sacrifice in the Holy Land. Though they had no intention of making the ultimate sacrifice, when the time came, they did so with courage and dignity. The stories of their short lives are told in this book, along with the details of how they met their demise. I stood at their graves but I could never stand in their place.