KIRYAT ARBA IS A FACT

It is not at all surprising that Sheikh Ali Ja’abari, the Arab Mayor of Hebron, was strongly opposed to the building of a Kirya for Jews in the Hebron area. In addition, in the summer of 1969, the Israeli Government put off the expropriating of land in the Gush Etzion - the reason, Ja’abari’s opposition. It was at that period that Menachem Liebman wrote a letter to “Ma’ariv” and he asked my permission to sign it with my name, which I readily gave. This letter concluded, “The residents of Judea and Samaria need to know who in fact rules in Judea and Samaria - the Government of Israel or Sheikh Ali Ja’abari - in order to know to know to whom to apply for a license to build a Kirya....”

In the March 1970 we received the answer to this question - it was the Government of Israel - when they decided on the building of Kiryat Arba and the construction of 250 dwellings. At the time Rabbi Levinger commented that in his opinion, it would be easier to go from 250 to 700 dwellings than to go from none to 250. In order to avoid legal problems in acquiring the land for Kiryat Arba, the army first took over the area as a military base. After the first stage was completed, the army quietly pulled out.

Building began and during Chol Hamoed Sukkot 1970, there was an open day for visitors to see the progress going on.

At a settlers’ meeting, a question was asked why the apartments did not have two sinks and a balcony for a Sukkah. It goes without say, that it was politically important to make these buildings “facts” as quickly as possible and that any delays caused by changing the architects’ plans could prove to be our “undoing.” I assume, although was never actually told, that this was the reason that we didn’t make an issue of this matter. In any case, to add a sink in a kitchen is no problem. However, unless one lives on the ground floor, to add a balcony is almost a “no-go.”

In the months before moving over to Kiryat Arba, the settlers “adopted” potential families who were planning to come and live in Kiryat Arba. These families might come and spend Shabbat in the Memshal.

The head of the family we adopted worked for the telephone company. I remember how he related to us how people would “use” the same asimonim over and over again. In those days, one paid at public telephones by the use of “asimonim,” which were the size of a small coin with the hole on the middle. He told us how people would attach a piece of cotton to the asimon and this would enable the user to “retrieve” it after his telephone call. This was even done by members of kibbutzim, which caused a financial loss to their own Kibbutz! He then explained that the telephone people were trying to combat this by installing something that would cut such a piece of cotton.

My daughter was at that time nearly one year hold and he would delight in holding her up high in order to photograph her.

She was at the time my only child and being still a baby, I felt this would thus be an ideal time to spend about three years (which eventually expanded to nearly seven) promoting Jewish education in England. By 1971 Kiryat Arba was already a fact and the first people would soon be moving in. I had also had successful experience in the field of Jewish education in England in the past. Whilst I had been studying for my doctorate, I had taken over a Sunday morning Talmud Torah which had “disintegrated” to just three pupils and in the course of nearly three years built it up to nearly one hundred pupils.

In the spring of 1971, there appeared in the “Jewish Chronicle” of London an advertisement for a Director of Jewish Studies at a Jewish High School in the North of England. The wording of the advertisement made it seem a challenging position and I decided to apply. I cannot remember how this particular “Jewish Chronicle” came into my possession but it was clearly “Hashgacha Pratit.”

After having sent this school some references, I was informed that one of their Governors would be in Israel in the near future and he would interview me.

Meanwhile in the Memshal, we were being asked to sign contracts for the lease of the new apartments in Kiryat Arba and pay a certain deposit. We were initially informed that Yeshivah students did not have to pay this deposit, but later we learned that this was incorrect. I was in a bit of a quandary. On one hand I was being pushed to already sign such a contract and on the other hand I did not yet know whether I would be going to England.

A few days after Tisha B’Av, I met with this Governor. He began to procrastinate and say he had to report back to England, but I insisted that I needed to know his answer there and then. He gave me a positive answer and I told him that I must have it in writing which he immediately gave me. I returned to the Memshal and told them of my plans.

The first buildings in Kiryat Arba were ready just a few days before Rosh Hashanah and some of the settlers from the Memshal moved in immediately. It was advisable to create facts without any delay whatsoever. With the left wing government and the courts in Israel, one never knew what unpleasant surprises they could suddenly and without warning spring on us.

Soon after Rosh Hashanah, a transport firm came to pack and send my family’s effects to England. We had originally planned to leave immediately after the Chagim and in the meanwhile, we would spend the time at Dina’s aunt’s apartment in Rehavia. However on Motzoei Yom Kippur, Dina, who was then in the seventh month of pregnancy, was taken to hospital with labour pains. That night she gave birth to a girl who was immediately put in an incubator but only survived for two days. The reason for this premature delivery soon became evident. Dina had jaundice and had to remain in hospital for a few weeks and this accordingly delayed our departure.

That Simchat Torah, I went to Kiryat Arba. We did so much dancing that year, with just short breaks for meals, that we did not finish the Hakafot until after Yom Tov was over! The settlers presented me with two books on Halachah written by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook.

I went to England and directed Jewish Education for nearly seven years. I had to work very hard to promote Jewish education and awareness in a community which was far from Torah observance and one can read about my experiences there in my book (in English) “My Fight for Yiddishkeit.” At the reception made when I went on pension in 2003, I gave a talk on these years in England and I afterwards published the verbatim text of my talk in a booklet in Hebrew.

In July 1978 we returned to Kiryat Arba - Hebron and have lived there ever since.

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