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Shluchim Under Fire
By Shai Gefen



Rabbi Kirshnzaft, describe what’s happening in your area?

There’s a war going on. Every night they shoot at us. The Palestinians snipe at the industrial area of the yishuv from the area of Chan-Yuns. They are trying to set our factories on fire. Because of the situation we have doubled our activities. This year we are doing twice as much as every other year because of the large numbers of soldiers who have come here. Before Yom Tov and afterwards we put t’fillin on with the soldiers and cheered them on. During Sukkos itself, we arrived at every military position throughout the Gush with a mobile sukka, and now we are planning to continue our activities.

How is the army reacting to the Palestinians’ attacks?

Unfortunately the Palestinians are shooting a great deal but the I.D.F.’s response is very weak. Considering how much shooting is going on here, there are tremendous miracles and great chasdei Shamayim. We held a small demonstration for the commander here until he agreed to properly protect our yishuv. They shoot at the soldiers, but the army doesn’t respond the way it can.

You met with the general on Sukkos. What happened?

The general came to speak but it certainly wasn’t a serious meeting, he was just paying lip service. We demanded that they shell the houses where terrorist activity is taking place, and he made various promises but with no guarantees. He just had clever answers.

Is the problem that the politicians are holding back the army?

I think that the situation today is far more serious than that they’re holding the army back. The I.D.F. doesn’t know how to fight anymore. Take the story from Mt. Eival for example, when the officers ordered the soldiers to shoot off to the side after they were shot at. They’re teaching the soldiers not to shoot. Commanding officer, Yom Tov Semia, sits with terrorists every day and drinks coffee, so how can they fight properly after that? They speak to them and they continue to shoot and we react with restraint instead of with action.

You said there were miracles in Gush Katif. Can you tell us about them?

We can definitely say, "and for Your miracles that are with us each day." If you’re not here, it’s hard to believe what’s going on.. We see open miracles daily. Despite the Palestinians’ sophistication and the huge amount of weapons they have, Hashem in His great kindness watches over us.

A bus full of children was blown up by a powerful bomb and no one was hurt. At Yishuv Morag, four bullets penetrated a car and nobody was killed. In another car, bullets pierced the baby seat and nothing happened to the baby. In another car, a bullet whizzed by the head of a woman sitting there and she wasn’t hurt. A driver was hit by a bullet a millimeter away from his spine. By the way, there were two sifrei Chitas on the bus that exploded, which undoubtedly saved the children. The demand for sifrei Chitas is growing since the uprising and since the story about the bus was publicized.

What’s happening with the residents of the Aza strip?

The people aren’t running. They are all very strong despite what’s going on. Apparently the Jewish people is a lot stronger than their leaders. I’d like to mention that four additional families have come to our absorption committee because they want to live here despite the situation. As we sat with them we heard the shrieking of bullets, and nevertheless, those families are planning to move here to Gush Katif!

How are you doing under the circumstances?

We knew this would happen and constantly warned that it would happen. The Arabs built fortifications and amassed weapons to prepare for this. Anyone with eyes could see it coming. Now people are finally realizing that the Rebbe’s words are coming true, words said decades ago. The Rebbe said what would happen if we conceded and capitulated to the Arabs.

How does your Chabad house handle the situation?

We continue our work. We go out every day to the soldiers in the area in order to encourage them and inspire them with hope. The young people participate in our activities. We have also stepped up our classes and rallies for children. There’s a great demand for sifrei Chitas. Requests are coming from all seventeen settlements in Chevel-Aza.

How do you personally see the situation, as someone who has encountered terrorist activities in the past, and even managed to kill a terrorist before he carried out his evil plans?

There’s no question there’s going to be a very difficult war here because the situation on the ground is very complicated. Even the Left is beginning to wise up and to understand that what was, won’t be any longer, and that a new nationalist situation has developed. Many people have woken from the illusions of peace and agreements and Oslo. Many say this openly and many others are beginning to change direction.

You remember the incident that took place at our yishuv in the course of which a terrorist was killed. I want to tell you that if that terrorist hadn’t been killed, he would be free today and joining those who are trying to kill us. There’s no question that the lack of reaction and the present situation are bringing many people to cry out and understand that we need Moshiach now!

Do you have any requests to make to the public?

It’s very important to receive public support for the Chabad house. This includes donations of sifrei Chitas, food, and of course to come and encourage us as much as possible. Our goal is to increase holiness, which is the real shield of the Jewish people.



What’s happening?

The situation is very difficult. Last Friday and Shabbos there was non-stop shooting. The papers try to hide what’s going on, but there is actually a war going on as far as the Palestinians are concerned. The problem is that we’re not acting like there’s a war, we’re not responding effectively. It’s impossible to travel the roads of Yehuda-Shomron.

I think the situation is good for Ehud Barak, who wants to weaken the settlers. He figures: how long can we last when we see war around us and the army not reacting. There are lots of stories that are not being reported in the papers like the throwing of cinder blocks at settlers from close range, attempts at lynching settlers which did not have the same ending as those in Ramalla simply because of open miracles.

How is the Chabad house managing under the circumstances?

Many of the settlers look to us, and we have intensified our activities significantly. We focus on Torah programs for children, as the Rebbe instructed as a response to circumstances such as these. We have a difficult time with activities in other yishuvim, however, because every trip between one yishuv and the next is extremely dangerous. We have to take roundabout routes, which sometimes take two hours instead of the usual half-hour drive, in order to get to a certain yishuv to organize an activity. Every little thing takes great effort these days.

What’s the situation like in Alon Moreh?

People are strong here for people believe in what they’re doing and no one can break us. It’s the bravery and resolve of the settlers, who, without exception, stand courageously facing the nearly impossible. On the other hand, there’s no need to hide the fact that people are still nervous.

Kever Yosef, which is near you, was abandoned by the Israeli army and handed over to terrorists. What do you have to say about that?

The situation at Kever Yosef is one of the most shocking and terrible things we’ve experienced. Who knows whether the most recent kitrug (Divine accusation, i.e., the recent troubles) wasn’t because Yosef was sold for the second time, into the hands of our worst enemies. We residents used to visit Kever Yosef and daven there often. After the abandonment of Kever Yosef we felt that the Shechina had departed. It is one of three places which Chazal say the nations cannot argue about and claim it was stolen.

What can you tell us about the situation in your area where two residents were killed by Palestinians?

Rabbi Hillel Lieberman and Rabbi Harling of Kedumim (may Hashem avenge their blood) were murdered by vicious animals. This was a terrible tragedy for the settlers, for the two men were extraordinary individuals who brought light to the yishuv. Rabbi Harling wasn’t a resident but spent most of his time these last 20 years in Alon Moreh and taught Torah to many. Rabbi Lieberman was extremely devoted to Kever Yosef. The wounds won’t heal quickly; they go too deep.

Have you despaired?

Chalila v’chas! I have to tell you that on Chol HaMoed Sukkos I felt that I had to get out of the house with the children. I went to Kfar Chabad and found people more in despair over there than we, here in Alon Moreh.

We are sure that this situation is one of "I have left you for a brief moment," and will lead to "with great mercy I will gather you." I call upon my brother Chabad Chassidim to come and raise our spirits, to come and take an interest in what is going on at our yishuv. It isn’t possible that during a war in Yesha we shouldn’t get even one phone call from askanei and rabbanei Chabad, at least to find out what’s going on.

In an interview with Beis Moshiach you complained about the thunderous silence by the Chabad establishment in Eretz Yisroel. Has there been any change?

Unfortunately, despite everything that’s going on, I don’t see any change. It’s a very painful situation. At a time like this, when people don’t know what tomorrow will bring, Chabad has to go out proudly, with the Rebbe’s kochos, and publicize what the Rebbe said, thereby encouraging the people. It’s still not too late and I hope we will soon see greater action taken on behalf of the war for Eretz Yisroel and its integrity. Today everybody can see how right the Rebbe was decades ago, which is why Chabad Chassidim have to go out and proudly publicize what the Rebbe said.

I would like to praise the publication Actualia which was published for Sukkos by the Matteh Shleimus HaAretz in Tzfas. It brings the Rebbe’s unequivocal view of the situation and was received enthusiastically by the people living in our yishuv. All of them see how prophetic the Rebbe was about the present situation.



The yishuv Efrat is in the heart of Gush Etzion. It’s a quiet place and is also considered to be non-negotiable by the consensus of the Israeli public. Last Friday this yishuv witnessed a most terrifying sight when the main shul was desecrated.

Rabbi Nachshon, what happened?

The Arabs desecrated the shul of Efrat. The scene was frightening and reminiscent of pictures of Kristalnacht, when the Nazis desecrated hundreds of shuls throughout Germany. The Arabs drew swastikas, destroyed sifrei Torah, and wrote Nazi graffiti in Hebrew and Arabic. They flooded the shul with water and ruined everything they could lay their hands on. It’s hard to describe the spirits of the residents here considering what a terrible thing happened.

Are you besieged?

Officially we are not besieged, but practically speaking it’s very hard to get out of the yishuv. The tunnel is completely closed and so we have to travel to Yerushalayim via Beit Shemesh. This forces us to drive past Arab villages, whose residents shoot at us. It’s just constant miracles that allow us to survive.

Tell us about the miracles.

On Erev Yom Kippur I returned from Kaparos, which we organized at the Chabad house. I brought a bachur back with me who was going to help me over Yom Kippur. When we arrived at Maayon near the yishuv Bat-Ayin, they began shouting and asking us how we had come. It turned out that seconds before we had passed by in our car, they had shot furiously in the direction of passing cars. So the Arabs had missed us, and if we had been a little later we would likely have been hit.

What special activities have you organized in the yishuv due to the situation?

We organized a Tehillim group for adults. Throughout the day, residents of the yishuv say Tehillim. Despite the situation we made a mobile sukka with the goal of reaching every soldier in the area. This was done with real mesirus nefesh. One day, near Tekoa, we asked soldiers to make the blessing over the arba minim while we heard shooting in the background.

We visited thousands of soldiers in the area over Sukkos, and went to military posts near the Dead Sea, all for the purpose of helping them rejoice. We distributed a booklet published by Rabbi Zev Ritterman of Nachalat Har Chabad on the subject of t’fillin, written especially for the I.D.F. soldiers. It contains a compilation of letters from the Rebbe on the topic. We received a lot of positive feedback.

We met the Chief Commander of the Israeli Police on Sukkos and helped him with the bracha on the arba minim, too.

What do you think of the situation in this area?

There’s no question that the hands of the I.D.F. are tied. In this impossible situation they receive irrational orders. At such a time we must encourage and strengthen the soldiers and bring them joy. These days we are busy with the soldiers in the area, which includes putting t’fillin on with them and distributing literature. We pray that we merit the hisgalus of the Rebbe MH"M already, thus ending this intolerable situation.



What’s happening in Chevron these days?

Unfortunately there are no visitors. This was especially noticeable during Yom Tov, when we are usually visited by thousands of people. Aside from security people, civilians cannot visit the Me’aras HaMachpela and Chevron. Nevertheless, we at the Chabad house are extremely busy with the soldiers and security people in the area.

On Rosh HaShana we walked everywhere in order to blow shofar for the soldiers, despite the shooting over our heads. It was an amazing sight for them to suddenly see Chabadnikim appearing out of nowhere, bringing them the joy of the holiday.

When we arrived at Tel Rumeida via a side road, the soldiers couldn’t understand from where we had suddenly "landed." Minutes later we heard their radio equipment telling the soldiers to take cover because of snipers.

In Chevron they are shooting non-stop. In Kiryat Arba the shooting has reached as far in as Givat Avot. Once or twice a day there’s shooting in certain areas of Kiryat Arba. That’s why we had to cancel the event in the main large sukka of Kiryat Arba, because of orders from above. We organized children’s rallies instead. The big rally took place in the sports center of the Kirya. These rallies made a big impression on the residents.

Due to the situation are there special activities?

First and foremost we work on providing moral support to the soldiers in this volatile area. We circulate among the soldiers and give out treats along with a good word. This is worth more than anything else. You have no idea how much the soldiers thank us. We also distribute the booklets published by Rabbi Zev Ritterman about t’fillin and how important they are at this difficult time. We also try to make our activities with the children of the Kirya special with games and by diffusing the tension in other ways.

How do people view the situation when the Rebbe warned that this would happen if land was given away?

I must tell you that after we distributed the material published by Matteh Shleimus HaAretz of Tzfas called Actualia, which contains quotes from the Rebbe about the situation, Jews from all sectors approached me and said, ‘now we see how the Rebbe foresaw it all.’ One of the residents told me that the material is like that of a journalist describing the situation in Kiryat Arba and Chevron...

More than ever, people understand the cry for Moshiach and realize that in light of the political proceedings, this is the only solution. In these difficult times, when every few minutes we hear about a tragedy, we realize that Moshiach is the only answer.

What miracles can you tell us about?

Last Thursday the number 160 bus came from Yerushalayim to Kiryat Arba, passing the yishuv of Karmei Tzur. The bus was showered with rocks. The bus kept moving and then a bomb suddenly went off, a few meters from the bus. It turned out that the Arab who stood near the bus with his equipment had set the bomb off seconds earlier and dozens of Jews were saved as a result of his poor timing!

In another attack, they shot at a Jew named Chaim Mageni. Five bullets entered his car and he was miraculously saved. The people here see miracles everywhere. Despite the massive shooting and the weak response of our army, the number of injured is relatively small.

What sort of aid do you need?

We definitely need help. Each week we distribute food to 170 needy families. The situation today makes it hard to distribute and collect donations. I call upon Anash and anybody who can help, to get involved with this great mitzva. Dut to the situation, many families who are dependent on the help they receive from the Chabad house are left without food. People live here with great mesirus nefesh, and if you can lighten our burden it would be a great z’chus to do so.

In addition, I call to Anash and to askanim, to cry out in protest! The Rebbe said we have to scream, all the more so under these terrible circumstances. Chabad has to set the tone and bring the Rebbe’s message to the people.


Rabbi Yigal Kirshnzaft with a commander in Aza, saying the bracha on the arba minim


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