Who Will Get Rid Of Who First?
Interview by Shai Gefen

The Jewish settlement in Chevron demonstrates steely determination despite being shaken up following the murder of the baby Shalheves Pass (may Hashem avenge her blood). Baruch Merzel, resident of Tel Romeida in Chevron, describes the non-stop shooting at the Jewish homes in Chevron from three directions, about the war thatís been dragging on for eight months now, about the destruction and vandalism in the old cemetery of Chevron, and surprisingly - about the hachnasas orchim organization which hosts dozens of Jews who come and visit.

Youíve been through a lot lately with the murder of baby Shalheves Pass shaking up the world, non-stop shooting, a battle to conquer Abu Sanina... How are the Jews of Chevron holding up?

The Jewish settlement in Chevron continues to develop despite everything you mentioned, in a way of "uífarazta yama vaíkeidma tzafona vaínegba." Lately additional families have joined the Jews of Chevron. Baruch Hashem, we see miracles and wonders.

Mortars still havenít fallen in Chevron?

As far as mortars go, we are actually the most secure settlement, since we have 150,000 Arabs surrounding us who "protect" us in that respect. But we do we get hit by lighter weapons - and how!

I can tell you that Tel Romeida, where I live, has been abandoned by nearly all the neighboring Arabs. A large number of bullets struck them, and they couldnít take it any more, so they left. The miracles that we see are not daily but hourly. There are times that the shooting doesnít stop for a minute. The caravans in which some families live are riddled by countless bullet holes, and, Baruch Hashem, we withstand it with Jewish strength.

Although the caravans in Tel Romeida are under constant attack, they donít allow you to build homes out of cement. Why?

We are being shot at from three directions. Some of the caravans have more holes than walls, yet they still donít allow us to build with cement. What could be simpler than giving us permits to build?! After the murder of Rav Raanan (may Hashem avenge his blood), there was a government decision to allow us to build permanent buildings in Tel Romeida. We did the required archaeological digging, we invested over a million shekel in digging and guarding the place, but now the court has prevented us from building because of a provocative legal plea by Arabs with the backing of extremists from the Left.

I hope the government will understand that we must build as many permanent structures as possible. Itís impossible to live in caravans anymore when weíve been living here for 17 years already in these buildings and now we are under crossfire.

The murder of Shalheves Pass hit the Jewish settlement in Chevron really hard. This was the first time that a ten-month-old baby was murdered in cold blood by a Palestinian sniper standing on Abu Sanina. How are you dealing with the terrible tragedy?

In the latest stage of the Oslo War (since the beginning of the year) the evil perpetrators of Oslo brought upon us, over 82 Jews have been killed. Some of them were killed by acts of terrorism but the police didnít report them. Of those murdered, over fifty of them were residents of Yehuda, Shomron, and Gaza. Living in Yesha has exacted a steep price. There is hardly any settlement without one death thanks to the Intifada El Aktza. The Jews of Chevron lost Shalheves Pass, who has become a symbol. Until her death, there had been no deaths in Chevron (these eight months) despite the non-stop attacks.

Yet Abu Sanina, given away by Netanyahu in the Chevron agreement, was not re-conquered. How come?

Abu Sanina shows us where Sharon is headed. Sharon didnít conquer Abu Sanina after the murder of Shalhevet, and he didnít conquer Beit Jala after the non-stop shooting from there at Gilo, showing that he has no intentions of recapturing land from the Palestinian Authority. Therefore, we must prepare for a bloody war that wonít stop here, even if we try to come to some arrangement or another. This terrible bloodshed wonít stop if we donít respond harshly and are reluctant to conquer areas that endanger Jewish lives.

I can give you a scoop. Today there is no longer any shooting from Abu Sanina towards the Jewish settlement of Chevron, because members of the Jewish community took care of the Arabs themselves in recent weeks. They taught them the lesson that it doesnít pay to continue shooting. The strength of the Jewish settlement in not standing by idly after that frightful murder certainly got us results.

Delaying the funeral of Shalhevet wasnít a mistake?

I want to say one thing. Very few readers of Beis Moshiach remember the names of most of those killed, although they are Jews who really care about the situation. But everybody remembers Shalhevetís name. Her name is engraved in the collective memory of all the Jewish people, thanks to the strong stand and the wave of protests that engulfed the country. We will still see how thanks to the strength we exhibited when it came to Shalhevet, lives were saved.

Are you still demanding the conquering of Abu Sanina?

Since Shalhevetís murder we have set up a protest tent in Kikar Gross, which is still there now. The army moved us from the Kikar since it was open to fire, but the tent is still there and we donít plan on moving from there until they conquer Abu Sanina.

Is it true that the army wanted to capture it but the politicians stopped them?

There were plans to conquer Givat Shalhevet, formerly known as Givat Abu Sanina. I know that a special force came in order to conquer it. Reservist General Noam Tivon, the commander of this area, hinted almost openly about the imminent conquering of the neighborhood, but the one who stopped it was none other than Ariel Sharon, the man who didnít stop shouting, "Let the army win."

As prime minister he doesnít allow the army to win?

Unfortunately, the situation in which the Oslo criminals placed us is extremely difficult. Itís a situation that will force us into war in order to get the Arabs out of here. By now the Arabs are well armed. They have entire arsenals at their disposal. We know about the katyushas and factories that produce mortars. I agree with the Left when they say itís hard to fight terrorism, but I say the solution is to throw all the Arabs out of here, otherwise they will do that to us. The big question is only who will do it to who first.

You set up a tent in Bat Yam in order to identify with the Jewish settlement in Chevron.

We definitely feel that the Jewish people has a deep connection with the Jews of Chevron, an identification that perhaps wasnít sensed as much in the past. Today though, even those who werenít close to us suddenly feel connected to Chevron, which unites all Jews.

Right before Netanyahu signed the Chevron agreement, you warned about the situation that would develop after giving away the city, but at the time, nobody wanted to listen to you.

We didnít merely warn people, we produced a video with Adir Zik that showed what might happen from the direction of Abu Sanina. One of the people who today serves as a senior government minister saw the video in which a baby is killed by Palestinian sniping, and said the film was made by a "sick and twisted mind." Now I ask him: Who was sick and twisted - Adir Zik or Binyamin Netanyahu, who nonchalantly gave away all those hills that threaten the Jewish settlement in Chevron?

But Netanyahu apologized about returning Chevron, and even sent you a letter?

That weak apology on Channel 7 and at inside events was not enough. If Netanyahu apologizes for the dreadful Chevron agreement in which he personally handed over 90% of Chevron, he should go on Channel 2 and give an interview and apologize there as he knows how to do on other occasions. Then we will know that his apology is sincere and that what he says now is meant seriously.

I donít negate his apology, but if he means it let him say it in more open forums so that everybody knows that he made a terrible mistake that cost us lives. He should add, "Who knows what might happen if the army doesnít take back those hills that threaten the Jewish settlement of Chevron?"

I would suggest that Netanyahu raise the gauntlet and not act like some small-time politician whose only concern is his political future. I suggest that he go to war to isolate Arik Sharon on the Right, that he openly admit he erred and completely wipe his hands of the Oslo Accords, that he go out to the world with a PR campaign as only Bibi can do, and do it all in order to reveal the truth about the Arabs who hate us.

Everybody has been talking about the fear that Sharon will accept the American suggestion to freeze new settlements. Are you afraid?

Very much so. I am afraid that Sharon will get a few weeks or months of quiet and then he will start making crazy concessions. The fear is great. He has very strong Leftist powers in his government. Letís be open about this: Sharon is obligated to Peres, as Peres is to Sharon. Both of them are afraid of people within their parties. Sharon is afraid of Bibi, and Peres is afraid of the upcoming primaries in Labor. So itís no simple matter, and in order for them to survive another few weeks, we may see more murderous concessions which will supposedly achieve quiet.

Will there be concessions that will remind us of Yamit?

I donít know about Yamit, but definitely a return to the pattern of Oslo in which we give and they take. Peres is the foreign minister and he wants to prove for the millionth time that Oslo is alive, despite the reality. Peres will achieve an artificial lull in the fighting and then the concessions will continue at a murderous pace.

Should the Right topple Sharon?

I donít think Sharon crossed the red line yet, but if he does, and concedes to Peresí dictates, theyíll have to topple him as fast as possible. Then Sharon will find himself where Netanyahu and Barak find themselves. There will be no concessions. Weíve already seen what happens to those prime ministers who bartered away land of Eretz Yisroel and just gave it away to our enemies, endangering the lives of five million Jews here.

What should the Right do now?

Pressure Sharon non-stop. Demonstrate against him and get him back on track. I am referring to parties both within the coalition and parties on the Right not within the coalition. They shouldnít stop pressuring Sharon, so that he will understand good and well that without eliminating terrorism his government wonít last, and that itís not concessions that will lead to peace.

I see this time as a waiting period. It definitely looks like Sharon is heading in the wrong direction. But as I said, he still hasnít crossed the red lines, so thereís a lot we can do. We cannot rest on the sidelines.

Give us some concrete suggestions as to what to do.

I would say we have to de-legitimize all the Oslo criminals who brought this tragedy upon us, and remove the topic of concessions and the continuation of Oslo from the Israeli lexicon. We have to focus on Beilin and Peres, the two who continue their political machinations, especially Yossi Beilin who hasnít stopped for a minute since he lost his seat both in the Knesset and in the government. We have to go out with a strong message that focuses on the problem. This will save us from many more problems.

I would even open a museum displaying the pictures of the hundreds of people murdered since Oslo, depicting the results of Oslo, so that future generations will remember. What happened here is one of the most frightful things in our history. The Jewish people armed its enemy, assigned them a strong army, and now they rise up against us to kill and annihilate us. We gave them the right to broadcast, which includes television stations, and they incite their people daily to kill Jews. We did this to ourselves, and the ones most responsible for all this are Beilin and Peres.

What about the bizarre missions of Omri Sharon to meet with Arafat?

It really gives us cause for grave concern about Sharon. All his efforts so that his son can meet with Arafat conveys a tremendous weakness and foolishness. I think it will cost us dearly. Sharon says he is sending his son in order to stop attacks. I ask: If Omri Sharon is the one who will stop attacks, why didnít Sharon suggest to Barak back then that he send Omri to stop terrorism? Why was it that he didnít stop saying, "Let the army win?"

I hope that Sharon will allow the army to do what it has to do, and if war is necessary then the earlier the better, because with each passing day the Palestinians gain more and more strength. The faster we take care of the Palestinian problem, the better for us and the less Jewish blood will be spilled.

Fewer people visit Chevron these days. Last year, half a million people visited Chevron. Whatís happening now?

Of course far fewer people are coming, but I must mention an amazing phenomenon. Not a Shabbos passes without groups of visitors. Since the outbreak of the Intifada (except for the first two Shabbasos), there hasnít been a Shabbos without visitors or guests. Itís really incredible and it shows the strong connection that Jews have to Chevron, that children have for their ancestors.

Is that why you opened a hachnasas orchim organization?

The hachnasas orchim organization is two years old, but weíve come to the conclusion that we have to expand it, now more than ever before. Baruch Hashem we have lots of work to do. Not a week passes without guests, and itís all for free for bachurim, avreichim, and families. We take care of all the visitors, despite the non-stop shooting.

The desecration of the cemetery is ongoing, and nobody says a word?

Unfortunately, and to our great shame, the Chabad section and the tziyun of Rebbetzin Menucha Rochel have been desecrated 16 times. They take hammers and break whatever they can. Last week they destroyed the pavement near the Rebbetzinís tziyun.

Despite the situation, I get countless requests to re-open the kollel near the tziyun, and we are thinking about it despite the armyís warnings. We donít want to give in. We want to maintain a permanent Jewish presence near the tziyun, which will help protect the cemetery.

I think Anash ought to speak to Sharon and tell him that the man who had the privilege of saving Rebbetzin Menucha Rochelís grave right before the Oslo Accords and didnít allow them to give it away should strengthen the place with armed forces who will guard it and not allow the Arabs to desecrate it.

In Europe, when they desecrate a cemetery, everybody screams. But here, where the granddaughter of the Alter Rebbe is buried, as well as dozens of descendents of the Alter Rebbe, along with gedolei rabbanei Chabad, how can you be quiet? Anash here and around the world ought to get together to save the place at all costs.

In one of the Rebbeís letters to Sharon, he writes "What will happen in Chevron when an Arab child throws a rock at a Jewish child. Who will the police side with?" As a resident of Chevron, you can probably tell us what does, in fact, happen.

Itís an incredible prophecy. We all see how the Rebbeís prophetic words are happening now. The question the Rebbe asked Sharon is a sharp one. The same police force designed to protect Jews is constantly taking the side of the Arabs.

I can tell you that after the murder of Shalhevet, instead of dealing with the Arabs, they broke into Jewish homes in order to find out who, chalila, expressed the strongest protest, and they left the Arabs alone. The non-stop persecution of Jews by the police is one of the most difficult things the Jews of Chevron have to contend with.

The Rebbe wrote that letter to Sharon over thirty years ago when nobody believed this situation could arise, but it did.

In conclusion:

I think the role of Anash in this battle is significant. Lubavitcher Chassidim must proudly lead the battle, quoting the Rebbe. The Rebbe spoke about the danger that lay waiting at the doors of millions of Jews, and this must be publicized! With Hashemís help we will merit the coming of Moshiach with the true and complete Redemption.


"The solution is to throw all the Arabs out of here, otherwise they will do that to us. The big question is only who will do it to who first."

(Below) The funeral of Shalhevet Pass, the baby who was murdered in Chevron







This is one of the most frightful things in our history. The Jewish people armed its enemy, assigned them a strong army, and now they rise up against us to kill and annihilate us.


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