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Guarding The Walls Of Yerushalayim
By Shai Gefen

Interview of Mr. Gabby Butboul, founder of Shomrei HaChomos

Mr. Gabby Butboul is a graduate of Merkaz HaRav. He studied at Hebrew University and in Strasbourg, where he studied philosophy. Butboul is one of the founders of Gesher (Bridge) for talks between the religious and secular. In the past he served as head of the Karnei Shomron council in Binyanim and served for a few years as shliach for Aliya in France. In 1977 he settled in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Yerushalayim.

Not long ago the Israeli public was under that impression that Yerushalayim was non-negotiable, trusting Barakís proclamations that Yerushalayim would remain united forever. Today it has become clear that, as far as the government is concerned, nothing is sacred. It has only recently become known that Barak explicitly agreed to allow an outfitted Palestinian army to enter the Old City of Yerushalayim, giving at least half of the city to our enemy.

The residents of the Jewish Quarter of the Old City are beginning to feel like settlers. Following these shocking revelations that leaked out of Camp David, the residents of the Old City have formed an organization called Shomrei HaChomos (Guardians of the Walls), which has begun an all out campaign to protect the future of Yerushalayim.

Mr. Gabby Butboul, a long time resident of the old Jewish Quarter, heads Shomrei HaChomos. He intends to arouse public opinion and organize demonstrations together with other organizations in order to guard the walls of Yerushalayim so that they are not breached again, this time with the consent of Jews, ríl.

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Mr. Butboul, is Barak really planning to divide Yerushalayim?

That is the actual significance of the offer Barak made to the Palestinians, thereby capitulating to all their demands. They never believed that Israel would make such incredible concessions. What theyíre doing is dividing the Old City in two: Rechov Dovid, the route to walk to the Kosel, will be the border between the Palestinian capitol and the State of Israel. The Israeli government decided to set up a joint Palestinian-Israeli police force in the Old City like the one in Azza. This collaboration has never worked before, and everybody knows that this isnít a simple police force, but a Palestinian army in every sense of the word.

Itís hard to believe that within the Jewish Quarter of Yerushalayim there will be armed Palestinian soldiers on patrol. Just imagine what will happen; any little spark can ignite into a giant conflagration. The Barak government has crossed all red lines and is acting utterly irresponsibly ≠ ó and itís all in the name of saving his political career.

But Barak returned from Camp David without an agreement, and even presented this as proof that he showed toughness.

Are you serious? Iím telling you, I know that as we speak, teams of senior Israelis are sitting with Palestinians and are working out the details on an agreement to divide Yerushalayim. Barak didnít return from Camp David with an agreement because the Palestinians know that they can get more and more concessions from the Israelis. Palestinian documents tout that the Israeliís position is very weak and they can obtain much more from us. The Palestinians have patience. They know that during the next round Ė which the media already announced will take place at the end of the month Ė they will get much more.

Do you see the effects of the talks in Camp David here in Yerushalayim?

The situation in Yerushalayim and the Har HaBayis is no secret. Thereís a battle going on in the Jewish Quarter over the mosque, which is situated near the Churba of Rí Yehuda HaChassid. One day Palestinians came to renovate it. They understood that Barak had given up Yerushalayim, and since then their appetite has only grown.

A week ago I saw an Arab couple walking around the Jewish Quarter, pointing at houses and saying: we lived here and here is where our uncles lived. They feel that they will be returning to live here soon. This is a result of Camp David, for the Arabs understand that a divided Yerushalayim is a done deal.

Barak says that the agreements made at Camp David are not binding.

Thatís meaningless. Just today, Abu Ellah, the number two man in the Palestinian Authority, stated that the new talks will continue where they left off. I believe him more than Barak. Barak has laid siege to Yerushalayim. It is painful to see this happening as a result of one of our own. Barak is misleading the public because a divided Yerushalayim is a done deal.

What are you, residents of the Jewish Quarter, able to do under the circumstances?

Thereís a lot that can be done. However, the most serious and frightening thing is that Barak will be allowing in an armed Palestinian army, while at the same time there are orders to disarm the Jewish residents, preventing us from defending ourselves. There are people who talk of forming armed militias if, chív, this goes through. Iím against this, but talk such as this testifies to the pressure we are under. Itís really scary.

Have you tried to contact the Prime Minister to discuss this?

We wrote to the Prime Minister over three weeks ago and asked him to meet with representatives of residents of the Old City, ďwho are concerned by recent reports about your agreement to transfer parts of the Old City to Palestinian authority,Ē as we wrote in the letter. Aside from a brief reply, we havenít gotten any answer. He refuses to meet with us.

Did you anticipate things being this bad?

Not at all. We were complacent. There are still residents of the Jewish Quarter who remain oblivious to whatís going on. Whoever dreamed that the Old City would be up for negotiations?

Do you have any other indications as to what Barak plans to do?

Dan Margalit held an interview with the Prime Minister, asking him whether the reports are true that he plans to allow Arafat to build his office in the Old City. Barak didnít deny it. In other words, the Israeli government agrees that Arafat should have an office, with all that implies, within the Old City. That means there will be soldiers with machine guns in the area. Barak is leading us to the third churban, ríl.

Thatís why we Jews who live in the Old City are organizing for a joint battle over this. We formed the Shomrei HaChomos for the purpose of guarding the city. Yerushalayim will exist because of Jews living in the Old City and not because of those who live in Kiryat HaYovel or Rechavia. The Arabs are interested in this territory. This area is the gateway to Yerushalayim, and from here, to the entire country. Whoever rules here rules the country and whoever, G-d forbid, loses or abandons the Old City to our enemies, abandons the entire country.

How could Barak do this, considering that he has a reputation as a security expert?

Barak is making irrational and irresponsible decisions. He has no clue when it comes to security, although he tries to present himself as knowledgeable in this area. He is bringing a tragedy upon us and all he cares about is his career.

If you are familiar with the map of Yerushalayim, then you realize that all the neighborhoods on the periphery will border on Palestinian-ruled territory crawling with armed soldiers. As you know, most of these neighborhoods are religious ones.

When did you start organizing?

A week ago, when we began hearing reports from Camp David that Barak was dividing Yerushalayim, at first we didnít believe it and we said to ourselves: Would Barak, the security expert with a glorious military past, do such terrible things? We quickly discovered it was true. And not only that, but they have been keeping information from us. I know for a fact that there are talks going on today about Yerushalayim. Arafatís advisor said he knows that Israel still hasnít been squeezed for all itís able to give. Itís really serious.

What are you doing about the situation?

We have set up a protest booth in the center of the Jewish Quarter and we distribute literature from there. There are also activities, gatherings, and petitions against Barakís actions.

Do you think Barak will sign such an agreement in the end?

In order to survive politically, he will do something desperate and abandon all of Yerushalayim. Thatís what we really fear. So I say the Right has to join forces with the religious, in order to wisely assess our options and not play into Barakís hands.

Would the situation be better with a different government?

Iím afraid that even if the Likud takes over they would continue the same terrible policies. Itís only the believers, the religious, the ultra-Orthodox, and the Orthodox-nationalists who will protect Yerushalayim, because they truly care. The Likud and Labor are the same. We saw members of Likud at the Oslo Accords, Chevron, and Wye. The believing public will succeed in stopping this terrible process.

What should people do?

Flood Barakís office with faxes and letters and do not stop protesting for a moment. Iím very concerned about the summer break in the Knesset, because it gives Barak an opportunity to go for broke. I am very concerned about how events will unfold.

How has the public response been to your activities?

There has been a great response. The question remains, however, where the people will be on the day of reckoning, when Barak and friends abandon the very heart of the Holy Land. I tell people: The battle today is not over keeping every inch of Eretz Yisroel, but over keeping our very homes; over the very survival of the Jewish people in their homeland! There are people who have given up the struggle, claiming it is a lost cause, but I say there is definitely a good chance to stop the process. We can unify the public on the issue of Yerushalayim.

How many Jewish residents are there in the Old City, as of now?

Over six thousand Jews.

Is it true that some Arab residents of the Old City object to the division of Yerushalayim?

Absolutely, and it has been mentioned in the media. We have Arab neighbors who are emphatic about not wanting to live under Palestinian Authority rule, due to its being a dictatorship. The Arab residents are keenly aware that Palestinian rule in the Old City will not be to their benefit and will only bring chaos. In our main office we have two Arabs, one from the Moslem quarter and one from the Armenian quarter.

I would like to issue a call to the public and to Chabad Chassidim in particular, who know and are aware of the warnings of the Rebbe about the importance of Yerushalayim and the terrible severity of splitting the city Ė to join the battle that will tip the scale in the struggle over Eretz Yisroel. I invite everyone to visit our protest booth in the center of the Jewish quarter and join our struggle.
 

   

The battle today is not over keeping every inch of Eretz Yisroel, but over keeping our very homes; over the very survival of the Jewish people in their homeland!
 
  


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