Thanks to the Hebron Fund, nearly 60,000 people visited Hebron on Sunday and Monday of Chol Hamoed Succot. My family was very fortunate to participate in the Hebron Fund Succot experience on Monday October 13 (19 Tishrei). The tour was organized by Executive Director of the Fund, Rabbi Dan Rosenstein.
There were a number of families from Bergen County as well as the Queens community participating in the tour including the Ciment, Gibber, Gurell, Heimowitz, and Pfeiffer families. And there were families from around the USA on tour, which filled up the buses.
We were staying with my daughter and her family in Beitar Illit and met the tour bus at the Gush Etzion Tzomet. Our first stop was at the memorial for the three boys Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Sha’ar, and Eyal Yifrah who were kidnapped and murdered by Arab terrorists in June. The memorial is standing and a community called Gaon (First letter of Gilad, Eyal, and Naftali) Maod is in the process of being built. Rabbi Simcha Hochbaum, Director of Hebron tourism, spoke at the memorial, and it was very emotional for all us on the tour. He spoke about the tremendous achdus that was achieved by the entire Jewish community across the world. During those very trying 18 days when the search for boys was in full swing, Klal Yisroel davened and did everything it could to help find them.
Our next stop was the Holy Cacao Factory Experience in the Hevron Hills, where we listened to proprietor Joseph Zander relate the history of chocolate. We not only listened, but we also tasted and made our own chocolate. The other half of the group tasted gourmet pareve ice cream in the Sukkah, and then the groups switched places. This was so much fun for the kids as well as the adults. By the way, the chocolate is all natural, great quality, and makes for a fun trip for families.
After our chocolate experience, we went wine tasting at the Hevron Heights Winery, where we got to taste some dry and sweet wines. The owner, Michel Marciano, told us that the factory does not operate during shmita. He said he has always been blessed with a great crop on the 6th year or 8th year so he has never lost out because of the shmita year.
We also saw the beautiful home of the Drebin’s where the winery is situated. Eddie Drebin told us some great stories about how he came to Hebron in 1954 and ran the security forces. He was very inspiring and gave us all a sense of how proud we were to meet such a great fighter for the Jewish people.
We drove on to Hevron to the Shavei Hevron Yeshiva, where Rabbi Simcha Hochbaum spoke and we were entertained by his recently married son who sang and played guitar.
Not too long after we were quite surprised by a gourmet lunch prepared for the group, which we ate in a large beautiful sukkah. David Wilder (spokesman for the Hevron community and tour guide) spoke to us and led us on a tour of the new Hebron Observatory. We were able to see the Maaras Hamachpelah and the surrounding Arab community which includes their shopping malls, universities, and new housing. The Jews have exclusive access to only 3% of the city and it is made very difficult for Jews to build in Hebron while the Arab community does not have the same legalities and building requirements the Jewish community has.
Our final stop was at the Ma’aras HaMachpelah where we davened mincha in the Yitchack Avinu Hall. It was a real zchus to daven there (especially since my family and I did not go to Hebron in more than 10 years). The kever of Yitzchak Avinu is only opened ten times a year.
The Hebron Fund is the official sponsor of the Jewish community of Hebron. It has many responsibilities including the upkeep of holy sites around Hebron, humanitarian aid to needy Hebron families, tourism, public relations, and helping to support the well-being of Hebron’s soldiers. Just this month, it produced three major events on the Rochelle Berkowitz Plaza adjacent to the Ma’arah. They held two slichot events where one night the mothers of the kidnapped boys and the other night the fathers, addressed thousands of participants along with special speakers and a musical ensemble. On one of those evenings both chief rabbis spoke and lead the Slichot prayers, and on chol hamoed the Hebron Fund sponsored the Hebron music festival which featured many singers including Chaim Yisrael and music superstar Mordechai Ben David.
The Hebron Fund has recently completed an observatory in Tel Hebron in partnership with the yeshiva; it partnered with the Israel Antiquities Authority to complete phase one of a major archaeological dig that has yielded many exciting treasures tying Jewish roots back to the times of the Holy Temple period; it has renovated housing for residents, enabling them to raise their families in Hebron; it is adding park benches (individually sponsored) around Hebron and built several gardens as part of a “greening of Hebron” project; it is building a multi-purpose center with a multi-media center, and it is building an information center at the steps leading to the Ma’arah to assist visitors. We also saw the renovation of the new Hebron Heritage Museum. All of these projects can only be completed in partnership with the support of Jews in America. While we cannot live in Hebron, at least we can show our strong support for the Fund’s activities.
Come see for yourselves. The Hebron Fund has planned an extraordinary Chayei Sarah VIP Mission to Israel from November 11-16. Not only are the accommodations top notch and the activities include visits to army bases, jeeping, and a golf outing, but the most unique aspect being provided is the holiness and spiritual high that each participant will walk away with.
If interested in partnering with the Hebron Fund, planning a tour or bar/bat mitzvah, or coming for Shabbat Chayei Sarah, contact the office at 718 677-6886 or [email protected] or view the tour calendar at www.hebronfund.org. There is always something new and special in Hebron and the best way to see it is with the Hebron Fund.
By Yaakov Serle