28 August 2013

Medinat Yehuda: "Hachnasat Torah in Tapuach Ma'arav"


For anyone who might be interested, I would like to share my impressions of last evening's Hachnasat Torah and shul dedication in Tapuach Ma'arav [West Tapuach, a Jewish community in Samaria]

But before I do, allow me to say a resounding yasher koach to the organizers of the event. It appeared to be well-planned and in my opinion was also well-executed.

Buses were arranged to bring people from all over the country. There were at least two from Jerusalem, and according to what I heard there were also buses from Tel Aviv, Bnei Brak, Ra'anana, Kfar Saba, Netanya and Haifa, with possibly others. It was a simple matter to call and make a reservation and the buses ran pretty much on schedule. There was a festive atmosphere even before we got underway somewhere around four in the afternoon.

Now, in order to understand the significance of making this trip, you have to first understand that I very rarely leave Jerusalem for anything. It's not that I don't like to travel, I do. But very few things can tempt me out of the Holy City even in her current state of neglect.

However, it was my feeling that besides showing honor to the Torah and to the blessed memories of the martyred Kahanes, being present at this event made a very important statement; much more than attending yet another hafganah [political demonstration].

It had been maybe three years since I had traveled north into the Shomron and it is always amazing to see the progress of construction both Jewish and Arab. It is only in the very steepest of hills where there is no human habitation. Surprisingly, the roads appeared quieter than I have ever known them to be.

We arrived just at sunset and those wishing to daven ma'ariv were invited into the new miklat (at least it was new to me). Although a nice-sized facility, it did not begin to accommodate the numbers of people who had already arrived. The air was crisp and a chill was beginning to set in, but the sky was beautifully clear with stars twinkling in anticipation.

I can't begin to think how to describe those vehicles that we have in Israel for such events as this. Do they have them in America, too?---a huge thing covered all over in multi-colored flashing lights and emitting traditional Jewish music at a deafening pitch? Behind that was a chuppa mounted on four wheels which was topped front and back with lights made to look like burning torches and another multi-colored something with flashing lights in the center. Believe it or not, it was so gaudy that it was beautiful, especially with the stark rock-strewn surroundings of the Shomron as a backdrop.

As it was the conclusion of the Fast of Asara b'Tevet, tables laden with bottles of soft drinks and plastic bowls of pretzels and popcorn were quietly and happily mobbed by the throngs of would-be celebrants after ma'ariv prayers and at approximately six pm, the celebration began. An exciting display of fireworks from the roof of the miklat kicked off the event and the dancing started even before the new Torah arrived. Smiles were everywhere in evidence.

Soon we were making our way to a small square building lit up and sitting on a hilltop in the distance. There were as many adults as youth and many children and babies. There was a large group of chareidi-dressed young men. And yes, there were 'gun-toting settlers,' the majority of whom were carrying their army-issued rifles as mandated by law, at least as far as I could see. A few children carried torches, but that is standard for any Hachnasat Torah. And there couldn't have been more than two or three Kahane signs carried proudly at the front of the crowd and behind the escorted Torah.

A bus ride was offered to the older adults who might have trouble making the kilometer and half trek, but I'm not sure anyone took up the offer. It was the longest parade of people and vehicles I have ever seen for any similar event (granted my experience is limited). As we walked leisurely down one hill and around and up another, everywhere along the way, people were singing, clapping, and dancing under the glowing winter sky.

My romantic eye caught the shimmer of moonlight on the rock outcroppings and the always wonderous to me image of the end of the world, where the lighted coastline meets the darkened sea as one looks towards Tel Aviv. To the south, the lights seem never to end as Eli runs into Shilo and on down to Ofra on one side and Ma'ale Levona and Bet El proceed on the other; all the lights converging on a glow at the horizon which can only be the reflection of Jerusalem on the skyline.

No matter which direction one looks, the area is lit with the presence of Jews returned to their homeland. However, those puny little mercury lights, as bright as they are in the dark of night in the Shomron, pale in comparison to the fire of Torah that breathes in the souls of the Jews returned to Eretz Yisrael. As I contemplated the miracle that a thousand people would set aside six or seven hours to walk over a mile in the cold dark from one hilltop to another purely for the sake of a mitzva, all of it focused on the same Torah that we received by Moshe's hand at Har Sinai over 3500 years ago, I began to understand how we have survived the millenia. I couldn't help but feel that Hashem was well-pleased with his children this night.

As the Torah scroll made the approach up the newly-paved road to its new home, fireworks again lit up the sky. The music and dancing never stopped. The inside of the new beit knesset/beit medrash was packed and Dov Shurin was the featured musician. The gracious hosts of Tapuach had laid out an entire meal for their guests---piles of pita along with the requisite humus, tomato and cucumber salad, pickles and olives, burekas, and piping hot chulent, more soft drinks, sliced cake and fruit. No one was in want of anything.

It was noisy and spread out. I can't be sure of everything that went on everywhere, but I had a great time seeing old friends and just soaking up the kedusha that results from masses of Jews performing a mitzva. I caught a ride back to Tapuach and was glad to warm up in the bus as it waited for stragglers to board for the return trip. We left out of Tapuach's gate about ten pm and stopped at yishuvim all along the way depositing Jews returning to their homes in Shomron and Binyamin. Then comes the sight that always makes my heart beat faster; over that last tall hill and Yerushalayim comes into view, a magic city on a mountaintop.

It was a great party given for a noble cause, but the best thing I brought away from it is this---no matter what place we Jews call home in Eretz Yisrael, we are back to stay.

11 Tevet 5764

PS: Two weeks later, the army of Israel came to Tapuach Ma'arav and completely destroyed this little beit knesset.

Demolition of Tapuach Synagogue Begins With Violence

Only a few hours after the Supreme Court rejected a petition this morning against the demolition of a synagogue in western Tapuach, hundreds of police and soldiers arrived on the scene early this afternoon and began the destruction in a violent manner - and were met with some violence in response.

... With loud screams and other noise in the background, [eyewitness Gershon] Hershkovitz said, "Hundreds of police/soldiers arrived here with great violence, most of them armed, and some of them even fired in the air. No one was hurt by the shots, thank G-d, but this is a bad precedent - and some people have been knocked unconscious by their violence... They took out the Torah scrolls and other holy books fairly roughly - but some 30 people are barricaded on the roof, so they can't take down the building... We call on people from all over to come and help us."

The Torah scroll, in the memory of terror victims Binyamin and Talia Kahane, was introduced into the synagogue in a festive ceremony only two weeks ago. Many hundreds of people from all over the country participated in the joyous occasion. Tapuach residents deny that the building is a center for the promulgation of the teachings of Rabbi Meir Kahane, Binyamin's father. In fact, Talia's father, David Hertzlich, said that he uses the building "just to teach little children the verses of the Bible."

By late this afternoon, some 30 residents had been arrested, the furniture had been taken out of the synagogue, and one wall was knocked down. Another eyewitness said that the books were taken out in an orderly fashion, "but our resistance wasn't just for show. We were trying to stop them. We also want to show them that it won't be so easy for them to take down other places in the Land of Israel."

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