IT IS not at all surprising really that hope abounds among the Jews of the small city of Hebron.

I guess many readers would wonder how there COULD be hope.

If there is one place on earth which virtually everyone - including many in Israel - agrees must be "cleansed" of its Jewish population, it is Hebron. That city's Jews are probably the most maligned members of this much-maligned nation in the world today; if they're not hated, then they're a painful embarrassment; either way, so many problems would be solved if they would just quietly disappear.

Hanukkah didn't help matters much. Thousands of Jews flocked to Hebron during the festival this year to celebrate with the Hebronites the victory of the Maccabees over those who sought to de-Judaise the people of Israel 2 000 plus years ago.

Every few months another festival reminds the Jews of the multiplicity of enemies from whom their nation has been saved: at Purim they celebrate their salvation through Esther; on Pesach they rejoice over their rescue out of Egypt.

And as they remember Haman, Pharoah and Antiochus Epiphanes, they cannot but recall all those other foes who, down the centuries, have dedicated themselves to wiping the Jewish people off the face of the earth. All failed, as the Jewish presence in Hebron - and in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and on the Golan Heights - proclaims for all their modern-day enemies to hear.

Is it any wonder then that the Jews of Hebron have faith?

As children across Israel lit their candles this year, a myriad prayers ascended heavenwards for something to happen that will keep the oldest Jewish city of all in the hands of the Jews.

It will take a miracle. But then, "miracle" is another word for Israel.

Back to Middle East Digest - January 1997
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