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HEBRON: THE WORLD WATCHES

As Israeli control over Hebron slips away, many here are remembering the price Jews have paid through the ages to remain in the ancient Jewish city.

In 1929, 67 Jews were murdered by their Arab neighbours, and hundreds more forced to flee. A year later, a young Hebron yeshiva student, Leo Gottesman, wrote:

"...The world will wonder one day about these times, and about the people who lived and struggled and gave their lives in achieving the victory of transforming a desolate Palestine into a flourishing Eretz Yisrael.

Is it not we who must give the record to the world? Shall they who sacrificed themselves be so inscribed, that future generations may render to their memory such reverence as we are humbly proud to render today?

We would be derelict in our duty, both to those who are gone from earth and those who are yet to come, if we failed to write the story of the martyrs while their remembrance is fresh in our hearts.

Twenty-two died in the home of [bank manager] Eliezer Dan Slonim and he the first of them, on the morning of August 24th. His heroic martyrdom in death was characteristic of the man. With him died his wife Hannah, and their little son Aaron ...

[Slonim's] love of Palestine as a whole and Hebron in particular was infinite. He was offered a position in Tel Aviv that would pay him a larger salary ... He declined. He did not wish to leave Hebron.

He knew the Arabs well and was on terms of best friendship with them. On cold nights during the rainy season, when the best Arab homes are none too comfortable, the local Sheikhs were accustomed to gather in Eliezer Dan's house, to talk, and play chess, and drink black Arabian coffee. He got along so well with them that even now it seems unbelievable that he was killed by Arabs. And indeed, he could have saved himself on the basis of this friendship.

Hannah Slonim's benevolence, her charity, her social welfare work, were known and praised by all the inhabitants of Hebron, Jewish and Arab. Her overbrimming kindness, her spiritual capacity, her personal greatness was a thing to marvel over.

A number of Arabs came knocking at his door. 'Give out the strangers you are harbouring there,' they cried, 'and we will spare you and your kinfolk.' His answer ... was characteristic of the man: 'I have no strangers here - only my brethren.'

Eliezer Dan had a revolver, which he was licenced to carry because of his position in the bank. When they shattered the door, the Arabs found themselves facing Eliezer Dan, revolver in hand; behind him, the huddled crowd of women and children. Eliezer Dan pulled the trigger. The revolver had never been used. It jammed. They sprang upon him, and so he was the first to die.

Twenty-two in all died in Eliezer Dan's house. Twenty-two martyrs. Their souls rest in peace.

The Arabs had not forgotten the friendship of Eliezer Dan Slonim. They killed him and his little child and wife, and her parents, in spite of it. He died, as he had lived, a son of his people ..."

Back to Middle East Digest - December 1996
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