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Over 600 people boarded a luxury multi-level vessel called "The Cornucopia Majesty" at Pier 59 at Chelsea Piers on Tuesday evening, November 16th, as they set sail around the island of Manhattan in a unique celebration of Jewish life in Hebron. The "flotilla supporting peace and life" was the venue of choice for the 22nd annual gala Hebron Fund Dinner in New York.
In a twist of irony, the organizers of the dinner selected this setting as a direct response to the international condemnation of Israel following the Mavi Marmara episode on May 31st, in which Israeli commandos boarded the Turkish flagged ship that was headed to Gaza with the intent of breaking the naval blockade that Israel had imposed in order to prevent the smuggling of lethal weaponry to Hamas terrorists in the region. The purported "peace activists" on board the "Gaza Aid Flotilla" brandished knives and guns and violently attacked Israeli soldiers.
Distinguished criminal defense attorney, Benjamin Brafman served as the master of ceremonies for the much heralded event that attracted the usual contingent of counter-protestors who represented themselves as members of Jewish Voice for Peace and other assorted anti-Israel organizations.
"This is our idea of a real flotilla, where peaceful, fair minded, productive citizens come together to stand in support and solidarity with the people of Hebron", said Mr. Brafman to thunderous applause. Spotlighting the centrality and prominence of Hebron to the Jewish nation as the very first capital of Israel, established by King David, Mr. Brafman and others spoke of Hebron as "the eternal resting place of our beloved antecedents" and a place that "is our permanent home; a place that symbolizes the unbreakable bond between Am Yisroel and Eretz Yisroel" and a place of "beauty and majesty where the past, present and future come together."
Rabbi Simcha Hochbaum led the attendees in the recitation of chapter 21 in Tehillim (the book of Psalms) and explained that there is a dual meaning for the word "Horim" (mountains). "While the word "horim" that we read in Tehillim means mountains, it also means parents, telling us that in the mountains near Hebron there lies the resting places of our precious fathers and mothers and there is an inextricable bond between our ancestors, ourselves and our land", he said.
Special prayers for the sick and infirmed in Hebron were said along with prayers for those missing in action including Cpl. Gilad Shalit (Gilad ben Aviva) who was abducted by Hamas terrorists in June of 2006 and American Jew, Jonathan Pollard (Yonatan ben Malka), the former civilian intelligence analyst who was convicted of spying for Israel.
Yossi Baumol, the executive director of the Hebron Fund said, "The Hebron Aid Flotilla was an exercise in freeing our minds from the hypocrisy and falsehoods of our times. But wielding the "Big Lie" is no modern invention. This evening's dinner falls out on a most significant day. Tonight the Moslem world celebrates the holiday Eid-Al-Aida or in English, "Feast of the Sacrifice". In Moslem tradition Yishmael replaces Yitzchak at the site of the Akeida. In their minds Yishmael is the sanctified bearer of the holy legacy."
Also delivering remarks expressing gratitude to the honorees and those supporting the community in Hebron were dinner chairman, Teddy Pollak, Rabbi David Wilder and Rabbi Noam Arnon, spokesmen for the Jewish community of Hebron, Rabbi Simcha Hochbaum, Director of Tourism for the Jewish community of Hebron, and Avraham Ben Yosef, Mayor of Hebron.
Popular attorney, columnist and Long Island community leader, David Seidemann of Lawrence, New York along with his esteemed wife Jane were the recipients of the “Bonei Hevron” (Builders of Hevron) award. Mr. Seidemann is a longtime Hebron Fund board member and former Fund president. Mr. Seidemann is also an award winning columnist receiving national recognition for his articles that appear on a weekly basis in "The Jewish Star".
The “Chasdei Avot” (Charity of the Patriarchs) award was presented to David and Joclyn Stern, two beloved activists on behalf of Hebron. The Sterns are regular guests in Hebron during the special “Chayei Sarah” weekends attended by tens of thousands each year. Mr. Stern is the president of Brooklyn’s Young Israel of Midwood synagogue and has led numerous missions to Hebron.
Fred and Carole Samuel were the recipients of the “Magen Avraham” (Abraham’s Shield) award for their constant devotion to the security of the people of Hebron. During their frequent trips to Hebron, they have established close and enduring friendships with the local residents and Mr. Samuel is currently spearheading an important Hebron related security project.
The “Aishet Chayil” (Woman of Valor) awardee for 2010 was the distinguished Ester Arieh-Hatanian. She is the mainstay of the Hebron Fund office in Brooklyn, New York and received the recognition that she so justly deserves for over a decade of dedicated service that can only be termed as above and beyond the call of duty.
The highlight of the evening was the address delivered by the guest of honor and keynote speaker, Ms. Caroline Glick. Ms. Glick is the managing editor of The Jerusalem Post, the Senior Fellow for Middle East Affairs of the Washington, DC based Center For Security Policy and chief diplomatic correspondent for the Makor Rishon newspaper. Ms. Glick was named by the Israeli newspaper Maariv as “the most prominent woman in Israel” and she also served as producer of the video clip entitled, “We Con the World” which spoofed the hypocrisy inherent in the public reaction to the Gaza flotilla incident. As a retired IDF captain, Ms. Glick received the auspicious "Gevurat Ha'Imahot" (Bravery of the Matriarchs) award.
"Tonight we celebrate not only the Jewish community of Hebron but the extraordinary tenaciousness of the Jewish people", declared Ms. Glick. She spoke of the pre-1967 period when the closest Jews could come to praying at the Maar'at HaMachpela was on the seventh step, but she said, "This Jews stood as close as he could to the front of that seventh step and would not budge. She said that "this Jew" describes the core essence of the Jewish nation. "This Jew wouldn't move, he wouldn't be humiliated, he remained fully dedicated to Torat Israel and Eretz Yisrael; standing tall and upright just as a cedar tree. This Jew represents his nation; a people who exuded Jewish pride and said Kaddish despite everything" she said, adding that,
"When I get tired I think of that Jew on the seventh step."
Ms. Glick cited the miraculous accomplishments of the nation of Israel over the last 62 years since the birth of the modern State of Israel and said, "Israel is a work in progress and it waxes and wanes with the strength of the Jewish people. She lauded the courageous Jewish residents of Hebron saying that they are, "the North Star of our people, a community that is fiercely dedicated to Torah, to G-d and to their people and is representative of the kind of perseverance that has come to define our nation."
Making oblique references to the lack of leadership in the current Israeli government, Ms. Glick said, "The Talmud tells us that the year before Moshiach is expected to arrive, we will be led by dogs. Dogs are not leaders, but rather they stand in front of you waiting for you to guide them where to go. The more boldly we lead, the more boldly our leaders will be."
She called upon those present and the entire Jewish people to "bring the geulah closer by supporting the people of Hebron who live in the very same place that remains the resting place of our patriarchs and matriarchs" and by proclaiming to the world that "the land of Israel is not a refuge, it is not a ghetto, but it is our home; a country where Jews can live freely."
Commenting on Ms. Glick's address, Helen Freedman, executive director of Americans For a Safe Israel said, "Our AFSI chizuk mission just returned from Hebron where we spent Shabbos Chaya Sora with thousands of Jews in Hebron and it is clear that if the Jewish people do not have a right to Hebron, we certainly have no right to a Tel Aviv that was built in 1905. The Jewish ownership of Hebron is stated in the Torah and it is through our connection to our ancestors that we will survive as a nation."