Erev Rosh Chodesh Shvat, 5776
January 10, 2016
A long long time ago…
That's how fairy tales begin. But here in Hebron, there are fairy tales that are actually true.
I guess it was about 13 or 14 years ago (that's according to the photos I have). Just to refresh memories, we're talking about the days of the so-called 2nd intifada. At about the time the shooting was nearing a halt.
Hebron's tourism was not at its forte after almost two years of constant terror. But there were still a few 'crazies' who dared to walk our streets, visit the sites, and show inner strength, faith and determination.
Actually I don't remember our first meeting, but it was sometime in early 2002, when two law students visited Hebron. They were studying in NY, and were touring around. But this wasn't an ordinary stop in Hebron. Because they were engaged and really wanted to be married at Ma'arat HaMachpela.
Today, weddings in Hebron are relatively frequent. Not every night, but especially during the spring and summer, it's not unusual to hear wedding music and festivities at the holy site.
But back then…who even thought of such a preposterous idea?! The army had to be notified, special security arrangements had to be in order, and besides which, with snipers shooting down into the community from the opposite Abu Sneneh Hills, no one in their right minds considered endangering busloads of guests at a celebration in such precarious quarters.
But, then again, there still were a few crazies left in the world, and two of them happened to land on my doorstep.
OK, that's what they want, that's what they'll get. And so it was that in July 2002, they became Chatan and Kallah, bride and groom, husband and wife at the place where possibly Isaac first met his beloved Rebecca almost 4,000 years before.
It was a fun, happy event. I even took photos, probably using my first digital camera, when a 500 kb file was considered 'big.' We sang and danced outside Ma'arat HaMachpela, and had a great time.
Yishai and Malkah Fleisher's wedding at Ma'arat HaMachpela
As is with weddings, it was over, they left, and that was the end of the story.
Except that it was only the beginning of the story. Following graduation from law school the couple made Aliyah. Needing a way to make some money, and with an eye out to 'spreading the word,' they began working at the newly organized Israel National News – Arutz 7 English department, living in Beit El.
We kept in touch, and they were often seen here in Hebron. Over the years, they became well-known radio personalities and speakers, broadcasting on radio and internet. Being that we were in the same business, I stayed in touch and we frequently cooperated and worked together.
Well, to shorten up a long story, the year is now 2015. Following my decision to step down as spokesman of the Hebron Jewish community, it was necessary to find someone who could handle the job. My old friend Yishai Fleisher, the 'crazy' who married Malkah at Ma'arat HaMachpela in 2002, took the job.
When speaking with Hebron's director, Uri Karzen, I told him that I didn't know anyone more capable than Yishai Fleisher to fill the position. Eloquent and articulate, an intelligent idealist, with a proven track record, I was quite happy with the decision to appoint him to represent Hebron around the world.
So, there you have it – a fairy tale come true – a man who, against all odds, married at Machpela in 2002 and is now the community spokesperson. I welcome him to the position, knowing that he's the right person in the right place at the right time.
As we say in Hebrew – Hatzlecha Rabba – much success! His success is the success of Hebron and the Jewish people.