History

Interview with Hebron Massacre Survivor Shlomo Slonim

The child survivor never knew his parents but always maintained a connection to his hometown.

16.8.22, 19:10
The following is excepts from article by Herb Keinon from The Jerusalem Post, November 15, 1996.
 
Tarpat. It is not a word, but a Hebrew year: 5689. The Gregorian equivalent is 1929 - the year of the Arab riots in Mandatory Palestine, the year of the massacre of the Jewish community in Hebron.

The Jews in Hebron… have submerged their present to lay claim to a distant past; to regain the glories of the city that was King David's capital, to be close to the tombs of the patriarchs and matriarchs buried there.

In one of the numerous demonstrations held in the city last month, a group of women held pictures of children killed or wounded in the 1929 massacre, when 67 Jews were killed, and more than 50 injured. One of those pictures was of a frightened-looking curly-haired boy with a deep gash on his forehead.

That boy, Shlomo Slonim, is today 68 and lives with his wife in Ra'anana. If the Jews of Hebron have the massacre etched into their minds, Slonim has it pounded into his mind, heart and body. His immediate family was killed in the massacre. In addition, he still carries the forehead scar caused by a blow taken to the head during the riots.

Slonim is the son of Eliezer Dan Slonim, one of the Jewish notables in Hebron. In addition to losing his father, Slonim also lost his mother, brother, and maternal grandparents. A fifth-generation Hebronite, Slonim was one year old when the massacre took place.
 
"Ever since I can remember, I knew what happened," said Slonim, who was raised by a grandfather who survived the massacre, and then - when the grandfather died seven years late - by an aunt. His grandfather did not talk much about the events "but I smelled something different. I knew my grandfather was not my father. I knew abut what happened."
 
Switching to the third person, Slonim said: "For an infant to be in a house where a massacre is taking place, to hear screams, it penetrates his brain,. And the everything is gone, everybody is gone. This is not simple."

Twenty-three people were killed in the Slonim home, where some 70 people sought refuge. Many of the city's Jews thought the Slonim home would be a safe haven, since Eliezer Dan, a banker, was a member of the municipality and well known by the town's Arabs.

Slonim spoke of these events in his dining room in Ra'anana. On the wall in front of him were black-and-white pictures of the family he never knew. There are separate pictures of his father, mother Hana, and four-year-old brother Aharon. "These are my parents," he said, pointing to the photos. "For me they have remained forever young."

The Settlement in Hebron, unlike the first settlement in Gush Etzion, was not started by descendants of those killed there. Whereas Kfar Etzion was set up soon after the Six Day War by descendants of those who fell there, in 1948, the settlement in Hebron was spearheaded in 1968 by Rabbi Moshe Levinger.

"They understood that a place in Eretz Yisrael where Jews lived, and were massacred, is where Jews should return," Slonim said approvingly of Levinger, "I agreed with that wholeheartedly. For personal reasons I could not join them. My conscience bothers me about this," he said.

"I would have liked to come back, to continue the family tradition of living there. But I had small children, and was the manager of a bank here. It was too late."

During the conversation, Slonim pulled out pictures of himself bandaged in head and hand and held by his aunt. He also took out books on Hebron that mention his family. Learning aids, it seems; an attempt to hold on to any physical manifestation of the family he never knew.

Slonim has kept up his connection with the city over the years by yearly visits to the ancient Jewish cemetery where his parents are buried, and by monthly visits to the Machpela Cave. He has perpetuated the memory of his parents and brother by naming three of his four children after them. His son ,Eliezer Dan, is a Egged bus driver, who once a month drives a group of worshipers from Ra'anana to the Machpela Cave.