News

Hope and Community Triumph 36 Years after the Murder of "The Six"

Six young men were murdered in a terrorist ambush in 1980. Today, six families are raising their children in a building dedicated in their memory.

18.5.16, 18:06
Wednesday, the 17th of the Hebrew month of Iyar (May 25, 2016) marks the 36th anniversary of the murder of "The Six." 
 
On May 2, 1980, six young men were murdered in an ambush attack outside the historic Beit Hadassah building in Hebron's old city. The attack also injured over a dozen people. But the story begins long before that. 
 
 
The construction of Beit Hadassah took place in 1893 at the initiative of Rabbi Haim Rahamim Yosef Franco, chief rabbi of Hebron. It served as the country's first Hadassah hospital, now the world renown Hadassah Medical Center headquartered in Jerusalem. 
 
It was in this building that a group of women and children camped out in an effort to reestablish a normal Jewish community in Hebron. They lived there for a year as groups of supporters of the new inhabitants encouraged them. 
 
One of these regular shows of support happened on that fateful day of May 2, 1980 when a group of young men gathered outside Beit Hadassah for the traditional Friday night Shabbat prayers.
 
(Photo: Shmuel Mermelstein)
 
David Wilder, longtime spokesperson for the Jewish Community of Hebron described it as such:
 
"On Friday nights, following Shabbat prayers at the Tomb of Machpela, the worshipers, including students from the Kiryat Arba Nir Yeshiva, would walk to Beit Hadassah to sing and dance in front of the building, recite Kiddush, and then return to nearby Kiryat Arba. In early May of 1980, a year after the women first arrived at Beit Hadassah, the group was attacked by terrorists stationed on the roof of a building across the street. 
 
Shooting and throwing hand grenades, the terrorists killed six men and wounded over a dozen. Later that week the Israeli government finally issued official authorization for the renewal of a Jewish community in Hebron."
 

(Photo: Eli HaZe'ev)
 
Prof. Jerold S. Auerbach, author of Hebron Jews: Memory and Conflict in the Land of Israel wrote in 2000, the year Beit HaShisha was dedicated the following:
 
"On the way to Beit Hadassah the worshippers sang a verse from the prophet Jeremiah: v'shavu banim l'gvulam ("Your children shall return to their borders"). Among them were Zvi "Howie" Glatt, a recent American immigrant; yeshiva students Gershon Klein, Yaakov Zimmerman, Shmuel Mermelstein and Hanan Krauthammer, who had chanted the Song of Songs during the service; and Eli HaZe'ev, winner of a Silver Star for bravery in Vietnam who came to Israel during the Yom Kippur War and converted to Judaism.
 
Once at Beit Hadassah, they would make Kiddush before heading up the hill to Kiryat Arba, where a small Jewish community had been established nearly a decade earlier.
 
Eli HaZe'ev was killed instantly, before he could reach for his gun. Miriam Levinger, trained as a nurse, rushed outside to treat the wounded, but nothing could be done to save Glatt, Klein, Zimmerman, Krauthammer, and Mermelstein. She would say, "Not only were their lives a continuation of the lives of the murdered community [of 1929], but also their deaths."
 
But from those six deaths would come new Jewish life in Hebron. Beit HaShisha ("House of the Six"), with apartments for six families, was built adjacent to Beit Hadassah to commemorate the massacre victims. Now, after thirty years, may their memory be a blessing."
 

(Photo: Hanan Krauthammer)
 
Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Yehuda Blum described the attack in a letter to Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim on May 4, 1980. "Once again the aim was mass murder for its own sake. Target was a peaceful group of worshippers returning from prayer, and the timing was the Sabbath eve."
 
In the United States, about 1,000 people demonstrated in front of the PLO offices in New York City. A JTA report from May 7, 1980 quoted Tuvyah Gross, national youth leader of Bnei Akiva saying:
 
"These kids were vibrant, warm, concerned, gifted typical American kids. [This is] our way of venting our anger, frustration and pain. And by making them more than just names in a list, we hope to personalize them and memorialize them.”
 

(Photo: Ya’akov Zimmerman)
 
Unfortunately, decades later, the ideology that perpetrated the murders still lives on.
 
An article printed this week reveals that the Facebook page of the Fatah organization which claimed responsibility for the attack commemorated it, and called the perpetrators, "heroes."
 
In 2013, news media covered the appointment of one of the attackers to a management position for the trust that runs the non-Jewish side of the Tomb of Machpela. The newly installed manager was reported to have posted old photos of his terrorist days on his Facebook page.
 
In 2016, the Times of Israel reported on a teacher who was awarded $1 million "by the UK-based Varkey Foundation’s Global Teacher Prize at a ceremony in Dubai earlier this month for a curriculum she called 'No to Violence.'
Her husband served 10 years in an Israeli prison after being convicted as an accomplice in a deadly 1980 bombing attack in Hebron in which the victims were walking home from Friday night Sabbath prayers, The Associated Press reported. Omar al-Hroub was a chemist who provided chemicals needed for making the bombs, the AP reported."
 

(Photo: Gershon Klein)
 
However friends and family of The Six have fond memories and see a hopeful future.
 
A moving article published in the Times of Israel last year commemorated the courage of one of those young men. Joseph A. Grob, a childhood friend of one of The Six penned "Searching for Zvi "“Howie"” Glatt z’'l –On His 35th Yurtzeit."
 
The following are brief excerpt:
 
"Howie was my first Madrich/Counselor in Bnei Akiva. What I remember most about Howie was his smile, his Jewish pride and his love of Israel. As his chanich/student, he educated me and helped me develop a love of Israel as well.
 
When I go to Israel, I almost always go to visit the city of Hebron. I go to be where Howie was when he died and to pray for him. I go to visit the people of Hebron and to give them strength and to remember what the six boys of Hebron died for. I know Howie is long gone, but every time I go to Hebron, I still look for him. 
 
Silly, right? I know!
 
Yet, I look for his face in the crowds. I wonder if he stood where I stand. I look for his spirit. I look at the people. I look at the thriving but small Jewish community in the second holiest city in Israel and I cry and I smile. 
 
I cry because Howie is gone and I cry because his dream of a fully re-settled land of Israel has not yet come true. I smile because I see that Howie’'s spirit and determination continues to live in the Jewish Community of Hebron. I still miss him.
 
Last year in January 2014, Rabbi Simcha Hochbaum (Hebron tour guide) recounted the story of the origins of the Jewish community as we passed the Beit Hadassah and, of course, I cried for Howie, and I looked for him yet again.
 
Only a few days after visiting Hebron, our most excellent tour guide, Eve Harow, told me to stay close to her; she had a surprise for me. I was not prepared. 
 
I met Rachel Zimmerman first. When Rachel started to tell her story I understood why Eve told me to be prepared. 
"“I am from Canada... I was a Peace Now activist in Hebron in 1980..."” she began. 

She recounted how Miriam Levinger (veteran leader of the community) approached her one day and started to show her how the houses surrounding the Beit Hadassah area were taken from the Jews after 1929. She told how Mrs. Levinger showed her the places where the mezuzahs from the Jewish homes had been removed. 
 
Rachel told us how she spent Shabbat with Mrs. Levinger and how she met her future husband that Shabbat, Alon Zimmerman, and she told us about meeting Alon’'s best friend, Zvi Glatt, who two weeks later died in Alon’'s arms. 
 
What did I just hear? 
 
I approached Rachel and we spoke some more privately. Thank goodness I was wearing sunglasses because I was crying like a baby. Some unknown force had brought me here to meet these people who had a connection, a Kesher, to Howie.
 
Next I met Alon Zimmerman. When I told him where I was from and how I knew Zvi Glatt, tears formed in his eyes and in mine. We talked for a few minutes about Zvi and he told me that it was incumbent upon me to help fulfill Zvi’'s dream of a return to the land of Israel – to the homeland of our people. He told me that in this way, we keep Zvi’'s spirit alive.
 

(Photo: Zvi “Howie” Glatt)
 
Indeed! I can’'t thank Eve Harow enough for bringing me to the Zimmerman farm and for helping me find Zvi, through Alon.
 
I went looking for my friend Zvi “"Howie"” Glatt and I think I finally found him. He is alive and well with Rachel and Alon. He resides in the spirit of every Oleh Chadash —every person making Aliya to live in Israel. He is alive and well in the spirit of every person who visits Hebron and every Jewish resident of Hebron. He is alive and well so long as we remember him and the sacrifice he made so that we have the Land of Israel. 
 
Alon was right. The way to keep Zvi alive and to remember him properly is to move and rebuild the land of Israel. I don’'t have an immediate plan to move to Israel. Right now it's a long term plan, but its a plan. Today, on this 35th Yurtzheit for my friend, my mentor, my teacher Zvi Menachem ben Shmuel Moshe Glatt is alive and well inside of me. May his memory be blessed, and may his neshoma have an Aliya and may we never forget." 
 
 
A book of Zvi Glatt's writings was published in Hebrew posthumously entitled Meafar Kumi and recently published in English as Rise From the Dust: Eretz Yisrael in Halachah and Hashkafah. An article in The Jewish Star from July 2, 2014 interviews Zvi's sister and a friend about the man and his writings.
 
"A budding Torah scholar, Tzvi combed Jewish legal and philosophic texts, delving into the commandment to live in Israel from all aspects, taking notes that after his death, were combined into a book now translated into English..."
 
This year will be the 36th anniversary of the incident. To arrange a visit to Beit HaShisha and other sites in Hebron, contact us.
 
United States contact info:

http://www.hebronfund.org
1760 Ocean Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11230
718-677-6886
info@hebronfund.org

In Israel contact the offices of the Jewish Community of Hebron at:
 
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FOOTNOTES AND FURTHER READING:
 
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