An Open Letter to Baruch Marzel

My brother, my beloved hero of Israel. Achi Hakadosh .

I can’t sleep. I literally can’t sleep hearing the news that you will be joining the Knesset. Tomorrow they will claim that I too am a radical, a fanatic, a racist, perhaps even a terrorist. But who is the “they” of which I speak? Sabras of Tel Aviv who reside in all-Jewish neighborhoods, surrounded by the riches of the tech and real estate boom that has blessed the Modern State of Israel? Politicians with chauffeurs and chefs, multiple bodyguards, and hordes of secretaries? Extreme leftists who whisper behind closed doors the same ideas you profess publically to the media? Yuppies of Herzliya who advocate deporting hundreds of thousands of Jews from their homes but can’t verbalize the notion of moving a million Arabs from theirs? The utopians of the Two-State Solution who seek separation from the Palestinians yet claim to be enlightened liberals in pursuit of coexistence?  Who doesn’t want you in the Knesset, Baruch? Zipi Livni who negotiates with Abu Mazen while he prepares her noose at The Hague? Don’t your doctors treat myopia and insanity in Israel or do they think ISIS is an element on the Periodic table?

Baruch, please forgive me for going public with this letter.

I have been travelling to Chevron for many years now and on one of my trips I noticed that your shoes were torn. Not scuffed and scratched, but actually torn. Not with a small hole but the entire vamp totally disconnected from the sole. When I pointed it out to you, you told me I was crazy. Well Baruch, in America they say you can tell a man by his shoes. My friends all have many pairs in various colors and styles. I guess that makes us men of the world. You on the other hand are a man of the people, a man of the Jews, a man of the Land. You have literally spent your life walking Eretz Yisroel to the point of no longer having a complete pair of shoes.

Speaking of your personal life, do these antagonists know that you live in a 4 room caravan at the top of a hill in Chevron? Do they know you have done so whilst raising 9 children? I call it a caravan because one can barely call it a home. Do they know that you host thousands of guests annually and educate them in the elementary history of our people?  Do they know how many lives you have touched by sharing and celebrating Israel? I have brought my friends from their penthouses of Tel Aviv and Miami to visit you .  Our Yale students speak of you with admiration and love, acknowledging that Jews are safe around the world because Baruch Marzel is on his hammock overlooking the hills of Chevron.  Every time you swing back and forth you remind Hamas and bastard Jew haters from Europe that we are not going anywhere. Yes those European Parliamentarians and NGO officers who literally look like cannibals. The half-humans with watery eyes and oversized hands that love the sight of dead Jews and smell of Israeli corpses.  Do these critics who love freedom of the press know about the holes in the windows of your home. Not the screen holes Baruch; the bullet holes shot by Hamas terrorists who attempted to murder you in the  dining room of your caravan because they cannot tolerate the presence of a Jew in their midst? Have these journalists forgotten that Hamas members would burn them alive in the name of Allah?

Baruch, I assume you are familiar with the Jewish National Fund. Like the ADL and Aipac it is among the important organizations that secular Jews support in lieu of having a Jewish education. It is the cozy virtual synagogue that non practicing Jews can cuddle up to when they want to connect to something Jewish. Among its sacred missions is the tree planting campaign that has facilitated the purchase and settling of millions of acres of Jewish land in Israel over the past 113 years. Every American Bar Mitzvah Boy including my children has a few trees planted in their honor, paid for by a Jewish donor from the suburbs.

Last year at Yale, we hosted Effie Stenzler, the President of JNF’s Keren Kayemet. I mentioned that I was taking my children to Israel the following week to spend Shabbat in Chevron. We would be reading the Torah portion Chayei Sarah, which describes in detail Abraham’s Purchase of the Tomb of the Patriarchs from Efron the Hittite as a burial place for his wife Sarah. Thousands embark annually to this festive pilgrimage and I was among the die-hards.

Effy was astounded. It was as if I had said a dirty word. Chevron! We weren’t talking about Vegas; we were discussing Chevron, the cradle of Jewish Civilization.

Rather dumbfounded, he asked, “Why on earth would you be going to Chevron, and no less , taking your children there… I have not been to Chevron since 1967”, he said. “You’re traveling from New Haven Connecticut with your young  boys to visit Chevron for 24 hours?” I was shocked. No amount of scotch was going to wash this down. The first sliver of real estate ever purchased on record by any human in history was Chevron as recorded in the Bible.  JNF and Keren Kayemet was founded because of this first transaction. Even atheists read the Bible. In too many instances Christians and Muslims could teach it to Jews.  I demanded that Effie join us the following week for the annual pilgrimage. Together we would commemorate the birth of the land of Israel. I told him that you Baruch and your holy comrades would be arranging food and accommodations for the thousands that would be descending on the ancient city of our forefathers. He smiled and did the Yale thing: he ate, delivered his talk and headed off to bed.

It was one week later that I found myself praying in the Tomb of the Patriarchs surrounded by thousands of men, women and children from around the world. The oversized catacomb was crowded with Jews wrapped in prayer shawls. We were dancing and praying in celebration of the heavenly gift of Eretz Yisroel. I could see Malachi Levinger, who was pushing his father Moshe’s wheelchair across the concrete floor of this ancient tomb. The Levingers are heroic Jews of Judea and Samaria. I was standing next to a non-observant friend from Tel Aviv. Eitan, one of those fancy attorneys that lives in the penthouse on the sea. He had joined us for Shabbat and his Jewish life has never been the same. And there was Effie Stenzler, rediscovering the ancient birth city of our people. He was back after 45 years walking the tomb like one of the Patriarchs themselves.  Effie pointed at me and I could hear him shout, “ani po biglalo ani po biglalo, I am here because of him I am here because of him.”  I was thinking, “ani po biglalcha. I am here because of you Baruch,” for without the courage and sacrifice of the heroes of Chevron, our rich Jewish history would be washed away by the tech boom.

Subsequent to that amazing trip I met the Executive Director of J Street, Jeremy Ben Ami. When he arrived in New Haven to speak to our members I decided to pick him up from the train station. As he got into my car I told him that there were only two options for us to save the Jewish people and the choice was his: I was either going to immediately drive off the bridge into the New Haven Harbor or we were going to become friends. Before accelerating towards the on-ramp, he took a deep breath and said, “I want you to know that my grandfather’s name was Menachem Mendel and he came from Lubavitch. Both of my parents are buried on Har Hazeitim, the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.” That sparked a meaningful conversation followed by his lecture. I left it to the secular Israeli Yale academics who surf on Yom Kippur to explain to Jeremy why J Street was wrong. They reminded him that those that burn American flags and were pro-Communism in the 50’s also claimed to be pro-American, no less than J Street claims to be Pro-Israel. I asked him whether he could consider any final deal with the Arab residents of Israel in which he could not freely visit his parents’ graves on the Mount of Olives. He replied that any such deal would be a bad one. I responded that by the same token we could not accept any deal in which Jews could not return to Chevron to visit our great grandparents’ graves. He agreed. In fact, I checked with him today and he still agrees. Baruch, you may have more votes than you think. In fact I know you do. All of Israel is with you. It is our job to unite them with love.

With blessings of love and Peace from New Haven.

Shmully Hecht

About the Author
Rabbi Shmully Hecht is co-founder and Rabbinical Advisor of Shabtai; the Jewish Society at Yale. He can be reached at
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