Alley of Heroes// Anat Gopstein

Anat Gopstein’s latest column in “Gilui Da’at”:
Alley of Heroes
Twenty at-risk girls from the Hemla Institute in Jerusalem, several of them having had relationships with Arabs in the past, came for a Shabbat of connecting to the Jewish People in Hebron, city of our Forefathers. On Shabbat eve they prayed with our forefathers and foremothers buried in the Cave of Machpela – for most of them this was their first time in Hebron – then sat down for Shabbat dinner – and then the battle for the alley started – the alley of heroes.
We were sitting at home, this was an organized Shabbat. The kids returned from their prayers at the Cave of Machpela in a long convoy to Kiryat Arba, via the Worshipers’ Path.
Half an hour later, as most of the residents were in the middle of their Shabbat meal, and as Nachal soldiers and Border Police started to finish up securing the path, 2 terrorists started firing at the troops, and many more troops arrived there. It was a long battle. Fighters, among them the Brigade Commander, Dror Weinberg; Border Police and standby troops from Kiryat Arba-Hebron under the command of the Director of the Security Department, Yitzchak Boanish, fought shoulder-to-shoulder to defend the settlement.
The battle was hard; 12 fighters fell there, and at least 10 standby troops received citations and other commendations from various security arms for their brave heroics and resourcefulness in battle.
Hebron is not a quiet city; we have supposedly gotten used to the difficult reality of life here: attacks, mourning, loss… But this night cannot be forgotten: 4 hours of fighting, sounding like a world war. The noise was terrible, and it was impossible to go outside and understand what was happening.
The next day, we understood that the blood-soaked battle left many victims, among them Yitzchak Boanish and the brigade commander, Dror Weinberg HY”D. I remember the car belonging to my neighbor, Eliyahu Libman, the Town Council head; it was pierced all over and testified to the inferno, but also to the great miracle. This is a story of the amazing personal heroism that Libman and his friends demonstrated towards the standby troops.
For many hours that night, a deadly battle was waged against two terrorists. After the fall of the District Commander Weinberg, “the chain of command crashed”. The operational investigation conducted by the army found that the civilian, Libman, was the only one who managed to send the IDF a picture of the situation from the field. He led a mixed force of soldiers and civilians, endangering his own life, going in time after time under constant gunfire and exploding grenades, into the inferno to rescue the injured and evacuate the bodies of those killed. He demonstrated bravery and supreme heroism. The Chief of Staff granted him a commendation for his actions in battle.
The question can be asked: What causes a person to calmly put himself in danger, fearlessly and with devotion and self-sacrifice. The way a person reacts to situations of pressure and tension and risk of life, is related to early schemes of his life, and these responses vary from person to person. This response is called “fight or flight”, and it activates in situations of great danger that demand an immediate response to cope successfully – either to fight it or to escape from it, to run away. It is a survival mechanism that exists in all living creatures and is activated in response to danger.
Sometimes we get stuck in situations that are not existential threats, and this is due to incorrect interpretation of specific situations, or constant exposure to mental stress that is liable to create states of anxiety or panic attacks, and to put in operation, without any real need, the “fight or flight” survival mechanism which exists in us. The way we react to danger and crisis is connected to the early schemes of our lives which develop during childhood, schemes consisting of memories, beliefs and feelings. And they influence how a person communicates with his surroundings and the ways we cope with the given situation.
For the girls who were hosted for that Shabbat in Hebron, this was a difficult and unbearable experience; these are girls with adjustment problems and lack of resources to deal with extreme situations, which made it difficult for them to overcome them. They came to an unfamiliar place and were forced to cope with a frightening and stressful situation. The blood-soaked war left a strong impression.
But on the other hand, it was also a constitutive Shabbat for those who doubted coexistence; on this Shabbat they understood who was an enemy and who was a friend. And they got spiritually connected to Hebron, to the Jewish people and to the land.
Every year on Shabbat Vayetze, the residents of Kiryat Arba-Hebron remember the fallen and commemorate the self-sacrifice in the battle of the alley of heroes who connected with and defended the settlement; the youth organize an activity in memory of the fallen, members of the standby troops tell about the battle and transfer the legacy from generation to generation. There are lots of prayers on Shabbat eve at the outpost of the heroes, established in memory of these heroes next to the alley. For us residents of Kiryat Arba, this is a Shabbat that raises our spirits.
Courage and heroism are qualities that every Jew must strive for and achieve, that will be his mental demands. “Behold, the people will arise like a lion cub and raise itself like a lion”.
Hebron is a city of heroes: From David, the hero, to the heroes of the alley.

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