By David Wilder
Monday, February 2, 2015, was a great day in Hebron.
The first element of this special day was the rededication of the Hebron Heritage Museum and the premiere screening of our new movie called Embracing Eternity.
The museum was founded by Hebron resident Shmuel Mushnik about 25 years ago. Working singlehandedly, he arranged stunning exhibits, using photographs as well as his own artwork, to show visitors the glorious history of this holy city. Glorious, and also sad. One of the rooms depicts the 1929 riots and massacre, which subsequently led to the expulsion of the surviving Jews, the first time in almost 1,000 years that Jews did not reside in Hebron. At a minimum, tens of thousands of people of all religions visited and learned about Hebron over the years at the museum.
Recently, it was decided to upgrade the exhibits, utilizing modern technology to better bring Hebron to the masses. The work on this project is still continuing. The museum is dedicated to the memory of Mr. Herschel Fink, a longtime Hebron supporter. The project is headed up by Hebron’s own Rabbi Hillel Horowitz, a close friend of the Fink family.
Last week, the new film, Embracing Eternity, was screened for the first time. This production is professionalism at its best. The story takes the viewer through a virtual time-tunnel, allowing people to actually relive major events in Hebron’s 4,000-year history. Presently in Hebrew, the film will soon be shown also in English, and eventually in other languages too.
The other major happening in Hebron was the visit of Israeli President Reuven Rivlin. Rivlin is no stranger to Hebron. He has visited numerous times. His connection to the City of the Patriarchs began many decades ago, when his grandparents lived in the city. President Rivlin is a Rivlin from both his father’s and mother’s sides of the family. His mother’s family was Chabad with associations as far back as students of the Ba’al Shem Tov. His father’s side was associated with the Vilna Gaon, and many of his ancestors lived in Hebron.
So, when Rivlin said, “Today I ventured on a journey of roots, and that didn’t encompass flying to eastern Europe, rather a much easier route, that being an hour’s drive to Hebron,” he wasn’t exaggerating.
The president visited Kiryat Arba, Me’arat HaMachpelah, the newly dedicated museum, and then spoke beautifully at the outdoor ceremony. He is the first president to visit Hebron since Ezer Weizmann’s arrival in 1998, paying a condolence call to the Ra’anan family following the murder of Rabbi Shlomo Ra’anan, Hy’d.
Rivlin was among the first Israeli soldiers to reach Hebron when liberated in the 1967 Six Day War. I asked him how it felt to be back, now as president. On film, he spoke about his family’s connection to the city. Later, with the camera off, he said, with genuine modesty, that this visit to Hebron was no different from any of his other visits here.
In reply, I told him that perhaps for him it wasn’t any different. But for us, having the honor to host the president of the State of Israel, it was different.
It really was an honor and a pleasure. True, we don’t necessarily agree with everything he says and does, but so it is with any public figure. What cannot be debated is that President Reuven Rivlin is an authentic lover of Am Yisrael and Eretz Yisrael, and a strong supporter of Hebron.