Chabad in Hebron

Lazer Gurkow recently published an article on Chabad.org about the Lubavitch presence in Hebron. Gurkow notes the apparent irony of Chabad in Hebron.

Chabad usually focuses on outreach to non-observant Jews; yet the Jews in Hebron are “highly motivated in their ideology and deeply committed to their Judaism.” Who, then, does the Hebron Chabad House and its leader Rabbi Danny Cohen serve?

Rabbi Cohen gave me all the answer I needed in two simple words. The soldiers.

Hebron is guarded by hundreds of soldiers that rotate through the city on four month tours of duty. The Hebron Jewish community enjoys excellent relations with the soldiers. They provide food and drink, friendship and hospitality. (MORE)

I have often expressed my admiration for the work that Chabad does, but this is a little hard to swallow. The role of the Israeli army in Hebron is notably controversial. Hebron has 120,000 Palestinians and only 600 Jewish settlers; yet thousands of soldiers are needed there to keep the peace.

A few years ago, Breaking the Silence, an organization made up of soldiers who served in Hebron was formed to discuss the military abuses there, as well as the predicament of devoting so many military resources to a small settlement of — generally speaking — radicalized Jews.

One soldier involved in Breaking the Silence remarked: “What I understood finally, after six months, was that we were guarding the Palestinians from the Jews; we weren’t there to guard and protect the Jews. The Jews are the ones who threaten the Palestinians more in this area.”

Whether this is true all the time is irrelevant. It still sheds a dark light on Lazer Gurkow’s assertion that Chabad is in Hebron to serve the soldiers — when many of these soldiers are deeply ambivalent about being there to begin with.

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