Monday, 16 April 2012

Baruch Marzel: A Hero of Hevron

Baruch Marzel, founder and administrator of numerous religious and benevolent organizations, has been arrested more than 100 times. He has sat in jail as a result of being convicted... not once. All his arrests, however, have occurred while he was supporting Jewish causes. 

Without a fair trial, there is currently a court order confining Marzel to the city of Jerusalem for six months, barring him from going to his home and family in Hevron. The reason for the order is that Marzel was deemed dangerous to policemen. Irrelevant to the court: there are policemen in Jerusalem, vulnerable to a man dangerous to police officers. 

A few weeks ago, Marzel was approached by tens of policemen and forcibly taken into a police vehicle. The reason: he had not responded to an order to appear for interrogation. Irrelevant to the court: Marzel never received the order. The police admit that they did not serve the summons because they could not find Marzel, knowing full well that Marzel passes the police every morning on his way to pray at the Machpela Cave. The timing of the hearing was very strategic. Not only was Marzel under pressure to not be incarcerated over Shabbos, it was during the week of his sister's Sheva Brochas and his parents dearly wanted him to attend the family simcha. Kibud Av V'aim (respect for one's father and mother), which Marzel shows every day to the Avos and Emahos of the nation in Hevron, he also shows to his own personal parents. He did everything in his power not to let them down that Shabbos. The compromise he made, to win his freedom for Shabbos, was to agree to the six month exile. 

Marzel has dedicated his life to Eretz Yisroel, more specifically, to the security of Yesha (Judea, Samaria and Gaza), through settlement. He is careful not to get involved in fights with police that would only besmirch the title of 'settler,' and not contribute to the security of Eretz Yisroel. In and around Hevron, the security personnel count on him to be a calming influence when settlers conflict with authority. He is respected by both sides. A month before Marzel's recent arrest came the evacuation of the Gilad Farm in the Shomron. Marzel was at the scene. Fully aware that the press and the police were watching him, he stayed aloof, until he was approached by both soldiers and police officers, to go to the main areas of contention and try to calm people down. 

"When I got there," reports Marzel, "I saw Israeli special patrol units, Yasam, brutally and aggressively attacking a youth. I approached the presiding officer and asked to see his credentials. He refused and I repeated my request, at which point I was attacked from behind and forcibly taken from the area. I suspected that the police were being protected by someone who would excuse them for not presenting their ID. I was not deterred by their use of force, as they wanted me to be, and I returned to the area again demanding to see the officer's identification. Like a well-directed movie, the television cameras moved in while I was making my way back to the officer, protecting myself from being pushed and shoved aside. That is when the cameras got the picture that made my self-defense look like I was the one causing the trouble. It appears as if the television crew was part of the police operation." 

The current charge against Marzel, that he is dangerous to police, is based on the pictures from this scene. Irrelevant to the court: the declaration that Marzel is dangerous to policemen was made one month after the incriminating incident, in which time Marzel has interacted peacefully with police on a daily basis at the Machpela Cave in Hevron. At the time of the arrest the press aggressively reported the story, assuming Marzel guilty of the charges and more. His acquittal, due to the lack of evidence, will not be big news. The result: Marzel's reputation, in the minds of the well-meaning public, is that he is a hoodlum, when in fact, Marzel is a hero. 

When he served in Lebanon and saved his tank unit from disaster, he was regarded a military hero. His exceptional actions of goodness and kindness, render him a genuine folk hero. For years, Marzel traveled throughout Eretz Yisroel and to many places abroad, personally speaking with Jewish leaders, convincing them to visit Hevron. Once the leaders came, the followers came, and eventually, with more hard work, there emerged a change in the public attitude towards visiting Hevron. Marzel initiated the first Chol HaMoed concert at the Machpela Cave. He set the popularity of visiting Hevron into motion and it has gained tremendous momentum with the help of others. Yet, if one man is responsible for the crowds that now visit Hevron, it is Baruch Marzel. Marzel has assisted in the establishment of no less than 14 settlements in Yesha. He actually moved in to each of them with the original residents and stayed until the settlements overcame the initial glitches and became functioning entities. In these days of terror, Marzel attends all the funerals of victims of terror, visits the mourners and visits the hospital beds of the injured. This past summer, he brought Jewish superstar, Mordechai Ben David, with him to Tel HaShomer Hospital. They visited many victims and MBD actually gave a private concert for a bedridden soldier, with Baruch Marzel at his side. 

Marzel micro-manages the extensive Chachnoses Orchim (guest welcoming) operation in Hevron. "The Gemora teaches us," quotes Marzel, " more than the calf wants to nurse, the mother cow wants do the nursing. So it is in Hevron, the city of our father Avraham, who taught us the mitzvah of welcoming guests. As much as the guests want to come to Hevron, we in Hevron want, even more, to welcome them." When I asked Tirtza Eisenberg, an American teenager who spent her summer in Hevron, what Baruch Marzel was all about, she answered: "He has a lot guests, he serves them cholent and he makes sure they have a ride to the airport. If they don't, he takes them himself. But the whole time he is on his cell phone, organizing and arranging, unless, of course, it is Shabbos." 

"I have walked along the streets of Yerushalayim many times with Baruch," says Rabbi Danny Cohen, Chabad shaliach in Hevron, " and it is amazing how many people stop to talk to him. He is very well known, very well liked and very well respected." Recently, the community of Hevron held a farewell gathering in honor of the soldiers who had served in Hevron for the past half-year and were being transferred to another location. At the gathering, the commanding officer, not of right-wing persuasion himself, had words of praise for Marzel: "The one person who was always cooperative, friendly and helpful was Baruch Marzel. We did encounter incidents from time to time and it was Marzel who could be counted on to intervene and work things out." 

Another exceptional deed of Marzel, which did not make headlines in the news, is the establishment of the first Talmud Torah in Hevron since 1929. This year, 15 boys are learning Torah in Hevron all day, six days a week, thanks to Marzel. The organizations operated by Marzel include: the Guest House in Hevron; the Charity Fund, the largest organization in Judea and Samaria that helps families under stress; Talmud Torah Zilberman in Hevron and Yad L'Achayot, an organization that rescues and cares for Jewish girls otherwise unable to free themselves from abusive relationships with Arabs. 

Marzel admits that he was arrested a total of 11 times for visiting the grave-site of Rebbetzen Menucha Rochel Slonim in the ancient Ashkenazic cemetery on the outskirts of the Jewish community in Hevron. This area is clearly Jewish property, but the army did not allow Jews to be there. However, with the persistence of Marzel and others like him, Jews now have permission to go there. In fact, the entire renewed Jewish community of Hevron only came into being because a group of Jewish women moved into Beit Hadassah in the middle of the night with no permission. Only through an act like theirs could the Jewish community of Hevron be established. All political attempts had failed. The self-sacrifice of these women succeeded. Having a Jewish community in Hevron is the best way to defend and secure the Machpela Cave. Having soldiers stranded in Hevron guarding the Cave, without the Jews coming and going everyday, would be a terrible and volatile situation. Baruch Marzel, his supportive wife and children, the righteous women of Beit Hadassah, and the other brave souls, who sometimes have to break the rules and risk arrest, are preserving the Machpela Cave for the tens of thousands of guests who visited this past Sukkot and for the entire Jewish nation. Concerning the current arrest, Marzel's friends assume it is related to the upcoming elections. If settlers become popular they will become powerful. The 'establishment' needs to uphold the reputation of the settlers as being violent fanatics. Who could better represent that image than Baruch Marzel? 

Many politicians like to project themselves as saviors, but turn out to be the opposite. Marzel is committed through and through to the Jewish people and the Jewish homeland. His reputation as a hoodlum is false, the current charges against him are false, but his integrity is true. 

We commend Baruch Marzel's bravery in fighting for the Jewish Community in Hevron despite the trials the Bolshevik Israeli government try to put against him, Keep up the good fight!

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