By: Fern Sidman
“A two state solution in the Middle East is already in place and that constitutes Israel and Jordan,” declared GOP congressional candidate Karen Harrington. Delivering her remarks on Saturday evening December 3rd, at the New York Hall of Science Museum on the occasion of the 23rd annual Hebron Fund dinner, Ms. Harrington told the audience of over 500 stalwart supporters of a continued Jewish presence in the holy city of Hebron that, “President Obama is placing Israel at risk and his reckless foreign policy change concerning Israel retreating to 1967 borders must be adamantly rejected.”
A south Florida businesswoman and a political newcomer, Ms. Harrington is challenging Deborah Wasserman-Schulz, the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, for the congressional seat she holds in south Florida’s 20th congressional district, which includes a sizable Jewish constituency in Miami Beach and Fort Lauderdale.
In a private interview with Arutz Sheva, Ms. Harrington responded to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta‘s comments calling on Israel to prevent itself from growing ever more isolated in the international arena by getting back to “the damn table” and engaging in peace negotiations with the Palestinians. “I find it very disturbing that those in the Obama administration who are clearly Palestinian sympathizers are calling on Israel to negotitate with terrorists. Israel must be allowed to charter its own course and the role of the United States is to stand behind Israel and support them unequivocally,” said Ms. Harrington.
Introduced by dinner coordinator and long time Jewish activist, Dr. Joseph Frager, as one of Israel’s staunchest supporters, Ms. Harrington stepped in for the evening’s intended keynote speaker, former Arkansas governor and FOX television host, Mike Huckabee, who was called away to host the Republican Presidental Forum which aired on FOX News on Saturday evening. In a special pre-recorded video message to the attendees, Governor Huckabee said, “There is no nation on earth that mirrors the values of the United States more than Israel. Our souls are intertwined as we celebrate our shared values of freedom, democracy and justice and ours is an organic relationship. There are a great many in the United States, especially Christians who, like myself, stand unapologetically with Israel.”
Also appearing via a video presentation was Rep. Allen West (R), who represents the 22nd congressional district in Florida. Always an outspoken supporter of Israel, Congressman West spoke of his emotional visit to Hebron in 2009 and called Israel his “spiritual home.” Acknowledging the great deovtion of this year’s honorees, West emphasized the Jewish right of ownership of Hebron by saying, “It was Abraham who bought Hebron as a resting place for his wife Sarah, and today it is the eternal resting place for our patriarches and matriarchs that must never be relinquished. The survival of Jewish identity depends on a constant Jewish presence in Hebron where all religions can visit this holy site.”
The Hebron Fund oversees various projects for the care, maintenance and security of the Jewish residents of Hebron, as well as the Ma’aros HaMachpela. From building parks and playgrounds, to improving the security of the Cave of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs, the Hebron Fund eases the daily challenges of life that residents face and provides the necessary assurances that they will never be alone in their struggles to ensure Jewish continuity there. By promoting visits and guided tours to educate people about the centrality of Hebron in the eternal Jewish destiny, the residents are shown a tangible solidarity which helps to inspire them in immeasurable ways.
Welcoming the dinner guests were Daniel Lieberman, Hebron Fund dinner chairman, Teddy Pollak, President of the Hebron Fund and Rabbi Simcha Hochbaum, Director of Tourism for the Jewish community of Hebron. Serving as master of ceremonies was legendary Jewish radio personality, Nachum Segal, who introduced the awardees. A special memorial tribute was held for Hebron benefactor and long time supporter Herbert Zweibon, A”H, the founder of Americans for a Safe Israel (AFSI) who passed away last year.
Surrounded by Mr. Zweibon’s son Mark, his wife Sheila and indefatigable AFSI volunteer Charlotte Wohle, Helen Freedman, the executive director of AFSI, said, “Herb loved the city of Hebron with all his heart and all his soul and will be remembered for his exceptional devotion to those Jews living there. In order to perpetuate his legacy, we have raised the necessary funds to restore Jewish buildings in the center of Hebron on Cheskiyahu Street.” Noting that several weeks ago on Parshas Chaya Sara marked Helen Freedman’s 15th visit to Hebron on this special Shabbos, Ari Lieberman, the executive director of the Hebron Fund presented Ms. Freedman with a specially designed framed picture of the Ma’aras HaMachpela.
This year’s honorees included Laurie Moskowitz Hirsch, who was the recipient of the Bonei Hebron Award. Mrs. Hirsch, of North Miami Beach, Florida is the daughter of famed Jewish philanthropists Irving and Cherna Moskowitz. “Just being in Hebron makes me feel like a real part of this city’s enduring legacy. This award really belongs to the people of Hebron, who live there on a daily basis. This holy city is ours and when we behave as owners of this holy place then no one can take it away from us,” she said.
Former member of the Irgun Tzvai Leumi, Sam Schachter and his wife Malka of Hollywood, Florida were presented with the Magen Avraham Award for their long time support of a Jewish Hebron. Unable to personally attend due to health issues, the award was accepted by their son Tzvi Schachter. In a video message to dinner guests from their home in Florida with a picture of Revisionist Zionist leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky in the background, Mr. and Mrs. Schachter said, “Each day the brave Jews of Hebron sacrifice teir lives for this special city and it is our duty to support the people who live there, who educate their children there. To the Jews there we say, you are all of our brothers and this is our home. We look forward to the day that all of Hebron will be truly liberated.”
The prestigious Chasdei Avot Award was bestowed upon Chaim and Suri Boiangiu of Brooklyn, New York whose son Ari served as the presenter. Thanking Hashem and their rabbi, Mr. and Mrs. Boiangiu said, “Our children have always felt a very special kesher towards Hebron as we watched then daven so intently there on so many occasions. The brave people of Hebron keep our connection to our past alive. They are today’s heroesm along with the tireless soldiers of Tzahal who keep them safe. We are proud to celebrate with and salute these holy people and all honor goes to them.”
In an emotionally charged and profoundly moving video tribute to Ayal Noked-Lourie, A”H, a young Hebron resident who lost his battle with cancer over the last year, the award in his name was presented to Sruly and Chaya Hersh of Brooklyn, New York. Ayal’s mother said, “My son’s entire life was Hebron. He davened at the Ma’arat HaMachpela every day and worked to help victims of terror attacks there.” Leaving this world just months before his 41st birthday, Ayal, the father of 10, was remembered as “a person with a beautiful smile and a deep love of the Jewish people. In his own words on the previously recorded video, Ayal said, “This land and this place of Hebron was given to be by Hashem. If Hashem put me here there is a reason for it and Hashem protects us every moment. It is here in Hebron that you actually see the emunah, because without it you just can’t live here.”
“We are truly humbled to receive this award in the name of Ayal Noked-Lourie,” said Mr. and Mrs. Hersh. “Hebron is all about Hachnosas Orchim and we experienced that when we spent Shabbos Nachamu in Hebron. We went to Simcha Hochbaum, the director of tourism there and he opened up his home to us. 40,000 visitors descend upon Hebron on Parsha Chayei Sora which clearly sends to the people of Hebron the message of cohesiveness and harmony. We are proud to have supported Hebron in the past and are committed to supporting Hebron in the future.”