Actor Rami Baruch
Photo: Jerar Alon

An actor’s trip to Hebron

Special: Rami Baruch, who refused to perform in Kiryat Arba, travels there for first time

We enter the Cave of the Patriarchs during the fast of Gedalia prayer. The loud singing of men emerges from a group of American teenagers and hilltop youths, with women and girls quietly standing in the corner. Border Guard police officers are standing amid the ancient stone walls, near the steel doors, and everyone, both Jews and Muslims, prays above a cellar and cave that are off limits.


Nearby is the prayer hall where Baruch Goldstein murdered 29 Muslims some 17 years ago, and further down is the area were Jews were murdered 82 years ago; slogans of revenge are spray-painted throughout the city.


Actor Rami Baruch, looking like a tourist in his shorts, sunglasses and hat, joined me on a tour of the town where he refused to perform in with his one-man theater production, “Pollard.” Settler leaders Malachi Levinger and Noam Arnon are waiting for us at the entrance to the Cave of the Patriarchs.


Arnon is a Cave of the Patriarch specialist and settler PR expert. He is a local historian and the longtime spokesman of the Jewish community in Hebron. He is 56-years-old, just like Baruch. Levinger, the son of renowned settler rabbi Moshe Levinger, is 40-years-old, the same age as the town he heads, Kiryat Arba.


Yet before meeting settler leaders, a young man called Avner Gevaryahu from the Breaking the Silence organization accompanies us to the city, to show us the part of Hebron Levinger won’t be taking us to: The third of the city that is under Israel’s control. This is a pulverized Palestinian ghost town. Gevaryahu shows Baruch both cities, the Jewish Kiryat Arba and Hebron alongside the Arab Hebron, and how the new one is encroaching into the old one, with checkpoints, soldiers and fences everywhere.


Seeing the Arab victim

In Hebron itself, there is one soldier for every settler. Whole markets are deserted, many stores were burned, and revenge slogans are on every wall. This is a reality where two hostile tribes are intertwined with no separation possible, like in hell. Baruch looks at the deserted streets and shattered store fronts, and says nothing. Later he tells me: “I can forget that we are doing bad things to someone else, to a neighbor; I can ignore it. Yet here you see that even if you did no wrong yourself, there are those who do bad things in your name.”


And here is Kiryat Arba, 8,000 Israelis living in a city of 130,000 Arabs. Here is Shuhada Street, the heart of the city in the past, which for years now has been a dead street, for soldiers and Jews only. “I prefer to think that everything is closed for some holiday,” Baruch says. “Yet this is exactly what I feared. That part of Israeli life that is hidden under the carpet. Now everything is seemingly quiet. The oppression succeeded. And I, like most Israelis, stay away from difficult sights, I don’t want to know, but I fear that one of these days it will explode in our faces.


Before we embarked on our trip, Baruch told me that the trip to Hebron is a “lonely journey through a minefield.” The two settler leaders awaiting him in Hebron are very political. Baruch is very a-political. He is much more of a survivor and skeptic than a political animal, a man who maintains the hard core from the home of his Romanian Shoah-surviving parents. This core is about survival, caution and a desire to live, more than it is about ideology, yet he also understands that a red line separates a killer from its victim. A line one must not cross.


Within this understanding, Baruch sees not only the permanent victim, who is always “us,” but also the victim on the Arab side. He also sees a murderer who can take the form of a Jewish doctor who fires at the back of dozens of worshippers. This is what he sees, and this is where he stopped at the end of this summer. No more, he said. I will not be performing in Kiryat Arba, where the grave of Goldstein and his fans lies and where Rabbi Meir Kahane and his foolish followers live.


‘Radicals are a minority’

Baruch tells me how he became a staunch rightist during the period of suicide bombings, and how during other times he supported peace. This is why Baruch is so Israeli. Like so many others he is motivated by fear, confused emotion, concern for his children (both soldiers), ignorance, and the desire not to know. I think he immediately accepted my invitation to travel to Hebron precisely because of the doubts regarding his decision not to perform in Kiryat Arba; doubts that persisted even after the trip.


As we talk, we meet settler spokesman Noam Arnon. “I’m a centrist,” he tells Baruch. “The Far Right wants to expel all the Arabs, while the far Left wants to expel all the Jews. I’m in favor of everyone staying,” he says.


Soon, Mayor Malachi Levinger arrives too. “This is a minority,” he says, referring to Baruch’s claim about Goldstein and Kahane supporters. “This is a community with a diverse population, and we cherish culture. It’s important that you come.”


Levinger describes a reality of coexistence to Baruch. “We watched television in Ahmed’s home. We grew up with the Arab children…you cling to imagery as if we’re all Goldstein. Why do you keep bringing up his acts?”


Next, Levinger takes us to the new cultural hall in Kiryat Arba. Slowly, Baruch walks up the row of seats and takes a sit on stage. Levinger smiles: “Come, perform here, show respect to most of the public here. We’ll be very happy of you perform…we won’t force you to do it, but if you come, we’ll sit after the show and hold a discussion about everything. The public here is willing to listen.”


Later, Baruch tells me: “There must be a sane way to survive that will not turn the whole world against us. In my view there’s a difference between coming to Ariel, where I already performed, and coming to Kiryat Arba. Here you are asked to perform in a city which says that Goldstein and Kahane are also a part of our culture.”


“I ask myself: Is this indeed my culture? And my answer is no. And so, at the age of 56, I’m sent against my will to the front I evaded all my life. I wish our politicians would decide where Israel’s borders lie. Yet when they fail to decide, I find myself out there and must say: Up to here.”




פרסום ראשון: 10.13.11, 15:07
 new comment
This will delete your current comment