Hebron (Sep. 25)
The simple-worded testimony of thirteen-year-old Judith Reizmann of how she saw her father, mother and uncle pursued by a mob of howling, blood-thirsty Arabs, brandishing knives and daggers, later finding the bodies in the gutters, produced a dramatic atmosphere in the Hebron court, where the examining magistrate began yesterday sifting the evidence for the Crown in the forthcoming Criminal Assizes. Col. Maxton of the Welsh Guards, and other British military officers, were on the bench with Governor Bailey of Hebron, who is personally conducting the investigation in the most objective manner.
When the Reizman girl had told her story in the breathless silence of the courtroom, the judge asked her if she could identify anyone from a number of barefooted, unkempt Arab prisoners who were brought into the court under heavy escort. She calmly walked up to Ibrahim Abd El Assiz, a young Hebron merchant, her father’s next door neighbor, saying, “Yes, Ibrahim was nearest my father with a knife uplifted when the mob overtook my father.” Then addressing the Arab, who hung his head in shame, the girl asked him in the kindest voice imaginable, “Ibrahim, how could you?”
The scene produced great emotion in the court. The steel-nerved Hebron governor, who has seen years of service in the Near East, burst into tears, many sobbed loudly, and Colonel Maxton found it necessary to get up and walk to a window and gaze out.
Judith told how, at her father’s insistence, she had climbed a garden tree when the Arab marauders began pounding the front door and smashing it. From the tree she saw her father run into the garden, followed by her uncle, Jacob Reizman, pursued by Arabs yelling, “We’ll cut your throat.” Her father scaled the wall, but the mob was hard on his heels. Ibrahim Assiz in the lead, no more than three yards behind. She did not see what took place in the street where her father had fallen or been overtaken, but later, when rescued, she saw his body, stabbed in a score of places, his head almost severed.
Judith’s twelve-year-old brother caused a new sensation when he told his version of his father’s murder respectively in English, Arabic and Hebrew. After the boy’s calm recital, the judge looked round the circle of lawyers, military men and officials, saying, “I don’t think anyone else here has a similar linguistic ability.” When Arab legal luminaries from Jerusalem had for half an hour vainly attempted to trip up the Talmud Torah-trained Jewish boy, unable to shake his story, the judge remarked: “Your efforts are useless. This child speaks the truth. This boy could not utter a lie. It would be as alien to him as any sin.” As a copy of the testimony is made in each of the three languages, later to be signed by the witness and the accused, the Reizman boy will affix his signature to all three, Hebrew, English and Arabic. The Arab accused signed by making an inky thumb-mark.
The whole procedure was a contrasting scene, the uncouth, raggedly Arab illiterates blubbering and protesting innocence, listening horror-stricken to the eye-witness accounts, and on the other hand, the cleanly-dressed Reizman orphans, who are children of unusual physical beauty, almond-eyed, olive-skinned, Palestinian-born, true da Vinci angel models, who held the spectators breathless for over an hour, when the sessions adjourned.
Other material witnesses are still in hospital.
Hebron is commercially a dead city, Merchants’ stalls are heaped high with unsold fruit and vegetables, not only because the Jews evacuated the town, but Jerusalem Jews refuse merchandise from the city where the greatest massacre took place. The otherwise lively bazaar, one of the most ancient and picturesque in the entire Orient, crowded the year round with pilgrims and tourists, is wrapped in a tangible, dismal gloom, the merchants sitting on stools in front of the holes-in-the-wall in solemn, brooding silence. The Jewish ghetto, which is a veritable rabbit warren, undoubtedly the most intricate labyrinth of human habitation in the entire world, with hundreds of cubicled dwellings, with super-imposed staircases, is lifeless and vacant, mute witness to the past terror.
A 90-year-old Hebron Jewish refugee in Jerusalem, returned to his birthplace yesterday and asked the Commandant for the privilege of seeing the Scrolls of the Law, which have reposed in the gendarmerie post since the riots When granted permission, the half-blind patriarch lovingly fondled the sacred treasure, weeping with gladness. Bystanders commiseratingly remarked to him: “It’s a hard life.” He replied, “Don’t say that. It would be blasphemy. God is good and I am happy. Now I can die.”
At the mosque of the famous Machpelah cave the Arabs are burning innumerable lamps before the tombs of the Hebrew Patriarchs in order to calm the phantoms who are restlessly bewailing the shedding of innocent blood. Many superstitious Moslems, it was explained by a sheik, are still afraid to enter the sanctuary.