When is a House a Home in Hebron?

September 19, 2012 12:44 am 2 comments

"Beit HaShalom" in Hebron.

Seven years ago New York businessman Morris Abraham, through an intermediary and after prolonged negotiations, purchased a four-story building from its owner for nearly one million dollars. With expansive views of the surrounding hills, the valley below, and the city beyond, it could be renovated to provide a comfortable residence for Jewish families.

Abraham was attracted to the location because his paternal great-grandfather and members of his mother’s family had lived in the nearby city until 1929, when they barely escaped with their lives during a barbaric Arab pogrom in which sixty-seven Jews were ruthlessly slaughtered. Survivors were evacuated by British soldiers, leaving the city judenrein for the next fifty years.

The city is Hebron. There the first plot of land owned by the Jewish people in their promised land, purchased by Abraham from Ephron the Hittite, became the burial place for Sarah. Known as Me’arat haMachpelah, it also became the gravesite for Abraham, Isaac and Rebecca, and Jacob and Leah. Hebron was where King David ruled for seven years before relocating his throne to Jerusalem, known as its “sister” city.

The building purchased by Morris Abraham for the community occupied a commanding site overlooking Hebron. It is adjacent to the main road, known as the worshippers’ path, leading down the hill from Kiryat Arba into Hebron to the Machpelah enclosure. Three years earlier twelve Israelis had been murdered nearby in a deadly terrorist attack.

As word of the acquisition spread through the community hundreds of residents, joined by yeshiva students, arrived to explore the building and dance in celebration. After extensive renovations, eight Jewish families moved in. Israeli soldiers arrived to protect them, staking out an observation post on the roof to provide security. Court-ordered investigations documented the legitimacy of the purchase; the Palestinian owner had been filmed receiving and counting his money. Learning of the transaction a Hebron Arab told an Israeli journalist: “If the Jews really did buy it, all the more power to them. But we will find the seller and chop him up into tiny pieces.”

Despite primitive living conditions during a brutally cold winter – unheated rooms with plastic sheets for windows – the residents of Beit HaShalom (House of Peace) endured. But Defense Minister Ehud Barak, disregarding the purchase and sale agreement and the video that documented the sale, relentlessly pursued their expulsion, which the Supreme Court authorized. The banishment of Jews from Hebron, long pursued through Palestinian terror attacks, had become Israeli government policy. Morris Abraham, noting that anywhere else such a purchase would be recognized as legitimate, despaired of “Israeli democracy.”

Barak was unrelenting. In December 2008 six hundred Israeli border police and soldiers, using stun grenades and tear gas and acting under his orders, stormed Beit Ha Shalom and dragged the resident families from their homes. Despite the violent expulsions the Hebron Jewish community remained resilient and persistent, pursuing their legal case in court.

Last week the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court upheld the legality of the Beit Ha Shalom purchase and ordered the government to return the property to the Hebron Jewish community within thirty days. “We have received a wonderful Rosh Hashanah present,” exulted community spokeswoman Orit Struck.

Not so fast. According to Israeli law the Defense Minister must sign permits for Jews to purchase property in Judea and Samaria, the biblical homeland of the Jewish people where 350,000 world-despised “settlers” live. To date, however, Ehud Barak has demonstrated stubborn unwillingness to permit Jews to purchase property in Hebron. A veteran Labor Party politician, he refuses to recognize that Jewish settlers are following in the footsteps of his own ideological predecessors by settling the Land of Israel. That, after all, is what Zionism is all about.

And, according to the conclusions recently drawn by the Levi Commission (comprising two former Supreme Court judges and an international law expert), Jewish settlements do not violate international law. Indeed, their legality is affirmed by ninety years of international law that guarantees to Jews the right of “close settlement” everywhere west of the Jordan River.

Since the recent court decision, Likud government ministers and Knesset members have urged Barak to authorize the return of Jews to their homes in Beit Ha Shalom. The Defense Minister “has the obligation to right the wrong that he created,” announced Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz. According to MK Tzipi Hotovely, a rising star in the Likud Party, “Buying land in the land of Israel is making Zionism a reality.”

In the end, it is for Prime Minister Netanyahu to make certain that the recent judicial ruling is upheld and enforced. Surely a prime minister who can stand up to the American president can instruct his Defense Minister to enforce the law – or quickly find a replacement who understands Jewish history and obeys Israeli judicial rulings.

Jerold S. Auerbach is the author of Hebron Jews: Memory and Conflict in the Land of Israel (2009).

2 Comments

  • Stephen Franklin

    Whatever you may think of this specific decision Ehud Barak remains the most decorated soldier in Israel’s history and has served his country over many years showing extreme courage along the way. He is no kapo.

  • If EHUD BARAK does not authorize the return of this property in Hebron he will forever known as just another KAPO…
    Nothing more or less.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Blogs Book Reviews The Origins of Palestinian Refugee Relief Efforts (REVIEW)

    The Origins of Palestinian Refugee Relief Efforts (REVIEW)

    Romirowsky and Joffe’s book Religion, Politics and the Origins of Palestine Refugee Relief is an important volume for those interested in truly understanding the origins of the Palestinian refugee issue. Utilizing a treasure trove of newly released documents, the authors link UNRWA’s (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine) origins to the Quakers/American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). For those readers who thought they knew most of the Middle East story, Romirowsky and Joffe’s version provides another twist. The authors meticulously [...]

    Read more →
  • Sports Israeli Soccer Team Faces Prospect of International Ban

    Israeli Soccer Team Faces Prospect of International Ban

    The Israel National soccer team could be facing a World Cup ban, and other soccer sanctions, unless it alleviates travel restrictions and increases field access for Palestinian players and coaches. The head of the Palestinian Football Association is pushing for international soccer’s governing body, the Federation of International Football Associations (FIFA), to issue a ban on Israel competing internationally, claiming Israel’s restrictive travel for Palestinians is equivalent to a form of oppression. “It’s not only the athletes,” Jibril Rajoub explains. [...]

    Read more →
  • Beliefs and concepts Book Reviews Jewish Author of ‘Eat to Live’ Dishes on Health Care, Nutrition, Disease Prevention

    Jewish Author of ‘Eat to Live’ Dishes on Health Care, Nutrition, Disease Prevention

    JNS.org – While the national debate on “Obamacare” rages on past the recent March 31 sign-up deadline, bestselling Jewish author Dr. Joel Fuhrman says the “current disease care model of what we call ‘health care’ cannot possibly be sustained.” “There is simply not enough money available to support a system in which the lion’s share of expenditures is devoted to acute care, with virtually nothing being spent on preventive medicine, i.e. health care,” Fuhrman says in an interview. “To make [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity ‘Tears of Color’ Art Exhibit Shows Struggles of Israelis With Eating Disorders

    ‘Tears of Color’ Art Exhibit Shows Struggles of Israelis With Eating Disorders

    JNS.org – “This is how I want to be—without fear. Independent. I want to be like a bird. I want to spread my wings.” So reads part of the description beneath one of the 30 paintings on display until the end of May at the ZOA House in Tel Aviv. The collection represents the first-ever art exhibit of its kind: an exhibit created entirely by Israelis in treatment for eating disorders. Dubbed “Tears of Color,” based on one of the [...]

    Read more →
  • Beliefs and concepts Book Reviews Overprotective or Loving? Daughters Reflect on Jewish Mothers in New Anthology

    Overprotective or Loving? Daughters Reflect on Jewish Mothers in New Anthology

    JNS.org – Rachel Ament noticed that she and her friends often shared humorous anecdotes that were typically variations on a theme: overprotective, worrying Jewish moms who smothered them with love. That included Ament’s own mother. “My mom is probably every Jewish stereotype scrunched into one,” the Washington, DC, resident tells JNS.org. “At the root of all these stereotypical, worrying, overprotective moms, is love.” A social media writer for Capital One, as well as a freelance writer, Ament decided about three years [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Commentary ‎Kosher Lust: Love is Not the Answer (REVIEW)

    ‎Kosher Lust: Love is Not the Answer (REVIEW)

    Kosher Lust, by Shmuley Boteach (Gefen Publishing House, 2014). You really do want to find something positive to say about Shmuley Boteach. He is a phenomenon; very bright, an articulate bundle of energy and self-promotion. Anyone who has the chutzpah to describe himself as “America’s Rabbi” deserves ten out of ten for effort. I believe that along with most Chabad alumni, official and unofficial, he does a lot of good and is a sort of national treasure. In this world [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Theater Hollywood’s Revisiting of Passover’s Exodus Story a Part of Throwback ‘Year of the Bible’

    Hollywood’s Revisiting of Passover’s Exodus Story a Part of Throwback ‘Year of the Bible’

    JNS.org – In a throwback to the golden age of cinema, Hollywood has declared 2014 the “Year of the Bible.” From Ridley Scott’s Exodus starring Christian Bale as Moses, to Russell Crowe playing Noah, Hollywood is gambling on new innovations in technology and star power to revisit some of the most popular stories ever told. “It’s definitely a throwback to the 1950s and early ’60s,” Dr. Stephen J. Whitfield, an American Studies professor at Brandeis University, told JNS.org. Starting with The [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada ‘Jewish Giant’ Headlines New York Jewish Museum Exhibit

    ‘Jewish Giant’ Headlines New York Jewish Museum Exhibit

    Eddie Carmel, dubbed “The Jewish Giant” by American photographer Diane Arbus, is the centerpiece of a new exhibit opening April 11 at The Jewish Museum in New York. Arbus met Carmel, who was billed “The World’s Tallest Man,” at Hubert’s Dime Museum and Flea Circus in 1959 but waited until 1970 to photograph him at his parents’ home in the Bronx, according to the museum. The son of immigrants from Tel Aviv, Carmel posed for Arbus with his head bowed to [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.