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In Hebron, Victory at Last!

March 12, 2014 11:01 am 18 comments

Cave of the Patriarchs, Hebron.

The ancient city of Hebron, twenty miles south of Jerusalem, has long been a source of seething conflict between Arabs and Jews. According to the biblical narrative (Gen. 23), Abraham purchased the Cave of Machpelah for four hundred silver shekels as the burial place for Sarah. It was the first parcel of land owned by the Jewish people in their promised land.

It has been a Jewish holy site ever since. King David reigned from Hebron before relocating his throne to Jerusalem to unify his kingdom. But just as Muslims claimed the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, so they wrested Machpelah from Jews, who were forbidden entry to their sacred shrine for seven hundred years after 1267. The centuries-old Hebron community was destroyed in 1929 when rampaging Arabs murdered sixty-seven Jews.

For more than a decade after the Six-Day War restored Hebron to Israeli authority, Jews were not permitted to reclaim abandoned and stolen property in their ancient city. A hesitant Israeli government was unwilling to allow Jews to inhabit Hebron, lest their presence rile local Arabs – and Israeli politicians who wanted nothing to do with holy sites or religious Zionists.

In 1979 a group of women led by Miriam Levinger and Sarah Nachshon, accompanied by several dozen young children, made a surprise nighttime return to Beit Hadassah, the former medical clinic. Hebron, asserted Mrs. Levinger, “will no longer be Judenrein.” A fledgling community sought to restore the “duality of nation and religion” that had been entwined in Judaism before Jews were forcibly exiled from their homeland nearly two thousand years earlier.

As difficult as it was to persuade Israeli courts to permit Jews to return to abandoned Jewish property, the government made it all but impossible to purchase property even from willing Arab sellers. Nearly a decade ago Morris Abraham, a New York businessman whose great-grandfather had lived in Hebron until the 1929 pogrom, purchased a large four-story building through an intermediary after prolonged negotiations with its Palestinian Arab owner.

On the road connecting Kiryat Arba to Hebron, it was located near the site where twelve Israelis had been murdered in a deadly terrorist attack three years earlier. After extensive renovations, Hebron Jews took possession of their new home in March 2007, naming it “Beit HaShalom,” house of peace. Eight families moved in, and Israeli soldiers promptly claimed the roof as a superb lookout post.

Then began a legal struggle that resembled Jarndyce v. Jarndyce in Charles Dickens’ Bleak House. The Supreme Court ordered an investigation of the transaction. Police concluded that it was a legal sale. A local Hebron Arab told a reporter: “We will find the seller and chop him up into tiny pieces.” To protect his own life, the middleman for the seller denied the validity of the sale but the seller had been filmed receiving and counting his million dollar proceeds.

More than a year later the Attorney General initiated legal proceedings to expel the new residents – eight families who had endured a miserably cold winter in their unheated apartments – until a lower court determined the legality of the purchase. The Israeli Municipal Court ruled in favor of the Jewish owners, but Arabs appealed. Dismayed by the endless delays, Morris Abraham despaired of “Israeli democracy.”

Pending a final ruling, the government authorized the evacuation of Beit HaShalom. As protests mounted, Defense Minister Ehud Barak warned against “attempts by small groups of radicals to undermine the authority of the state.” That December Israeli security forces stormed Beit HaShalom and, with the aid of stun grenades and tear gas, forcibly evicted its residents. Barak announced: “The building will be under IDF and state control until the court decides to whom it belongs.”

Now, five years later, the Supreme Court has finally decided, rejecting Arab appeals and upholding the legitimacy of the purchase. The responses were predictable. Housing Minister Uri Ariel celebrated the decision that Beit HaShalom “belongs to Jews.” Left-wing Knesset member Nitzan Horowitz, joined by Peace Now, urged that Jews not be allowed to live in the building. But David Wilder, spokesman for the Hebron Jewish community, exulted “Victory at last!”

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

18 Comments

  • brenda mcbrayer

    We will see soon what god will do

  • You should know better. Hebron belongs to all of Abrams children.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-c_PkRMqPH4

  • TRANSFER! it’s time

  • JACOB MANDELBLUM

    Re all these Israel basher NGO’s :

    Wasn’t there some time ago a proposal at the Kneset to
    tax the foreign funding of these “organizations” and
    wasn’t the proposal blocked by no less than NETHAYAHU
    and I guess Israel’s Judicial Dictatorship as well ???

    I guess it happened at the same time Ms BEINISH called
    “UNCONSTITUTIONAL” the attempt to correct the way her
    dictatorship did business and NETHANYAHU backed her…

    Then, whom’s fault is it …????
    The blind man’s or he who gave him the stick in the
    first place…??????

  • JACOB MANDELBLUM

    With all due respect and please correct me if I’m wrong,
    but wasn’t no less than BENJAMIN NETHANYAHU who gave
    HEBRON the animals….?????

    Please correct me if I’m wrong…!!!

  • JEWISH MESSIANIC MORONS ARE NO MORE THAN SCAVENGERS FEEDING ON THE BACKS OF ORDINARY HARD WORKING MIDDLE CLASS ISRAELIS. WITHOUT THE ARMY PROTECTING YOU WOULD NOT SIT THERE FOR 1 SECOND

    • The only moron is you. How can you call people who are risking their lives to be close to our patriarchs and matriarchs’ graves “messianic morons’? Jewish claim to the land of Israel is centred on places like Hebron, Jerusalem and Shiloh, not Eilat or Tel Aviv.

  • Hebron is a part of Israel and belongs to the Jewish people.

  • jeff mizrahi

    Is this morris Abraham the mohel

  • Sonia Willats

    What courage from those who believed the promises are valid and acted upon them, risking all! Kol hakavod lahem.

  • What kind of Jewish lunatic would tell another Jew where to live on legally bought land that is part of ancient and historical Israel.

    Nitzan Horowitz and Peace Now should both renounce our faith and become Muslims or Atheists and leave good Jews alone.

    THIS IS JEWISH LAND.

    AM YISRAEL CHAI.

  • M.A. Kinamohn

    ALL of Israel belongs to the Jews!

    • Wallace Edward Brand, JD Harvard, 1957

      All of Palestine between the River and the Sea, belongs to the Jewish People under International Law. You can find my legal opinion to that effect at SSRN.com/abstract=2385304 The notion that Jewish Settlements are illegal began with the gross distortions of International Law in 1979. SSRN.com/abstract=2404738
      It has been well publicized with Soviet and Arab petrodollars and has become a poetic truth that can’t be dented with facts, logic nor reason. The acclaimed Australian International Lawyer Julius Stone was so outraged by the distortions of international law that he wrote a book to repudiate them entitled Israel and Palestine: An Assault on the Law of Nations

      When the British found 69 Jews had been massacred in Hebron, the British idea of justice was to remove all the rest. The cause of the massacre was a lie of Haj Amin al Husseini claiming that the Jews were taking over the Al Aqsa Mosque. It is simply amazing how many times that falsehood has been used — and still works well.

  • Gregg Solomon

    Great!

    And just incredible to think Jews prohibited from Hebron.

    And just incredible that the world accepts any religion purposely building their holy sites atop holy sites of other religions. And then even calling the site off limits.

    Just amazing.

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