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      Op-Ed: Netanyahu, Here's the Real Story of Beit Ezra in Hevron

      Published: Tuesday, December 18, 2012 8:05 AM
      The Attorney General wants the Jews out in another Israeli episode of expelling Jews from their legal property and spiritual heritage.


      Beit Ezra in Hebron

      Following the Six-Day War in 1967, past residents of the Old City in Jerusalem who had been expelled during the War of Independence in 1948 asked for, and were granted a meeting with then Defense Minister Moshe Dayan.

      They requested permission to return to their homes and property in the Old City, confiscated and occupied by Jordan. Dayan consented, and, as a result, Jerusalem’s Jewish Quarter today flourishes.

      Simultaneously, past Hevron inhabitants, Jews who had been expelled in 1929, and again in 1936, requested a similar meeting with Dayan, in order to return to their homes in the recently liberated city of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs. Dayan refused to meet them.
      So I heard from Hevron residents, some of whom no longer alive, years ago.
      The story of Hevron’s Jewish property is a reason for heartache and chagrin.

      Hevron Jews lost most of their assets following expulsion by the British following the 1929 riots. As I was told by a survivor of those riots: “My father wrote to the British High Commissioner and asked why the victims had been punished – why the Jews were expelled after being slaughtered. His answer: ‘I knew you couldn’t continue living together and being that there were more Arabs than Jews it was easier to expel the Jews.’”

      The untainted authenticity of Jewish land ownership is Hebron is indisputable. The “Jewish Quarter,” presently known as the Avraham Avinu neighborhood, was originally populated by Karaites some 1,000 years ago.

      This land was purchased from them by Rabbi Malchiel Ashkenazi, himself exiled to Turkey from Spain in 1492. In 1540 he bought that area from the Karaites and moved, with a small community, to Hevron. This Jewish neighborhood existed until the 1929 riots and massacre, followed by forced exile.

      Five dunam (5,000 sq. meters) of land adjacent to this place was purchased by Rabbi Chaim Bajaiyo for the community in 1807 from the Kashkol family of Hevron. This too remained under Jewish hands until 1929. In the early 1960s this property was taken over and occupied by  Hevron Arab merchants, who built a retail and wholesale market at the site.
      Receipt of water bill paid by Yaakov Ezra
      Receipt for water paid by Yaakov Ezra
      Yosef Ezra is a ninth generation Hevronite. He and his father, Ya’akov Ezra, were the last Jews to leave Hevron, following the Nov. 29, 1947 UN decision to partition Israel. His father, who worked closely with Arabs, produced cheese and other milk products. He worked in Hevron during the week and spent Shabbat with his family in Jerusalem. Until November, 1947, when Hevbron’s Arabs warned  him not to return to this holy city, where he owned property.

      The Ezra property, within the boundaries of these two areas was stolen, according to Yossi Ezra, by the Awawi family, who had worked with his father. Then aged fifteen, Yosef Ezra still remembers this family, who worked for his father, grazing sheep.

      Yosef Ezra outside Beit Ezra
      Yosef Ezra outside Beit Ezra

      Presently, there is no doubt whatsoever that this is Jewish land, and that there are no real, justifiable, legal Arab claims to this property. However, the State Attorney General’s office has decided that Arabs who lived on this land which they stole from Jews have ‘protected resident status’, basically squatters protected by Ottoman Law, and refuse to allow Hevron’s Jewish community to utilize the property.

      This, despite a ruling by an Israeli military judicial panel of three judges which concluded that there is a firm legal basis to allow the Hevron Jewish Community to utilize this land.


      Military panel visiting in Hebron
      Today the State informed the Israeli Supreme Court of their decision to expel the two families living in Beit Ezra. The expulsion is due to occur towards the end of April. That is, following the elections. Bibi Netanyahu isn’t interested in photos and videos of Jews expelled from their homes in Hevron before the elections. It certanly wouldn’t win him any mandates from the Likud constituency.
      The decision also included a possibility that the property will be made available to Hevron’s Jewish community, after the families have been expelled.

      Mitzpe Shalhevet - before and after

      We’ve been through this before. Back in Janurary, 2006 the Israeli government made a similar promise, whereby, following voluntary exit of homes in “Mitzpe Shalhevet,” other families would be allowed back in, with full permission and government permits. This offer was made with the knowledge and consent of the defense and prime ministers. After all the families moved out, then Attorney General Manny Mazuz nixed the deal. The Jews were left with nothing.


      Shalhevet Pass HY"D

      In January, 1997, when the Hevron Accords, which split Hevron, one of the three cities holy to Jews,  leaving most of the city in the hands of the Palestinian Authority, were signed and implemented by Bibi Netanyahu, another government decision was passed, calling for, and promising, the continued growth and wellbeing of Hevron’s Jewish community.

      It’s hard to understand how a Prime Minister, whose actions brought upon this community two and a half years of shooting attacks, murders, and other terror acts, who promised to ensure the expansion of Hevron’s Jewish Community, can allow continued shrinkage of Hebron’s housing and neighborhoods.

      It has happened in Beit HaMachpela, Beit HaShalom, and now Beit Ezra, not to mention refusal of any permits to plan or build new homes. These are not examples of good will, growth, and well-being. To the contrary, they seem to be examples of how to bring about the deletion of Hevron’s Jewish community from the map.

      So, what is it with you, Bibi? Perhaps the time has arrived to come clean. Will the property really be returned to us, or is this another political spin, designed to prevent more votes from draining away from the Likud? Let the electorate know exactly where you stand concerning Hevron, before January 22, 2013.

      For a start, give us back Beit Ezra. It's ours.