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200 Jews Enter New Building in Hevron: 'Peace House'

Yeshiva students entered the four-story building after it was purchased for $700,000. It connects Kiryat Arba and Hevron.
By Gil Ronen and Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 3/20/2007, 8:41 AM

Over 200 Jews, mostly yeshiva students from the Hevron area, entered a four-story building in the City of the Patriarchs Monday night, and have named it "Shalom House." MK Chaim Oron (Meretz) says the government must throw them out.

 

Click here for a photo essay of the "Shalom House."

The house, which is only partially built and stood empty, was purchased by the Jews from its previous Arab owner two years ago. It is strategically located, in a spot overlooking "
Worshippers Route" leading from Kiryat Arba to the Cave of Patriarchs. According to one report, the decision to enter the building now was reached after the Jews of Hevron received information that Arabs intended to enter the building in the near future.

"Shalom House" has a floor space of over 3,500 square meters. It was reportedly purchased by a Jewish American businessman through a Jordanian real estate agency for about $700,000.  Officials are looking at the documentation to ascertain its validity, and at present no evacuation of the Jews is foreseen.
Well over 40 small families can easily fit into the building.


The house's top floor had been used by the IDF for a lookout point. Twelve IDF troops and local Jewish residents were ambushed and killed by Arab terrorists on the Worshippers' Route in November 2002.

 

Upon entering the building in the evening hours, the new residents began singing and dancing. One of the youths told a reporter that he and others had reached the building by running through an Arab village. The Hevron Jewish Community's spokesperson, Noam Arnon, said the entry into the house was not meant for provocation but for peaceful residence by Jews. "We already have a long waiting list of potential residents," he added.

"This is a house that has been under construction for several years. No one lives in it yet, so no one was evacuated from it," said Arnon. "Right now there are young people living there, but in the future, after we renovate it, families will live there, like in other areas of Jewish settlement in Hevron."

 

Hevron has long had a lengthy waiting list for families who wish to move into the Jewish neighborhood, and well over 40 small families can easily fit into the building.

MKs Gideon
Saar (Likud) and Otniel Shneller (Kadima) visited the youths and the new building this afternoon, and both expressed their support.  Shneller said that forming a contiguous Jewish presence between Kiryat Arba and Hevron is in keeping with Kadima Party policy: "It is a very important contiguity; exceptional.  The government should have done it itself... Kiryat Arba and Hevron are a Jewish bloc that will remain Jewish in any future settlement; this is how I understand Kadima's position."


The Yesha Council – the umbrella group for Jewish communities in
Judea and Samariacongratulated the house's new occupants. "The people of the Jewish Community are continuing in the path of the Patriarch Abraham, who paid full price for the Cave of Machpela," the council noted.


The Yesha Rabbis Council praised the new residents for "meriting to restore Hevron homes to Jewish hands and fulfilling in a practical manner the commandment of settling the Land."


MK Uri Ariel (NU/NRP) said, "Any act of strengthening the hold of Jewish roots in the City of
Patriarchs is a blessing for the people and the land." He added that because the purchase was carried out legally, "this is a moment of trial for the government: shall it make the law subject to its political whims, or will it prove that the government too is subject to the law, and allow the Jews to remain in their house?"


MK Chaim Oron (Meretz) said today that the issue is not whether or not the property was legally bought, but the separation of populations.  He called upon the government "to throw them out of there fast."


An Arab claiming to be the house's owner denies the house was ever sold to Jews. "The house is all mine," claimed Baez Rajabi, "and I have all of the documents proving it." However, another Arab man, Mohammed Al-Baradei, is also quoted in some media outlets as saying the house is his: "I handed all of the documents over to police after making copies," said Baradei.

Sheikh Ibrahim Sarsur of the Islamic Movement, a member of
Israel's Knesset, called upon authorities to evacuate "this group" from the building. Sarsur claimed that the military government and the army in Hevron allow a small group of settlers to turn the lives of local Arabs "into hell."

Over the past ten days, Arabs have attacked IDF forces and Jewish residents of Hevron several times.  Among the attacks: A pipe bomb, a female terrorist caught with a knife who later confessed she had planned an attack, the infiltration and stealing of an animal from a petting zoo, rocks at girls, rocks at a nursery, and more.