Daily Israel Report

Historic Peace Meeting in Hevron

Two leading sheikhs and local Jewish community leaders met on Sunday to renew the friendly Jewish-Muslim ties that once existed in Hevron.
By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 2/11/2008, 1:24 PM

The leaders of the two main Arab family clans in Hevron and of the Jewish community in the city met on Sunday to renew the friendly Jewish-Muslim ties that once existed there.

Sheikh Abu Hader Jaabri and Haj Abu Akram Abu Sneineh, who together represent the majority of the population of Hevron, met with Kiryat Arba Mayor Tzvi Katzover, Hevron Jewish Community spokesman Noam Arnon, IDF Hevron Commander Yehuda Fuchs and others.  Arnon later described the meeting, held in Sheikh Jaabri's large and luxurious home, as "warm and hearty, during which the participants declared their wish for peace and security in the City of Patriarchs."  Each side granted the other a certificate of appreciation.
"What destroyed them the good Jewish-Arab ties here," HaEtzni said, "was the fake and counterfeit Oslo Accords peace, that brought only hatred, bloodshed and destruction..."


A few hours following the meeting, Sheikh Jaabri was summoned by the American-backed Palestinian Authority for a "discussion" of clarification.  Posters were also hung throughout the city against the Sheikh for his meeting with the Jews.

The Sheikh and the Synagogue
The meeting was the outgrowth of an incident that occurred five months ago, on the night of Rosh HaShanah.  A radical group of left-wing anarchists planned to destroy a makeshift synagogue named Hazon David, just outside Kiryat Arba. It was originally established in mid-2001 following the terrorist murders of Kiryat Arba residents David Cohen and Chezi Mualem nearby.

The "peace" activists, however, did not take one factor into account in their attempt to destroy the synagogue: Sheikh Jaabri, on whose property it was built.  He told them that he refused to sanction the destruction of a house of prayer on his property - and the act of Rosh HaShanah vandalism was thus avoided. 

Of special interest is that the person who informed Jaabri of the plan was none other than Yitzhak Magrafta - a peace activist himself, who not only helps local Arabs in their humanitarian needs, but also works for peaceful coexistence between Jews and Arabs in Hevron.

It was therefore only natural that the meeting between the sheikhs and the Jewish leaders - at which the latter wished to thank the former for preventing the destruction of the synagogue - was "mediated" by Magrafta, who also served as a translator.

Sheikh Seeks Peace
At the meeting, Sheikh Jaabri expressed his desire for closer ties with the Jewish population, and the neutralization of the anti-religious, anti-Semitic, anti-traditional anarchist forces that seek to disturb the peace.  "During the intifada," he said, "I cried at the terror attacks against Jews, and I told you at the time that we do not see you as 'settlers' but as residents. The city is ours as it is yours."  He asked Commander Fuchs for an easing of travel restrictions on the Arabs, and Fuchs said he would try to do so.

HaEtzni, Too
Attorney Elyakim HaEtzni of Kiryat Arba, a former Knesset Member of the now defunct nationalist Techiya Party, spoke at the meeting of the good ties that once existed between the Jews and Arabs of Hevron. "What destroyed them," he said, "was the fake and counterfeit Oslo Accords peace, that brought only hatred, bloodshed and destruction... I propose that we continue to hold regular meetings like this in order to bring peace to the city, even if it takes a while, so that those with evil designs will not be able to succeed."

Jews Showed the Way
Arnon spoke of past periods in which Jews and Arabs lived together in Hevron. "When Arabs first arrived here 1,300 years ago," he said, "it was the Jews who showed them the entrance to the Machpelah Cave... When the Crusaders came, they brought with them destruction and hatred, and now we have new Crusaders coming - the various foreign 'peace' elements and anarchists - and bringing the same again."

Arnon said that after the murder of the two off-duty soldiers hiking near Hevron six weeks ago, a mass protest march was planned in the direction of the Arab neighborhood of Abu Sneineh in Hevron - but it was called off at the request of Sheikh Jaabri. Arnon praised the Sheikh's efforts towards peace and coexistence.

Hevron Brigade Commander Fuchs said, "We are undergoing a difficult period... We recall that the murderous attack in which a woman was murdered in Dimona last week was perpetrated by terrorists who came from Hevron. The IDF will continue to fight against terrorism, while making great efforts at the same time to avoid difficulties for the civilian population that is not involved in terrorism - though this is not easy..."

Fatah's Al-Aksa Brigades terrorists hung posters against the sheikhs, including calls to boycott their extensive business interests.  In addition, the PA - promoted by the international media as a "moderate" element in the region - summoned Sheikh Jaabri for a discussion.  It appears that the sheikhs' wide influence in the city, however, tips the scales; the PA released him shortly afterward, and the posters will apparently soon be removed.