25,000 Expected in Hevron

The annual pilgrimage to Hevron in honor of the weekly Torah portion about the purchase of the Cave of Machpela coincides with Peace House faceoff.

Gil Ronen ,

Preparing for soldiers in Peace House
Preparing for soldiers in Peace House
Israel News Photo: (Flash 90)

Tens of thousands of Jewish believers are expected to stream into Hevron, the City of the Patriarchs, for Shabbat Chayei Sarah. On this Sabbath, the Torah portion which is read in the synagogues relates the details of the purchase of the Cave of the Patriarchs, known as Machpela, by the Biblical patriarch Abraham.

The Sabbath is likely to be an especially emotional one because of the relevance of the Torah story to current events. The government has received a green light from the High Court of Justice to evict the Jews living in Hevron's Peace House and the Minister of Public Security has announced that the eviction will take place within 30 days' time.

The atmosphere is tense, with the media circulating rumors about supposed attacks by mitnachalim ("settlers" in Hebrew) – as Jews living in Yesha are called – against the IDF and the nationalist camp claiming that the government is engaged in libel. Some nationalist spokesmen have hinted that the government may be planting agents among Hevron's Jews in order to try and goad them into wrongdoing.

25,000 Visitors Expected
About 25,000 people are expected to be in Hevron for the Sabbath. "There is a very great concern that their arrival will involve a dangerous act of provocation because of the intent to vacate the 'House of Dispute'," a "senior security source" told the Hebrew-language newspaper Ma'ariv. "We are preparing for the likelihood that the extremist elements will sneak in among the visitors and try to heat up the atmosphere," he added. A senior military source said, however, that the Jewish community has been careful to kick out people who are known to cause violent provocations.

Although the court left the timing of a possible raid on Peace House to the discretion of the government and military, the government appears intent upon carrying it out sooner rather than later, despite – and maybe because of – the upcoming elections.

People inside the building are busy barricading themselves in and welding steel bars on doors to make entry difficult for a would-be eviction force.

Judge: 'Settlers are Right'
Retired District Court Judge Uri Shtruzman said this week at a conference that Judge Ayala Procaccia "twisted the original meaning" of a ruling he made in another case – known as the Mishmar Ayalon Case – in her justification for the decision regarding Peace House. He said that if the judge had really been guided by that precedent she would have reached the opposite conclusion and allowed the Jews to remain inside Peace House until the court case is settled.

"Since the current High Court did not do so…," Shtruzman said, "it is no wonder that the settlers are crying out that the High Court was not guided by considerations of fair judgment, but [rather] by a political world view."