Daily Israel Report

More Hevron Riots Follow Cave of Machpelah Decision

Dozens of Arabs rioted Tuesday morning, attacking IDF soldiers with rocks. The IDF responded with riot control measures.
By Gil Ronen
First Publish: 2/23/2010, 6:11 PM / Last Update: 2/23/2010, 6:19 PM

Flash 90

Dozens of Muslim Arabs rioted near the Jewish neighborhood in Hevron Tuesday, continuing a wave of violent rioting that began Monday. The rioters threw rocks at IDF soldiers and burned tires near an IDF position. The soldiers used stun grenades and tear gas against them.

The violence by the Muslims was sparked by a government decision to include the Cave of Machpelah – Judaism's holiest site outside Jerusalem whose purchase by the Patriarch Abraham, the first Jew,  for the burial place of his wife Sarah is described in detail in Genesis 23  – in a list of 150 Israeli “National Heritage” sites that will receive added funding from the government.

On Monday, about 100 Arabs rioted in the streets of Hevron, threw rocks and set alight tires near the Jewish neighborhood. One rock lightly wounded an IDF soldier. He received initial medical attention on the spot and did not require further treatment.

"Violation of Hague Convention"
The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), an Arab group co-funded by the European Commission, Christian Aid (UK) and the Ford Foundation, condemned the decision to include Cave of Machpelah (which PCHR refers to as “the Ibrahimi Mosque”) and Rachel's Tomb, whose burial there is described in Genesis 35, 18 (which PCHR calls “Bilal Ben Rabah Mosque”) on the list of heritage sites.

PCHR noted that the decision was taken on the eve of the 16th anniversary of the killing of 29 Muslim worshipers at the Cave of Machpelah by Dr. Baruch Goldstein.

The group said that the Israeli government's decision constitutes a violation of Article 1 of the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict of 1954, which calls upon an occupying power to “safeguard and respect” property that is “of great importance to the cultural heritage of every people, such as monuments of architecture, art or history, whether religious or secular."

PCHR called for the international community “to provide protection for Palestinian civilians, their property and their religious sites.”

Israel provides free access to all religious sites for members of all religions. On the other hand, the Patriarch Jacob's son Joseph is buried in Shechem (Nablus), and his tomb has been vandalized many times since it was given over to Arab hands some ten years ago. In Hevron, too, for centuries before the liberation of the Cave of Machpelah by the IDF in 1967, Jews were not allowed to climb past the seventh step of the staircase leading up to the holy site, although they came there to pray from all over the world.