Yishai to Lay Cornerstone for New Meitarim Building

Interior and Deputy PM Minister Eli Yishai will lay a cornerstone Thursday for a new administrative center in the southern Hevron Hills.

Hana Levi Julian, | updated: 10:38

Interior and Deputy PM Eli Yishai
Interior and Deputy PM Eli Yishai
Israel news photo: Flash 90

Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Eli Yishai is scheduled to lay the cornerstone on Thursday for a new administrative center in the southern Hevron Hills. The office of the Sephardic Shas party leader made the announcement on Sunday.

The new office complex for the Judea Regional Council is to be built in Meitarim, a 1,200-dunam industrial park located south of Hevron that opened in 2001. The center will provide administrative services to all Jewish communities in the region.

Included among the companies already established in the park are the Schwartz cosmetics firm marketing its products to Europe, a “Bonjour” chain restaurant and an experimental Paz plant to manufacture synthetic fuel from sewage. 

The Regional Development Corporation also recently moved its offices to the park from the nearby community of Otniel, and the bus fleet that serves the region is now located there as well.

The ceremony, announced Sunday by Yishai's office, comes about a month before the end of the 10-month freeze on Jewish construction in Judea and Samaria, which officially ends on September 26. However, the construction of industrial and public buildings is permitted under the freeze, with authorization by Defense Minister Ehud Barak. 

Struggle for the Area

Meitarim is located in a largely uninhabited area between Hevron and Be'er Sheva. Millions of dollars in European Union aid is being poured into the region to establish new Arab villages. In many instances, construction is being carried out as close as possible to the roads – in many cases, illegally -- in an attempt to prevent Jews from establishing a presence in the area.

Four years ago, thousands of school children in nearby Susya planted trees on government-owned land, with authorization, in the same area on the Jewish holiday of Tu B'Shvat.

However, an American-born leftist rabbi led Arabs and foreign activists in attempting to create a confrontation with the children, standing directly in their path to block them from reaching the site.

Police who were present put a stop to the incident, and the children were later allowed to continue planting more than 5,000 pine and cedar trees. However, within 48 hours, at least half of the saplings were uprooted by Arab vandals.