Yaakov Castel, one of the last remaining survivors of the 1929 Hevron massacre, passed away on Thursday morning. His dream of restoring his family’s home in the city remained unfulfilled.
Castel survived the brutal massacre of Hevron’s Jews at the hands of an Arab mob as a young child. His father, Rabbi Shlomo Castel, was murdered.
Survivors of the massacre were expelled from Hevron by the British. When Jordan seized control of the city in 1948, their homes were given to Arab families.
Israel’s return to Hevron in 1967 did not lead to survivors’ return to their homes. Instead, Israeli authorities decided to treat the properties as abandoned land. Jews who moved into the Castel family’s home in Hevron’s marketplace were expelled at the order of the Supreme Court.
Castel fought a lengthy legal battle to get his property returned.
Yaakov Castel owned an ancient copy of the Book of Esther which had been read on Purim by Hevron's Jews. Eleven years ago he donated the scroll to the Hevron museum, which chronicles the city's Jewish history.
Castel also owned a book detailing his family’s rich history, which has included more than 500 years living in Gaza and then Hevron following the expulsion of Jews from Spain. At the time of the Hevron massacre the family had been in Hevron for generations.
Castel displayed the book, written by a granddaughter, at the Diaspora Museum. In an interview with Arutz Sheva several years ago, he explained that his goal in displaying the book was, in part, “to make sure that there will be Jews living in Hevron.”