Hevron is considered Judaism's second-holiest city because of the presence of the Machpelah Cave in which are buried Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebecca, Jacob and Leah. It is located near Kiryat Arba, south of Jerusalem.
From the year 1540 until 1929, Jews lived on a large plot of land in Hevron, commonly known as "The Jewish Quarter." It was purchased by Rabbi Malchiel Ashkenazai, a refugee from the Spanish expulsion in 1492. Following the 1929 massacre and the exile of the community's Jewish population, this property, including houses and synagogues, was abandoned and left uninhabited.
In 1953, Jordanian troops assisted Hevron's Arab population in devastating the remains of the Jewish Quarter. The beautiful Avraham Avinu Synagogue was razed and turned into a goat sty, and apartment buildings were destroyed. Virtually nothing remained of the Quarter's earlier splendor. On part of the land, the Jordanians built an outdoor food market, which continued to operate even after Israeli liberated the city during the Six Day War in 1967.
Some ten years ago, when Arab-initiated violence in Hevron was at one of its highs, the army decided to clear out the Arab store-owners in the marketplace. "The sole purpose for the closing," wrote Hevron Jewish Community David Wilder at the time, "was to provide security for the Jews in Hevron, [which had been] jeopardized by the hundreds of Arabs who frequented the market every day. Interestingly enough, the Commander-in-Chief of the IDF at the time was none other than Maj-Gen. Ehud Barak, who supported the action..."
Several years later, after 10-month-old Shalhevet Pass was shot to death by terrorists with a bullet to her head, Jews decided to renew their title to the land, and began renovating the stores, turning them into inhabitable apartments, and moving families in. Eleven families currently live there.
Hevron spokesman Noam Arnon said today, "The Supreme Court recently decided that the land should be returned to the Arabs, even though it is clearly Jewish land that was robbed from us. In truth, it's a decision that has to be made by Prime Minister Sharon, not the Court. He has always said how much he loves Hevron, but in the meanwhile, it looks like we can't trust him in this area either; the response given by the State in this issue is not that which we would have expected. The fact is that the Court has simply ignored the fact that this is Jewish land."
At present, Arnon said, the only indication of an impending expulsion is a report in the Maariv newspaper of today.
The IDF spokesman's office released this statement: "In the framework of a court suit brought to the Supreme Court against the infiltration [sic] of the Jews to the stores in the Hevron market, the State committed itself, back in the year 2003, to evacuate the Jews who illegally infiltrated [sic]. The date of the evacuation will be set by the government."
Another leading Hevron resident, Rabbi Hillel Horowitz, said in response that he and his neighbors are working together with various elements to perpetuate the settlement in the city, and to thwart the State's commitment to evacuate them.