Army Declares Hevron Closed to Jews

Hevron has been declared a closed military zone, upon order of IDF Central District Commander Maj.-Gen. Yair Naveh. Non-residents of the Jewish section of the city will not be allowed in by the IDF.

Hillel Fendel and Ezra HaLevi , | updated: 1:06 PM

According to the military order, non-residents must request special permission from the Judea regional brigade to enter Hevron until January 22nd.

Residents are calling upon the general public to make their way to the City of the Patriarchs to protect Judaism's second-holiest city and to assert that Jews, who were barred from Hevron between 1929 and 1967, will never again be expelled from the city.

"Hebron, the first Jewish city in Eretz Yisrael, the roots of the Jewish people, site of the Cave of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs, was closed to the Jewish people for 19 years, between 1948 and 1967, when under Jordanian occupation following the War of Independence," a statement from Hevron's Jewish community said following the announcement. "Entrance to Ma'arat HaMachpela was off-limits to Jews for 700 years, from 1267, following the Mameluk victory over the Crusaders, until the Six-Day War in 1967.

"Now, the State of Israel, impersonating the Mameluks and the Jordanians, is again closing Cave of the Patriarchs to Jews. What could be more dastardly than placing the 2nd holiest site to the Jewish people in all the world, again, off-limits?"

Tuesday afternoon, the Beit Shemesh Magistrate's Court issued a temporary injunction against the expulsion of the ten-member Schlissel family from the Shalhevet neighborhood slated for destruction. The court-order bars the government from evicting the family until the matter is discussed in a session to take place Tuesday.

Earlier Monday, hundreds of police and IDF reinforcements took the streets and rooftops of Hevron's Jewish neighborhoods.

"They've come simply to provoke us, to scare us and to show their strength," said David Wilder, spokesman for the Hevron Jewish Community. "They have come with a tremendous show of force - soldiers, police, Yassam, Border Guard, and horses - and they're just standing and watching. I don't think there's been one arrest. They're simply waiting for someone to attack them."

"They went into the Betar building," Wilder said, "right in the middle of the Avraham Avinu neighborhood, and declared the people standing on the roof as an illegal assembly - even though I never heard of such a thing on private property... They're also blocking off the ancient Avraham Avinu synagogue and not letting people into that area."

Another spokesman, Noam Arnon, said, "We convened the youth this morning, and informed them that the stage [of violence] of the past two days has ended. The police, however, ignore this and came here today to stage a provocation."

The army wishes to expel 11 Jewish families of Hevron from their homes on Jewish-owned land that once served as an Arab marketplace. Though many media reports say that the issue involves "Palestinian homes," the land was actually purchased by the Sephardic Jewish community of Hevron 200 years ago and transferred to the present-day Jewish community. Arabs worked there for a time, but did not live there.

In 1929, Arabs massacred 67 of their Jewish neighbors living in the Jewish Quarter. The survivors were hurriedly evacuated, and the Jewish houses and synagogues were abandoned and left uninhabited. In 1953, Jordanian troops assisted Hevron's Arab population in razing the remains of the Jewish Quarter, turning the beautiful Avraham Avinu Synagogue into a goat sty. On part of the land was built an outdoor food market, which continued to operate, even after the Jews returned during the Six Day War in 1967.

Just over a decade ago, when Arab-initiated violence in Hevron was at one of its highs, the army decided to improve Jewish security in the area by clearing out the Arab store-owners in the marketplace. Several years later, after an Arab terrorist shot to death 10-month-old Shalhevet Pass with a bullet to her head, Jews decided to renew their title to the land. They began renovating the stores, turning them into inhabitable apartments, and moving families in. Eleven families currently live there.

Arabs then sued in Israel's Supreme Court against what they called the "infiltration" of the Jews to the stores, and the Court ruled in their favor - without agreeing with their basic premise. The Court did not deny that the land was Jewish-owned, but rather ordered the Jews thrown out in order that "sinners not go unpunished" for having entered the buildings without army permission.

Noam Arnon said at the time, "The Supreme Court decided that the land should be given to the Arabs, even though it is clearly Jewish land that was robbed from us... The Court simply ignored the fact that this is Jewish land."

Orit Strook (pictured above), a long-time Hevron resident who is considered the human rights activist leader of the nationalist camp, explained today, "The expulsion that the government wants to carry out is totally unnecessary and is merely a provocation. The whole thing could easily be arranged peacefully by giving a little time to arrange the rent legally."

Strook said that the "explosive mess we now face" was caused by the combination of "the use of tear gas by police, an IDF Brigade Commander whom I admire but who lost control of himself yesterday, idealistic and excitable teenagers, the terrible events of this past summer [in Gush Katif] that have left their imprint on all of us - and [Attorney General Menachem] Mazuz."

Strook blamed Mazuz, "who has a particular agenda, and who, with the encouragement of government elements, is rushing this impossible timetable, instead of allowing events to sort themselves out peacefully... Even the Prosecution is in favor of allowing us to rent the homes legally, as this is our property. The entire situation is a provocation that could be avoided."

Asked why the Jews don't simply agree to be evacuated, and return a day or two later, David Wilder said, "We have been made aware of the possibility that the army would actually destroy the buildings, rather than allow that to happen."

Hevron activist Baruch Marzel told Arutz-7, "We are just fighting for our land and our inheritance; it's ours and we don't plan to turn the other cheek." He accused the press of not telling the whole story: "For example, has anyone heard the case of the little 10-year-old tzaddik [righteous one] who, on his way out of evening prayers, was set upon by Yassam police who started beating him up; only when they saw how young he really was did they let him go..."

"There is an entire population sector that was hurt to its very soul by what happened this summer," Marzel said. "We see that we can only rely on G-d - no one in authority is preserving law or justice. The government's intention - whether headed by Ariel Sharon or Tommy Lapid's friend Ehud Olmert - is to destroy everything that is sacred in the Land of Israel, of which Hevron is a main part."