Hevron destruction, August '07
Hevron destruction, August '07

As Jews worldwide prepare to read aloud in synagogues, this coming Sabbath, the Biblical account of Patriarch Abraham's purchase of land in Hevron, 54 MKs sign a petition in favor of Jews' right of purchase there.

The petition was written as a result of the case currently before the Supreme Court, in which the right of Jews to purchase land in Hevron has come under question.  The ultra-left Peace Now organization demands that a family be evicted from its home in Jewish-owned land that, under Jordanian rule, became an Arab market.  Peace Now also demands that a room added on to a Jewish house in the same area be razed.

The petition begins with a mention of this coming Sabbath's Torah reading:

"This coming Sabbath, we will read in the synagogues the portion known as Chaye Sarah, where we read the story of our father Abraham's purchase of the Machpelah Cave for its 'full price.' This was the first Hebrew land purchase in the Land of Israel, and it led the way for generations to come. Even then, our forefather Abraham knew, as did other nations of the world, to value of 'the right to purchase,' and certainly would not discredit it.

"As of now, the undersigned, Members of Knesset from various parties, call on the government of Israel to honor the 'right of purchase' of Jews in the City of the Patriarchs, and to allow Jewish settlement in those homes and lands which were purchased for their 'full price,' including:

**  houses and lands purchased by Jews over the generations which were stolen as a result of the 1929 massacre [in which 67 Jews were slaughtered in their homes and synagogues by their Arab neighbors], and

**  buildings purchased recently for their 'full price,' for example, Beit HaShalom [Peace House] between Hevron and Kiryat Arba."

The signatories include all MKs of the Likud and National Union parties, and all the United Torah Judaism MKs, except for one who is abroad.  Among the coalition parties - Ministers and Deputy Ministers are not permitted to sign petitions - all the eligible MKs of Shas and Gil (Pensioners) signed, 7 of 9 non-ministerial Yisrael Beiteinu MKs, and 8 of Kadima's 17 eligible MKs. 

The Kadima MKs who signed are Zev Elkin, Tzachi HaNegbi, Yoel Hasson, David Tal, Michael Nudelman, Ronit Tirosh, Avigdor Yitzchaki, and Otniel Shneller.

Hevron, the petition states, is the city in which the Jewish monarchy commenced with King David, and where Jewish settlement is anchored by ancient historic privilege, by contemporary government decisions, and by recent international agreements. Mass visits of hundreds of thousands of Jews each year prove that the Jewish people vote with their feet in favor of a continued Jewish presence in Hvbron. "Therefore," the petition concludes, "there is no justification for the State of Israel to prevent Jews from actualizing their 'right to purchase' those properties that were legally purchased for their 'full price.'"

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, apartment buildings were destroyed, and 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 12 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 in March 2001, Jews decided to renew their title to the land, and began renovating the stores, turning them into inhabitable apartments and moving families in.  Within a short time, 11 families were living there.

The new residents angered many people who felt Jews had no business living in the City of Patriarchs, and the Civil Administration and the courts were soon deep into eviction orders and counter-restraining orders.  It was said that the unilateral withdrawal from Gush Katif and northern Shomron also held matters up.  Nothing happened on the ground, until Ehud Olmert took office as Acting Prime Minister.  Within a few weeks, he ordered a forcible eviction of the Jews, scheduled for the same week as that of Amona (February 2006).  At the last moment, however, an agreement was reached whereby the Jews would leave on their own and would return legally within two months. 

This agreement was never honored, however, and within a few months, two families had secretly returned.  In early August of this year, Israeli security forces violently evicted the two families, as well as dozens of supporters who arrived to help; the forces also totally destroyed the Jewish homes, as well as the synagogue that had been built there.

Another violent eviction of Jews in Hevron took place in May 2006, when 1,000 IDF soldiers threw Jews out of a building that they had duly purchased and named Beit Shapira.