A packed hall in Kiryat Arba Tuesday night heard supporters call for a massive and non-violent struggle to keep the Hevron Peace House in Jewish hands. However, warnings were issued that if the government carries through with its plan, police violence may make the Amona expulsion of two years ago seem like child's play.
At the Amona expulsion, several people, including two Knesset Members and a senior IDF reserve officer, suffered serious wounds and broken bones. One youth struggled for his life after mounted police trampled and beat him.
The High Court last week dismissed evidence that Jews bought the Peace House from an Arab, who later denied the deal after he received death threats from local Arabs.
Leaders at the Kiryat Arba rally urged supporters to join Peace House residents and to cram into the area while efforts are made to persuade the government to cancel its plans. They pointed out that they "don't know when they [police] will come" to expel the Peace House residents because "they are too afraid" to appear when there is a large presence of supporters.
Calls were issued for people to be on standby 24 hours a day to rush to the area if forces approach the building, which Jews say was paid for in cash.
One supporter from Givatayim demonstrated for the crowd how to use a gas mask in case of a chemical attack. "I am not kidding," he said. "These people [police] hate us and I believe they want to kill [us]."
Knesset Member Otniel Shneller, whose Kadima party officially backs a Jewish presence in Hevron, told the crowd that he "has no doubt that the Peace House was bought according to the law and that it is important for the security" of Hevron. The building is located on the road between Kiryat Arba and Hevron.
National Union MK Uri Ariel declared, "If they come to evacuate us, we will be there. We will defend ourselves against anyone who attacks us. This is a house of peace. Here there is peace, and we will continue to buy houses" from Arabs.
Kiryat Arba-Hevron Rabbi Dov Lior told the crowd, "This house, which was redeemed with blood, belongs to the people of Israel. We have not stolen it from anyone; we bought it. It should be seen as a symbol for how to stand up for the rights of the Israeli people."
Shas party MK Nissim Ze'ev (Shas) moved into the Peace House on Tuesday to show his support for the residents, but anti-nationalist Peace Now leader Yariv Oppenheimer charged he broke the law. "We demand that legal proceedings be brought against him," he declared.
"The court order is illegal and we will fight for our rights. There is no reason for the evacuation," Hevron spokesman Noam Arnon told the French news agency AFP. "We will defend this house with our bodies."
Photos by Israel National Radio show host Walter Bingham .