Israel must make it clear that Jews will remain in the city of Hevron, Education Minister Gidon Saar (Likud) said Tuesday. “We must not mislead the Arabs into thinking that one day there will be no Jews living in Kiryat Arba and Hevron,” he said during a tour of Judea.
A Jewish presence in the Biblical city is crucial “in order to maintain our ability to visit and pray in the Tomb of the Patriarchs, one of the most important places to the Jewish people,” Saar explained.
He said he would act to bring all Israeli students to visit Hevron, particularly the Tomb of the Patriarchs. Currently, all Israeli students are to visit Jerusalem at least once during their school career.
During his visit to Efrat, Hevron and other Israeli towns in Judea, the minister dedicated a children's science-ecology center in Efrat and a new school at the Herzog College of Har Etzion Yeshiva in Alon Shvut for intellectually gifted grade-school children living in the area. After enjoying the gifted youngsters' creativity exhibition and talents, Saar also faced tough questions over his party's policies.
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Arutz Sheva's Hebrew-language news service asked Saar what he had to say to Jews in Judea who suffered under the Likud-led Judea and Samaria construction freeze. “We are in a very difficult and complex situation, diplomatically speaking,” Saar answered. “I am convinced that we know how to deal with the problems that stand before us regarding Jewish settlement.”
The first step Israel should take is to renew construction in majority-Jewish regions of Judea and Samaria, known as “settlement blocs,” Saar continued. “It's absurd that there are no land sales in the cities of Efrat, Ariel, Maaleh Adumim, and Beitar Illit, at a time when building is taking place in Jewish villages in Judea and Samaria,” he said.
Efrat has been waiting eight years for government approval to market 1,000 housing units. The Housing Ministry prepared the groundwork for the housing, spending tens of millions of shekels in the process, yet the government now refuses to give the project final authorization.
Saar was also asked to explain the difference between the Likud's platform and that of opposition party Kadima, whose party head, MK Tzipi Livni, visited Judea several weeks earlier. Livni also said during her visit that Israel should allow construction in settlement blocs.
“You would not want to be shown the difference between Likud and Kadima,” Saar warned. “Just the most recent documents revealed show that Kadima is willing to give up the very heart of Jerusalem.”
Recently published documents show that the Olmert administration had been prepared to give Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem to the Palestinian Authority, and to put the Old City and the Temple Mount under international control.