? The Ghettoization of Hebron ?
Many of you who have visited Hebron are familiar with the
Avraham Avinu neighborhood – commonly known as “the Jewish
Quarter” – the heart of the Jewish Community of Hebron. The
Jewish Quarter was founded over 450 years ago by Rabbi
Malchiel Ashkenazi, who arrived in Hebron from Turkey after
being exiled from Spain in 1492. He initiated construction of
a Jewish Quarter in the middle of the city, a neighborhood
which quickly grew. Before World War One the total population
of Hebron numbered some 7,000 residents. Of these, 2,000 were
Perhaps the most famous site in Hebron after The Caves of
Machpela, the Avraham Avinu Synagogue, is located in the
Jewish Quarter. This synagogue was the religious center of
Hebron for almost 400 years, keeping in mind that the Caves of
Machpela were closed to all Jewish prayer or Jewish visitors.
(Ma’arat HaMachpela was closed to Jews from 1267 to 1967 – 700
The Avraham Avinu neighborhood officially ceased to exist
following the 1929 massacre, which left 67 dead and hundreds
wounded. The British rewarded the perpetrators by expelling
Hebron’s Jewish residents from their homes. Hebron, for the
first time in literally thousands of years, was Judenrein.
The empty structures of the Jewish Quarter stood barren,
occupied perhaps only by the spirits of the past – Rabbi
Avraham Azuli – author of the “Hesed l’Avraham”, or the “Sde
Hemed” – Rabbi Haim Hezkiahu Medini.
Until 1948 – until the fall of all Judea and Samaria to
Jordanian forces in the Israeli War of Independence. The
Jordanians totally destroyed the Jewish Quarter and all
within. The apartment buildings, some of which were six and
seven stories high, were demolished. The Avraham Avinu
synagogue was razed to the ground. A goat sty and public
lavatory occupied its sacred grounds. Part of the property
was transformed into a marketplace. Several large warehouses
were built and transformed into vegetable and fruit stores.
Almost all remains of the Jewish Quarter were eradicated from
the face of Hebron, as if they had never existed.
When Israel returned to Hebron in 1967 demands were made
to immediately restore Hebron to her former glory, but
unfortunately theses pleas were left unanswered. Over the
years Kiryat Arba was founded, and Hebron was resettled. The
superhuman efforts of the late Professor Bentzion Tavger z”l
led to the reconstruction of the Avraham Avinu synagogue. By
1989 the Jewish Quarter was rebuilt, including residences for
20 families, two Mikvas, offices of the Hebron Municipality
and of the Hebron Fund, a playground for children, and the
Jabotinsky Center, home of Beitar.
The goat sty was no longer existent, but the Arab market
did a thriving business – directly in front of the entrance to
the Jewish Quarter. The Jewish Community of Hebron demanded
removal of the market. Not only did it represent a serious
security threat to all Jews entering or exiting their homes,
but also an unspeakable injustice. Jewish land, stolen by
Hebron Arabs, rather than being returned to its legal owners,
remained in the hands of those who had murdered and caused a
50-year old exile from the city of the Patriarchs.
The Shamir government agreed to move the market, thereby
allowing continued development of the Jewish Quarter on Jewish
land. But then, unfortunately, national elections brought
about the formation of a national unity government including
the present Prime Minister and foreign minister. All plans to
move the market were frozen.
A year and a half ago, the wholesale market, the side of
the market facing the entrance to the Jewish Quarter, was
closed, for fear of terrorist activity against Jews in Hebron.
It has remained closed to the present day. However, according
to the Oslo B accords:
“7. Measures and procedures for normalizing life in the Old
City and on theroads of Hebron will be taken immediately after
the signing of thisAgreement, as follows: a. opening of the
wholesale market – Hasbahe, as a retail market; “
How is the Israeli government planning on opening the
market, while at the same time guaranteeing security to Jews
in Hebron? Simple – build a ghetto. A large cement wall is
to be built, separating the market warehouses from the road
leading into the Avraham Avinu neighborhood on one side. On
the other side, a second wall is to be built, separating other
buildings housing the “banana market” from the entrance to the
Jewish Quarter. In other words, the entrance to the Jewish
Quarter will be a narrow corridor, surrounded by cement walls.
This is “a free nation, in our land”.
Last week, on the day after the end of the festival of
Succot, the women in Green, from all over Israel, together with
women from Hebron, staged a demonstration protesting the
building of a new ghetto in Hebron. Among the speakers was
Professor Emil Fackenheim, who noted that in the past he
participated in demonstrations demanding that Jews be allowed
to leave the Soviet Union and that now he was demanding that
Jews be allowed to remain in their homes.
The Jewish Community of Hebron has no intention to live
within a ghetto. We didn’t come back to Eretz Yisrael to
reghettoize. We came back to Israel to live as a free people,
in our homeland, under Jewish rule. We will not allow, under
any circumstances, the conditions forced upon us in Galut, to
become the norm in the City of the Patriarchs. Hebron has
always been a forerunner – the first Jewish city, the first
Jewish capital, the first area resettled – WE WILL NOT BE THE
FIRST MODERN ISRAELI GHETTO!