by David Wilder
The Jewish Community of Hebron
November 6, 2005
On March 26, 2001, an Arab sniper shot and killed 10 month old Shalhevet Pass. As a result of that murder, Hebron residents redeemed, renovated and repopulated Jewish property stolen from Hebron’s Jewish community following the 1929 riots, massacre and expulsion. That neighborhood, “Mitzpe Shalhevet” is presently on the brink of obliteration, not by Arabs, rather by the Israeli government.
In 1807, Haim Bajaio purchased, on behalf of the Hebron Jewish community, a five dunam plot of land adjacent to the centuries old Jewish Quarter, for ‘1,200 grushim’. The deal was witnessed and signed by no less than 22 Hebron Arab notables. This property served Hebron’s Jewish community and later accommodated the home and synagogue of Hebron Chief Rabbi Eliyahu Manni.
Following the Jordanian occupation of Hebron in 1948, the entire Jewish Quarter, founded by Spanish-Jewish exiles in 1540, was razed to the ground. Among the structures destroyed was the ancient Avraham Avinu synagogue. In the early 1960s, an Arab fruit and vegetable market was constructed on the property bought by the Hebron community in 1807. Following the liberation of Hebron during the 1967 Six-day War, these structures continued to function, having been rented to the Hebron Arab municipality by the Israeli government. The property contracts for these buildings expired in the 1990s, and the site was gradually closed over a period of several years, due to security precautions. It was finally shut down following an attempted terror attack: Arabs placed a booby-trapped teddy bear in a plastic bag in the market near the entrance to the Jewish neighborhood, hoping a Jewish child, finding it, would play with it and be killed in the ensuing explosion.
Despite numerous Hebron Jewish Community requests to rent the structures, they were left vacant.
Following the murder of Shalhevet Pass at the beginning of the Oslo War, Hebron children began utilizing the structures as a place to play and take cover during the constant shooting attacks from the overlooking Abu Sneneh Hills. Over a period of time, the Hebron community invested tens of thousands of dollars to convert the former fruit and vegetable stalls into livable apartments. Presently, the former ‘shuk,’ renamed the “Mitzpe Shalhevet Neighborhood,” houses Hebron families, and a Torah study hall opened in Shalhevet’s memory.
Four years ago, in response to an Arab demand to reopen the market, the attorney general’s office notified the Israeli Supreme Court that: 1) the Arabs no longer had any legal rights to the shuk and 2) the Israeli “trespassers” would be evicted from the site. The Israel supreme court never ruled that the former market’s Jewish population must be expelled from their homes.
The reason behind the Attorney General’s decision can be summed up in his words: “The criminal must not be rewarded.” The criminal, in this case, was not defined as the Arabs who murdered 67 Jews, decimated the Jewish Quarter, shot at Hebron Jews from the surrounding hills and killed Shalhavet Pass. Rather, the criminal, was defined as Hebron’s Jews, who had ‘usurped’ vacant buildings belonging to the State of Israel.
Following issuance of an expulsion order, Hebron’s Jewish Community appealed to the courts, claiming private Jewish ownership of the property. An appeals committee of three judges ruled, two to one, that the land did legally belong to a private Jewish organization, but that the buildings legally fell within the jurisdiction of the Israeli government. Concurrently, two of the three judges ruled that the optimal solution to the problem was to lease the structures to Hebron’s Jewish community.
The Defense Minister delayed executing the expulsion order for over two years, due to security issues and other concerns. However, recently, following the successful expulsion of 10,000 Jews in Gush Katif and the Northern Shomron, the present attorney general, Manny Mazuz, has exerted tremendous pressure on Defense Minister Shaul Mufaz to execute the expulsion orders and evict Hebron’s families from the Mitzpe Shalhevet neighborhood. Most likely, Mufaz is under the mistaken impression that the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that the structures must be evacuated. This is, as previously noted, not true. To the contrary, the easiest and most just solution, as recommended by the judges, is to lease the buildings to Hebron’s Jewish community.
Hebron‘s Jewish Community asks: Who is the criminal and who should be rewarded? Following years of terror, shooting attacks and blood-shed, will Hebron’s Arabs receive a prize for their aggression? Will they be privileged to again witness Jewish men, women and children being forcibly evicted from their homes? Will Jews again be expelled from their property in Hebron, this time at the hands of the Israeli government? Will Jewish land again become Judenrein, at the initiation of the Israeli government?
A Jewish-populated “Mitzpe Shalhevet neighborhood,” filled with men, women and children, families dedicated to redeeming the Land of Israel for the Jewish people, living on one hundred percent Jewish-owned property, – this is the just response to Arab violence, blood-shed, theft, and destruction, whose goal is the annihilation of Israel.
In the words of Yitzhak Pass, Shalhevet’s father, “eviction of the Mitzpe Shalhevet neighborhood will be, for me, as if they killed my daughter a second time.”
Will Shalhevet be murdered twice: once by Arabs and once by Jews?