Acting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has deployed top counter-insurgency units to demolish a small Jewish neighborhood in Hebron known as “The Shalhevet Neighborhood”.
Olmert’s office would not affirm or deny that permission was granted to use live weapons against the Jewish community of Hebron. Likewise, Defence Minister Mofaz’s office would not affirm or deny that such an order, referring, instead to the IDF spokesperson, who “denied knowing of such an order” – hardly a denial.
Jewish protestors in Hebron, who have avoided the use of firearms, have been protesting government plans to expel 11 families from an unauthorized neighborhood.
“We are always concerned about this possibility [of using live fire],” Police Asst. Comm. Shlomo Efrati said. “The main problem is youngsters, violators of the law, who have come to the city over the last few days.”
“The decision reflected the priority of the government over the next two weeks,” a security source said. “The government has based its credibility on the destruction of this illegal outpost.”
“In recent days, extremist elements have violently attacked security forces personnel who came to enforce the law in Hebron,” Olmert told the Cabinet on Sunday. “The government will not countenance the wild and unrestrained behavior that has taken place in recent days, especially last night in Hebron.”
Hours after Olmert’s statement, an estimated 500 police and soldiers streamed into Hebron with horses, water cannons and anti-riot gear. Witnesses said police fired stun grenades and tear gas toward Jewish protesters. There were no reports of serious injuries.
In front of the world media, IDF a military brigade commander, Col. Mordechai Baruch, cocked his weapon and pointed it toward Jewish youngsters who were protesting, some of them wearing masks to avoid identification.
The disputed Jewish neighborhood in Hebron has been comprised of apartments and storefronts abandoned by Palestinians. Eight Jewish families live in the storefronts at the edge of Arab market in the West Bank city.
Israel’s Supreme Court had accepted the claim that the storefronts were purchased by Jews before the British expulsion of the Hebron Jewish community in 1929. But the court, citing the absence of Israeli government permission, insisted that the Jewish residents leave until the issue could be resolved.
Israeli elite units have been recruited to evict the Jewish residents. One police unit was identified as Yamam, the Hebrew acronym for Special Operations Unit and usually reserved for counter-insurgency and hostage rescue missions.
The elite units were mobilized amid increasing Jewish unrest in Hebron. Officials said Jewish youngsters have hurled rocks and paint toward Israeli police cars and torched Arab apartments to protest the evacuation order, which took effect on Sunday.
In a related development, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz has ordered the dismantling of three unauthorized Jewish outposts around the northern West Bank city of Nablus. Mofaz said the outposts were involved in the uprooting of olive trees in nearby Palestinian orchards. No arrests have been reported. = On Monday January 16, 2006, IDF central command General Yair Nave tonight declared all of Hebron to be a ‘closed military zone.’ According to this military order, only residents of Hebron will be allowed into the city. All others will have to request ‘special permission’ from the “Judea’ regional brigade.”
A Hebron spokesman issued the following statement:
“Hebron, the first Jewish city in Eretz Yisrael, the roots of the Jewish people, site of Ma’arat HaMachpela, the Caves of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs, was closed to the Jewish people for 19 years, between 1948 and 1967, when under Jordanian occupation following the War of Independence. Entrance to Ma’arat HaMachpela was off-limits to Jews for 700 years, from 1267, following the Mameluk victory over the Crusaders, until the Six-Day War in 1967. Now, the State of Israel… is again closing Ma’arat HaMachpela to Jews”.
Rabbi Yisrael and Mrs. Tzippy Shlissel petitioned the Israel district court in Beit Shemsh, requesting n injunction preventing expulsion from their home in the Mitzpe Shalhevet neighborhood.
Rabbi Shlissel is the dean of the Ohr Shlomo Torah Study Center in the Admot Ishai (Tel Rumeida) neighborhood of Hebron. The center is named after his father-in-law Rabbi Shlomo Ra’anan, the 63 year old grandson of Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak HaKohen Kook, killed by terrorists 7 years ago at his home in that neighborhood. Parents of 10 children, the Shlissels moved to Hebron following the murder in order to be closer to Tzippy’s mother, Chaya.
The main points of the Shlissel’s claim: 1. We were never issued an eviction notice and were not included in any legal proceeding dealing with our home. 2. A special judicial committee recommended by majority vote to rent the property under discussion to the Jewish community of Hebron. This would allow us to remain living in our home. 3. We have proven (in this claim) that the military has already told the Supreme Court that they intend rent the property to the Jewish Community of Hebron and they have agreed to rent the property. 4. We have proven that legally, the Jewish Community of Hebron must provide us with alternative housing should we be expelled from our home and that they will be responsible for any damages caused by the expulsion. =========================
BACKGROUND: THE SHALHAVET NEIGHBORHOOD
In 1807 when 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 fewer than 22 Hebron Arab notables. This property served Hebron’s Jews and later accommodated the home and synagogue of its chief rabbi, Eliahu Manni.
Following the Jordanian takeover 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 concerns. The market was finally shut down following an attempted terrorist 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 requests by our community to rent the structures, the site has been left vacant.
On March 26, 2001, an Arab sniper shot and killed 10-month-old Shalhevet Pass. Following the murder, Hebron children began utilizing the abandoned Arab market place as a place to play and take cover during 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 market, renamed the Mitzpe Shalhevet neighborhood, houses Hebron families and a Torah study hall opened in Shalhevet’s memory.
Mitzpe Shalhevet is presently on the brink of obliteration, not by Arabs, but by the government.
FOUR YEARS ago, in response to an Arab demand to reopen the market, the Attorney-General’s office notified the Supreme Court that: (1) the Arabs no longer had any legal rights to the market and (2) that Israeli “trespassers” should be evicted from the site.
The Supreme Court, however, never ruled that the former market’s Jewish population should be expelled from their homes.
Following issuance of an eviction order, Hebron’s Jewish community appealed to the courts, claiming private Jewish ownership of the property. An appeals committee of three judges ruled 2-1 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 eviction order for over two years, due to security issues and other concerns. However, recently, following the successful expulsion of Jews from Gush Katif and northern Samaria, the Attorney-General’s Office has exerted tremendous pressure on Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz to execute the eviction orders and remove Hebron’s families from the Mitzpe Shalhevet neighborhood, under. the impression that the Supreme Court ruled that the structures must be evacuated.