Beit HaShalom, or Peace House, is a four-story building in Hevron — along the main road called Worshippers’ Way that runs from Kiryat Arba to the Ma’arat Hamachpelah (Tomb of the Patriarchs) — that was purchased by Jews in 2005. Since March 2007, twenty families have lived in this house, which is now the center of a major dispute. There are serious and painful implications to what is taking place.
In spite of clear legal documentation that the building had been purchased from a Palestinian by the Jewish community via a mediator, the original owner is denying that he ever sold the house. (It must be noted that it is a serious, potentially capital offense in the PA for an Arab to sell land to a Jew — which fact provides context to his denials.)
In the course of proceedings, the Jewish community of Hevron submitted a tape recording, made without coercion, in which the previous owner acknowledges having sold his property. The courts declined to listen to this recording. Ultimately the issue made its way to the High Court, which on Sunday ruled that civil courts must make the final decision, but that in the meantime, the residents of the house had three days in which to vacate. Today was that deadline.
Please, see a more detailed description of these events by Benny Katzover:
The issue here is one of essential justice — as the house was legally purchased and no law prevents such a purchase. It is also about the right of Jews to own property in the land of Israel.
The decisions being made here are clearly political: As Jewish Community of Hevron spokesman Noam Arnon observed, if this were not a Jewish home in Hevron, this would not be happening. That is, if the Arab ownership of a home were challenged, or if the dispute were taking place within Green Line Israel, there would not be a rush to evict residents before the dispute was resolved. In fact, from prior reading I have the distinct impression that there is solid precedent for allowing residents to remain (if they have been resident for some months) until resolution. What is more, the Court named the State, at its request, as the temporary custodian of the property, so the State could decline to force eviction.
What we are seeing here is a government and in particular a defense minister, prior to an election, making decisions that will impress left wing voters, who are being courted in an electoral battle against the more right wing Likud. It is, again, the demonization of the “settler.” The rush to appease the Arab demand. Arabs would rather see all Jews gone from Hevron, which happens to be the second holiest city in Judaism, and a city to which Jews have rights by law and agreement with the PA. What we are seeing is a readiness to trample those rights.
In my book, those Jews who are residents in Hevron are heroes, doing the work for all of Israel.
A great deal more is at stake than the rights of the 20 families — as significant as these rights are. This is part of a pattern that diminishes Jewish rights to the land and accedes in every instance to Arab demands. As the move to pull back is made, our right to be here at all is reduced. If Jews cannot live in the second holiest of our cities, then where?
What we may face, again, is the absolute obscenity of Jews evacuating Jews from their homes, as the government moves to act by sending in the IDF to forcibly evict the residents.
Those residents will not go willingly. And they will be backed by thousands who believe in the right of the residents to stay where they are. A meeting was held in preparation for what is expected to follow. Those participating in resisting the eviction, when it comes, are being called upon not to be violent. They will, however, defend themselves.
Five new families — including MK Nissim Ze’ev (Shas) — have moved into the building in a display of solidarity. And other MKs, prominent among them Aryeh Eldad and Uri Ariel (NU-NRP), have spoken out on behalf of the residents. MK Otniel Shneller (Kadima) has stated 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. [Important because it provides a Jewish presence on the road that worshippers utilize.]
And now — at the last minute, actually — the IDF has announced a delay in its move to evacuate the building. Clearly the fear of violence was a major factor in reaching this decision. Barak will holding a meeting tomorrow to review plans for the evacuation. The Post is reporting that if the evacuation is carried out, it will be at night, some weeks from now, without prior notice so that activists will not have time to regroup.
They shouldn’t count on this however, as I expect great vigilance in this matter.
It is a great irony that our Torah reading for this Shabbat includes the story of the purchase by our father Abraham of the Cave of the Machpelah for the burial of his wife, Sarah. The first property in the land of Israel purchased with scrupulous care by the first Jew.
To voice protest about the anticipated evacuation of Beit HaShalom:
Ministry of Defense Ehud Barak
Phone: 03-569-2010 — outside Israel 972-3- 569-2010
Faxes: 03-696-2757/691-6940/691-7915 — outside of Israel 972 – 3 and then the selected number.
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Israel Livni
Faxes: 02-530-3367/530-3704 — outside of Israel 972-2 and then the chosen number
Fax is the most effective means of communicating.