“Go home you anti-Semite, you hater of Israel,” activist Itamar Ben-Gvir yelled out at the Spanish Foreign Minister Trinidad Jiménez as she toured Hebron on Tuesday.
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A few other settlers picked up his call, with one shouting “Nazi” and another “villain!” One man even climbed on a fence, just to heckle her.
The small number of activists and settlers were angered by Jiménez’s refusal to formally meet with Jewish residents of Hebron during her tour of the city, which lasted for more than two hours.
Jiménez, who seemed puzzled by the reaction, later told those accompanying her, “I do not hate anyone.”
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman met with Jiménez in the evening and apologized for what she experienced during her visit to Hebron.
“Everyone needs to understand that even when there are disagreements, there is no room for personal attacks, especially regarding a high-level guest who more than once has expressed friendly opinions toward Israel,” he said.
Jiménez is on a three-day visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories.
She put Hebron on her itinerary so that she could view a renovation project of abandoned Arab homes located just outside of the Cave of the Patriarchs in which her country has invested 6 million euros in the past 11 years.
Under the project, which is conducted through a vocational training school, 130 apartments that now house 600 people have been rebuilt, according to the Spanish Embassy. It noted that the project was still ongoing.
As Jiménez walked through the winding stone alley between the apartments, she was shown a number of plaques marking Spain’s donations and a small outdoor stage that was part of a new square. She took time to visit with a family in one of the apartments.
Settlers have complained that these apartments house released security prisoners and increased tensions between Jewish and Arab residents of the city.
Hebron Jewish community spokesman Noam Arnon said that Spain was funding a small section of a larger project of 1,000 apartments near the cave. He charged that its residents, including families of terrorists, had been deliberately selected so that when the time is right they would stage an “uprising” against Israelis.
A security source said that the new neighborhood did in fact pose a security risk to Jewish residents of the city and to visitors to the Cave of the Patriarchs.
As Jiménez walked away from the neighborhood, a handful of settlers, including Kiryat Arba Council head Melachi Levinger and Hebron resident and well-known activist Baruch Marzel, lined the side of the road.
They held up large banners, which referenced the fact that some of the Jews who fled Spain during the inquisition 500 years ago had made their way to Hebron.
“Five hundred years ago, Spain exiled the Jews to Hebron. Does Spain now wish to exile the Jews from Hebron?” the signs asked.
One of the settlers called out to her, “We want to talk with you, why are you ignoring us.”
Security guards hustled Jiménez by past the protesters and she continued on her tour, into a section of the city under control of the Palestinian Authority.
There she visited an old Arab marketplace filled with small stalls that sold everything from chickens to cosmetics.
She stopped a number of times to speak with shopkeepers, including a cloth store run by women in traditional Arab dress. She also visited a museum about the Palestinian history of Hebron.
As she walked, staff members from the Temporary International Presence in Hebron civilian observer mission told her how settlers and Israeli security measures had made life difficult for the Palestinians and caused them economic harm.
Several times, Jiménez walked under netting that had been set up over the narrow Hebron street to protect people from stones, bricks and garbage that settlers who live in apartments above throw down.
When she crossed back into the Israeli section, she walked down Shuhadah Street, whose Palestinian shops have been closed for security reasons.
A soldier explained to her that the Jews in the city were in danger from Palestinians.
As she neared the Beit Hadassah Jewish apartment complex, settlers once again met her with signs.
Just as her staff was about to suggest that she bypass them by heading up the stairwell of a Palestinian school, a well-dressed Jewish woman from Kiryat Arba, Gloria Feinstein, called out to Jiménez in Spanish.
Jiménez smiled and responded. As they spoke, Arnon moved up to Jiménez and calmly invited her to meet with the city’s Jews and to visit their museum.
“I’m sorry, we don’t have to time,” she said.
He warned her about the renovation project, telling her that she had been mislead into thinking she was helping poor people, when really she was supporting violence.
Would her country also donate money to renovate Hebron’s Jewish quarter? he asked.
Jiménez suggested that he submit a formal proposal, and maybe something could be worked out.
Amnon also wanted to know why she supported policies that could lead to the expulsion of Hebron Jews from their homes.
Jiménez told him that her country wanted everyone to be able to live peacefully in Hebron. “We have a good relationship with both parties,” she said.
Amnon later told The Jerusalem Post
that while he felt Spain acted with enmity toward the settlers, he was impressed by the way Jiménez listened to them.
He added that he hoped her words were the start of a shift in Madrid’s policy toward the settlers.
Feinstein, who made aliya from Argentina, told the Post
that when speaking with Jiménez in Spanish, she told her, “I was in Spain many times and the Spanish people are very anti-Semitic.
I asked what did we do to you, why do you have to hate us? She said, “No, that was in the past.”Herb Keinon contributed to this report.