Hebrew signs in the West Bank city of Hebron.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Left-wing NGO Rabbis for Human Rights has petitioned the High Court of Justice against Israeli-Jewish signs in Hebron, saying they are erasing Palestinian history in the city.
The signs in Hebrew and English direct pedestrians to Jewish areas of the city, located in the small sections under Israeli military control.
Many of the signs have been placed on Shuhada Street, the IDF has ordered shops closed for more than two decades for security reasons.
Palestinian vehicles are barred from that road as it’s the connection between the Tomb of the Patriarchs and three Jewish apartment complexes.
This includes Beit Hadassah built in 1893 with money donated by the Iraqi Jewish community.
The Hebron Jewish community’s signage project is the latest in an Israeli-Palestinian cultural war over the identity of the city that’s home to 220,000 Palestinians, but whose Jewish history dates back to biblical times. Hebron is home to less than 1,000 Jews.
“The settlers are trying to use the signs to change the identity of Hebron, erase Palestinian history and pretend we do not exist,” said Issa Amro, founder and chairman of Youth Against Settlements and a resident of Hebron.
“The name of the neighborhood in which I was born was changed from the Arabic name Bab el-Khan to the Hebrew name Emek Hebron. The final intention of all this is to pressure Palestinian families to leave their homes and to make it look as though Hebron is a part of Israel.”
The Hebron Jewish community has also painted murals on some of the stone walls of Shuhada Street, highlighting the city’s Jewish history.
One mural shows Jews in old-fashioned religious garb walking the streets. On top of the mural, a sign states: “A pious community. Hebron, one of four pious Holy cities in the Land of Israel.”
Another sign memorializes Jews killed by terrorists in Hebron while a third sign states: “The road was closed by the IDF for security reason after the Arabs began the “Oslo War” (the Second Intifada) in September 2000, attacking, wounding and murdering Jews on this road.”
In its petition against the signs, erected by the Committee for the Renewal of Hebron’s Jewish Community, Rabbis for Human Rights said: “In a systematic, deliberate manner, the Committee of the Renewal of the Jewish Community of Hebron erases Palestinian cultural identity from Hebron’s Shuhada Street and replaces it with a narrative consistent with the position of its members. This has been accomplished through exploiting the painful reality where most of the local Palestinian population has fled their homes as a result of severe restrictions imposed on them by the Israeli security forces.”
The NGO asked the court to force Hebron’s Jewish community to take down the signs and in the interim issue an injunction forbidding the posting of any further murals and signs. It has also asked the court to demand that the settlers submit documents showing that they received permits either from the Hebron Municipality or the Civil Administration [for Judea and Samaria] for the placement of the signs.
The head of its legal department, attorney Yair Nehorai, wrote: “While the respondents do not permit the petitioners to access the street and make changes in the public sphere, the Committee of the Renewal of the Jewish Community of Hebron, under the auspices of the respondents, are permitted to do as they please in the area, erase Palestinian identity and dictate their own personal narrative without accountability and without answering to anyone.”
Hebron Jewish community spokesman Noam Arnon said the petition was the strangest one he’d encountered especially since it was filed by a group of rabbis who should understand the Jewish connection to Hebron better than any one.
The reality is exactly the opposite, as it’s the Arabs who have attempted to erase Jewish history in the city. In the past they have destroyed the synagogue and Jewish tombstones in the cemetery, he said.
At issue are signs “that explain the history of the sites,” Arnon said.
The Arabs reject the very presence of Jews in Hebron, “but we have not rejected the fact that there are Arabs in Hebron. They are part of the city’s history,” he said