Ahead of election, settlers claim to Hebron’s Beit HaMachpela strengthened

The placement of Jews in the otherwise Palestinian neighborhood of the city marks the continued expansion of the Jewish community in the area near the Tomb.

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August 26, 2019 06:23
2 minute read.
Ahead of election, settlers claim to Hebron’s Beit HaMachpela strengthened

Beit Hamachpela. (photo credit: TOVAH LAZAROFF)

In a nod to right-wing voters, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave a boost to efforts by Hebron’s Jewish community to move into a three-story building – called Beit HaMachpela – across the parking lot from the Tomb of the Patriarchs.

In a decision made public on Sunday, the Civil Administration allowed Hebron’s 800-member Jewish community to register half of the building in the name of the development company that claims to have purchased it from its Palestinian owners.

The other half of the structure remains in the hands of the primary Palestinians owners, the Abu Rajab family. The ownership claim is still under adjudication within the Civil Administration.

Ownership of the house has been disputed by Hebron’s Jewish community and the Abu Rajab family for seven years.

Hebron Jews tried to move into the structure in 2012, 2013 and 2018 in advance of the completion of the bureaucratic and legal proceedings regarding the purchase. The IDF insisted each time that they must leave. The High Court of Justice ruled in 2013 that they must wait to move into the structure until the property is registered in their name in the Land Registry. A 2018 decision upheld that ruling.

Sunday’s actions offers the possibility that the families can move into the structure. As of Sunday night, however, IDF orders barring Jewish entry to the building were still in force.

Shlomo Levinger, a spokesman for the group, said that some five families were ready to move in.

The attorney for the Abu Rajab family, Samer Shehadeh, said he planned to appeal the decision to allow the building to be registered on behalf on the Hebron Jewish community. He also plans to seek an injunction from the High Court to prevent the Jewish families from living there until the completion of the proceedings. The Abu Rajab family disputes the settler’s purchase claim.

Should the Jewish residents move into Beit HaMachpela, it would mark the continued expansion of the Jewish community in the H2 area near the Tomb of the Patriarchs. Last year Jews moved into two structures, also near the Tomb, known as Beit Rachel and Beit Leah. The High court ruled this summer that they could remain in the structures until the legal proceedings verifying the purchase were completed.

Both properties are in Hebron’s Old Town, which is now a UNESCO heritage site registered to the State of Palestine. All three structures augment the Hebron Jewish community’s small number of property holdings in the city of 220,000 Palestinians.

The Civil Administration’s decision to register the property comes just one day after the 90th anniversary of the 1929 massacre in the city, in which 67 Jews were killed. It also comes just one week before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to visit the city for a ceremony to mark 90 years since the massacre, which destroyed the city’s ancient Jewish community whose roots stretched back to biblical times.

Hagit Ofran of Peace Now called on the government not to allow Hebron’s Jews to move into the building irrespective of any potential legal claims to the property.

“A responsible government is expected to refuse to submit to the dictates of an extreme minority group,” said Ofran. “It must follow a clear policy that takes into account security considerations and any future political settlement” with the Palestinians.



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