President Reuven Rivlin speaks at a ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of the Six Day war, June 2 2017...
(photo credit: KOBI GIDON / GPO)
Jews will live together with Arabs in Hebron in any peace agreement, President Reuven Rivlin said Thursday night at a ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of the Six Day war.
“Hebron is not an obstacle to peace. Hebron is a test of our abilities to live together, side by side,” Rivlin said as he stood on a large outdoor stage in a concrete arena on the outskirts of the Kiryat Arba settlement.
“I do not know if there will ever be a political agreement and, if there will be, what its nature will be. But it is clear that, in any agreements, Jews and Arabs will continue to live here,” he said.
The government must invest in Kiryat Arba and the Jewish community in nearby Hebron, including in infrastructure, roads and industry, Rivlin added.
He cited the strong support of Israel’s first prime minister David Ben-Gurion for Hebron, even though he had belonged to Mapai, a predecessor to the Labor Party.
“David Ben-Gurion himself said as much, and I quote, ‘We will be making a grave and serious error if we do not settle Hebron.’” The biblical city had a continuous Jewish presence until 1929 when the Arab massacre of 67 Hebron Jews destroyed the community.
Jews were not allowed to settle in the city when it was under Jordanian control from 1948 until 1967.
After the Six Day War, the Kiryat Arba settlement was founded in 1968 with residents moving in three years later in 1971. Jews resettled Hebron in 1979.
But the geographic location of Kiryat Arba and Hebron, outside the boundaries of the security barrier and deep in the heart of the West Bank, make their situation precarious in any final status agreement with the Palestinians.
Rivlin, however, reassured the several thousands participants in the celebration that included fireworks, music and cotton candy that Kiryat Arba and Hebron would remain part of Israel, even as US President Donald Trump pushes for a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians.
The issue is personal for Rivlin who fought in the Six Day War and was among those soldiers who entered Hebron after the Jordanians fled.
“I remember the moments in which we stood at the entrance of the Tomb of the Patriarchs. As a child, I knew the Tomb only as far as the seventh step, from the days before the war,” said Rivlin.
“I directed my friends how to get there and how to enter.
“We were not yet inside, when all of a sudden, out of nowhere, we saw Rabbi [Shlomo] Goren blowing the shofar,” he recalled.
In “the words of King David in Hebron, ‘We were as dreamers,’” said Rivlin, whose family immigrated to the land of Israel in 1809. They went to bed at night with their shoes on so they would not miss the Messiah’s arrival, he said.
“And here I found myself at the Tomb of the Patriarchs dressed in a dust-covered uniform and shoes that I had not removed for several days, listening to the sounds of the Shofar,” Rivlin said.