Settlers on Monday called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to hold a cabinet meeting in the Tomb of the Patriarchs in order to underscore Israel’s religious and historical ties to the Biblical site.They issued their call after UNESCO on Friday inscribed Hebron’s Old Town and the Tomb of the Patriarchs to its list of World Heritage in Danger under the State of Palestine.“We have to say in a clear voice that the Tomb of the Patriarchs and Hebron, which is the city of our forefathers, is eternally ours,” Council of Jewish Communities of Judea and Samaria head Avi Ro’eh said in a letter he wrote to Netanyahu. “It’s a delirious decision that ignores thousand of years of Jewish heritage and denies the cognation between the nation of Israel to one of the four holy cities of the Jewish people,” Ro’eh said.“After hundreds of years in which Jews could only come as far as the seventh step (on a staircase) outside the building, Jews and Muslims can now pray together over the graves of their forefathers and foremothers without,” Ro’eh stressed.The Herodian era structure, which he referenced, houses both the Ibrahimi Mosque and Jewish prayer sanctuaries.
For 700 years of Mamluk and Ottoman rule, Jews were banned from praying at the Tomb and were allowed to only go as high as the seventh stairwell. Settlers also raised the issue of the UNESCO vote at the Likud faction meeting in the Knesset on Monday. Kiryat Arba Council head Malachi Levinger asked Netanyahu to build an elevator for visitors to the Tomb. currently, the site is not handicap accessible and all visitors must climb a staircase.Levinger also asked Netanyahu for permission to build a roof over the main prayer sanctuary, which is protected only by a plastic covering.In addition he asked for the premier to allow the IDF to issue a permit for Jews to move into two properties they have purchased in Hebron. The first is Beit HaMachpela, which is located across the parking lot from the Tomb of the Patriarchs. The second property is called Beit Rachel and Leah is located on Shuhada Street next to the Tomb.Levinger’s brother Shlomo who is spearheading the building projects said that the community was awaiting approvals from the Civil Administration to move into the structures.In the aftermath of the vote, Jewish families tried to enter the buildings early on Sunday but were blocked by the IDF, he said.The Palestinians in Hebron have welcomed the decision and posted a statement about it on the municipal website. Hebron Mayor Tayseer Abu Sneieneh said the victory proved that the “Palestinian legitimate right could obliterate all Israeli lies that were disseminated worldwide.” “It is a step to end occupation and to create a fully sovereign Palestinian State with Jerusalem as its capital.”Among Israel’s objections to the inscription was the election this year of Abu Sneieneh who was one of four terrorists who had ambushed and killed six Jews in Hebron in 1980, including two American citizens and one Canadian.
UNESCO declares the Cave of the Patriarchs as Palestinian, angering Israel (Reuters)