The new year is starting off on the right foot - and if you didn''t notice, that''s a double entendre. Over the past month and a half, over 150,000 Jews visited Hebron. About half of them arrived during the Succot holidays. That''s a good way to begin a new year. But it''s only the beginning.
A few weeks ago, an Israeli court ruled that Beit HaShalom, the huge 4,000 square meter building between Hebron and Kiryat Arba, was legally purchased by the Jewish community of Hebron and must be returned to us, the rightful owners of the building.
Beit HaShalom was purchased by Morris Abraham and his family, for over a million dollars. Hebron Jews moved into the building in 2007 and lived there for 22 months. Ehud Barak, then Defense Minister, ordered the families to be forcibly expelled in the winter of 2008.
The Arab who sold the building, Rajabi, then filed suit in a Jerusalem court, demanding that the structure be returned to him. In court he admitted that he had sold the building and received money for it – he had no choice, as the transaction was videoed. However, he claimed that he''d changed his mind and returned the money. His only problem was that he had no proof, receipts or documents showing that he''d actually returned the money.
A few weeks ago the court ruled against him, and ordered the government to return the building to the Jewish owners within 30 days.
One final problem remained. According to Israeli law, properties purchased by Jews from Arabs in Judea and Samaria must be approved by the Defense Minister. Ehud Barak, a left-wing politician who only a few days ago announced his idea for a unilateral expulsion/withdrawal from Judea and Samaria, is not known to view favorably the Jewish presence in Hebron. Expectations that he might sign such a permit weren''t high.
But, miracles do happen. As happened early tonight. Hebron''s Jewish community received written notification that Barak ordered the Defense ministry to grant the necessary permits allowing us to return home, to return to Beit HaShalom.
Shortly, the cement blocks surrounding the building will be removed. The big padlock sealing the doors will be removed. The keys will be returned to us. Beit HaShalom has been redeemed.
We are very very happy that the Israeli government has finally recognized the legitimacy of Jewish land purchase in Hebron. It''s about time. After all, the first land purchase, some 4,000 years ago, didn''t need any minister''s signature. When Abraham bought the Caves of Machpela, he didn''t need anyone''s permission. He put money on the table and, in return, received the keys. That''s the way is should be.
So too, we expect the Israeli government to continue to recognize legally owned Jewish properties in Hebron, such as Beit HaMachpela and Beit Ezra.
And just in case anyone thought otherwise, yes, we will continue to buy property and buildings in Hebron, and yes, we will continue to grow and expand, and no, we have no plans to leave our holy city, not now, not ever. Hebron is here to stay, an integral element of the land of Israel and of the State of Israel. As is the Jewish community of Hebron, keeping Hebron Jewish for the Jewish people, for eternity.
Actually, the timing is just right. This Shabbat we begin reading the Torah from the start – "In the Beginning…" The greatest commentator on the Torah, Rashi, asks, why doesn''t the Torah begin with laws and commandments? Why start with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? His answer is quite fitting for today''s events. He answers: "Because of the thought expressed in the verse(Psalms 111:6) ''He declared to His People the strength of His works, in order that He might give them the heritage of the nations.''
For should the peoples of the word say, You are robbers, because you took by force the lands of the seven nations of Canaan, Israel may reply to them, "All the earth belongs to the Holy One blessed be He; He created it and gave it to whom He pleases; When He willed He gave it to them, and when He willed, He took it from the and gave it to us."
It is imperative to note that Rashi stresses the verse, ''He declared to His People…'' – In other words, the nations of the world might realize that our Land belongs to us – the problem isn''t with them. Rather we have to ensure that all OUR PEOPLE know and understand that this land, Eretz Yisrael, belongs to Am Yisrael, the people of Israel. Rashi lived almost 1,000 years ago. He knew what he was talking about.
To all those who have helped, to all those whose faith and support, and hard work have brought us to this joyous day – thank you , thank you, thank you! May we be privileged to continue to witness such wonders as we have seen today!