The Jewish community in Hebron is "not a stumbling block to peace” but a test of the ability of Jews and Arabs to live together, President Reuven Rivlin said on Wednesday in the West Bank settlement of Kiryat Arba.
“We will make a huge mistake if we do not settle Hebron,” a city which neighbors Jerusalem and is its historical predecessor," he said.The president added that Hebron’s Jewish community must grow as quickly as possible. He then called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to authorize a new neighborhood in the city.
Rivlin spoke knowing that Netanyahy is under pressure by the Right to authorize Jewish construction at the site of the market stalls in the Avraham Avinu neighborhood.
“Hebron is not an obstacle to peace. It is a test of our ability to live together, Jews and Arabs, to live decent lives side by side,” Rivlin said. He issued his words at the Jabotinsky Institute's conference in Kiryat Arba, in advance of a visit by Netanyahu to nearby Hebron to mark the 90th anniversary of the massacre in which 67 Jews were murdered.
Rivlin spoke of the close connections between his family and Hebron, noting that his grandfather Eliyahu Yosef Rivlin was considered one of the founders of Chabad in the city, even though he lived in Jerusalem.
“I was born in Jerusalem, exactly 10 years after the horrible events,” Rivlin said, also recalling that he was one of the first soldiers to liberate the city and enter the Tomb of the Patriarchs during the Six-Day War.
“Here in Hebron, the City of the Patriarchs, in a cave that was bought for full price, our right to this land was established as just and moral, a right to property over which is and will always be uncontestable,” Rivlin said, as he referenced Abraham’s purchase of the Tomb that is recorded in the Bible.
“From that time and until the brutal massacre of 1929, the city was one of the four holy cities with continuous Jewish settlement that was renewed again after the victory in the Six-Day War,” Rivlin said.
In recent years, historians have tried to rationalize the 1929 Hebron massacre, to make it appears as if only the Jewish Zionists in the city were targeted, Rivlin said. These claims have no basis in reality, he explained.
“These claims are totally unfounded," the president said. "The riots of 1929 were directed against all Jews of all views, simply because they were Jews. No distinction was made. It was indeed Zionism that concluded after the terrible massacre that times had changed, that we would forever have to protect ourselves by our own means, and that all Jews are responsible for each other’s safety.
“And as Jabotinsky said the day after the massacre: ‘Zionism demands we build this country, but we will not be able to do so unless it is on the basis of security for which we ourselves will be responsible.’ This was the lessons of the 1929 riots, not their cause,” he added.
Rivlin received resounding applause when he thanked the Jews who settled in Hebron in the aftermath of the Six-Day War. He described those settlers as people of “devotion, love of the land of Israel and love of the people of Israel.”
From the conference Rivlin visited the Tomb of the Patriarchs, before leaving the city. He did not attend the state ceremony with Netanyahu later in the afternoon.