Barak OKs Hebron Yeshiva dorm project

Approval of 1st Jewish construction in city since '01 comes ahead of UN debate on W. Bank settlements.

hebron yeshiva 224.88 (photo credit: Courtesy )
hebron yeshiva 224.88
(photo credit: Courtesy )
For the first time in more than six years, the Defense Ministry has approved a construction project in Hebron, where every centimeter of new space for the Jewish community is hotly contested by left wing groups and Palestinians. Although the project is minor - the expansion of a dormitory for the Shavei Hebron Yeshiva, which has existed there since 1982 - it comes a week before the United Nations Security Council is set to debate the text of a resolution against settlement construction in the West Bank. Palestinians who continue to call for a return by Israel to the pre-1967 border have not spoken out against the Hebron project but have in the past said that all new construction in the West Bank harms the work now underway to achieve an agreement by the end of 2008. Peace Now, an NGO which monitors settlement activity, condemned the move. "The Defense Minister is giving the settlers everything they ask for and is avoiding any confrontation with them," said Hagit Ofran, who heads the Peace Now settlement-watch team. The Prime Minister's office said it had no response to the move. The Defense Ministry downplayed the matter by stating that at issue was not new construction but rather the extension of an existing building. The acting head of the Yeshiva, Rabbi Hananel Etrog, said that the project, which had initially been approved, had been halted by a petition to the High Court of Justice. Since 2002 the yeshiva has worked to obtain new permits for the projects. The expansion would not increase the 250 member student body, but would relieve the severe overcrowding that now exists in the dorm, where in some cases they have 14 students to a room, Etrog said. The situation is so dire that some of the students coming for the summer program will have to sleep in the hallways, he added. He also stated that the yeshiva supports the state and respects the law. A representative for the yeshiva who did not want to be named said that the organization had yet to formally receive the permit but understood that it had indeed been approved. The last Hebron project approved was in November 2001, for a new apartment building in the Tel Rumeida section of the city. Since then families in Hebron have failed to obtain both permits for a number of expansion projects and legal permission to acquire new property. In a number of cases, settlers were forcibly removed from buildings they had moved into.