Rattling the cage: Gentrifying Hebron

Do normal Israeli Jews go to Jewish Hebron? Of course not, and it's not just because of the danger.

larry derfner 88 (photo credit: )
larry derfner 88
(photo credit: )
So, have the Hebron settlers given a name to the former Arab souk where the eight Jewish families are living, where they're throwing all manner of garbage and shrieking every kind of abuse at the police trying to get them to leave? What they should call it - and I'm sure they'll welcome the idea - is "Baruch Goldstein Street." After all, they owe those liberated Jewish homes in the old souk to him. It was after Goldstein's slaughter of 29 Palestinian men and boys praying in the Tomb of the Patriarchs that the IDF shut down all the shops in the souk, forcing the Palestinian merchants out of business - for their own protection, of course. To prevent friction between them and their Jewish neighbors, who would be staying on. Seven years later, after the baby girl Shalhevet Pass was murdered by a Palestinian sniper, the settlers moved into the shuttered Arab shops and made themselves at home. The murder of a Jewish infant by a Palestinian terrorist demanded a proper response. Especially since the response to the murder of 29 Palestinian penitents by a Jewish terrorist from Kiryat Arba clearly hadn't been proper enough. Doesn't this make your Jewish heart proud? To see a pack of crazies, every single one of whom reveres Goldstein as a tzaddik, spewing filth at Israeli soldiers and police, burning Palestinian property and gleefully assaulting Palestinian children on their way to school - in Hebron, of all places? Do you imagine Abraham would want to live there today? The settlers have decided that they're entitled to the run of the souk because it was owned by Jews before the 1929 Hebron pogrom in which 67 Jews were savagely killed. But who made them the inheritors? And if they think Jews have the rightful claim on once-Jewish-owned property in Hebron that was taken over by Arabs, what about all the once-Arab-owned property across Israel that was taken over by Jews? Look at the glorious old Arab mansions in Jewish Jerusalem - they weren't built by Montefiore. They were built by Arab families who fled in the 1948 War of Independence and were never allowed back in the country and never compensated for their property. The same goes for about 700,000 other Palestinians who lost their homes in that war. The overwhelming majority were not fighters, and many of them didn't flee - they were expelled at gunpoint. Should modern-day Palestinian settlers have the right to move onto that land and into the homes where Israeli Jews live today? THIS IS the logic, only in reverse, of the Hebron Jewish fanatics who intimidate everyone in their path. They're out to settle every score in Jewish history, to pick every possible fight, to right every wrong ever done to any Israelite by any Ishmaelite, because as far as they're concerned, it's still 1929. Or 70 CE, or 586 BCE. Or maybe 1933-1945. The War of Independence, the Six Day War - they never happened. The Arabs won, they're still winning. Amalek is at our throats. So quick, a proper response. Seeing Hebron, it's funny to think that Kach and Kahane Chai, aside from being outlawed in the US as terrorist organizations, are outlawed in Israel as racist organizations. Hebron is the capital of the Kahane movement. There are Kach symbols and "Kahane was right" graffiti all over the place, and the police don't even bother to erase it, let alone try to arrest anybody. Itamar Ben-Gvir runs around giving interviews while Baruch Marzel runs for Knesset. Which Jews visit Hebron anymore? Fanatics, people who identify with the settlers, with Goldstein. Maybe some non-fanatic Jewish tourists go there for a whiff of danger and excitement, and they get proselytized by the smiling, friendly, deceitful Hebron representatives, so if they aren't fanatics when they come to visit, they might well be when they leave. Do normal Israeli Jews go to Jewish Hebron? Of course not, and it's not just because of the danger, it's also because for them, Jewish Hebron has the darkest possible associations. For normal Israelis, Hebron doesn't stand out as the city of Abraham, it stands out as the city of Baruch Goldstein, of the Jewish terror underground, of brainwashed Jewish children, of mob rule, murderous plots and genocidal dreams. Still, Israelis are reluctant to simply say, To hell with it, drag the meshigges out of there and give the whole town back to the Palestinians. I'm reluctant to say it, too. Hebron isn't just any Jewish town, and the Tomb of the Patriarchs isn't just any Jewish gravesite. This is a major national dilemma. You can't build the West Bank security barrier around the ancient Jewish part of the city, with its several hundred settlers, and annex it to Israel. And while I would like any future division of the West Bank to assure Jews free access to the Tomb of the Patriarchs - with no settlers living in the city, and no legions of Israeli soldiers and police protecting them - I know this may not be workable. When it comes time to divide the West Bank, Israel may be faced with the choice of either giving up Hebron, all of it, or going on indefinitely with the occupation. In such a case, I'd say give up Hebron. Better to keep it as a memory of Jewish purity than an endless source of Jewish shame.