March 26, 2007
Last week Hebron's Jewish community received a green light from its attorneys, Eitan Geva and Nadav HaEtzni. The deal was completed to their satisfaction. We could move in.
The community purchased a 4,000 sq. meter structure, overlooking the road between Hebron and Kiryat Arba. A complicated and expensive affair which took several years to conclude, the building was purchased from its previous owner for approximately $700,000 through an office in Jordan.
As soon as the final legalities were finished, it was decided to take possession of the newly-owned property. A group of students from Yeshivat Shavei Hevron, together with Hebron community residents, moved in.
Such a transaction, anywhere else in the world, would not even make the local papers. People buy and sell property every day, not only for hundreds of thousands of dollars, but for millions of dollars. However, Hebron is different. Purchase of a building in Hebron makes international headlines. "Isn't this a provocation?" "Is the community trying to expand?" "Why did you take over a 'palestinian' house?"
Let's take one question at a time: An Arab contractor claims the building belongs to him and says he has the papers to prove it.
Any Arab suspected of selling property to Jews is considered to have committed a capital crime, the punishment for which is death. A year ago Muhammad Abu al-Hawa was killed for such a crime. "Fatah gunmen in Jericho have claimed responsibility for the murder, condemning the victim as a "traitor." In a leaflet, the gunmen threatened to kill any Arab who dares to sell his house to Jews." (The Jerusalem Post, April 16, 2006).
To further prove the point, a few days ago, while being interviewed by CNN correspondent Ben Weidman, an Arab woman interrupted our conversation, speaking to him in Arabic at a rapid pace. When she had concluded I queried, "what did she say." Weidman replied that she wants copies of the sales documents in order to put the seller on trial. Another Arab resident of the area told Ga'alie Tzahal radio journalist Guy Varon, "If the Jews really did buy it, all the more power to them. But we will find the seller and chop him up into tiny pieces."
This being the case, any Arab who is suspected of dealing with Jews, immediately yells 'counterfeit' – I didn't do it! In this particular instance, however, the Arab in question really did sell the property, but he didn't know it was being sold to Jews. He thought the deal was with another Arab. To prove the point, the police have been given a video of him counting the money.
Is the community trying to expand? There are dozens of families on a waiting list to live in Hebron. The first generation's children are marrying and many of them wish to reside in Hebron. However, there are no available apartments. In order to build in Hebron (on empty, undisputed Jewish-owned property) permits reaching the heights of the Defense minister must be obtained. Given the current political climate, such permits are very difficult to receive. Purchasing from Arabs is dangerous (for them), expensive, and very intricate. It isn't often that a seller is found and a workable deal formulated. However, if such an occurrence presents itself, why not? Because we are Jews? Should a Jew be prevented from purchasing property in Hebron, Maryland, or any of the other 11 Hebrons in North America because he was Jewish, headlines and legal actions due to racism and anti-Semitism would be immediate. Why is it that only in the original Hebron, the first Jewish city in Israel, should Jews be forbidden from legally purchasing a building, only because we are Jewish? Why should such a purchase be considered a provocation?
How does this building affect security in the region? According to high-ranking officers, this structure, which was previously used by the IDF to station guards, will only enhance the area's security due to its strategic location between Hebron and Kiryat Arba.
It is important to note: There are all kinds of rumors floating around, of various sorts and sizes. According to our sources, a police investigation has determined that the sale was fully 'legal.' However, the Defense Minister, Amir Peretz isn't overly interested in legalities and wants us out. He may very well be looking for an excuse to issue an expulsion order. Clearly, any such order could only be defined as racist and anti-Semitic. The Arabs can renovate, build and purchase as much as they so desire. Only Jews, because they are Jews, must be prevented from all of the above. This is, of course, an unacceptable exploitation of authority for political reasons, despite the validity of the purchase.
Finally, this building has been named "Beit HaShalom" – the House of Peace. It is our fervent desire to live in Hebron peacefully with our neighbors. We seek neither violence nor confrontation. But we do demand the right, our legitimate right, to continue to live in the city of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs. This year marks the fortieth anniversary of Israel's return to Hebron in the 1967 Six-day war. What better a way to commence this celebration than to purchase and populate a new building in Hebron!