JERUSALEM – Fresh from bulldozing a synagogue near Judaism’s third holiest site, destroying another synagogue near Judaism’s second holiest site and calling up 3,000 soldiers to forcibly evict two Jewish families from a Jewish market, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s government now has ordered a rabbi and his mobile yeshiva to vacate Hebron, the oldest Jewish city.
Rabbi Danny Cohen, an emissary to Hebron for the Chabad Lubavitch Worldwide Jewish Outreach Movement, says he was surprised when earlier this week he received an eviction notice from the Israeli government demanding he remove his mobile structure from the city.
Cohen teaches Torah and organizes prayer quarams for Hebron residents from his headquarters – a mobile trailer parked in Hebron’s Jewish neighborhood. The rabbi says he was forced to set up religious shop in the trailer because of extreme Israeli government regulations against building new Jewish structures in Hebron, an important biblical city that once served as the Jewish capital.
Hebron is home to the Tomb of the Patriarchs, the second holiest site in Judaism. The tomb is believed to be the resting place of the biblical patriarchs and matriarchs Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca and Leah.
While rampant illegal construction in Arab sections of Hebron remains largely unregulated, the Israeli government strictly enforces construction regulations in the city’s Jewish sections, which are cordoned off to about 25 percent of Hebron’s territory; the rest of Hebron is Arab.
“We were compelled to buy this mobile unit, because it is forbidden to erect new structures in Hebron, and now they want us to move his too,” he stated.
“In Hebron one can witness outright discrimination. While Arabs have been building as much as they want, Jews are forbidden to build even the smallest structure. This mobile unit is not a permanent building and still the authorities ordered the emissaries not to use it in the city,” Cohen said.
Cohen said he would petition the Israeli court system for permission to remain in his trailer in the city and was hopeful he could stay.
The saga comes just after Olmert’s government earlier this week mobilized 3,000 soldiers who forcibly evicted two Jewish families from a Jewish market in Hebron.
The government maintains the families’ residency in Hebron was illegal, since their arrival wasn’t coordinated with the Israeli military. The families say they moved in after the military reneged on an agreement.
The families’ eviction was widely regarded in Israel as the opening salvo of more planned major evacuations of Jews living in the West Bank’s biblical Jewish communities.
The structure, now converted to small, two-story apartments, was built in 1929 after Arab riots temporarily forced Jews from Hebron – the first time the city was without a Jewish presence in over 2,500 years. For more than 30 years, a sign was posted on the market boasting in Arabic that the structure was built on stolen Jewish property.
Arab merchants illegally set up shop at the market but were asked by the Israel Defense Forces to leave after a series of clashes broke out in the mid-1990s. Even though the market was stolen by the Arabs, Hebron’s Jewish community purchased it from its original Arab occupants in 2001.
In January 2006, Jewish families took up occupancy to strengthen Jewish ties to the area following the murder of an infant by a Palestinian sniper, yards away from the market.
The market, integrated within the Hebron Jewish community, is adjacent to several Jewish apartments and Jewish municipal buildings. It is not located in an Arab neighborhood. It doesn’t require any additional protection from IDF soldiers already patrolling the area.
Despite the original property owners’ recent signing over of the market to Hebron’s Jewish community, as well as Israel’s Supreme Court ruling that the structure was Jewish-owned, the government considers the occupancy of the marketplace illegal, saying families living inside did not negotiate their arrival with the IDF.
Following a standoff with the army last year, the Jews who had moved into the market decided to leave, reportedly after receiving promises from military officials they could return a few months later, after the court systems – which deemed the property Jewish – worked with the IDF to verify the legality of the Jewish residence.
But Israel’s attorney general overturned the Supreme Court decision and declared the residents cannot move in.
Still, two Jewish families recently moved back in. Israeli security forcibly removed them Monday.
Aside from evicting the two Jewish families, Israeli forces, acting on orders from the government, destroyed a synagogue in the area, since the structure was not built with a government permit.
Last week, Israeli forces also destroyed a synagogue near Joseph’s Tomb, Judaism’s third holiest site, since that synagogue, like the one in Hebron, was built without a government permit. The tomb is the believed burial place of the biblical patriarch Joseph – the son of Jacob who was sold by his brothers into slavery and later became the viceroy of Egypt.
Olmert’s decision to single out for evacuation two Jewish families living in Jewish sections of Hebron has been called into question by religious leaders here.
While Jewish construction projects deemed illegal in Jewish cities in the West Bank are regularly bulldozed or evacuated by the government, Olmert’s office has taken no action against hundreds of thousands of Palestinians living in illegal outposts in the West Bank and Jerusalem.
WND also previously reported the city of Jerusalem, under orders from Olmert, deleted files documenting hundreds of illegal Arab building projects throughout eastern sections of Jerusalem housing tens of thousands of Palestinians, according to a report by the Jerusalem Forum, which promotes Jewish construction in the city.
Aryeh King, chairman of the Jerusalem Forum, said Jerusalem municipal workers told him they were instructed by Olmert’s office to ignore illegal Palestinian construction in Jerusalem.
“Ehud Olmert gave the order not to deal with the problem and not to put Israeli security forces to the duty of taking down the illegal Arab complexes,” said King. “Senior municipal workers told me Olmert said not to bother with the illegal Arab homes because eventually eastern Jerusalem would be given to the Palestinian Authority.”
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