Hebron Settlers Insist It Must Be Religious Community

A dispute has developed between Orthodox Jewish settlers in Hebron and the Housing Ministry over who can live in the new Jewish quarter being built by the Government in that West Bank, formerly all-Arab town. Housing Minister Zeev Sharef said that he was advising young couples who could not find flats in Jerusalem to apply for one of the new housing units rising in Hebron. Sharef made it clear that the group calling itself the “Hebron Settlers” will not decide who is and who is not eligible for housing there. The Housing Ministry has taken the view that the new quarter, to be called Kiryat Arba, should reflect the average composition of the Israeli population and not any single community. Leaders of the Hebron settlers, all Orthodox Jews, have denounced the plan. They insist that Kiryat Arba must become an exclusively religious settlement or, as they put it, a “tradition bound community” which means enforced observance of the Sabbath and other religious customs.

They said however that they did not object in principle to non-religious settlers, apparently as long as they submitted to religious rules. The Kiryat Arba project was originally initiated against the government’s own wishes under pressure from the religious parties and the nationalist Herut faction. The Hebron settlers established themselves in the town two years ago in defiance of Military Government orders. They were quartered in an Arab hotel and later moved into the Military Government compound for protection. They and their supporters have been agitating ever since for adequate housing which the government finally agreed to build with public funds.

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