Apartments in the Heart of Hebron Renovated for Jewish Occupancy

The Gush Emunim chalked up a victory with serious political implications yesterday when 13 apartments, renovated for Jewish occupancy, were consecrated at a religious ceremony in the heart of Hebron.

Deputy Premier and Housing Minister David Levy (Likud-Herut) said at the ceremonies that additional construction for Jews will begin immediately in a nearby courtyard. The Housing Ministry invested about $1 million this year for construction of Jewish flats in Hebron.

Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin (Labor) told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Security Committee yesterday that he is firmly opposed to Jewish settlement in Hebron but is forced to abide by the terms of the coalition agreement under which the Labor Party and Likud formed their unity government last year.

The coalition agreement does not extend to Tel Rumeida and other parts of Hebron where the Gush Emunim have repeatedly tried to put up Jewish settlements.

The flats on which Sephardic Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliahu affixed mezuzahs yesterday are in 19th century buildings known as the Bet Hadassah and Bet Hasson complexes. They remained Jewish property after the Jewish population fled Hebron during the 1929 Arab uprising. The Gush Emunim have long claimed the right of Jews to resettle there.

In 1979, a group of women and children, headed by Miriam Levinger, wife of Gush Emunim leader Rabbi Moshe Levinger, moved into the Bet Hadassah building. They remained there for nine months, guarded by Israeli troops. The Likud-led government of Premier Menachem Begin made no attempt to evict them, although the move was clearly illegal. Since then, other Jewish squatters, including Levinger himself, have occupied the premises.

RETURNING TO ‘LAND OF OUR FOREFATHERS’

Levy said that “in consecrating homes in Hebron, we are returning to the land of our forefathers.” Referring to peace efforts in the region, he declared, “We will make peace with (the land of) Israel.”

The Housing Ministry has completed plans for II more apartments and a center for “Land of Israel” studies in the courtyard of the Avraham Avinu synagogue in Hebron. The project architect, Saadia Mendel, said in a television interview that he considers the building plans an expression of political positions. He said he planned the new buildings as an integral part of the Moslem quarter of Hebron.

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