Ancient city of Hebron to see first Israeli construction in 16 years

On Sunday afternoon, Israel’s government approved for the first time in 16 years a budget for building new Jewish homes in Hebron.

By David Isaac, World Israel News

On Sunday, Oct. 14, the Israeli government approved a budget of roughly $6 million for a 31-unit housing complex to be built in the city of Hebron, located in the hill country of Judea. It is the first approved construction in 16 years.

Yishai Fleisher, international spokesman for the Hebron Jewish community, praised the government’s decision. “The Jewish community of Hebron thanks the Government of Israel for its determined decision to build, in a joint effort, the City of the Patriarchs of the Jewish people, as a victorious answer to all deniers of Jewish history. We deeply thank all the ministers who helped make this important decision happen,” he said.

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman also hailed the decision as an “important milestone.”

“A new Jewish neighborhood in Hebron, for the first time in 20 years! Instead of a military camp, we will build a new neighborhood, with space for 31 apartments, 2 kindergartens and a dormitory,” Lieberman said in a statement.

The Hebron Jewish community has been urging the government to approve more construction for years. In 2017, following a ruling by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, Cultural Organization (UNESCO) that labeled the Tomb of the Patriarchs an endangered Palestinian world heritage site, the community issued a statement that called for lifting the freeze on Jewish building in Hebron and increasing the Israel’s presence there.

The project will be in the “Hezekiah Quarter,” named after Rabbi Chaim Hezekiah Medini, a Torah legend who lived in the city. Six families currently live in the area in caravan-style trailers near  the Shavei Hebron Yeshiva and an Israeli army base called Plugat Hamitkanim.

Referring to Hebron as a “Palestinian city,” the left-wing organization Peace Now, which had submitted an appeal against the construction’s approval, criticized the decision.

“The government is again wasting millions of shekels of public funds in order to placate a fringe radical minority. The settlement that is most damaging to Israel’s reputation is Hebron, and instead of evacuating it, it appears that the government is trying by force to further entangle Israel and to exacerbate the conflict,” the organization’s statement read.

Eighty Jewish families live in Hebron, which is overwhelmingly made up of Arab residents. In 1929, a small community of  700 Jews lived in the Hebron area, but were forced to evacuate following a massacre by Muslim residents.

Hebron, a city rich in Jewish history, has been the sight of ongoing conflict between Jews and Arabs. According to the Bible, it is where Abraham, the first patriarch, purchased land as a burial plot. It was also the seat of King David’s government for the first seven years of his rule.