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Hezekiyah Neighborhood to be Rebuilt in Hebron

Hezekiyah Neighborhood to be Rebuilt in Hebron

Israeli government approved 31 new housing units.

hezekiyah quarter hebron

After nearly two decades, the Jewish Community of Hebron has finally obtained building permits to renew the historic Hezekiyah (Hezkiyahu) quarter. The Defense Ministry’s Civil Administration, which governs civilian life in Judea and Samaria, issued 31 building permits this week for a planned housing project in the Jewish community of Hebron. Unlike other areas of Israel, Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria must obtain extra military approval for any building or renovation.

The community issued a press release stating,

"Building in the City of the Patriarchs by the Israeli government is a Zionist, just, necessary and blessed step. Upon receiving the building permit for the Hezekiah Quarter, we congratulate and thank the Prime Minister and all the ministers, Knesset members and public figures who worked with determination and dedication together with us to advance the building permit.

However, in light of certain conditions and in light of the anticipated appeal of the PA Hebron Municipality, headed by a terrorist and a convicted murderer, we expect the Government of Israel to continue to insist on the right to build in the City of the Patriarchs without delay."

The reference to the convicted murderer is recently elected mayor of the PA controlled side of Hebron, Tayseer Abu Sneinah, who participated in the ambush attack that killed six people and wounded a dozen others in 1980. He was released in a prisoner exchange deal and subsequently rose to power in the ranks of the Palestinian Authority.

The Hezekiyah neighborhood is in the historic Jewish quarter of the city, just outside what was once referred to as the "Jewish ghetto" by literature of 100 years ago. The main existing structure is Beit Romano, a large building which today houses the Shavei Hevron yeshiva, a flagship institution of religious Zionism and home to several hundred students from around the country.

The building has its roots in 1876 when Hayyim Yisrael Romano built a specious residential building outside the Jewish Quarter, complete with a synagogue and study hall.

It was here that Rabbi Hayyim Hizkiyahu Medini completed his monumental Talmudic encyclopedia Sde Hemed, studied and taught Torah between the years 1901-1905. The Sde Hemed, as he was known, served as chief Sephardic rabbi of the city and is buried in the ancient cemetery.

In 1912, the fifth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Sholom Dovber Schneersohn of the Chabad movement, purchased the building along with the surrounding grounds and established the Torat Emet Yeshiva. The original Ottoman land deeds (kushan) are currently displayed in the building along with other legal documents and photos of the famous rabbis who lived and taught on site.

During World War I, when the British defeated the Turks in 1917 and took control of the Land of Israel, they converted the facility into the headquarters of the British police.

After the 1929 Hebron massacre, the bodies of the Jewish victims, as well as the wounded and survivors were held at the site prior to their expulsion from the city.

In 1948, the Jordanian capture Hebron and the building was used as a school and a bus terminal was built next to it.

When city finally returned to Jewish hands in the Six Day War of 1967, the seventh Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, turned over all rights to previously held Chabad property to the nascent Jewish settlement, giving his blessing to the young families seeking to repopulate the neighborhoods.

However many in the Israeli government were less than eager to open the floodgates to the young enthusiastic Jewish idealists. Several properties were leased to the existing Arab tenants.

It took a stabbing attack by a terrorist in 1981 to propel the Israeli government to return to building was returned to Jewish hands, and by 1982 the Hizkiyahu neighborhood was established along with Yeshivat Shavei Hevron. 

To accommodate the growing demand by young families, temporary caravan homes, similar to a trailer park, were established to the site, despite bureaucratic opposition. Future development plans were drawn up for a 7-story building with 28 apartments including a nursery school, medical clinic, underground parking and open public space. Now with the official building permits finally secured, the new approval of 31 units may finally be realized, thus easing the demand of housing and reclaiming the areas once populated by a thriving Jewish community generations ago.

Yishai Fleisher, international spokesman for the Jewish community of Hebron told the Times of Israel, there was a general linkage between the approvals and this summer's UNESCO vote against Hebron's Jewish community. Israel's response was to cut funding to the United nations body and this past week, leave the organization, following the United State's example.

"The response to the narrative that suggests that we are foreigners here is not just to pull out of UNESCO, but also to strengthen Jewish presence in Hebron,”Fleisher said.

In July, UNESCO - the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization voted on a Palestinian Authority proposal to declare Hebron's Tomb of Machpela and old city a "Palestinian Heritage site in danger." Scant mention of any Jewish connection was made in the proposal. UNESCO similarly voted on resolutions denying Jewish connection to the Temple Mount and old city of Jerusalem. This bias led the United States to downgrade its status from full-fledged dues-paying member, to a mere observer state in October. Israel followed suit a day later.

The past several months has been newsworthy for Hebron with the building plan announcement, the UNESCO issue and the 30,000 visitors during Succot. Not to be overlooked was the granting of independent municipal status.

Since the 1997 Hebron Accords, the city has been divided into H1 and H2 sections, with H1, comprising 80% of the city under Palestinian Authority jurisdiction, of the 20% under Israeli control, civilians are allowed only in the Jewish neighborhoods and barred from the rest of the old city, including historic sites.

At the end of August, the Israeli government granted the Jewish community official status as an independent municipality divorced from the Palestinian Authority's Hebron Municipality. Now, the 1,000 strong Jewish neighborhoods will have their own independent jurisdiction over city services which previously have been denied.

H1 Hebron is home to some 200,000 residents, making it the largest city in the PA autonomous areas in terms of both population and land size. It is also the richest, being the economic and manufacturing center of the region. In stark contrast to H2, the PA side of Hebron boasts multi-story shopping plazas, a football stadium, universities, hospitals and more. It is also considered one of the most conservative and religious cities in the PA, with no movie theaters or late night entertainment spots, unlike the more cosmopolitan Ramallah, where the PA government is located.

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Article originally published on en.hebron.org.il on 10/17/2017 here

30,000 Visit Holy, Historic, Happening Hebron over Succot

30,000 Visit Holy, Historic, Happening Hebron over Succot

Despite early morning rain, tens of thousands flocked to Hebron for the concert.

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In an ironic twist the same week that over 30,000 people visited Hebron, the city became a focal point of the United States leaving UNESCO.

International media referenced Hebron as one of the points that finally pushed the Trump Administration to downgrade is membership from a full-fledged dues paying member of the United Nations body to a minor observer state status. Israel followed suit the same day.

In July, UNESCO United Nations Organization for Education, Science and Cultural Organization voted to declared Hebron's Tomb of Machpela and old city as a "Palestinian Heritage site in danger." Earlier in May, the UN body voted for a resolution on "Occupied Palestine" declaring sites in Jerusalem, such as the Temple Mount as Muslim only in character. They were the latest in a series of votes over the past several years denying Israel's Jewish heritage and bowing to the Palestinian Authority's campaign to use international bodies for their own propaganda advantages.

Meanwhile, on the ground, tens of thousands of Israelis voted with their feet as they sang and danced in the streets of Hebron's Old City and visited the historical Jewish sites.

The main attraction of the festival was the concert headlined Benny Friedman, the best selling Jewish-American singer known for hits like Yesh Tikvah and Shloime Dachs, also from the United States.

Other musicians included Haim Israel, a popular Mizrachi style Israeli singer who performs every year and Udi Davidi who hails from the Southern Hebron Hills region and is a local favorite. New acts this year included Tzemed Yeled, a children's group and a Jewish pop band called Omen.

Music wasn't the only attraction. The recently opened archeological dig in the Tel Hevron neighborhood saw numerous tourists. Excavated by the Israeli Antiquities Authority, the remains include a 2,000 year old mikvah and wine press next to each other, indicating the site was used to produce kosher wine for export to Jerusalem to be used in the Holy Temple.

The archeological tour included rogram of biblical experience that included grape bites, pottery, meeting with historical figures, actors, inflatable and more, all for free.

The Hall of Isaac and Rebecca, the largest in the monumental Tomb of Machpela was open to the general public for two days over Succot. This section of the Cave of the Patriarchs complex is usually reserved for Muslim prayer services, however a sharing agreement with the Islamic Waqf allows for ten days out of the year for Jewish access.

The Tomb of Machpela is the burial place of the Jewish Matriarchs and Patriarchs, housed in a towering 2,000 year old structure built by King Herod the Great. The site attracts about 800,000 visitors a year, especially on Succot and Passover when the community hosts music festivals.

The city of Hebron houses many holy sites and ancient graves such as the cave of Othniel Ben Knaz, which saw some 1,500 people during Succot. The first of the Biblical Judges, Othniel assumed leadership of the Jewish people as described in the Book of Joshua. His tomb is located in the PA-controlled section of Hebron and is only accessible to non-PA residents on holidays. The multi-chambered burial cave corresponds to how the Mishna, in Bava Batra 101, describes the traditional burial practices of the Jewish people in that time period.

The day after Succot was Simchat Torah and the annual "second hakafot" celebration brought more crowds to the site for an evening celebration.

Prior to Succot, the other High Holidays, Rosh Hashannah, and Yom Kippur, also brought tens of thousands to the city. The third annual Women's prayer gathering filled the plaza outside the Tomb of Machpela during the Ten Days of Repentance, and a day before, israel's two chief rabbis, led slichot services.

The Jewish Community of Hebron dates back to antiquity and currently has a population of about 1,000 located in the old city, which recently was granted independent status from the Palestinian Authority controlled section of the city, where the main industrial areas, sports stadium and shopping malls are located. The adjacent Jewish community of Kiryat Arba has an additional 8,000 residents.

The other news item that rocked the press over the high holidays was the announcement that the Jewish Community of Hebron will now finally be divorced from the Palestinian Authority, which controls 80% of the city. Now, the 1,000 strong Jewish neighborhoods will have their own independent jurisdiction over garbage pick-up, electricity, street maintenance and other daily necessities which previously have been denied. The announcement caused an uproar in the Palestinian Authority who ironically cried discrimination, which it is they who have discriminated against the Jewish neighborhoods with lack of city services.

The news coincided with the Israeli government's announcement of building plans for a slew of communities in Judea and Samaria, including Hebron, making it the first approved building project in twenty years in the city, Despite a strong demand for new housing and a plethora of empty and abandoned properties, the Jewish residents have faced a bureaucratic nightmare in obtaining zoning permits. Properties that formerly belonged to the pre-state Jewish community have been barred from being returned, and buildings purchased from Arab residents have been contested in court.

The Jewish Community of Hebron welcomed the announcement and called for greater building permits for the fast-growing families and young couples.

Uri Karzen, director of the Jewish Community of Hebron stated, "we hope that the construction will commence in a timely manner, specifically in the Hezekiah neighborhood."

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Article originally published on en.hebron.org.il on 10/17/2017 here

Hebron Fund Calendar 5778

Take a sneak peek at the NEW 16 month Hebron Fund Calendar for 2017/2018

Click here to donate to the Hebron Fund High Holiday Campaign and receive both an electronic version and printed copy of the 2017-2018 / 5778 Hebron Fund Calendar‚Äč 

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Wishing you and your family a Healthy, Happy and Peaceful Sweet New Year!