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Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Another 'Amona' Coming in Hevron?

In January, the Jews of Hevron voluntarily evacuated homes that they had taken over in the Hevron marketplace four years ago. There may have been an agreement - it is now a matter of dispute - that in the future the government would consider allowing the expansion of the living quarters of the Jewish community. The alleged agreement was reached at the same time that 'Amona' was being forcibly dismantled.

Subsequently, a building in the marketplace was purchased and three Jewish families moved in. Outgoing Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz has ordered that building evacuated the Jews in that building be expelled, but the three families - twenty-five persons in all - appealed to the 'Supreme Court' sitting as a 'High Court of Justice' and a hearing on the issue is to be held tomorrow morning. The three families have said that they will not leave voluntarily.

The newly purchased building, named Beit Shapira, is located along the route leading from Hevron's Avraham Avinu neighborhood to the "Cave of the Patriarchs" (מערת המכפלה), which contains the graves of the Biblical patriarchs and matriarchs - Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebecca, Jacob, and Leah, as well as the first man and woman, Adam and Eve.

The three-story building was purchased from a local Arab who has since left the city. Due to the sale, his life is now in danger from the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority.

"We purchased two buildings in Hevron in recent years," explains Hevron spokesman David Wilder. "One was in Tel Rumeida. That purchase was actualized, with families moving in over a year ago. Nobody has been able to find any legal problems with it and the people continue to live there happily. The second building's purchase was concluded a few weeks ago and when we got the green light from our lawyers, it was populated."

During the course of a single night in April, three families moved into the building.

Arutz Sheva has more details:
Two of the families voluntarily evacuated the Shalhevet Neighborhood, located in the Hevron marketplace, in February. They left on their own, as part of a deal struck with the IDF under threat of a forced eviction.

At the time, a Supreme Court ruling affirmed the Jewish ownership of the marketplace property, but insisted on evacuating the 11 families residing there as repercussions for the resettlement of the property without government approval. According to the eleventh hour deal, other Jewish families from Hevron who did not originally populate the neighborhood would be allowed to inhabit the marketplace at a later date.

Attorney General Menachem Mazuz recently denied that the agreement was binding.

Now, eight weeks following the Shalhevet Neighborhood standoff, the three families that entered Beit Shapira, are facing the threat of eviction once again. Shortly after their entrance, security forces, including Yassam riot police arrived [the police who perpetrated most of the beatings at 'Amona' CiJ]. Jewish community leaders promptly submitted proof of ownership of the formerly Arab building to senior IDF officers and Civil Administration officials. Unable to find any problems with the documentation, they left together with the security forces.

"Everything was done legally," Wilder explains.

"We crossed all the T's and dotted all the I's, working hand in hand with attorneys specializing in such matters the whole way so as not to give the government any excuse to cause us problems."

When a building is populated in Judea and Samaria, following its sale or construction, the government has 30 days to declare that it is suspected of being illegal or problematic and to evict the residents. "After 30 days, it becomes a much more difficult task for them," Wilder said.

Saturday night at midnight the 30 days will be up.

"We have now been notified that, despite the legality of everything, if we do not leave willingly by Thursday, the residents will be expelled," a local resident named Eyal explains. "I do not envy the policeman that tries to take us out of here," he added, knocking on one of the iron doors affixed to each of the buildings doorways.


Prior to the marketplace deal, many residents argued that Hevron is a symbol in Israel and worldwide, and that abandoning the legally acquired homes would demoralize the nation. They argued that without resistance in Hevron, places like Amona would be sold out by the Yesha Council, who would agree to demolish homes themselves in return for empty promises.

As it turns out, Amona became the symbol of resistance in Hevron's stead, due to the government's unwillingness to make a deal with the Yesha Council to "move" the homes to nearby Ofra. In Amona, over 300 were injured in violent clashes with mounted police and special baton-wielding riot personnel over the demolition of nine homes.

Hevron residents now say there is no chance they will fall for the same trick twice. "There will be no deal with regard to this building," Rabbi Shlissel promises.

The building is named after 48-year-old Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchak Shapira, who was murdered by an Arab terrorist directly outside while returning from Sukkot Festival prayers at the Cave of the Patriarchs in September, 2002. [Rabbi Shapira HY"D was a resident of the Ramot neighborhood in Jerusalem. His widow works at my daughter's school. More from the small world department... CiJ]

His three children, also injured in the attack, witnessed their father crying the last words, "Shema Yisrael Ad-nai El-henu Ad-nai Echad" (Hear Israel! The L-rd is our G-d, the L-rd is One!). This Jewish declaration of faith is uttered daily and at the very end of one’s life, defying the murderers throughout history with the rallying cry of the Jewish soul.

The enormous solid-stone building was built in the 1850s and can be seen standing alone in video footage of the area from the early 1900s. Beit Shapira features beautiful winding staircases and stone arches, but it was filled with garbage and rubble until last month, when the purchase was finalized.

One Man’s Trash is Another Man’s Treasure

Despite the current evacuation orders, renovations continue. The good condition of the building's exterior is literally a facade. "It was unbelievably filthy when we first came, as it had been abandoned for over a decade," Eyal explained. "They took out truckloads of garbage from this place and a ton of work remains."
You can find pictures of Beit Shapira here, here and here.


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