History

PHOTO ESSAY: The Return to Hebron - Passover 1968

Wanted: Families or singles to resettle ancient city of Hebron For details contact Rabbi M. Levinger

6.6.16, 14:27
(PHOTO: Miriam Levinger and Sarah Nachshon preparing a meal in the communal kitchen in Hebron, 1968. Photo credit: Moshe Milner, Government Press Office)
 
Wanted: Families or singles
to resettle ancient city of Hebron
For details contact Rabbi M. Levinger
 
This unassuming newspaper advertisement captured the attention of many Israelis in 1968. The euphoria of the Six Day War had subsided, Judea and Samaria were in Jewish hands, and yet, no Jews had made their homes this area. Rabbi Moshe Levinger and a group of like-minded individuals determined that the time had come to return home to the newly liberated heartland of the Land of Israel.
 
As their first goal, the group decided to renew the Jewish presence in the the Jewish people's most ancient city, Hebron. Word of the decision spread quickly and soon a nucleus of families was formed. Their objective: to spend Passover in Hebron's Park Hotel.
 
Hebron's Arab hotel owners had fallen on hard times. For years they had served the Jordanian aristocracy who would visit regularly to enjoy Hebron's cool dry air. The Six Day War forced the vacationers to change their travel plans. As a result, the Park Hotel's Arab owners were delighted to accept the cash-filled envelope which Rabbi Levinger placed on the front desk. In exchange, they agreed to rent the hotel to an unlimited amount of people for an unspecified period of time.
 
The morning of Passover eve, April 1968 saw the Levinger family along with families from Israel's north, south and center packed their belongings for Hebron. They quickly cleaned and koshered the half of the hotel's kitchen allotted to them and began to settle in. Women and children slept three to a bed in the hotel rooms, while the men found sleeping space on the lobby floor. At least the Biblical patriarch Jacob had a rock to place under his head, joked one of the participants.
 
Eighty-eight people celebrated Passover Seder that night in the heart of Hebron. “We sensed that we had made an historical breakthrough", recalls Miriam Levinger, and we all felt deeply moved and excited."
 
Two days later, Rabbi Levinger announced to the media that the group intended to remain in Hebron. Dignitaries, Knesset members and Israelis from near and far streamed to the Park Hotel to encourage the pioneers.
 
Defense Minister Moshe Dayan was anxious to remove the pioneers from the hotel. He suggested that they move to the military compound overlooking Hebron. A heated debate ensued. There were those who felt that moving to the compound would in effect, strangle the project. Others saw in Dayan's suggestion official recognition, albeit de facto, of their goal.
 
Six weeks later, the pioneers moved to the military compound. Rabbi Levinger insisted on accommodations for 120 people even though they numbered less than half at that time. Rabbi Levinger was accused of being an unrealistic dreamer. Within a few short weeks however, he was proven correct. The 120 places in the military compound could not accommodate the hundreds of people who wanted to be part of the renewed of Jewish life in Hebron, city of the Patriarchs.
 
"We received Eretz Yisrael on a silver platter in 1967," explained Miriam Levinger. "It was an honor and a privilege to be among the first people to make the dream of return a reality."

NOTES:
 
 
 
 
(PHOTO: A group of Jewish residents studying the Talmud in their yeshiva, August 18, 1968. Credit: Moshe Milner, Government Press Office, National Photo Collection.)
 

(PHOTO: Rabbi Moshe Levinger, leader of the Jewish community in Hebron, August 18, 1968. Credit: Moshe Milner, Government Press Office, National Photo Collection.)
 

(PHOTO: Ronny Strassberg studying the Talmud in the yeshiva in Hebron, August 18, 1968. Credit: Moshe Milner, Government Press Office, National Photo Collection.)
 

(PHOTO: The ancient Jewish cemetery in Hebron, August 18, 1968. Credit: Moshe Milner, Government Press Office, National Photo Collection.)
 

(PHOTO: Tova Felix, member of the first group of Jewish pioneers in Hebron cleaning the yard in from of her living quarters. The sign behind her reads "Mitnachlei Hebron," or Hebron settlers, harkening back to a time when "settler" was not a considered loaded term. Credit: Moshe Milner, Government Press Office, National Photo Collection.)
 

(PHOTO: Zvi Idels studying the Talmud in the yeshiva of the settlers in Hebron. Credit: Moshe Milner, Government Press Office, National Photo Collection.)
 

(PHOTO: 5-year-old Dody Waldman making a picture with multicoloured sticky papers in his classroom in Hebron. Credit: Moshe Milner, Government Press Office, National Photo Collection.)
 

(PHOTO: A corner in the communal dining room of the settlers in Hebron, August 18 1968. Credit: Moshe Milner, Government Press Office, National Photo Collection.)
 

(PHOTO: Baruch Nachshon, holding his baby son in one arm painting at his home in Hebron, August 18 1968. Credit: Moshe Milner, Government Press Office, National Photo Collection.)
 

(PHOTO: Haya Greenberg working as secretary of in Hebron, August 18 1968. Credit: Moshe Milner, Government Press Office, National Photo Collection.)
 
(PHOTO: Settler's children occupied with handicraft in their classroom in Hebron, August 18 1968. Credit: Moshe Milner, Government Press Office, National Photo Collection.)
 

(PHOTO: Some of the children in Hebron at play, August 18 1968. Credit: Moshe Milner, Government Press Office, National Photo Collection.)
 

(PHOTO: Yitzhak Greenberg, the treasurer of the Jewish community of Hebron. Credit: Moshe Milner, Government Press Office, National Photo Collection.)
 
NOTE: All photos with permission from the Government Press Office National Photo Collecton. Most of the captions are the originals as provided by the GPO. For more information visit http://gpophotoeng.gov.il/. For more information on celebrated veteran press photographer Moshe Milner clcik here: http://www.israel21c.org/milner-of-the-gpo-retires/.
 
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To arrange a guided tour of Hebron contact us.
United States contact info:

http://www.hebronfund.org
1760 Ocean Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11230
718-677-6886
info@hebronfund.org

In Israel contact the offices of the Jewish Community of Hebron at:
http://en.hebron.org.il/
02-996-5333
office@hebron.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/hebronofficial
 
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