History

Gutnick Center Caters to Proud Hebron History

More than a restaurant, the Gutnick Center Events Hall is part of Hebron's history.

11.7.16, 12:09
The entrepreneurs who watched their kiosk demolished in 1968 might not have guessed that one day it would be a fully catered banquet hall that would host Prime Ministers and guests from all over accommodating the 700,00 tourists who now visit the city every year.
 
The Gutnick Center had humble beginnings. But the restaurant and visitor's center that stands outside the Tomb of Machpela has become a stable of the Jewish Community of Hebron. 
 
The homey atmosphere of the restaurant typifies the traditional Hebron hospitality which dates back to the times when Abraham and Sarah called the city their home. The Hebron gift shop sells local handcrafted souvenirs, such as boutique wines, and Judaica from local artists.
 
A photography exhibit from veteran photo journalist Gershon Elinson displays the cultural artifacts discovered in excavations as well as the struggle to repopulate the city starting in the late 1960s. 
 

(Photo: A policeman talking to a young tourist in front of the Kiryat Arba Settler's Restaurant in Hebron. Credit: Gabai Nissim, Nov. 1, 1974,  Government Press Officla National Photo Collection.)
 
KIOSK CONTROVERSY
 
The very existence of the restaurant where those photos now hang created a Knesset controversy back in 1968. It all started with the wedding of Benny Katzover, a veteran of the effort to repatriate the Jewish community. 
The Jewish community that dated back to Biblical times came to an abrupt halt in 1929. The town that survived the Crusades, the Mamlukes, the Ottoman Empire and more was evicted during the British Mandate era in the bloody aftermath of the 1929 massacre.
 
After the Six Day War, Jews flocked to the Tomb of Machpela, which was now open to people of all faiths for the first time in 700 years. 
 
Today weddings in Hebron are typical, with a chuppah ceremony on the garden patio outside the cave of the Matriarchs and Patriarchs and a festive meal in the Gutnick Center banquet hall. But for Benny Katzover and his wife-to-be, it was novel in post-Six Day War Israel.
 
The kiosk that was set up to sell drinks and sandwiches was promptly ordered demolished by the military governor, leading to a furor in the Knesset. 
 
An article from the Jewish Telegraphic Agency dated August 12, 1968 stated, "the kiosk was built in an area restricted to them. They also failed to secure the required permit. Under a Cabinet ruling, the establishment of any trade or business in Hebron is considered a political act and requires official permission. The kiosk was demolished by Israeli soldiers."
 
An August 28th article reported that the authorities deemed it unnecessary to allow a Jewish restaurant since the residents could just use a nearby Arab one, with kosher supervision provided by the Jewish community.
 
Finally the Cabinet saw the need and the restaurant became the first building in the city, and quite possibly in all of Judea and Samaria, officially approved by the government.
 
At the time it was called, "Misadat HaMitnachalim," or The Settler's Restaurant", with the newly repatriated residents proudly labeling themselves "Hebron Settlers" which over the years became a loaded term.
 
BOMBING
 
With the blessing of the old community that was yanked out decades earlier, the new young couples populating Hebron were now achieving a sense of normalcy. But not everyone was happy. There had always been interaction with the local Arab population, sometimes courteous and sometimes tense. But the PLO and other terrorist affiliates were opposed to any Jewish existence, and they were gaining a foothold in the region. 
 
In 1974 the Settler's Restaurant was bombed. No one was injured due to the restaurant being closed at the time. The proprietors used the opportunity to renovate and build the second floor which now serves as the banquet hall.
The Gutnick Center opened in its current form in 1995 thanks to a generous donation from philanthropist Joseph Gutnick.
 
PRESENT AND FUTURE
 
Today, leaders representative all political parties have visited Hebron and of course stop by the Gutnick Center for refreshments and to meet VIPs.
 
One of the many annual events to take place at the center is the yarhzeit of Rebbetzin Menucha Rochel Slonim, the matriarch of the Jewish community in the mid 1800s. Jews and Arabs alike sought her advise, especially on women's issues. She and her husband were pillars of the community for over 40 years. Every year her decedents and hundreds of guests, especially from the Chabad movement, visit her grave at the ancient cemetery and then hold a festive meal at the banquet hall. 
 
Over 700,000 tourists visit Hebron every year, thanks to a permanent Jewish community. Holidays such as the annual Sukkot and Passover musical festival. Parshat Chaya Sarah and other dates attract thousands. 
Weddings, bar mitzvahs and brit milah ceremonies are now the norm in Hebron, as it was in past generations. 
 
 
To arrange your event at the Gutnick Center, contact us:
 
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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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