History

The Truth About Shuhada Street

Read the real history of Shuhada Street / King David Street, the Jewish community's main thoroughfare.

9.2.17, 21:59
A leisurely stroll past the Tomb of Machpela to Beit Hadassah is a far cry from the days when a pregnant mother was blown up, an American student stabbed, and numerous other attacks took place along King David / Shuhada Street. 
 
Today, it is comparatively safe to walk down King David Street for residents of all faiths. But throughout the mid 1990 and early 2000s, it was a risk which resulted in numerous incidents of harrasment, stabbings, acid attacks, shootings and bombings. 
 
The main thoroughfare through the Jewish Community of Hebron is King David Street, named after the Jewish king who reined for seven years in the City of the Matriarchs and Patriarchs, before Jerusalem was declared the capital city.
 
Before the 1929 massacre, the street went through what was called Jewish ghetto past the Avraham Avinu synagogue.
 
 
Today, it still winds through the Jewish neighborhood, starting from the Tomb of Machpela, burial place of the Biblical Matriarchs and Patriarchs, past the Gutnick Center, Gross Square, the Avraham Avinu neighborhood and up to Beit Hadassah. A left turn takes you up the hill to the Tel Hevron / Admot Ishai neighborhood. Continuing straight goes into Hebron H1, a bustling, economic center for the Palestinian Authority. Past this checkpoint, Israeli civilians are forbidden.
 
The local Arabic speaking residents refer to the road as Shuhada Street which is translated by many English news outlets as "Martyrs Street."
 
David Wilder, veteran spokesperson for the Jewish Community of Hebron said that he laments the closure, but he understands the necessity. "We didn't ask for it," he stated in one of his many talks to foreign journalists, citing Supreme Court rulings that call for restrictions for security reasons.
 
The street was initially closed to vehicular traffic with restricted foot traffic 1994, reopened briefly in 1997, and re-opened again in 1999. The current restrictions have been in place since 2002.
 
TERRORIST ATTACKS ON KING DAVID / SHUHADA STREET
 
There have been countless attacks on King David Street, including the ambush in front of Beit Hadassah in 1980 that killed six people and wounded many more.
 
2002 was a bloody year for King David Street, with incidents happening almost daily. In an article for March 13th, Haaretz news reported, 
 
"In a separate incident in Hebron about an hour later, 15-year-old Eliya Meshulam, from Beit Hadassah in the Jewish enclave in the city, was knifed by a Palestinian in Kikar Gross, under Israeli control, suffering serious injuries. Meshulam was rushed to Hadassah University Hospital, Ein Kerem. The attacker managed to escape toward the market area. Eyewitnesses said a number of [PA] shopkeepers helped him [the terrorist] get away and security forces arrested some of the store owners for questioning. In recent weeks, there has been an escalation in violence in Hebron, with shootings occuring almost daily."
 
A follow up article from Israel National News on March 25, 2002 stated:
 
"Sixteen year old Eliya Meshulam, stabbed by an Arab terrorist almost 2 weeks ago near Gross Square in Hevron, was today released from the hospital. Upon his arrival back in Hebron, Eliya, accompanied by his parents and family, walked from their home to the site of the attack where Psalms of thanks were recited, with all participants receiving a small cup of wine. Eliya, showing his friends exactly where the attack occurred, also recited the blessing of thanksgiving, HaGomel."
 
This incident and the numerous other occurred on King David Street are what prompted its current status. 
 
Gross Square, (Kikar Gross in Hebrew) memorializes the site on King David /Shuhada Street where 18-year-old yeshiva student Aharon Gross was murdered by a terrorist in 1983 who escaped into the crowd.
 

(PHOTO: Memorial at Gross Square.)
 
Gross's family was very close with Yeshiva University, the New York institute of higher learned that was headed by Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik. 
 
The Jewish Telegraphic Agency, in an article from August 2, 1983 quoted Dr. Norman Lamm, president of the university, as saying, “We remember the Gross family in their mourning. They only wanted to live in peace and to fulfill their love for Torah and for Zion. We share in their grief at the senseless killing of this young man who had so much to give to the world.”
 
The CS Monitor, in an article from July 12, 1983 stated, "According to his mother, Yehudit, Aharon was a studious 18-year-old who emigrated with his parents from Staten Island, N.Y., in 1974. He had chosen the Shavei Hebron Yeshiva (seminary) in Hebron not out of ideological devotion to Jewish settlement on the West Bank, but because he admired the rabbi (spiritual leader) who headed it... the Yeshiva's locale in a building Israelis call Beit Romano, after the Jewish Romano family of Turkish origins which built it 120 years ago... a dilapidated three-story building with high arched ceilings..."
 
King David Street is in close proximity to the building, today's Shavei Hevron yeshiva, which is home to more than 350 students and considered the flagship learning institution of its population. As the CS Monitor indicates, Jewish history is deep in the neighborhood.
 
One of the most horrific incidents in recent history was the murder of the Levy couple, the wife being pregnant at the time, Today, a plaque on the wall memorializes the couple where they were killed in 2003.
 
Dina Levy, 37, and her husband Gadi Levy, 31, were killed when a suicide bomber detonated his charge next to them on Shuhada Street in Hebron. 
 

(PHOTO: Memorial to the Levy couple at the spot they were murdered on King David Street.)
 
According to Haaretz news from May 18, 2003, "Military sources said the bomber was disguised as a settler and was wearing a white shirt, the customary attire for religious Jews on the Sabbath. According to the sources, the man, identified as Hamas activist Fuad Qawasmeh, 21, approached a military post in Gross Square..."
 
The Qawasameh tribe, as it is referred to on Wikipedia, "dominates Hamas in Hebron... The Qawasameh are the main suppliers of militants to the Hebron cells of Hamas."
 
The large and well connected family, which by some reports have "more than 10,000 people," are responsible for numerous deadly terrorist attacks throughout Israel. The same day the Levys were killed, a shooting attack occurred in Sharei Tikvah. Other attacks occurred throughout the week, many from Hebron based terrorists.
 
CLOSURE HAS PREVENTED TERRORISM FROM SPREADING
 
A disproportionate amount of terrorists have emanated from the Hebron area.
 
The Supreme Court and Israeli security officials believe that the status of King David Street is necessary not only to prevent attacks on Israelis, but also on other PA residents who would kill each other due to internecine conflicts. 
 
Israel Hayom reported on February 26, 2016, "Hebron attracts the most radicalized Palestinians... In this recent wave, 74% of the attacks have taken place in Judea and Samaria and 40% of those in Hebron. Out of the 219 terrorists who have carried out or tried to carry out attacks (as of the start of this week), 69 came from the Hebron area."
 
Behadrey Haredim news reiterated the statistic in an article from February 16, 2016 stated, "Hebron stands out as the main area from which terrorists emerge. According to the GSS [General Security Service], 40% of the perpetrators of the attacks... were from Hebron and Yatir."
 
The Times of Israel on February 15, 2016, reiterated, "a high proportion of the West Bank terrorists — 69 out of 174 (some 40%) — came from the Hebron and Yattir region."
 
 
ISRAELIS BANNED FROM MOST OF HEBRON
 
Israeli civilians are only allowed in 3% of Hebron. Entering H1 Hebron, which included four Jewish holy sites as well as large shopping malls and many stores, is forbidden. Although 20% of the city is under Israeli jurisdiction, only Israel Defense Force soldiers can access other areas of H2 Hebron.
 
On other hand, PA residents are freely allowed to live in both PA-controlled H1 and Israeli-controlled H2  Hebron and pass back and forth via checkpoints. Outside agitators often display photos of the PA residents walking through the checkpoints as proof of Israel's bad behavior. However while they are allowed access to both sides, the Israeli residents are restricted to only one side.
 
 
HEBRON IS THE PA'S MOST ECONOMICALLY ADVANCED CITY
 
Shuhada Street / King David Street is not the main thoroughfare of Hebron as claimed. It is a comparatively small road in the Old City. H1 Hebron is a large, thriving city, with massive factories, businesses, and shopping malls. Hebron is the most prosperous city and main center of economy for the PA, with more than 40% of the PA economy produced there. There are 17,000 factories and workshops in all areas of production. 
 
​The American Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise has an official restaurant in Hebron on Ein Sarah Street. This street, which bares a Hebrew name, is inaccessible to Israelis.
 
There are four hospitals, three universities, an indoor 4,000-seat basketball stadium, not counting the 18,000-seat soccer stadium in the nearby city of Dura, located in the PA's Hebron Governorate.

The most advanced printing press in the Middle East is in H1 Hebron where notebooks and paper products of all kinds are produced and sold in Israel under various brand names.
 
Plastic is a big business in H1 with outlets such as the Zamzam factory which produces plastic bags and the Royal Plastic Factory, founded in 1993, which has over 1,000 employees.
 
WHO IS TRULY BEING INCONVENIENCED?
 
PA residents are allowed to walk anywhere other than the section of Shuhada Street which connects Jewish neighborhoods and where terrorist attacks have been most frequent. There are numerous side streets which can be accessed by PA residents but are off limits to Israelis.
 
Yasser Arafat as head of the PA accepted the legitimacy of a Jewish presence in Hebron when he signed the 1997 Hebron Accords which transferred 80% of Hebron to total control of the PA.

Before this time, Hebron was open, with Jews and Arabs accessing the entire city. That ended in 1997 when the H1 PA controlled area of Hebron was closed to Jews, despite the fact that according to the accords, Hebron was to be an "open city."
 
Since the advent of the Oslo Accords in 1993, Oslo II in 1995 and the Hebron Accords in 1997, Israelis must travel around any PA areas using bypass roads in order to reach their communities. Before Hebron Accords, Glass Junction was a main route to get to Hebron. It is now for PA traffic only. The red signs declaring certain areas of Judea and Samaria off limits to Israelis dot the highways. The inconvenience to PA residents in Hebron is minuscule, as compared to the distances Israelis have to travel.
 
SHUHADA STREET WAS CLOSED BY THE SUPREME COURT
 
It was not the Jewish Community of Hebron which called for the restrictions on King David Street, but the Israeli Supreme Court. It is of note that the Supreme Court has often ruled against the Jewish community, for example the eviction of Beit HaShalom in 2008, the eviction from the old market in 2008 and the eviction from the Beit Rachel and Beit Leah buildings in 2016.
 
After the initial restrictions, the Israeli courts required that the road be reopened to PA traffic in stages. During the first-stage, public transportation was allowed on part of the road and pedestrian traffic was allowed on the entire road.
 
 
During this period of time, Israeli women were constantly accosted, physically and verbally, primarily by PA teenagers and young adults. Taxis filled the road, causing constant traffic issues. However the road remained open.
 
Following the beginning of the second intifada in October of 2000, terrorist forces began constant shooting attacks at the Jewish neighborhoods in Hebron from the hills surrounding the community, hills which were transferred to PA control as part of the 1997 Hebron Accords. The infant Shalhevet Pass was murdered by a sniper, and others were wounded. 
 
Had the second intifada not begun, the street would probably still be open. When shooting began, with the intention of killing and maiming Jews, in an attempt to again force us from our homes, Israel decided not to 'turn the other cheek,' leading to mandatory security measures, some of which are still enforced at the present. 
 
On July 6, 2011, after seven years of discussions, the Supreme Court rejected the PA appeals that King David Street, one of the only Israeli streets in Hebron, be opened to PA traffic.
 
ACCESS TO THE TOMB OF MACHPELA
 
In discussing restrictions on non-Israelis to King David Street, the restrictions imposed on Israelis seeking to visit the Tomb of Machpela must be noted as well.
 
The ancient complex is divided into a Muslim and a Jewish section with separate entrances, the Jewish entrance being on King David Street. On most days, each group is allowed to pray only in its designated area. Those entering through the Jewish side must undergo the same security check as PA residents prior to visiting the site. 
 
For ten days a year, each group has exclusive access to the entire site. These days generally correspond to holidays such as Passover and Succot for the Jewish worshipers and the month of Ramadan and other Islamic holidays for the Muslim worshipers. 
 
The PA side of the complex is much bigger than the Israeli side and includes the Hall of Isaac and Rebecca, where the actual entrance to the underground caves is located. During the ten days of Muslim access, Jewish articles such as Hebrew name plates and religious items are removed so they will not be destroyed. There have been numerous incidents of mezuzahs being ripped off and Torah scrolls desecrated.
 

 
For 700 years, non-Muslims were denied access to the Tomb of Machpela. They were only permitted as far as the seventh step of a staircase on the southern wall of the building. There is a justified fear that if Israel were not in control, non-Muslims would again be denied access. This is the case with the Tomb of Joseph in Shchem which was vandalized after its transfer to the PA in 2000 and now accessible only at night with army escort.
 
ACCESS TO JEWISH HOLY SITES DENIED
 
Other holy sites in the H1 part of Hebron which were promised to be accessible to Israelis in Hebron Accords are off limits except in rare, pre-arranged, escorted visits. The sites are:
 
- the Elonei Mamre Archaeological Site and Herod's Walls
- the Tomb of Otniel Ben Knaz
- Ein Sarah / Sarah's Spring.
 
Also, sites within H2 Hebron are off limits except on certain holidays, These include the Tomb of Abner Ben Ner, and areas in the casbah such as Kabbalist's Corner and the Three Mezuzahs archway which was destroyed by PA vandals in 2014.
 
Numerous PA Hebron officials have stated their intention to ban all non-Muslims from entering the Tomb of Machpela, if ever given the opportunity. These include Hebron mayor Khaled Osaily, deputy mayor Kamal Dweck, and Mustafa Barghouti, former minister of information for the PA.
 
PA SEEKS TO BAN ALL JEWS FROM HEBRON

Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas stated, "we have frankly said, and always will say: If there is an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, we won’t agree to the presence of one Israeli in it." Source: http://goo.gl/REIv4

The Palestinian Liberation Organization's Ambassador to the US Maen Areikat stated that any future Palestinian state must be free of Jews. Speaking to reporters in the US he said, "After the experience of the last 44 years of military occupation and all the conflict and friction, I think it would be in the best interest of the two people to be separated." Source: http://goo.gl/YWceb
 
The disengagement from Gush Katif in Gaza, the abandoning of the Tomb of Joseph in Shchem, and other evictions are evidence that a strong Israeli IDF presence and normalized civilian communities is key to maintaining the land and preventing it from becoming a terrorist launching pad. 
 

 
THE IDF IN HEBRON DEFEND THE ENTIRE COUNTRY
 
Israeli security forces provide multiple services. 
 
a) They offer protection to Hebron's residents, against constant terror threats. This includes attacks perpetrated against both Israeli and PA residents, as the terrorists also target people of their own ethnicity and rule by force.
 
b) They offer protection to over 700,000 people who visit Hebron annually.
 
c) They offer protection to Israelis throughout Israel. After Israeli withdrew from H1 Hebron, terrorists used the vacuum to create an infrastructure to plan attacks in other Israeli cities. See Newsweek: The Jihad Soccer Club: They Were The Best Soccer Club In Hebron. Also see: Tel Aviv Terror Attack Emanated from Hebron Area.
 
WHY FOCUS ON HEBRON?
 
By building a focused campaign around a single issue in a particular locality, anti-Israel activist groups hope to define achievable goals that will set a legal and political precedent for change in other areas of Judea and Samaria as well.
 
Hebron is easily accessible for a variety of international activists and agitators and comparatively safe, as opposed to other points of conflict around the world where risk of being kidnapped or killed is high. These NGOs have considerable funding, international support, and media connections.
 
Those that bash the Jewish Community of Hebron because of the issue of Shuhada Street / King David Street reject, not only the Jewish presence in Hebron, but also throughout all of Judea and Samaria. It stands to reason that many of them also question the legitimacy of the State of Israel and any Jewish presence in the Land of Israel. 
 

(PHOTO: A PA resident cuts across the beginning of King David Street as an Israeli man jogs past. Date: 2016.)
 
HOPE FOR THE FUTURE
 
Despite the incitement, the future is bright for the Jewish Community of Hebron. The annual Open Shuhada Street protests have not fooled the masses that enjoy the annual Succot and Passover music festivals, the Shabbat Chayei Sarah weekend, the Hebron Half-Marathon, or the other large-scale events.
 
Numerous Israeli elected officials and pubic servants from abroad have been hosted in Hebron by the Jewish community and their numbers are growing. 
 
Jewish residents continue to have private meetings with Arabs neighbors such as Sheikh Farad al-Jabari. These meetings discuss local issues that affect all residents of the Hebron Hills region and Judea district and take place without any media coverage.  Israeli leaders such as Yochai Damari, head of the Hebron Hills Regional Council has met with Hebron business leaders to create economic ties. Such dialogues are a real hope for change and the average PA resident knows that staged protests will not result in Israeli capitulation.
 
Jewish Hebron's birthrate continues to rise while quality-of-life remains high. Residents of Judea and Samaria in general and Hebron in particular have a high rate of volunteerism for the army, national service etc. and an extremely low rate of crime, drug use and other social ills. The slandering of the community has not seemed to deter the people who have sought to revive the city where Jewish life has thrived for centuries.      

To visit Hebron contact us:

United States contact info:

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

Israeli contact info:
http://en.hebron.org.il/
02-996-5333
office@hebron.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/hebronofficial
 
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