Second New Building Project Announced for Hebron

For the second time in a month, the government announced new building plans for Hebron.

1.11.18, 14:33
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman announced plans to build apartments near the historic Avraham Avinu synagogue Hebron in the "wholesale market." The announcement comes weeks after approval for 31 apartments in the nearby Hezekiah quarter.
The Defense Ministry said their legal advisor attorney Itai Ophir has submitted an option that would allow for construction work at the site despite claims that although the land is Jewish owned, the vacant Jordanian stalls are protected.
Liberman stated, "we continue the momentum of development of the Jewish community of Hebron, which has not been seen for 20 years. After we approved independent municipality status for the Jewish community and approved the establishment of 31 housing units and kindergartens in the Hezekiah quarter, we are now planning another apartment building in the wholesale market. We will continue to strengthen the community in Hebron through action."
The committee for the Jewish community responded to the announcement saying, "The Jewish community of Hebron heartily thanks Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked for their support of the Jewish quarter on Jewish property stolen after the 1929 massacre which is mistakenly referred to as "the wholesale market." This significant step will strengthen our return to the inheritance of our forefathers."
The land in question is near the corner of King David Street and Emek Hebron Road at the entrance to the Avraham Avinu quarter. The historic Avraham Avinu synagogue stands nearby, originally built in 1540. For almost ten years, the land has sat unused with the shell of an empty two-story structure that once served as market stalls.
During the Jordanian occupation of 1948 - 1967 the space was converted into the "wholesale market" which sold fresh fruits and vegetables. Like the Hezekiah quarter's Jordanian era bus depot, existed even after the Six Day War when Israel reclaimed the city.
The story begins in 1807 with Rabbi Haim Yeshua Bajayo (nicknamed Haim HaMitzri, or Haim the Jewish Egyptian by local non-Jewish residents), a leader of the Sephardic community in the city and from a long line of Hebron natives. The Magen Avot organization comprised of Hebron Jewish community, using Rabbi Bajayo as its agent, purchased parcels of land in two locations including the area which later became the wholesale market. The five-dunam plot of land adjacent to the centuries-old Jewish Quarter was bought for 1,200 grushim. The acquisitions are identifiable to this day by the olive trees that were planted there. The heads of the Muslim Waqf confirmed the purchases by means of a signed kushan (deed). The deal was witnessed and signed by no fewer than 22 Hebron Arab notables. This property served Hebron's Jews and later accommodated the home and synagogue of its chief rabbi, Eliahu Mani. Some considered this to be the first land purchase made by Jews in the Land of Israel in modern times. These deeds were used in 1997 by Israeli courts to prove Jewish land ownership of the area.
When the Jordanians razed the Jewish quarter, they turned the Avraham Avinu synagogue into a sheep pen and confiscated the former Jewish land. The wholesale market was built in the early 1960s, and after the Six Day War the Israeli government leased the stalls to Hebron's Arab municipality who in turn rented it out to vendors. The property contracts for these buildings expired in the 1990s, and the site was gradually closed over a period of several years, due to security concerns. The market was finally shut down following an attempted terrorist attack. Terrorists placed a booby-trapped teddy bear in a plastic bag in the market near the entrance to the Jewish neighborhood.
The site was left vacant until the March 2001 sniper attack that killed baby Shalhevet Pass. Following the murder, Hebron children began utilizing the abandoned market as a place to play and take cover during shooting attacks from the overlooking Abu Sneneh hills. Over a period of time, Hebron's Jewish community invested tens of thousands of dollars to convert the stalls into livable apartments. It was renamed the Mitzpe Shalhevet neighborhood and housed Hebron families and a Torah study hall. In response to an Arab demand to reopen the site as a market, the Attorney-General's office notified the Supreme Court that: (1) the formerly Jordanian citizens / Palestinians no longer had any legal rights to the market and (2) that Israeli trespassers would be evicted from the site. 
The new Jewish residents went through a series of evictions, the last being in 2008 in which 600 Israel Defense Force soldiers were sent in to forcibly remove the residents. 
The new government announcement would not destroy the existing stalls, which could be protected despite the land underneath being legally part of the Jewish community. But new apartments would be built on top of the now vacant structure. There is currently a waiting list of people wanting to live in Hebron's Jewish neighborhoods with a far greater demand than supply.
The news comes a day before Shabbat Hebron in which tens of thousands are expected to visit the city of the annual reading of parshat Chayei Sarah in which Abraham purchases the Cave of Machpela and surrounding fields.
Justice Minister Shaked praised the move as well stating,  "This week we made a significant breakthrough in the return of the Jewish lands that were stolen during the 1929 Hebron riots in the so-called wholesale market. This is a very important area at the heart of the Jewish community in Hebron, which had not been regulated for 25 years, even though it belonged to Jews according to all the records. For 25 years, Israeli governments have repeatedly evacuated Jews who settled there and did not issue building permits. Legal barriers have been the lot of local residents over the years. This week, thanks to the Minister of Defense, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, Deputy Legal Counsel Erez Kaminitz, and Legal Counsel to the Ministry of Defense Itai Ophir, we brought about a breakthrough and the removal of the barriers, which has led to the approval for the planning. The Shabbat when tens of thousands of Jews will visit the City of the Patriarchs, they will be able to see with their own eyes that the terror of almost 90 years ago has failed and we have won," Shaked stated.
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