The trouble with Hebron

Praying at the Western Wall

Praying at the Western Wall

The main trouble with Hebron on the West Bank is that it is one of the holiest sites for the Jewish people. It is second only to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

In Hebron sits the Machpelah, which is said to have been purchased by Abraham, the progenitor of the Jewish people.

In the Machpelah, which is one half beautiful mosque and one half beautiful synagogue, are said to be buried the patriarchs and matriarchs of the Jewish people; Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as well as Sarah, Rebecca and Leah. Rachel is buried in nearby Bethlehem, where she is said to have died in childbirth.

And Joseph’s tomb is said to be located in the West Bank town of Nablus.

Hebron, Bethlehem and Nablus are all in the West Bank and are wanted by the Palestinians, along with east Jerusalem, as part of a future Palestinian state.

The Synagogue of the Machpelah, Hebron.

The Synagogue of the Machpelah, Hebron.

But Hebron, Bethlehem and Nablus are as much a part of the religion, culture and history of the Jewish people as the two Jewish Temples that used to sit atop the Temple Mount in east Jerusalem and which have since been replaced by the Golden Domed Mosque. The Western Wall is the only remaining remnant of the Second Jewish Temple.

And it is partly with all this in mind that the Jewish people were granted the authority to return to these areas via the 1917 Balfour Declaration.

But between 1949 and 1967 Jews were cleansed from these areas by the Arabs when Jordan controlled the West Bank. Israel took it during the 1967 war and since then Israeli Jews have been able to visit these sites for prayer or just cultural curiosity, if they wish.

Most Jews, including non-Israeli ones, generally don’t though and the reason is clear.

On Tuesday four Israeli civilians were gunned down in their car near Hebron. Hamas proudly claimed responsibility while Palestinians poured on to the streets of Gaza to celebrate the murder of innocents.

The usual sickening excuses that the victims brought it upon themselves by being in the West Bank in the first place are being rolled out, but those who were murdered had every right to be where they were when they were killed.

However many times an ignorant journalist or lazy presenter calls the settlements or the settlers “illegal”, that does not make it a fact.

No where in international law are the settlements stated to be illegal.

Anyway, it is not like Hamas thinks about international law when it wants to carry out a terrorist act.

When they murdered those four people on tuesday they saw four Jews, not some dubious legal grievance.

It was the same in Hebron in 1929, 19 years before Israel was born, when the Mufti of Jerusalem incited the slaughter of 60 members of the orthoodox Jewish community of Hebron.

That said Jewish settlers should not necessarily stay in the West Bank just because they have the unambiguous right to.

If there is a reasonable prospect of a proper accord with the Palestinians then the settlers can be removed in the cause of peace. This is all subject to negotiation now.

The only people who can decide the course of events and history are those currently ensconced around the negotiating tables in Washington.

However, it is highly incongruous that while the Palestinians are insistent on having all their religious needs met by holding on to Hebron and the Temple Mount in East Jerusalem (as stated, both being sacred ground for Jews also), the Jews are expected to lay waste to their own religious heritage.

In a final peace agreement the Temple Mount in east Jerusalem, the holiest of Jewish sites, will be in Palestine as will Nablus and Bethlehem. The Palestinians also expect to obtain Hebron, the second holiest of Jewish sites.

While the Jewish people will still retain the Western Wall, where they can pray for dead and dying loved ones, it is only the Jews that will have sacrificed important parts of their religious heritage.

If religious sites cannot somehow be shared then the Palestinians must also expect to give up parts of their own religious heritage for peace.

Golden Domed Mosque sits atop the Jewish Temples' site

Golden Domed Mosque sits atop the Jewish Temples' site

Inside Machpelah Synagogue, Hebron

Inside Machpelah Synagogue, Hebron

The Mosque of the Machpelah, Hebron

The Mosque of the Machpelah, Hebron

Israeli army outside the Machpelah

Israeli army outside the Machpelah

21 responses to “The trouble with Hebron

  1. I can’t see how anything resembling real peace is possible with people who are unable to share religious sites

    can a Jew identifiable as a Jew visit a mosque in Hebron unmolested except maybe for having to go through a search? (or if the religion should forbid actually entering the room of worship stroll around the ground)

    can a Muslim identifiable as a Muslim visit a synagogue in Hebron unmolested except maybe for having to go through a search? (or if the religion should forbid actually entering the room of worship stroll around the ground)

    forgive me if the questions seem dumb but I come from the country of the 30-year-war and I guess that Catholics and Protestants had to reach that kind of mutual toleration at some point.

  2. Zionism is a big fat mythical fairy tale studded with biblical symbolism and other spurious connections to a faraway land. It’s pitched at about the intellectual level of a Mr Men book. It’s the sort of fantasy story-telling of tombs and patriarchs, of ancient ruins and tales of Roman brutality, which is better suited to the nursery section of Waterstones, not the history one. I mean, I have just as much a right to the land of Palestine as Avigdor Lieberman, some sort of fourth-rate fascist hooligan from Moldova. He’s the sort of guy you’d expect to find in intoxicated in an ambulance after a heavy night’s drinking and a few fist fights, rather than in foreign offices across the world.

    Thousands of years ago …. blah… bluh… blah….

    These squatters should not have been killed, plain and simple. But seriously, get over yourself, Richard Millett.

    • It’s ironic that someone who claims to dismiss history thousands of years ago calls himself ‘Suetonius’, the man who describes in detail the reigns of the emperors under and by whom the second series of ethnic cleansings of the Jewish people from Judea occurred.

      To ‘Suetonius’ one need only respond ‘Josephus’, and all classical and late antique historians who agree that the Jews experienced a dispossession and subjection, which became a datum of medieval Christen and Islam, and why, in the 19th and 20th centuries, the Jews of Old World Christendom and Islam were regarded not so much as nationally European or Arab but nationally Jewish, that is to say, ‘Palestinian’. With the result that most were either killed, or alienated or dispossessed from Europe and the Arab world, before WWI, mostly to America, after mostly to the what became Israel.

      That wasn’t thousands of years ago. It was mere decades ago.

      Stop pretending to be a historian, ‘Suetonius’.

  3. It’s such a lovely sight to behold: two ‘tribes’ squabbling over religious myths dating back x,000s of years. Unenlightenment, here we come!

  4. Subscription, subscription!

  5. good post, shame about the comments.

  6. Richard Tebboth

    1. ‘Abraham, the progenitor of the Jewish people.’
    Abraham, also the progenitor of the Arabs.
    2. ‘The Western Wall is the only remaining remnant of the Second Jewish Temple.’
    ‘Just over half the wall, including its 17 courses located below street level, dates from the end of the Second Temple period, being constructed around 19 BCE by Herod the Great. The remaining layers were added from the 7th century onwards.’
    3. ‘No where in international law are the settlements stated to be illegal.’
    A quick search reveals the legal principle which is clear in this reference:-

    This continuing preoccupation with the tombs of ancestors appears to verge on the idolatrous. A Christian view: Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world”. – John 18:36

  7. A Christian view: Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world”. – John 18:36

    now Richard peddling Christian stuff in this context is really the LOL of the day.

    Ever heard of relics anybody?

    No? then shut up!

  8. Excellent post. Good food for thought. Thanks.

    I agree, it’s a shame about the moronic commenters. Debate is interesting. name calling and anti-religion comments of course are quite useless pieces of input in any serious discussion on this issue.

  9. Why have you posted photographs of the Western Wall alongside that of Hebron? Is it that you are attempting to equate Judiasm with Hebron? Wrong again. Both places were stolen from Palestine and to Palestine they will eventually return. Zionism is comparable to all the discriminatory, hate filled ideologies that have plagued manking throughtou history. Zionists are not real Jews and goes against everything Jewdiasm and humanity stand for.

    • richardmillett

      You almost have to admire this comment from “My conscience” for its sheer overall ineptitude.

  10. Gotta love ‘My Conscience’!

    Throughtout history of manking, there have been people who use the internet to pursue their hatred of Jewdiasm.

  11. Shouldn’t Jonathan’s title (see following link) have “Yet Another” in it?!

  12. Just a note, Richard. You say the complex at Hebron is half-synagogue, half-mosque. That is true, since the Muslims made it so. But the underlying structure, the blocking building from which half a mosque is constructed, is Herodian built second temple Jewish.

    The Mamluks forbade Jews entering the site in the 1267, as had the Crusaders from 1099 (though this might be overcome by a bribe), and this was continued by Palestinian Muslims into the 20th century. It was only lifted with Israeli capture in 1967, all Hebron’s Jews being driven out from 1929 on.

    By comparison with very traditional Palestinian Arab Muslim apartheid, practised against Jews for centuries, Israel’s division of entry, whereby both parties, and non-Muslims, have access, for the first time in one thousand years (think about that), in relative safety (i.e. Jews by and large safe from Palestinian Arab Muslims, who have a very bad historical track record in this regard) is a model of enlightenment.

    It is very strange that Robert Fisk gets so worked about about current arrangements. Compared with the last 1000 years of Palestinian history, they are most just, and fair.

    But not perfect enough, it seems, for those who would perfect the one Jewish state from existence, amidst a sea of Arab and Islamic apartheid states.

  13. Janet do you think it is a member of manking or just a formless blob of Jewdiasm hatred mutating around cyberspace?

    My unconscious what’s the matter don’t you like Juice?

    It’s you isn’t it?!
    That’s one impressive beard!

    I say respectfully though that you should do your best to get a life and find something else to protest about rather than squeezed fruit. It’s embarrassing.

    When you’re squeezed what comes out of you? My money’s on a load of anti-Semitic filth.

    I am whiffing a self loathing one there. If my acute senses are well attuned today then I suggest you save the comment “no I am one of the Juice myself” and shove it up your self-hating backside. Shove your head up there while you’re at it as well.
    Am yisrael chai. Deal with it, therapy might help you.

  14. Hi Rich- and readers,

    I’ve just noted that my link has gone dead re the update on Goldstone

    It is now here.


    Click to access OCL%20%20Doc%20and%20Leg%20Asymmetries%20in%20a%20Mil%20Op%20%20Draft%203.pdf

  15. More on ‘No where in international law are the settlements stated to be illegal.’
    Look at:-
    ‘In the late 1960s, Judge Meron was legal counsel to the Israeli Foreign Ministry and wrote a secret 1967 memo for Prime Minister Levi Eshkol, who was considering creating an Israeli settlement at Kfar Etzion. This was just after Israel’s victory in the Six-Day War of June 1967. Judge Meron’s memo concluded that creating new settlements in the Occupied Territories would be a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. ‘

  16. “I’ve just noted that my link has gone dead re the update on Goldstone”

    What has Goldstone got to do with Hebron?

  17. And you are quoting, Inky, PSC, which has an anti-Zionist agenda which wholly distorts and misrepresents both Jewish and Palestinian Muslim and Christian history for its own political ends.