located south of Jerusalem
in the Judean hills is home to approximately 130,000 Arabs, 530
Jews, and three Christians. An additional 6,000 Jews reside in the adjacent
community of Kiryat Arba.
Hebron is the site of the oldest Jewish community
in the world, which dates back to Biblical times. The Book
of Genesis relates that Abraham
purchased the field where the Tomb
of the Patriarchs is located as a burial place for his wife Sarah.
According to Jewish tradition, the Patriarchs Abraham,
Isaac, and Jacob,
and the Matriarchs Sarah,
Rebekah, and Leah
are buried in the Tomb.
Hebron has a long and rich Jewish history. It was
one of the first places where the Patriarch Abraham
resided after his arrival in Canaan.
King David was anointed
in Hebron, where he reigned for seven years. One thousand years later,
during the first Jewish revolt against the Romans,
the city was the scene of extensive fighting. Jews lived in Hebron almost
continuously throughout the Byzantine,
and Ottoman periods. It
was only in 1929 as a result of a murderous Arab pogrom
in which 67 Jews were murdered and the remainder were forced to flee
that the city became temporarily "free" of Jews. After
the 1967 Six-Day War, the
Jewish community of Hebron was re-established. It has grown to include
a range of religious and educational institutions.
Hebron contains many sites of Jewish
religious and historical significance, in addition
to the Tomb
of the Patriarchs. These include the Tombs of
Othniel Ben Kenaz (the first Judge of Israel) and
Avner Ben Ner (general and confidante to Kings Saul and
and Ruth and Jesse (great-grandmother and father,
respectively, of King David). Victims of the 1929
pogrom, as well as prominent rabbinical sages and community
figures, are buried in Hebron's ancient Jewish cemetery.
In recent years, Hebron has been
the site of many violent incidents, two of which stand
out. In May 1980, Palestinian terrorists murdered
6 Jewish yeshiva students and wounded 20 others, who
were returning from prayers at the Tomb
of the Patriarchs. In February 1994, Dr. Baruch
Goldstein opened fire on Muslim worshippers at the
Tomb, murdering 29 and wounding 125. Goldstein, a
supporter of Meir Kahane’s Kach party, was subsequently
killed by the survivors in the mosque, and is buried
inside Kiryat Arba. A shrine was erected at his grave
shortly after the mosque attack, but was demolished
by the Israeli government in 2000.
After the signing of the Israeli-Palestinian
Interim Agreement ("Oslo II"), authority for
most civil affairs regarding Hebron's arab residents was
transferred from the Israeli Civil Administration to the
Palestinian Authority and the (Arab) Municipality of Hebron.
Those services which remained the responsibility of the Civil
Administration will be transferred following the IDF
redeployment from Hebron. The IDF will retain sole responsibility
for the security and well-being of Hebron's Jewish community.
Hebron (Al-Khalil in Arabic) is located
32 km. south of Jerusalem in the Judean hills, and sits between
870 and 1,020 meters above sea level. The city is built on
several hills and nahals/wadis, most of which run north-
to-south. Hebron's monthly average temperatures are lower
than those of Jerusalem. The city receives approximately
466 millimeters average rainfall annually. Its climate has
since Biblical times encouraged extensive local
The Hebrew word "Hebron" is
(inter alia) explained as being derived from the Hebrew
word for "friend"
("haver"), a description for the Patriarch
Abraham, who was considered to be the friend of God.
The Arabic "Al- Khalil"
literally "the friend" has
a nearly identical derivation, and also refers to
the Patriarch Abraham
(Ibrahim), whom Muslims
similarly describe as the friend of God. Hebron is
one of the oldest continually occupied cities in the
world, and has been a major focus of religious worship
for over two millenia.
Hebron has approximately 160,000
(Sunni Muslim) Arab residents. Hebron's Jewish population,
comprised of 45 Jewish families and around 150 yeshiva
students, is about 500. Hebron's three Christian residents
are the custodians of the city's Russian church. An
additional 6,650 Jews live in the adjacent community
of Kiryat Arba.
II. HISTORICAL BACKGROUND:
BIBLICAL PERIOD TO 1967
states that (Canaanite) Hebron was founded seven years before the Egyptian
town of Zoan, i.e. around 1720 BCE, and the ancient (Canaanite and Israelite)
city of Hebron was situated at Tel Rumeida. The city's history has been
inseparably linked with the Cave
of Machpelah, which the Patriarch Abraham
purchased from Ephron the Hittite
for 400 silver shekels (Genesis
23), as a family tomb. As recorded in Genesis, the Patriarchs Abraham,
Isaac, and Jacob,
and the Matriarchs Sarah,
Rebekah and Leah,
are buried there, and according to a Jewish tradition
Adam and Eve
are also buried there.
Hebron is mentioned 87 times in the Bible, and is
the world's oldest Jewish community. Joshua assigned Hebron to Caleb
from the tribe of Judah (Joshua
14:13-14), who subsequently led his tribe in conquering the city
and its environs (Judges 1:1-20).
As Joshua 14:15 notes, "the former name of Hebron was Kiryat Arba..."
Following the death of King Saul, God instructed David
to go to Hebron, where he was anointed King of Judah (II
Samuel 2:1-4). A little more than 7.5 years later, David was anointed
King over all Israel, in Hebron (II
The city was part of the united kingdom and
later the southern Kingdom of Judah,
until the latter fell to the Babylonians
in 586 BCE. Despite the loss of Jewish independence, Jews continued
to live in Hebron (Nehemiah
11:25), and the city was later incorporated into the (Jewish) Hasmonean
kingdom by John Hyrcanus.
King Herod (reigned 37-4
BCE) built the base of the present structure the 12 meter high
wall over the Tomb
The city was the scene of extensive fighting during
the Jewish Revolt against
the Romans (65-70, see Josephus
4:529, 554), but Jews continued to live there after the Revolt, through
the later Bar Kochba Revolt
(132-135 CE), and into the Byzantine
period. The remains of a synagogue
from the Byzantine period have been excavated in the city, and the Byzantines
built a large church over the Tomb of the Patriarchs, incorporating
the pre- existing Herodian structure.
Jews continued to live in Hebron after
the city's conquest by the Arabs (in 638), whose generally
tolerant rule was welcomed, especially after the often harsh
Byzantine rule although the Byzantines never forbade
Jews from praying at the Tomb. The Arabs converted the Byzantine
church at the Tomb
the Patriarchs into a mosque.
Upon capturing the city in 1100, the Crusaders expelled
the Jewish community, and converted the mosque at the Tomb back into
a church. The Jewish community was re-established following the Mamelukes'
conquest of the city in 1260, and the Mamelukes reconverted the church
at the Tomb of the Patriarchs back into a mosque. However, the restored
Islamic (Mameluke) ascendancy was less tolerant than the pre-Crusader
Islamic (Arab) regimes a 1266 decree barred Jews (and Christians)
from entering the Tomb of the Patriarchs, allowing them only to ascend
to the fifth, later the seventh, step outside the eastern wall. The
Jewish cemetery -- on a hill west of the Tomb was first mentioned
in a letter dated to 1290.
Turks' conquest of the city in 1517 was marked by a violent pogrom which
included many deaths, rapes, and the plundering of Jewish homes. The
surviving Jews fled to Beirut and did not return until 1533. In 1540,
Jewish exiles from Spain acquired
the site of the "Court of the Jews" and built the Avraham
Avinu ("Abraham Our Father") synagogue. (One year according
to local legend when the requisite quorum for prayer was lacking,
the Patriarch Abraham
himself appeared to complete the quorum; hence, the name of the synagogue.)
Despite the events of 1517, its general poverty and
a devastating plague in 1619, the Hebron Jewish community grew. Throughout
the Turkish period (1517-1917), groups of Jews from other parts of the
Land of Israel, and the Diaspora,
moved to Hebron from time to time, joining the existing community, and
the city became a rabbinic center of note.
In 1775, the Hebron Jewish community was
rocked by a blood libel, in which Jews were falsely accused
of murdering the son of a local sheikh. The community --
which was largely sustained by donations from abroad -- was
made to pay a crushing fine, which further worsened its already
shaky economic situation. Despite its poverty, the community
managed, in 1807, to purchase a 5-dunam plot -- upon which
the city's wholesale market stands today -- and after several
years the sale was recognized by the Hebron Waqf. In 1811,
800 dunams of land were acquired to expand the cemetery.
In 1817, the Jewish community numbered approximately 500,
and by 1838, it had grown to 700, despite a pogrom which
took place in 1834, during Mohammed Ali's rebellion against
the Ottomans (1831-1840).
In 1870, a wealthy Turkish Jew, Haim Yisrael Romano,
moved to Hebron and purchased a plot of land upon which his family built
a large residence and guest house, which came to be called Beit Romano.
The building later housed a synagogue and served as a yeshiva, before
it was seized by the Turks. During the Mandatory
period, the building served the British administration as a police
station, remand center, and court house.
In 1893, the building later known as Beit
Hadassah was built by the Hebron Jewish community as
a clinic, and a second floor was added in 1909. The American
Zionist Hadassah organization contributed the salaries of
the clinic's medical staff, who served both the city's Jewish
and Arab populations.
During World War I, before the British
occupation, the Jewish community suffered greatly under the
wartime Turkish administration. Young men were forcibly conscripted
into the Turkish army, overseas financial assistance was
cut off, and the community was threatened by hunger and disease.
However, with the establishment of the British administration
in 1918, the community, reduced to 430 people, began to recover.
In 1925, Rabbi Mordechai Epstein established a new yeshiva,
and by 1929, the population had risen to 700 again.
On August 23, 1929, local Arabs devastated the Jewish
community by perpetrating a vicious, large-scale, organized, pogrom.
According to the Encyclopedia Judaica:
"The assault was well planned and
its aim was well defined: the elimination of the Jewish
settlement of Hebron. The rioters did not spare women,
children, or the aged; the British gave passive assent.
Sixty-seven were killed, 60 wounded, the community was
destroyed, synagogues razed, and Torah scrolls burned."
A total of 59 of the 67 victims were buried
in a common grave in the Jewish cemetery (including 23 who
had been murdered in one house alone, and then dismembered),
and the surviving Jews fled to Jerusalem. (During the violence,
Haj Issa el-Kourdieh -- a local Arab who lived in a house
in the Jewish Quarter -- sheltered 33 Jews in his basement
and protected them from the rioting mob.) However, in 1931,
31 Jewish families returned to Hebron and re-established
the community. This effort was short-lived, and in April
1936, fearing another massacre, the British authorities evacuated
Following the creation
of the State of Israel in 1948, and the invasion by Arab armies, Hebron
was captured and occupied by the Jordanian Arab Legion. During the Jordanian
occupation, which lasted until 1967, Jews were not permitted to live
in the city, nor -- despite the Armistice
Agreement -- to visit or pray at the Jewish holy sites in the city.
Additionally, the Jordanian authorities and local residents undertook
a systematic campaign to eliminate any evidence of the Jewish presence
in the city. They razed the Jewish Quarter, desecrated the Jewish cemetery
and built an animal pen on the ruins of the Avraham Avinu synagogue.
III. HEBRON SINCE 1967
A. The Re-established Jewish community
Israel returned to Hebron in 1967.
The old Jewish Quarter had been destroyed and the
cemetery was devastated. Since 1968, the re-established
Jewish community in Hebron itself has been linked
to the nearby community of Kiryat
Arba. On April 4, 1968, a group of Jews registered
at the Park Hotel in the city. The next day they
announced that they had come to re- establish Hebron's
Jewish community. The actions sparked a nationwide
debate and drew support from across the political
spectrum. After an initial period of deliberation,
Prime Minister Levi
Eshkol's Labor-led government decided to temporarily
move the group into a near-by IDF
compound, while a new community -- to be called Kiryat
Arba -- was built adjacent to Hebron. The first 105
housing units were ready in the autumn of 1972.
return to Hebron, as recounted on the Jewish Community
of Hebron website, is as follows:
“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 Eretz Yisrael.
“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 Pesach 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 Erev Pesach, 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 kashered 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 Ya'akov Avinu had a rock
to place under his head, remembered one of the men
“Eighty-eight people celebrated Pesach
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
Arba has approximately 6,650 residents. Its
built-up area comprises some 6,000 dunams, and is
located about 750 meters from the Tomb at its nearest
point. Kiryat Arba has its own elected local council,
schools, religious and community institutions, clinics,
and industrial/commercial zone. It draws its water
from mains coming from the Etzion
Bloc and the Herodion area to the north. About
half of its residents work in Jerusalem and
its environs; 30% are employed in local education,
health, and administrative services, and the remaining
20% are employed in local tourism, industry, and
is also home to around 160,000 Palestinians
The Jewish community in Hebron itself was
re-established permanently in April 1979, when a group of
Jews from Kiryat
Arba moved into Beit
Hadassah (see page 2 above). Following a deadly terrorist
attack in May 1980 in which six Jews returning from prayers
at the Tomb of
the Patriarchs were murdered, and 20 wounded (see Annex
I below), Prime Minister Menachem
Begin's Likud-led government agreed to refurbish Beit
Hadassah, and to permit Jews to move into the adjacent
Beit Chason and Beit Schneerson, in the old Jewish Quarter.
An additional floor was built on Beit
Hadassah, and 11 families moved in during 1986.
Since 1980, other Jewish properties and
buildings in Hebron have been refurbished and rebuilt. Today
the Hebron Jewish community comprises 19 families living
in buildings adjacent to the Avraham Avinu courtyard (see
page 2 above), the area also houses two kindergartens, the
municipal committee offices, and a guesthouse; seven families
living in mobile homes at Tel Rumeida; twelve families living
in Beit Hadassah;
six families living in Beit Schneerson; one family living
in Beit Kastel; six families live in Beit Chason; Beit Romano,
home to the Shavei Hevron yeshiva, is currently being refurbished.
Local administration and services for the
Hebron Jewish community are provided by the Hebron Municipal
Committee, which was established by the Defense and Interior
Ministries, and whose functions are similar to those of Israel's
regular local councils. The Ministry of Housing and Construction
has established the "Association for the Renewal of
the Jewish Community in Hebron," to carry out projects
in the city. The Association is funded both through the state
budget and by private contributions. It deals with general
development of, and for, the Jewish community.
In addition to the Tomb
of the Patriarchs, Tel Rumeida, the Jewish cemetery,
and the historical residences mentioned above, other Jewish
sites in Hebron include: 1) the Tomb of Ruth and Jesse (King
David's father) which is located on a hillside overlooking
the cemetery; 2) the site of the Terebinths of Mamre ("Alonei
Mamre") from Genesis 18:1, where God appeared to Abraham,
which is located about 400 meters from the Glass Junction
(Herodian, Roman, and Byzantine remains mark the site today);
3) King David's Pool (also known as the Sultan's Pool), which
is located about 200 meters south of the road to the entrance
of the Tomb of the Patriarchs, which Jews hold to be the
pool referred to in II Samuel 4:12, 4) the Tomb of Abner,
Saul and David's general, which is located near the Tomb,
and 5) the Tomb of Othniel Ben Kenaz, the first Judge of
Israel (Judges 3:9-11).
B. Security, and Hebron and the Peace
According to the Oslo accords, the IDF
has sole responsibility for the security of the Jewish community
of Hebron. However, it is the Israel Police which is responsible
for investigating instances of possible violations of the
law by Hebron's Jewish residents. Providing security for
Hebron's Jewish residents is a particular challenge since
Hebron's is the only Jewish community in Judea, Samaria,
and Gaza which is situated directly in the midst of a city
with a large Arab population. Moreover, the community is
not concentrated in a single area or bloc, but is, rather,
comprised of dispersed and separated sites. Terrorists could
thus threaten one individual site, or isolate one site from
the others by creating pressure on the roads (traffic jams,
etc.) and thus impede the arrival of Israel security forces
should one site be attacked, or could attack the roads joining
the sites. Additionally, some of the sites are situated lower
than the surrounding areas, and thus face clear threats.
Under the Hebron Agreement, the city
was divided into two areas: H-1, under full Palestinian
Authority, and H-2, under full Israeli control.
At the outset of the second intifada in 2000, the IDF
resumed operations in the H-1 area. In 2003, the IDF
began constructing two permanent fortified posts in
Arab neighborhoods which overlook Jewish
homes in the center of Hebron.
Responsibility for security at the Tomb
of the Patriarchs -- in accordance with the recommendations
of the committee which investigated the massacre of 29 Muslim
worshippers and the wounding of 125 by Kiryat
Arba resident Baruch Goldstein on 25.02.94 -- is shared
by the IDF (outside the Tomb) and a special Israel Police/Border
Police unit (inside). Following the massacre and the publication
of the committee's findings, it was decided to establish
new prayer procedures which would enable both communities
to exercise their religious rights as fully and freely as
possible and would provide for the complete separation of
Jewish and Muslim worshippers. In this context, a schedule
of the religious holidays of both Jews and Muslims was established
in which each community was allocated 10 days annually in
which it would have exclusive access to the Tomb.
Following the signing of the Interim
Agreement on September 28, 1995, authority over most
civilian matters concerning Hebron's Arab residents was transferred
from the IDF Civil Administration to the Palestinian Authority
and/or the (Arab) Municipality of Hebron. Those services
which remained the responsibility of the Civil Administration
will be transferred to the Palestinian Authority and the
Municipality following the IDF redeployment in Hebron.
Agreement provides for the stationing of a Temporary
International Presence in Hebron (TIPH), whose sole function is
to monitor and report on events. On October 10, 1996, Israel and the
Palestinian Authority signed a joint letter requesting the Norwegian
government to extend the operation of the current TIPH, composed of
30 Norwegian citizens.
ANNEX I: TERRORIST ATTACKS AND VIOLENT
INCIDENTS IN HEBRON SINCE 1929
(The following list is intended to provide
a representative -- not exhaustive -- summary of terrorist
attacks and violent incidents which have occurred in Hebron
||67 Jews (including women, children,
and the elderly) were murdered, and 60 injured in a vicious
pogrom which had been well-planned by Arab rioters. In
the course of the pogrom, women were raped, homes and
synagogues were plundered and burned, and Torah scrolls
were desecrated and burned.
||A 17 year-old Arab youth threw
a grenade at Jews praying on the steps of the Tomb's
main gate. 47 Jews, including an eight month-old baby,
||A Jewish man and his son, an
elderly Arab man, and three Arab children were injured
by an explosive charge near the Tomb.
||Terrorists attack a security
post near the Tomb. One terrorist was killed; the others
fled. No Israeli soldiers were injured.
||Two Jews were wounded when terrorists
shot at a tour bus in the city.
||On the eve of Yom Kippur, a mob
of Arab youths burst into the Tomb and desecrated several
Torah scrolls. Three soldiers fired in the air in an
attempt to prevent their entry. 61 rioters were arrested
in the Tomb.
||Arab terrorists ambushed a group
of Jews returning from the Tomb to Beit Hadassah. Six
Jews were murdered and 20 wounded.
||A Molotov cocktail was thrown
at an Israeli vehicle in Hebron. A Jewish woman was wounded.
||11 Arabs, including four schoolchildren,
were injured when a booby-trapped grenade exploded in
the Hebron market.
||An Arab resident of Hebron was
wounded by a bomb at Glass Junction in Hebron.
||A Jewish resident of Kiryat Arba
was stabbed and wounded in the Hebron casbah.
||Beit Romano Yeshiva student Aharon
Gross was attacked and stabbed by three Arab youths in
the market area. He later died of his wounds.
||Jewish terrorists opened fire
at the Islamic College in Hebron. Three students were
murdered and approximately 30 wounded.
||A Jewish resident of Kiryat Arba
was stabbed and wounded in the Hebron casbah.
||A 16-year old Jewish youth was
stabbed and lightly wounded in the casbah.
||A Jewish resident of Kiryat Arba
was stabbed and wounded in the casbah.
||A young Arab woman, the daughter
of a local mukhtar, stabbed a soldier at the entrance
to the Tomb. She was shot and killed.
||A Jewish resident of Kiryat Arba
was stabbed in the city.
||Three Arab terrorists shot at
soldiers guarding the Tomb's generator. One reserve soldier
was murdered; two were wounded.
||Yeshiva student Erez Shmuel was
stabbed to death approximately 500 meters from from the
Tomb, while on his way to Friday evening prayers at the
||Mordechai Lapid and his son Shalom
were shot to death near Glass Junction in Hebron. Hamas
||Kiryat Arba resident Baruch Goldstein
opened fire on Muslim worshippers inside the Tomb, murdering
29 and wounding 125.
||Sarit Prigal (17) was shot to
death in a drive-by shooting, when terrorists opened
fire from a passing car near the entrance to Kiryat Arba.
||Nahum Hoss (31) of Hebron, and
Yehuda Partus (34) of Kiryat Arba, were murdered by shots
fired at their bus from a terrorist ambush near Glass
Junction in Hebron. Six others were injured.