Jewish Presence Expanded in Sacred West Bank City
HEBRON, Occupied West Bank (AP) _ Israel inaugurated new Jewish housing Monday in the West Bank city of Hebron, raising Arab protests that the expanded Jewish presence in the predominantly Palestinian city will incite new tensions.
Deputy Prime Minister David Levy dedicated the refurbished building of Beit Hadassah in the city center where 13 new families will join 30 Jewish families who already live in Hebron.
A new third story of Beit Hadassah, which was occupied in 1968 by Jewish settlers in defiance of the government at the time, will house a live-in Jewish seminary and extra rooms for paying guests. The government plans to build 11 more apartments in the same area.
″We have established the cornerstone of the Jewish Quarter of Hebron,″ said Rabbi Moshe Levinger, a leader of the militant West Bank settlers movement, Gush Emunim, or ″Block of the Faithful.″
The government of former Prime Minister Menachem Begin decided in 1980 to rebuild the Jewish Quarter of Hebron that was destroyed in a riot in 1929 when about 70 Jews were killed.
The city is about 20 miles south of Jerusalem and is the site of the Cave of the Patriarchs, believed to be the burial site of the Biblical figures Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The site is sacred to Jews and Moslems, who had a scuffle there last Friday over when each group was allowed to pray.
Former Hebron mayor Mustafa Natshe, deposed by the Israeli military command that oversees the West Bank, said the arrival of more Jewish settlers could lead to trouble in the city of 50,000 Palestinians.
″The arrival of extremist settlers with fanatical opinions leads to tensions. And it leads to unknown results,″ Natshe told The Associated Press.
″Anyone who thinks that peace will come without us (Israelis) in the land of Israel is living with illusions,″ Levy said at a ceremony.