The evacuated residents of Machpelah House in Hebron have erected a protest tent a few hundred meters from the Cave of the Patriarchs, in front of their empty property, which was locked by Border Police and will remain a closed military area until further notice, under order of Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
According to One of the group’s leaders, Shlomo Levinger, a few dozen demonstrators were participating in the sitdown protest.
Levinger told the Jewish Press “We’re waiting outside the house until they’ll let us in, God willing. The Prime Minister said he’s expecting that the matter be examined in the next few days, and so we’ll be waiting.”
“All those documents have already been submitted last week,” Levinger noted. “It’s a formal matter – let them go over it and approve the sale.”
Levinger said the protesters were planning to sleep Thursday night and through the coming month in front of their home. “I hope that they’ll find time over the coming month to locate the documents, and additional time for the Defense Minister to sign his approval.”
In a press conference Wednesday night, Barak referred to the Jewish owners of the Hebron property as “squatters.” But the reason given for evacuating the tenants was not based on their right to the place but on the fact that the Defense Minister was acting on his view that the fact of their living there constituted a threat to the public peace, regardless of their rights.
In the area of Judea and Samaria, the Defense Minister is empowered to subvert individual rights on the grounds that exercising them may pose a threat to the peace.
Levinger said that this was the cause that had been presented in the evacuation order handed to the tenants by Police before their evacuation.
“But if we are squatters,” Levinger argued, “that means we were evacuated because the government says we’re illegal, and not because of our threat to public order.”
On the accusation of squatting, Levinger said he and his group entered the house using a key they had received from the Arab who sold them the house months ago.
“When Police originally came to check on us, we told them that we bought the house,” Levinger said. “This terminology is all part of the aggression and the disturbing of the peace by the Defense Minister. He is using the military forces to advance his political agenda.”
Levinger related that Muhammad Abu-Shahala, the Arab who served as a go-between for a Jewish-owned, Arab real estate company in purchasing the house for its Jewish buyers, has been arrested by the Palestinian Authority for the crime of selling real estate to Jews. Abu-Shahala was arrested as soon as he had confirmed the sale publicly. Other members of his family, and the sellers family have been arrested too, and are currently under interrogation by the PA.
“We insist that the Israeli government demand the release of this man, who may receive the death penalty for selling to us,” Levinger said. “Once he is free and safe from harm. he will gladly testify that he sold the property to us of his free will.”
According to Levinger, the house was purchased for “well over half a million dollars,” which is twice its value. The real estate company that purchased the house is Alaidun Lalakrat, which is owned by Assaf Nechmad, a former GSS officer.