Photo Credit: Nati Shohat / Flash 90
View of Cave of the Patriarchs and Tel Rumeida neighborhood in Hebron, Nov. 2007.

The Jewish community of Hebron, the oldest Jewish community in the world, has been granted municipality status with the approval of Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Tuesday.

The move separates the Jewish community of Hebron legally from Palestinian Authority controlled Hebron. Since the 1997 Hebron Agreement, the community received municipal services from Palestinian Authority controlled Hebron, oftentimes quite sporadically.

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The 1997 Hebron Agreement divided the city into two parts, H1 – the Palestinian Authority controlled section without Jews, consisting of 80% of the city, and H2 – the Israeli controlled neighborhood with both Jews and Arabs.

Within the entire city of Hebron, the Jewish community has been effectively restricted to just 3% of the city.

The decision allows the Jewish Hebron Municipal Committee to become a local administration authorized to promote economic, health, cultural and social issues on behalf of the Jewish residents as well as to collect fees from them, and to bid on tenders, enter into contracts, and purchase and hold land. The committee can now exert authority over buildings and assets owned and held by Jewish residents.

When necessary, the committee is allowed to interface with the Palestinian Authority mayor of Hebron, regarding various issues affecting the PA-controlled Arab sections of the city. If need be the committee can also turn to the Civil Administration as well.

The mayor of Arab Hebron, Tayseer Abu Shneineh, murdered 6 Israelis and Jews in Hebron in 1980, including 2 Americans and a Canadian citizen. He wounded 20 more people in his attack. He received a sentence of life in prison, but was released in a prisoner exchange.

Noam Arnon, spokesperson for the current Jewish community in Hebron, welcomed the decision to grant the community independent municipal status.

“Since the Oslo Accords and the Hebron Agreement, we were the only Jewish community that receives services from a Palestinian city. There were periods when we received water and electricity from the Palestinian Authority. Today we receive the water from Kiryat Arba,” Arnon told Arutz Sheva.

“Seventy-five families live here today, and we hope that the settlement will grow. According to the Oslo Accords and the Hevron Agreement, the Jews of Hevron live on only three percent of the area of Hevron, and today the Jews deserve to build in Hevron, of course, within the Jewish property.”

The Jewish community in Hebron thanked Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Deputy Defense Minister Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan as well for their hard work in promoting the initiative in the past months.

The Torah states that the Biblical Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and the Matriarchs Sarah, Rebecca and Leah are all buried in the Cave of Machpela, in the field of Mamre, in Hebron. The Zohar states it is also the burial site of Adam and Eve as well.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.