is the first Hebrew settlement in history, established four millennia
ago. It is where the patriarch Abraham purchased land and where there has
been a more-or-less continuous Jewish presence until 1929 when an Arab massacre
took the lives of 67 Jews, one third of whom were Yeshiva students. David
Ben Gurion, who opposed an Israeli presence in the West Bank after the Six Days
War, believed nonetheless that Hebron
merited settlement. This is, after all, where the Jewish covenant began.
I've written about the Jews of Hebron proper, of whom there may be nearly 1,000, living in three neighborhoods next to the town center where still standing are synagogues and schools from the past, as well as the Tombs of the Matriarchs and Patriarchs of Israel. I did not much like these pious settler folk, nasty to the Israeli soldiers who were protecting them and also provocative to the 130,000 indigenous Arabs, themselves quite hostile to the Israelis. But there is an abutting town, Kiryat Arba, with a population of some 8,000, less hostile but insistent on their rights around Hebron.
There are no serious peace talks being carried on between Israel and the Palestinians. But the heads of two local Arab clans, one of whose relatives, then the mayor of Hebron, I visited with on a trip in 1970, met last Wednesday with representatives of Kiryat Arba and the Jewish neighborhoods in the city, including the one known as Avraham Avinu (Father Abraham). According to Ha'aretz, Sheikh Abu-Hader Ja'abri, the mayor's descendant, said to the Jews, "We don't see you as settlers but as residents ... Hebron is ours just as it is yours."
So what was the Palestinian reaction to the visit? Fatah's military wing, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, released a leaflet calling for Ja'abri's assassination.