A Statement Concerning Israeli Military Order # T/61/02 for the Confiscation and Demolition of Historic Buildings in the Old Town of Hebron
On November 29th, 2002 the Israeli army issued military order T/61/02 which calls for the demolition of the homes of 110 families in Hebron’s Old City in order to create a road that will directly connect the Israeli settlement of Kiryat Arba with the Ibrahimi Mosque. While these families will lose their homes, Palestine will lose a long row of irreplaceable historic buildings in Hebron’s Old City. In their place will stand a 6 to 12 meter wide road for the exclusive use of Israeli settlers.
These historic buildings in the Jaber neighborhood and the adjoining cross-vaulted alley date from periods ranging from the Mamluk to the Ottoman (the 15th to the 19th centuries). They comprise an integral part of the architectural fabric of the old town as well as, an intrinsic part of the historic surroundings of the Ibrahimi Mosque. Additionally, the alley and buildings above it slated for demolition, constitute the southern entrance to the old town; as such, they can be considered as a whole, a significant site of Hebron’s architectural and cultural heritage, in and of themselves. Under International law and conventions, these buildings must be protected.
The demolition of these buildings in the Jaber neighborhood is based on a view that takes the Ibrahimi Mosque as the only significant site in Hebron, rather than understanding the relationship both historical and architectural between the mosque and its surrounding built environment. The surrounding historic buildings are the fabric that strengthen the Mosque, that provide its visual context and which are historically intertwined with it.
Throughout it’s occupation of Hebron, Israel has undertaken numerous policies aimed at forcing the indigenous population to leave the Old City quarters. This has included the blockage of secondary entrances to the old town, daily inspection for the people passing though or living in it, as well as the prohibition on their using cars within it. As important, has been the carte blanche given to Israeli settlers who constantly harass the old city residents, vandalize their property and physically attack them with impunity.* Settler attacks have resulted in large numbers of old town residents leaving to live in the relative safety of Hebron’s new town. The result has been that many buildings in the old city were deserted and fell into deterioration.
Since 1998, The Hebron Rehabilitation Committee (HRC) has taken the initiative to reverse this situation. Aimed at both preserving the city’s cultural heritage and simultaneously bringing it back to life as a lived community, the HRC has undertaken large scale renovations throughout Hebron’s Old Town. These include the renovation/ restoration of buildings, streets, open spaces, and public and private infrastructure. Renovated buildings are used for residential, commercial and community activities, thus providing an infrastructure of services to the residents of the old town and the surrounding area. Restoration work was also started in the most physically threatened area now slated for demolition (the Jaber neighborhood) but was stopped by the Israeli Authorities on the usual grounds of “security”.
Instead of demolishing these irreplaceable buildings, we ask that the HRC be gra
nted the right to complete their restoration. Let these buildings stand so that they can be enjoyed by future generations of all nations rather than be demolished to create another road of separation, hatred and exclusion.
(The Hebron Rehabilitation Committee has documented a number of cases in which Palestinian residents filed complaints to the Israeli police against settlers’ attack on them and their properties).