The Mystery of the Tomb of Avner ben Ner or Understanding Uzi’’s Whims

The Mystery of the Tomb of Avner ben Ner or Understanding Uzi’s Whim’s
May 20, 1997

Avner ben Ner was King Saul’s Chief of Staff. He was killed in Hebron by Yoav following Saul’s death. King David buried him across from Ma’arat HaMachpela – the Tomb of the Patriarchs. This location has been a site of Jewish worship through the generations.

The tomb has been closed for the past three years. Jews have been told that they may not enter the site because it is adjacent to the entrance used by Moslems into Ma’arat HaMachpela. However, we were told that during the ten days that the entire building is open to Jews, we might be able to pray and visit also at the Tomb of Avner. As a result, on every occasion that the Ma’ara is completely open to Jews, a request is placed with the appropriate authorities concerning the Tomb of Avner. We have yet to receive a positive reply.

Prior to Pesach we met with General Gabbi Ofir, commander of Judea and Samaria. This subject was brought up and he promised to recommend that our request be fulfilled. However, he noted that the final decision is in the hands of someone else. We also submitted written requests. On Sunday, prior to Pesach the director of the Religious Council in Kiryat Arba received notification to prepare the Tomb of Avner for visitors on Wednesday and Thursday of that week, the second and third days of Pesach, when the entire Ma’ara was to be open only to Jewish visitors. He proceeded to do so, and advertised the opening of the site to Jews on those two days.

On Wednesday morning, the first day of Chol Ha-Moed – the intermediate days of Passover, General Uzi Dayan, Commander of the Central Region, visited Hebron. He met with the director of the Kiryat Arba Religious Council in Hebron. Seeing that the Tomb of Avner was not open, the director asked General Uzi Dayan the reason for the delay. Dayan’s answer: Hebron’s Jewish Community refuses to meet me – I will not open the Tomb. I will not change the status of the Tomb of Avner.

Following Pesach we received a reply to our requests to open and visit at the Tomb. The ‘official’ answer was that because the Tomb was in poor condition, it would endanger anyone entering it.

MK Naomi Blumenthal of the Likud received a similar letter directly from Minister of Defense Yitzhak Mordechai.

However, the Tomb underwent renovations a year ago, financed by the Department of Defense, in order to rectify its dilapidated condition.

In other words, the official reason enumerated by the Defense ministry is unfounded – the building was long ago renovated to allow visitors to enter it. The decision to allow us to worship there is made by one individual – General Uzi Dayan. And he refused, because the Jewish Community of Hebron prefers not to meet with him.

Why?

In early May, Central Region Commander Uzi Dayan requested a meeting with Hebron’s leadership on the 14th of the month. As a result of this request, the following letter was sent to him:

Honorable General,
For over three months, since the withdrawal from Hebron, the Jewish Community of Hebron has been facing a deteriorating situation, which is a direct result of your lack of implementation of the government’s policy decisions. The following list exemplifies some of the more prominent instances:

You refuse to issue building permits to the Jewish Community of Hebron, in spite of government decisions permitting construction in Hebron. In addition you issued orders halting construction of Beit Nahum v’Yehuda, and most unfortunately, even the memorial for Rabbanit Menucha Rachel in the Ashkenazi plot of the ancient Jewish cemetery.

You told us that the IDF would line the H1-Arafat controlled – H2-Israeli controlled border and would enforce a strict buffer zone between the two areas. Nothing could be farther from the truth. You won’t even allow the army to fight back and rebuff the Arab rioters who reach the doorsteps of our houses. There is no buffer zone, in spite of the fact that according to the Hebron Accords it is your right and your privilege to enforce the separation. The Israeli negotiating worked very hard to attain the buffer zone. Your security policy erases this achievement, endangering our lives and the lives of our soldiers. A prime example of this was the erection of the 12 meter fence, located in the center of H2. This allows you to permit continued rioting within H2, on the other side of the fence.

You don’’t allow the Israeli police to enforce the Hebron Accords: “Israel retains all authority and responsibility for internal security and civil order in H2.” In spite of the rioting within H2 the police do not arrest the perpetrators, and do not investigate or prosecute them. On the other hand, you gave orders to the police to implement an iron fist policy against the Jews of Hebron.

You showed negligence and acquiescence when Tel Rumeida was isolated from the rest of the community during construction of the “Shuhada Road project.” You broke all the government orders concerning the reciprocity of the accords when you allowed continued work during the battles next to Beit Hadassah, (when both soldiers and civilians were injured.)
You instructed the IDF to retreat from the hills surrounding the Jewish Community of Hebron by canceling the joint patrols. The “improved” Hebron Accords promised a permanent IDF presence in these areas because from these areas, shots can be fired directly into our homes. Additionally, if snipers can shoot directly at our children, inside our homes and within our playgrounds, why should we use a bullet-proofed vehicle for transportation?

You refuse to allow those responsible for ‘law and order’ to demolish the illegal building in the Kasba, buildings illegally renovated. This is contrary to the order you issued, forbidding renovation of these buildings, for security reasons. (This is unhappily written following your actions at Yitzhar.)

You continue to apply pressure on us, to force us to use a bullet-proof vehicle, without accepting our opinion and without honoring our rights as citizens of Israel to live as a free people. You demand we use a bullet-proof vehicle without efficiently solving Hebron’s security problems by distancing the source of danger, as we have previously written.

In other words, we have already made it clear many times that transporting our children in bullet-proof vehicles is asking the terrorists to point their weapons at other vehicles, both ours, and those of the tens of thousands who visit Hebron and Ma’arat HaMachpela annually.

We wish to point out that the ministers who supported the Hebron Accords, did so after receiving pledges from the Prime Minister and following a cabinet decision guaranteeing our full security and our ability to live in and develop the Hebron Jewish Community Unfortunately you have violated this cabinet decision. You were entrusted with fulfilling the government’s decisions. Since the signing of the Hebron agreement, we have met with you a number of times and nothing has been accomplished.

AS THINGS STAND, IN YOUR OPINION, IS THERE ANY REASON FOR AN ADDITIONAL MEETING? WHAT CAN WE EXPECT TO GAIN FROM SUCH A MEETING?

Sincerely,
Noam Arnon – Chairman, The Jewish Community of Hebron
Rabbi Hillel Horowitz – Director, The Jewish Community of Hebron
Avraham ben Yosef – Chairman, Hebron Municipal Committee

In response to this letter, Uzi Dayan canceled the meeting.

This is why Jews from Israel and around the world may not visit and worship at the Tomb of Avner ben Ner.


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