The Roots of Tel Rumeida
February 24, 2003
Yesterday, the Israeli Supreme Court, sitting as the High Court of Justice, halted construction of new apartments in the Tel Rumeida-Admot Yishai neighborhood.
What is the background of this building?
Almost five years ago, Rabbi Shlomo Ra’anan, the 63 year-old grandson of Israel’s first Chief Rabbi, Rav Avraham Yitzhak HaCohen Kook, was murdered in his Tel Rumeida caravan- home bedroom. Among the visitors during the shiva, the week of mourning, was then Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu promised Hebron’s Jewish community that his government would issue permits allowing construction of permanent housing to replace the ‘caravan’ mobile homes, which had been brought to the neighborhood in the summer of 1984 with the permission of then Defense Minister Moshe Arens.
Tel Rumeida’s real name is Tel Hebron, site of the ancient home of our Patriarchs and Matriarchs, as well as King David and others. During excavations conducted during the Jordanian occupation of Hebron in the early 1960s, many ancient artifacts were uncovered, including giant walls dating back to the days of Joshua. In order to allow construction of permanent housing anywhere in Tel Rumeida, it was understood that the building would be preceded by additional archeological excavations.
The Israel Antiquities Authority, in conjunction with the director of archeology in Judea and Samaria, began digging in the area. In the midst of the excavations, Ehud Barak was elected Prime Minister. Following conclusion of the six-month dig, the Barak government refused to issue the necessary building permits. However, cement roofing, covering the excavations was begun, and finished after Ariel Sharon replaced Barak.
Following months of waiting, Sharon’s Defense Minster, Labor-party leader Binyamin ben Eliezer finally signed the building permits, and construction began. The new building will house six new apartments and a Torah study hall, in memory of Rabbi Ra’anan, called Ohr Shlomo. When ben Eliezer was asked by his own Labor party members why he, a Labor minister, issued building permits to Hebron settlers, he replied that the situation in Hebron was so dangerous that caravan homes provided no safety for their occupants, and therefore, new, stone houses were a security necessity. This, of course, due to the “Oslo War.” The caravan homes in Tel Rumeida were shot at day and night for over two years. Bullets hitting the caravan walls pierced not one wall, rather two or three walls. Only Divine miracles prevented anyone from being hit by these terrorist bullets. Ben Eliezer’s comrades then asked him, if it is so dangerous in Tel Rumeida, why doesn’t he close the area and remove its Jewish residents, to which the Defense Minister replied, “There are some places you cannot throw Jews out of.”
The building has continued for a number of months and should be completed by the coming fall. However, several people, including two Arabs, two archeologists, and a left-wing former MK, are attempting to stop the building. They appealed to the Israeli Supreme Court, claiming that Israel is destroying ancient archeological artifacts. The court yesterday issued a temporary injunction halting all construction, until the claims are examined and ruled upon.
Let’s for a moment, take a look at the petitioners.
First, the Arabs, both of whom live in Tel Rumeida. Zakariah el-Bakri lives right next to the building site, adjacent to the Israeli caravan homes. He lives in a real, stone house. His house is, without any doubt, sitting on top of archeological antiquities which will never be uncovered, due to the fact that his house is covering them. The Jewish community’s construction has been fully approved by the Israeli antiquities authority and the director of archeology in Judea and Samaria, Dr. Yitzhak Magen. All measures were implemented to ensure that the artifacts unearthed would be conserved. However, when Zakaria el Bakri built his house, he took no such precautions, thereby causing irreparable damage to artifacts under his home.
In addition, el Bakri rented his home to the Israeli construction company in charge of the building. In other words, he was fully aware of the impending construction and even took advantage of it to make some money. Yet now he is trying to stop the building by appealing to the courts. Strange, no?
The other Arab petitioner is the principal of an Arab girl’s school, across from Beit Hadassah. Their house also rests on ancient Tel Hebron and covers antiquities. Mrs. Hekal is known for her vicious hatred of Hebron’s Jewish residents and has been involved in many more that one scuffle with Jews living in the vicinity.
There are also two archeologists complaining to the court. Dr. Avi Ofer was involved in excavations in Tel Rumeida in the 1970s. When it was decided to excavate again, several years ago, he wanted to participate as director of the dig, but was overruled by the Israeli antiquities authority. He went to court in an attempt to receive the appointment, but lost.
Two interesting points concerning Ofer. First, the excavations were labeled as “rescue excavations,” whose objective is to allow construction at the archeological site following conclusion of the dig. Ofer himself wanted to direct this dig. In other words, he knew, when applying for the directorship, that the site would be used for construction of apartments after the dig was completed. He didn’t then complain about future building.
The second point is the Dr. Avi Ofer told Noam Arnon and me, in our offices, years ago, that Tel Rumeida is the second most important archeological site in Israel after Temple Mount in Jerusalem. However he added, ‘it all belongs to Arafat.’
In other words, Avi Ofer isn’t interested in the well-being of Tel Rumeida. He is infected by two horrible inflictions: deep-rooted jealousy and rampant leftism.
The other archeologist bringing suit is Professor Moshe Cochavi, who is, incidentally, Avi Ofer’s mentor. So you know where he’s coming from.
So there you have it. Again, an attempt by the left to stop growth and development in Hebron, this time in Tel Rumeida. However, they will not succeed. Tel Rumeida is the virtual roots of the Jewish people, beginning with Abraham, and leading up to the present. Those roots are so deep that no one will ever be able to displace or destroy them, hard as they may try. The roots of Tel Rumeida stretch out through almost four thousand years of Jewish presence in this world. The will continue to exist for eternity.
With blessings from Hebron,
This is David Wilder