Settlers Return to Disputed Hebron Building

Return authorized by defense minister after Supreme Court ruling that the building, known as the House of Contention, had been legally purchased by the settlers.

Olivier Fitoussi

Three Jewish families returned on Sunday to a disputed building in Hebron from which they had been evicted more than five years ago.

Permission for the return was given by Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon after the Supreme Court ruled last month that the four-storey building, known as the House of Contention, had been legally purchased by the settlers.

The families were accompanied by a large and festive crowd as they returned to the building. The rabbi of Hebron Dov Lior said that "the purchase of a house in the Land of Israel is, for the people of Israel, the return of the city of the fathers to her sons – and so it should be throughout the breadth of our land.

"Real peace will be when the nations of the world recognize the exclusive right of the Jewish people to this land. Every nation has its piece of land on the earth and we are willing to assist them in returning to their place of origin."

Moshe Levinger, one of the original Jewish settlers in Hebron, said, "Thank the Lord that we have returned home I thank all those who made this happen, including the defense minister who eventually complied and allowed the families to enter."

Peace Now said in a statement that "the entry of the settlers was reason enough to halt the negotiations. Ya'alon gave in to the right and is now mobilizing the army to defend another building in the heart of Hebron."

The December 2008 eviction of the Jewish settlers from the building, as the legal struggle was ongoing, saw fierce clashes between radical settlers and Israeli security forces and tensions in the divided city boiling over.