Long before the invention of the modern Arab Palestinian identity and long before Hebron was called an “Arab city in the West Bank”, Hebron was a city that pre-dates every living culture in the world and the site of the burial of the forefathers of Judaism.
When Arabs were incited to rise up and slaughter their Jewish neighbours in the city, the British, at first shocked, eventually sauntered in to tell the rest of the Jews to flee. No sense in trying to stop the Arabs, that would be too much effort for the British and rock too many boats.
The Jewish Virtual Library has a great page on this:
For many years, the small Jewish community in the ancient city of Hebron lived in peace with their tens of thousands of Arab neighbors. But, on the night of August 23, 1929, the tension simmering within this cauldron of nationalities bubbled over and for a period of three days, Hebron turned into a city of terror and murder as the Arab residents led a rampaging massacre against the bewildered and helpless Jewish community.
By the time the massacre ended, 67 Jews lay dead – their homes and synagogues destroyed – and the few hundred survivors were relocated to Jerusalem. The aftermath left Hebron barren of Jews for the first time in hundreds of years.
This is video from Pathe from the region. It’s pretty underwhelming but notice how the British response to the massacre is to park a battleship off the coast of Haifa! I’m not entirely sure what Arabs in Hebron (about as far from the sea as it’s possible to get in Israel) would care about a battleship while they’re hacking Jews to death in the streets.
On Friday, August 23, 1929, that tranquility was lost.
Arab youths began the riots by hurling rocks at the yeshiva students as they walked by. That afternoon, student Shmuel Rosenholtz went to the yeshiva alone. Arab rioters broke in to the building and killed him. Rosenholtz’s was but the first of dozens of murders.
On Friday night, Rabbi Ya’acov Slonim’s son invited any Jews fearful of the worsening situation to stay in their family house. The rabbi was highly regarded in the community, and he kept a gun. Many of the Jews in the community took this offer for shelter. Unfortunately, many of these people were eventually murdered there.
As early as 8:00 a.m. on Saturday morning – the Jewish Sabbath – Arabs began to gather en masse around the Jewish community. They came in mobs, armed with clubs, knives and axes. While the women and children threw stones, the men ransacked Jewish houses and destroyed Jewish property. With only a single police officer in all of Hebron, the Arabs were able to enter Jewish courtyards with literally no opposition.
Rabbi Slonim, who had tried to shelter the Jews, was approached by the rioters and offered a deal. If all the Ashkenazi yeshiva students were given over to the Arabs, the rioters would spare the lives of the Sephardi community.
Rabbi Slonim refused to turn over the students. The Arabs killed him on the spot.
Read the whole thing and remember, we’re not fighting over modern occupation or anything new. We’re fighting just to live in any part of the land where Jewish peoplehood was born. And then consider the experiences of Daniel Borg in modern Hebron. The IDF are there to stop this happening again. Because it would if they weren’t there.
h/t to Arsen Ostrovsky and pictures from Israel Daily Picture.