In 1807 when Haim Bajaio purchased, on behalf of the Hebron Jewish community, a five-dunam plot of land adjacent to the centuries-old Jewish Quarter, for 1,200 grushim. The deal was witnessed and signed by no fewer than 22 Hebron Arab notables. This property served Hebron’s Jews and later accommodated the home and synagogue of its chief rabbi, Eliahu Manni.
Following the Jordanian takeover of Hebron in 1948, the entire Jewish Quarter – founded by Spanish-Jewish exiles in 1540 – was razed to the ground. Among the structures destroyed was the ancient Avraham Avinu Synagogue. In the early 1960s, an Arab fruit and vegetable market was constructed on the property bought by the Hebron community in 1807.
Following the liberation of Hebron during the 1967 Six Day War, these structures continued to function, having been rented to the Hebron Arab municipality by the Israeli government. The property contracts for these buildings expired in the 1990s, and the site was gradually closed over a period of several years, due to security concerns. The market was finally shut down following an attempted terrorist attack: Arabs placed a booby-trapped teddy bear in a plastic bag in the market near the entrance to the Jewish neighborhood, hoping a Jewish child, finding it, would play with it and be killed in the ensuing explosion.Despite numerous requests by our community to rent the structures, the site has been left vacant.
On March 26, 2001, an Arab sniper shot and killed 10-month-old Shalhevet Pass. Following the murder, Hebron children began utilizing the abandoned Arab market place as a place to play and take cover during shooting attacks from the overlooking Abu Sneneh Hills. Over a period of time, the Hebron community invested tens of thousands of dollars to convert the former fruit and vegetable stalls into livable apartments. Presently, the former market, renamed the Mitzpe Shalhevet neighborhood, houses Hebron families and a Torah study hall opened in Shalhevet’s memory.