Hebron Jew dies without getting his property back

Yaakov Castel (right), one of the last survivors of the 1929 Hebron massacre.

Hebron is usually portrayed in the media as an Arab city with an inconvenient minority of aggressive Jewish ‘settlers’. But Yaakov Castel, who has just died, was proof of a centuries-old Jewish presence, according to Arutz Sheva. His failure to regain his property is more proof that the Israeli authorities are reluctant to uphold the rights of the original, predominantly Sephardi, property owners in ‘Arab’ areas for political reasons. (With thanks: Michelle-Malca)

Yaakov Castel, one of the last remaining survivors of the 1929 Hevron massacre, passed away on Thursday morning. His dream of restoring his family’s home in the city remained unfulfilled.

Castel survived the brutal massacre of Hevron’s Jews at the hands of an Arab mob as a young child. His father, Rabbi Shlomo Castel, was murdered.

Survivors of the massacre were expelled from Hevron by the British. When Jordan seized control of the city in 1948, their homes were given to Arab families.

Israel’s return to Hevron in 1967 did not lead to survivors’ return to their homes. Instead, Israeli authorities decided to treat the properties as abandoned land. Jews who moved into the Castel family’s home in Hevron’s marketplace were expelled at the order of the Supreme Court. (My emphasis – ed)

Castel fought a lengthy legal battle to get his property returned.

Yaakov Castel owned an ancient copy of the Book of Esther which had been read on Purim by Hevron’s Jews. Eleven years ago he donated the scroll to the Hevron museum, which chronicles the city’s Jewish history.

Castel also owned a book detailing his family’s rich history, which has included more than 500 years living in Gaza and then Hevron following the expulsion of Jews from Spain. At the time of the Hevron massacre the family had been in Hevron for generations.

Read article in full

The future of Hebron’s Jewish past by Melanie Phillips (Jewish Chronicle)


  • I fully endorse your thoughts, Suzy, Sammish and Sylvia.

    The Jewish Nakba is central in demolishing so many myths:

    One state solution: we don't want to revert to dhimmis. Israel represents our self-determination as free and full citizens
    Jews as colonial interlopers: We were there 1,000 years before the Muslims
    Israel was created because of the Holocaust: antisemitsm was a reality under Islam for 14 centuries

    Apartheid: look to Arab states where Jews are not even allowed to live/ have been ethnically cleansed

  • Sammish wrote:"Nothing will remedy it, nothing .. only to be strong in our faith and resolve and to never allow it to happen for our children and grandchildren."

    This is brilliant and this is the message we should be carrying at this time when there are those trying to make the "one state solution" palatable and mainstream.

    We should do so as players in the I/P conflict and not as passive puppets who allow this or that ideology to fashion our histories to fit in their political moods. We must be counted and not leave it to people who have no clue what it's like and what it would be like, and for whom we don't seem to exist anyway.

    The problem is not Husseini, or colonialism or Zionism. The problem is that those countries have legal systems that may be desirable to them, but do not view non-Muslim visible minorities as equals, which leads to suffering, permanent sense of helplessness and periodic traumatizing pogroms, not to mention the end of democracy. A Damocles sword hanging in permanence over your head.

    Indeed the message should be as Sammish says: we've been there and we do not want our children and grandchildren to suffer the way we and our forefathers before us have suffered.

  • Call me a pessimist, I do not see anything coming our way now or even in 10 years. We shall have rejoined our ancestors!
    But at least my books will vouch for what we have gone through!!
    sultana latifa

  • Even if the compensation is possible, I do not think it will heal the wounds of the jewish Nekba from the Arab lands….. Nothing will remedy it, nothing .. only to be strong in our faith and resolve and to never allow it to happen for our children and grandchildren. For the generation of parents and grandparents who were to real victims and have since passed away we can only preserve their memories and suffering at hearts…and move on and demand the rights of jews to be respected, if it is not with monetary compensation at least in acknowledgment of their suffering by those perpetrators, their childrens and grandschildrens…

    However I know that the historical narrative has already been written by the children of these perpetrators and sadly it is writen in stone. Hopefully in the far distant future they will learn what really happened by looking at their own calamities and sufferings that befell on them for their lack of human descency and understanding.

  • The younger man standing next to Yaakov Castel is Noam Arnon. He is a reasonable, articulate spokesman for the Jews in Hebron and nearby Qiryat Arba`.

  • Jews need to be compensated not just for property but the human rights abuses they endured.
    Besides these abuses, their uprooting had a very real cost to their health: there are many examples of fathers who died prematurely, for instance, because of the worry and torment of not knowing how they would support their displaced families.

  • I am very much convinced that this will be our fate.
    It's very good to push for compensation but we all know, deep inside, that nothing will happen!!!
    And anyway who will compensate for the pain and horror of what we had to bbear (polie oming in at 2 a.m., seizing young men becuase they were making igarette signs to Israeli planes !!!
    and even young women

  • No one can compensate for what we lived through as Egyptian Jews. Not to talk about the arrests, the shaven heads (for instance: one of my cousins was arrested because, said they: he mas making signs with his cigarette to Israeli planes!).
    We also had several visits during the night from the Muharabat coming to question us on the whereabouts of the part of the family. They knew perfectly well that the family was in Israel!But the tactics they used had already been used before in Germany, to frighten the daylights out of us. and they succeeded. Now tell me who will pay for the moral destabilisation???
    Money cannot bring back the dead!
    sultana Latifa


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