During Ramadan, Mearas Hamachepelah is closed to Jews on Fridays – and Arabs apparently used that opportunity to steal an expensive mezuzah case (with a mezuzah inside) from the doorposts of one of the entrances to the compound. The theft was discovered on Shabbos, when groups of Jews came to daven at the site.
In addition, the thieves broke into a storeroom where plants that have yet to be planted were stored, and stole dozens of them as well. The plants were valued in the thousands of shekels.
Mearas Hamachpelah has been split between Jews and Muslims since 1994, when Dr. Baruch Goldstein shot at the site, killing over two dozen Arabs. For Jewish and Muslim holidays, the site is generally turned over to each group in turn. In the wake of the theft, members of the Chevron Jewish community demanded that the special permit granting Muslims full control of the site on Ramadan Fridays be canceled.
Speaking to the NRG news site, community spokesperson Noam Arnon said that this was “not the first time that Arabs used their privileges to cause damage to Jewish holy items. This has happened in the past, and we then also demanded that steps be taken to prevent repetition of these acts. Unfortunately, the Muslims have once again shown that they do not understand the term ‘religious tolerance,’ and what it means to respect holy objects. We demand that their special privileges be canceled, until they begin to understand the principal of mutual respect.”
“We demand that they return the mezuzah,” added Arnon. “This is a very expensive mezuzah and one that has deep spiritual and sentimental meaning. We also demand that the guilty parties apologize. It took great effort to calm the members of the Jewish community, many of whom wanted to take retaliatory action. But we ensured that they did not do so, as it is the State’s responsibility to take action to prevent future instances of this behavior, and to ensure return of the mezuzah.”