Tens of thousands of Jewish Israelis visited the Tomb of the Patriarchs in the West Bank city of Hebron on Friday night and Saturday in an annual pilgrimage tradition.
The massive crowds came to mark the yearly Torah reading of the biblical Abraham’s purchase of the Hebron site to bury his wife, the matriarch Sarah.
In a statement, police said they secured the flashpoint site, revered by both Jews and Muslims, as “tens of thousands” of worshipers thronged the area for the weekend.
Police did not report any disturbances or security incidents.
The event came days after Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman announced that he had ordered his office to advance planning for the construction of an apartment building for Israeli settlers in the West Bank city.
The residential building will be constructed above a section of the Palestinian market, which was shuttered following a 1994 terror attack at the Tomb of the Patriarchs in which Israeli extremist Baruch Goldstein killed 29 Palestinian worshipers.
The market sits on land that belonged to Jews who fled after the 1929 Hebron massacre, in which Muslim rioters killed nearly 70 Jews and expelled the remainder of the population.
Liberman’s announcement came less than a month after the cabinet approved the establishment of a new neighborhood for Jewish settlers in Hebron in a project that will see homes built for Israelis in the city for the first time in 16 years.
The decision will see 16 government ministries allocate a total of NIS 21.6 million ($5.96 million) for the construction of 31 homes, two kindergartens, a daycare center, and a public park in the Hezekiah Quarter of Hebron. The site has since the 1980s housed an IDF base, which will be downsized with the neighborhood’s establishment.
Under the Hebron Protocol signed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Palestinians in January 1997, the West Bank’s most populous city was divided into two sections. H1 includes 80 percent of the city and lies under full Palestinian control. In H2, 600 Israeli settlers live in fortified compounds heavily guarded by the IDF in the midst by 40,000 Palestinians, whose movements are highly restricted.
Jacob Magid contributed to this report.