GOC Central Command Maj. Gen. Nitzan Alon overruled a Judea and Samaria Division order to close the Cave of the Patriarchs to Palestinian visitors on Sunday. The Judea and Samaria Division's original decision to bar Palestinian visitors from the site came after repeated acts of vandalism to sacred Jewish items on the premises.
For reasons unknown, Alon's order to allow Palestinian visitors into the site, which was given on Sunday morning, was stalled and only took effect later in the afternoon. The delayed opening led the Palestinian Waqf to file a complaint with the District Coordination Office.
The Judea and Samaria Division decided to close the Cave of the Patriarchs to Palestinian worshippers between the ages of 18 and 35 after at least three incidents of vandalism to sacred Jewish objects, such as mezuzot, were documented over the last month. The most recent act of vandalism took place during last Friday's prayer service. Several Palestinian vandals were recorded on security cameras during the act.
To counter the vandalism, Judea Brigade Commander Col. Avi Baluth and Judea and Samaria Division Commander Brig. Gen. Tamir Yadai ordered the site closed to Palestinians in an age range considered prone to perpetrating such acts.
The Cave of the Patriarchs is considered an especially volatile holy site. After the 1994 Baruch Goldstein Massacre, Jews and Palestinians were allotted different time slots in which to hold prayer services. The defense establishment is keenly aware that any incident at the Cave of Patriarchs could lead to a violent escalation in the entire region.