When They Came for Me
If you don’t have time to read about the double standards that are being perpetrated and the destruction for no reason that will happen (again!) if we don’t stop it, just take a minute and think about what you would do if it was your home that was slated for destruction; where would you be?
This past Friday morning I was not at home preparing for Shabbat but in Elazar, a sister neighborhood here in Gush Etzion. Why did I feel the need to spend my only day off touring other people’s homes? Because these 17 homes and families are about to be homeless, and someone should care.
Last week I went to Netiv Avot a few times, to take a #17Homes picture, to understand what was going on and why, to be there with many others when they held a concert and many gathered; many, but not enough. Last night I went back to Netiv Avot, hoping to see many people there. any day now, the destruction will start. It turned out to be a youth gathering, although under 16 year olds were told not to come. The young people, full of passion, have been sleeping in tents in the area for the past two weeks, hoping to stop this. But as it gets closer, we wonder what else we can do. The people who live there care about safety, and sadly, have seen these things happen before. Above all, they don’t want anyone to get hurt. But these families, this community, *will* be hurt if we can’t stop the destruction of their homes and businesses.
Their homes are slated for destruction in early March, right before the holiday where we were saved from destruction, Purim, and the holiday of freedom, Passover, when we came together as a nation. Well, now our nation is not together, it is terribly broken, because no one is doing this to them but our own fellow Jews, who should be ashamed of themselves.
Here is the backstory, especially pertinent for those who think that these families brought it on themselves, and full of injustice at the highest levels. Yes, life isn’t fair, as anyone who has seen (or read) The Princess Bride can tell you. But have a seat and take a deep breath, because this is something else.
In 2001, when there was terrorism plaguing the roads between Gush Etzion and Yerushalayim, the government saw that in some particular areas, the Arabs were trying to cut the Gush in pieces, all the better to perpetrate their murders and to keep us from developing land—land no one was using. The government encouraged families to move into these areas, saying that they would work to make sure everything was legal. One of these residents, the Den Heijer family, lived in a caravan, waiting for the okay to build—for 10 years. They finally started building their house in 2014, when they were told they could. Our PM at the time, Ehud Barak, started a survey of the land to make sure there were no problems. He found that 95% of it was not an issue, and that for the other 5%, there were no claims to the land, but they weren’t completely clear. In comes Peace Now, and Yesh Din, who want, more than anything, justice—for the Arabs. I don’t take issue with this idea, but the way it is being done is just…disgusting. So they start the fight in court. Who are they fighting for? No one. There are NO, repeat, NO claims on the land—it just wasn’t clearly Israeli land. The fight continued, through the time period that the town of Amona lost their fight, as well as 9 houses in the middle of Ofra. Right now, one of the residents in Elazar has both a house they want to destroy and his livelihood, a carpentry workshop, in the area of Netiv Avot. He had ONE meter of his workshop over the invisible line of no man’s land, and thought he could be proactive. Because the groups (again, no Arabs/claimants are actually involved, just these self-hating groups) were clearly not accepting that these houses should be left alone, he went ahead and TOOK OFF THE PART OF HIS WORKSHOP-ONE METER!– which was problematic. Did this help? No. Instead of March, the reason this whole thing came to light now is that they moved up the date of destruction of his shop—as if to say, oh, well since you didn’t mind destroying some of it, why would you care if we took the rest. Again, NONE OF HIS SHOP IS CURRENTLY ON DISPUTED LAND, and they still want it destroyed. Wait, there’s more. Here’s the best part: why wasn’t he there on Friday, or earlier last week when the community held a concert on the land near his shop to peacefully protest its destruction? Because he is on Miluim—he is in the army reserves right now, fighting and defending and serving this country and government who won’t even speak up to stop the destruction of his business and home. Yes, you read that right.
Shall I go on? My tone may seem calm, but I am beyond disgusted, beyond angry—and still hoping that something can be done to stop this madness. I only got to Amona after it was destroyed, and I deeply hope that my words, my raising awareness, can prevent the next step.
Next up: how much? Some of these homes are being demolished because of one or two meters that were built on the wrong spot of dirt. In one case it is 40 centimeters! What?? Yes, that is it. In other homes, like that of a colleague, it is the whole center of her house. But that’s okay, she has nothing better to do this year—she just had a baby and is on maternity leave, so she can spend time wiping her children’s tears as they cry over the home they are about to lose. She may not even be able to return to teaching, because who will help her pack up her six children and figure out how to keep a semblance of normalcy in their lives? And where will they even be living? Ah, again, our wonderful government comes to the rescue-not. They do not have a plan for these people, other than telling them to live in caravans which have not arrived yet, just like in Amona where families of 7 were packed into dorm rooms probably not more than 6 by 3 meters because their homes were destroyed with no plan in place for them, nowhere for them to live when the destruction of their whole community was carried out. Some families from Amona are still waiting for homes, nearly a year later.
Here’s the kicker you were waiting for. Once the homes have been destroyed, is there a sad land owner with proof of a claim to the land who will happily move back in? No, there is not. Yes, you read that right too. In fact, just like the carpenter who tried to ‘do the right thing’ and got kicked in the teeth for it, the residents tried to bargain with the intractable groups of “right-minded, social justice” groups. Those who could said they would remove that part of their house that protruded, like David Den Heijer, whose one meter of his daughter’s bedroom he would sacrifice so as not to have to wreck the entire home he built, others offered other compensation, such as paying 5 times (I believe this is the number but I am not sure) as much as the land is worth—all to save their homes. But the believers in social justice wouldn’t listen to any bargains at all. Their aim, their end: the destruction of Jewish homes. Like the carpentry workshop which is no longer on any ‘illegal land’, or the one meter of Mr. Den Heijer’s daughter’s bedroom which he would destroy to save the rest of his home, it is clearly not enough to compensate the owners, not that any have been found. [Correction: there is one Arab who lives outside Efrat and owns a car wash which earns money both from Arabs and Jews who was asked to claim some of the disputed area—and he has yet to prove any ownership. Hey, Efrat, why are you still going to him? Stop giving him business!]
Ask yourself this: has there ever been a place where someone built on someone else’s property, and the person offered compensation (in this case, even the government offered compensation in terms of land and money, which was refused), and an agreement couldn’t be worked out? Ok, it is possible that somewhere there was no agreement possible, that the owner wanted his property back and nothing would budge him. But here, now, there is no owner; the group against this is our people, although I am ashamed to even say that. But they are the ones who should be ashamed.
It strikes me that the proposed date of destruction is significant; Purim time, the time when Haman, the Jew-hater, wanted to destroy a whole people just because one irritated him. And when the time came for Esther to beg for the lives of her fellow people, she says that had Haman wanted to enslave them, to get some benefit for the kingdom, she would have stayed quiet. But all he wanted was destruction and ruin, for nothing, no positive gain. So too, these groups. If the families were made to move their homes, or to pay into a fund on the basis that maybe the ‘owners’ will eventually be found, that is one thing; that is something. But all these groups want is to see the wreck and ruin of homes, of families—and then to believe that they are doing this in the name of Social Justice!
Let’s get back to that idea, justice. Because here is some more information to set your teeth on edge. Back in the courtroom if Miriam Naor, may she not have a peaceful and quiet retirement, Devora Gonen, the mother of Dani, who was killed by a terrorist near Dolev in 2015 was there to hear the judgement against the family of the terrorist. The sentence included the destruction of the TERRORIST’s room of his house. Why just his room? So as not to bring further pain and suffering to his family, to his children. When the mother of the murdered son asked why not the whole house, the judge said she didn’t want to discuss it any more. Ok, that case doesn’t really have equivalency here, because the families in Elazar are not terrorists. (Which means they should get treated worse? That sound is me, shaking my head in confusion.) So let’s go to a case which is equal—the Bedouin tribes. Some of them have been convicted of illegal building, and told to take it down or we will—but, rightfully, the government isn’t willing to take down houses when they have no plan in place for the families, no alternative housing for them. What? Oh, of course you shouldn’t knock down houses, kick out families when there is nowhere for them to go. Unless, of course, they are Jewish, right? There are cases where families were told they have to take down illegal housing for 20 years! What is the difference, you ask? Well, with those cases, the decision was handed down without a date set for destruction, so it goes on. In our cases, Amona, Ofra, and now Netiv Avot, a date was set, and is being adhered to. No matter that the government is still working on a plan, still trying to get these houses into retroactive legalization. What we need is time. Speaking of our government, where are they? Where are the people who are on our side—who are with Gush Etzion? How many people here supported Naftali Bennet/ Bayit Yehudi? Where was he? All I saw were two MKs trying to say that they were trying. Two. Shuli Moalem and Yoav Kish. And where is our local government, the support of the largest and ever-expanding neighborhood of Efrat—why are there no signs up there about stopping the destruction? The only answer on this from the Mayor, Oded Revivi, is that it has to go through Shefa. But will it then be too late? He did show support by going to the youth gathering at the carpentry workshop on Motzaei Shabbat, along with the head rabbi of Neve Shmuel and the head of the Gush Moatza. Yasher Koach.
I got to Amona too late, and could do nothing about Ofra. Gush Katif was years ago, Yamit even longer. But I am using my presence, my body and my voice in order to say “No more. Go no further.” Because who is to say that it won’t be all of Elazar, Alon Shvut, Efrat, Jerusalem, and yes, even Tel Aviv next? Why are we giving aid to those who want to push us off the land? Why are any of us turning our backs, and closing our eyes? When they come to tell us we are next, I want to know that I did what I could to stop it. That I spoke up when it wasn’t my house they were taking, my home that was being destroyed. I am speaking out, speaking up; please join me now, before it is too late.
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
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