It was a heart-wrenching day and yet a feeling of déjà vu as Israeli forces amassed — yet again — to destroy a Jewish structure. This time, a carpentry workshop in Netiv Avot. Destroyed because there’s a vague strip of land running a meter wide through the neighborhood that might belong to someone though no proof exists, and no one has claimed it.
For several weeks the residents of the neighborhood adjacent to Elazar in Gush Etzion, as well as friends, youth and people from around Israel but especially those living in Judea and Samaria, have been preparing and on-call to resist the planned destruction of the workshop.
‘Resist’? We all know it’s just a stall tactic. No one would lay a hand on the soldiers who could be any of their brothers or sisters…even themselves. It was a bitter twist that during the lead up to this fateful day, the owner of the very carpentry workshop was doing reserve duty himself.
And so, it came down to Wednesday, the 29th of November; ironically the anniversary of the date in 1947 that the UN recognized the right of the Jewish people to a state.
Early in the morning busloads of Israeli forces arrived and declared a ‘closed military zone’ the immediate area around the carpentry workshop which was already filled with residents, neighbors, activists and youth who had camped out the night before in anticipation.
As the tensions got higher, everyone waiting for something to happen, a young teen scrambled onto the roof of the workshop, seeming to be daring the soldiers to just try and get him down.
During these highly tense minutes, the youth began singing the words from Genesis, “To you I will give this Land…,” and many people joined him. It was heartbreaking as we all knew what the outcome would be.
All around there were people crying, begging the soldiers not to carry out the deed that they were sent to do. A bit of shouting. Nothing more. I had a very good vantage point; I never saw anyone lift a finger against the soldiers.
The standoff finally over, we knew it was the beginning of the end as we watched, with broken hearts, one of our own forces remove the Israeli flag from the top of the building.
There were several instances of people who had to be physically carried out or removed from the area. Most passively allowed it to happen once they realized their resistance was futile.
Suddenly there was a backhoe on the scene, heading ominously to the workshop. There was a sense of helplessness and finality as everyone watched it lumber up a steep incline, heading toward the workshop.
The soldiers made a human barrier to keep the disheartened people a safe distance and prevent another situation like the boy on the roof.
The destruction went on for many long minutes. Two things that stood out were when they pulled down a piece of the roof that had the sign ‘No more destruction; normalize Netiv Avot.’ Watching it tumble down, and with it the dreams that the sign represented, was painful.
The other thing was the terrible crunching sound that the equipment made as it destroyed. One person there likened it to the sound of bones crunching; another to the sound of gravel as it’s being shoveled onto a coffin. Dismal, painful thoughts indeed; but that was certainly the frame of mind people were in.
It’s unbearable to imagine when entire stone houses, lived in and loved by entire families for years, are subjected to the same…
The saddest part of this heart-wrenching, agonizing event is how utterly unnecessary it is. NOTHING good will come of it. No wrongs will be righted, nothing else will be built here. We can only hope for better days and saner judgment going forward.