While the children sleep, riots in Beit El

It’s 3:20 am. My children are sleeping peacefully as calls of “Yehudi lo megaresh Yehudiand the smell of burning tires wafts through my open bedroom window. I think back to the phone call I got from my friend Hadassah last week. “If you see things are starting to happen near you,” she told me, “don’t hesitate to call. Night or day, I’ll come get you.” I wonder if this is what she meant by “things starting to happen.” A peek out the window informs me that there are no bulldozers for knocking down buildings, only a fire engine that seems to be getting the blazing tires, worryingly near my garden, under control.

We moved to Beit El one month ago, and unwittingly seem to have landed directly in the middle of a massive political controversy over the legal status of what are being referred to as the Dreinoff buildings. I myself have only a vague understanding of why these buildings are so controversial. From the bits of information I’ve gathered, it seems the buildings were built without the appropriate authorization at first, were then retroactively given approval, and then for whatever reason, the authorization was retracted. The underlying issue seems to be that if these buildings are torn down, there will be precedent set to do the same to other structures in Judea and Samaria with similar legal status. These buildings are now slated for destruction by the end of this week.

4 am: The police have shown up in full riot gear. They push a group of youth into my backyard, yelling at them to back up and stay away. My six-year-old daughter wakes up and asks, “Why is everyone yelling?”

“Don’t worry about it,” I tell her. “Just go back to sleep.”

She complies.

There’s a woman screaming at the police, telling them they are an embarrassment to the Jewish people, and enumerating various catastrophes she believes they deserve to have visited on themselves and their families. I step outside to get a better look. Young men are rushing towards the construction site, as the police form a chain to hold them back. A woman standing in my garden apologizes for all the noise. “You’re not the one who should be apologizing,” I respond.

4:45 am: A neighbor calls to make sure we’re OK. I tell her my kids are sleeping through everything, so I’m staying put for now. She tells me she’s sorry I’m dealing with this mess. I tell her she’s not the one who should be sorry.

The police have managed to push the crowd to the other end of the street at this point. Only 10 or so helmeted, Kevlar-vested men remain near the construction site. Their faces are worn, tired. I consider offering them coffee, and then wonder if the group of people standing in my yard would see that as some sort of betrayal. I wonder if the police would accept the offer, anyway. I wonder what ridiculous political posturing, promises, and prevarication led to this surreal scene unfolding in my front yard at 4:30 in the morning.

I think back to conversations I’ve had with friends in the last few weeks about the possibility of these buildings being torn down. Aviela told me how traumatic it was for her son to watch the houses in Migron get torn down. Sue told me how traumatic it was for her daughter to watch the buildings in Amona get torn down. “Whatever you do,” they both warned, “don’t let your kids see.”

“I’m sorry…” they tell me.

“You’re not the ones who should be apologizing…”

5:30 am: My kids are still sleeping. The buildings are still standing. So I guess it’s OK for now.

About the Author
Bahtya Minkin is a full-time mother of four, originally from Lakewood, NJ, now living in Beit El. In her ample spare time she enjoys crocheting, reading, and arguing with strangers on Facebook.