I go by the name Aviela Deitch, but back when I graduated Nicolet High School in 1990, it was Andrea Krissman. Yep, even though I’m the fifth Milwaukee-area generation of my family on my mother’s side, I picked up about twenty years ago and made aliyah. Fast forward to August 29 of 2011, and my husband and I picked up ourselves, our six children, and our lots and lots of stuff and moved from our two-floor home in a larger, established community to a mobile home a third the size in Migron.
And why? Largely because I wanted my children to learn what I learned growing up in Milwaukee – knowing that they not only have the opportunity but also the responsibility to take a hand in building a community.
Migron is located about twelve minutes north of Jerusalem and is currently comprised of 48 families. The adults here work mostly, but not exclusively, in areas concerned with helping others, occupations like social work, various therapies, teacher, special education, elder care, and guidance counselor. Additionally, there is a bank executive, a few computer programmers, a mechanical engineer… you get the drift. As there is child care from daycare through senior kindergarten in the community, the smaller children stay here, while the older kids are bussed to top-quality schools in nearby communities.
The community, in some circles titled a “settlement”, was established in 1999 as a result of an archaeological expedition done here that revealed conclusive signs of a Jewish past. It didn’t take long for the first few dozen families to move in. All were and continue to be housed in government-provided mobile homes. A synagogue and mikveh were built, as well as a horseback riding therapy clinic, petting zoo, playgrounds, a daycare center, kindergartens, and eventually eight families built their own homes. Practically at its inception, the government put up an electric line, telephone service, and set up running water and a functioning sewage system. After seven years of hard work, a suit was suddenly filed in the Israeli Supreme Court, claiming that the land was under private ownership of a number of local Arabs.
The Binyamin region, where the biblical tribe of Benjamin settled, is a collection of mountains. There is no flatland between these mountains. To each complainant, the process of Migron’s development could be seen for seven years preceding this suit. What’s more, the plaintiff was not listed as the Arabs, but rather as Peace Now on the complainants’ behalf.
From 2006 through 2011, great efforts were exerted on the legal and legislative sides of things in order to get things back on track, in order for Migron to be allowed to grow and flourish. Eight permanent houses were built by growing families, children were born and grew, and new families moved in. Even with the heavy, cloudy question mark hanging on the horizon, Migron is an attractive community. The 360 degree views, where one can see Jordan, the Dead Sea, Jerusalem, Maále Adumim, the Judean Desert, as well as many points of Binyamin into the Shomron (Samaria) are absolutely breathtaking. The crime rate is very near zero percent. The children are bright and polite and parents are involved. The local schools are excellent. People help one another… in so many ways, such an ideal place to live. We were very impressed to see that the residents here do indeed live their entire lives for the Nation and Land of Israel. All men here have served in the Israeli military and continue to serve in the reserves. Most women here have spent at least a year of their lives entirely devoted to volunteering for various national institutions. And this is just the next step in their national service.
Earlier this year, building stoppage orders were put forth for the houses of three amazing, incredible families. It is important to note that these families never received any orders of destruction, which is what would legally be required before destroying a structure.
Tami and Uri Gutman and their five children, ages 2-10: Shlomo, Yonatan, Tal, Hadas and Yishai. Tami works with children at Aleh, where some of the most severely disabled children in Israel live. She helps otherwise non-communicative children learn to react to their environment. Uri teaches middle school in the Noam school system.
Ruchamah and Chaimi Teitelbaum and their three children, ages 3-7, : Ori, Oz and Hadar. Ruchamah is a guidance counselor in Eli, a larger community farther north, and Chaimi both learns in kollel and spends many hours advocating for Migron’s case in the Knesset and with other public figures.
Shalom and Avital Gefen and their four children, ages 3 months – 8: Etai Yonatan, Hallel Nechamah and Elroi, and Matan Baruch. Shalom has been demoted by the Israeli police department. He had worked for many years as a top notch sapper, largely defusing explosives that were being held in Arab villages, in wait for transport and use in large, Israeli cities. Having determined that they live in an “illegal area”, Shalom has been taken off this force and put in a petty position. In the meantime, the sapper unit is down one very capable employee. Being that he still retains full sets of both fingers and toes, it seems that he is very good at his job. Avital is a qualified accountant studying for her Masters Degree. Their youngest son had his brit milah in his home only about a week before the night of September 5-6, 2011.
On that horrific night, with absolutely no forewarning, riot troops, dressed in black, leapt behind the boulders serving as a back fence for these three families’ homes and delivered the news that they were there to destroy. They came with neither documentation nor court orders and weren’t interested in seeing the deeds to the land on which the houses were situated. On that night, eleven children were torn out of their beds in their pajamas and taken out into the cold night, never to see their bedrooms, or many of their precious belongings, ever again. Within hours, in front of both the adults and children that spent a significant portion of their lives building up this fine community, the Teitelbaum, Gutman, and Gefen homes were destroyed.
Two of these three homes were built in a fashion that they could actually have been picked up and moved to different plots of land if necessary. It wasn’t necessary, because nobody was willing to hear of it, and now there’s nothing left.
As much as the rest of us managed to pack and haul away is just about all that remained intact. Massive crews of Arabs were brought in by the forces, apparently to help pack. What they did in reality was to throw personal belongings, children’s toys, clothing, religious items, furniture and appliances out of the homes with force. Not much remained in its original state.
After about an hour and a half of sleep, the community, emotionally bleeding and battered, arose to a new day. Nobody made it to work. The kindergartens operated fully, and a psychological staff remained active sporadically for the next couple of weeks, but the older children stayed home. And we all worked together. By late afternoon, three older caravans (mobile homes) had been fixed up, all belongings were packed, moved and unpacked in the new “homes”. From surrounding communities, professionals arrived. A carpenter voluntarily put all the furniture back together, carefully crafting custom-made matching pieces where the originals had been destroyed. A gardener showed up and quietly planted flowers in the new plots to make the residents feel more at home. After hours of hard work, the day was capped off by a meeting of all residents in the synagogue, where we were treated to encouraging words by rabbis, activists, and others. Our children were given geraniums to plant, to sow new hope, from other children in Amona, a nearby community that lost eight houses a few years ago. One speaker capped off the evening poignantly by saying that were he to be writing a motto for Migron, it would be “Migron – the community where nobody says ‘Ba Li’ (I feel like it.). They say only ‘Ani Ba’ (I’m coming.).`
And so the saga continues. We’ve been joined by nearby Givat Asaf, Givat HaUlpanah, and again, Amonah — dozens of Jewish families on land that can be proven to be legally owned if anyone were to take the time to look. The Arabs dropped their case against Migron in the Supreme Court in early November 2011, as they simply could not come up with the proofs necessary to show that this land is theirs. It is once again ownerless. Apparently, this made no difference in the previous ruling, and because Migron is built on so-called “private land” it was to be destroyed by March, 2012. March… Purim… we should only see the tables turn as they did so many years ago. Now, D-day (destruction of the community) is slated for August 1.
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About the Author: Aviela Deitch resides in Migron. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more, join the “Migron (English)” Facebook group, or visit the site at www.migron.net.
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