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Efrat’s Etam Hill

     Israel’s politicians are pursuing a policy of “divide and conquer” vis-à-vis those of us who live in Judea and Samaria. They broadcast a message that there are “good” settlers and “bad” settlers. The “good” settlers live in towns that are “part of the consensus,” while the “bad” settlers live in places that are “not part of the consensus.”

 

      Yet when politicians play the game of “divide and conquer,” the rules of the game keep changing. First they said, “All of Gush Etzion is good.” Then they said, “Western Gush Etzion (Efrat, Alon Shvut and Rosh Tzurim) is good, but eastern Gush Etzion (Tekoa, Ma’alei Amos and Meitzad) is evil.” You stand in Tekoa, on the edge of the desert, and you look out at the Dead Sea in the distance. For miles and miles you see empty land around the settlement. Hundreds of thousands of Jews could live here. What is so “evil” about Tekoa? The answer is obvious. The empty lands around Tekoa are “evil,” as they are intended for the future “Palestinian people.”

 

      Now the politicians have changed the rules once more, in a manner that further unmasks their true intentions. It is well known that right now, the Israelis are spending many millions of dollars constructing a “security fence” which will leave some settlements “in” and other settlements “out.” Ten months after bombs fell on Haifa, it is hard to know what sort of “security” is going to be provided by that fence, but its construction is proceeding all the same. Mostly, it runs along the “Green Line,” but it is also supposed to include the “good” settlers of Western Gush Etzion and Ma’alei Adumim.

 

      It just so happens that the people of Efrat have already started building in most of the lands allotted 25 years ago to their town. Yet within the Efrat master plan – on its eastern edge – is Efrat’s last reserve of land, enough unsettled land to build 2500 additional homes. That is what the town master plan calls for. Moreover, if that land is settled, it creates a geographic link with Eastern Gush Etzion, making it harder to destroy the settlements there.

 

      So what have our politicians done? They are planning on running the security fence right through Efrat, cutting off that undeveloped land and stealing it from Efrat. As though the Jewish people have no future! As though the people of Efrat are never going to need or want to build homes on that land! And when the fence is completed, who will be able to build homes there? The Palestinians, of course!

 

      It could be that recent events are going to change the way our elected politicians handle these matters. Perhaps the Second Lebanese War, the Hamas bombings of Ashkelon and Sderot, the Hizbullah bombings of Haifa and the exposed corruption and downfall of Kadima will lead the Jewish people to elect a different sort of politician. We can surely hope so.

 

      Yet we cannot be complacent. Too often in the past we have assumed that events in the news would make our politicians change course. Yet it doesn’t necessarily happen. Hence, we must be prepared to act on our own, to try to change the facts on the ground.

 

      This option has proven successful over the past 10-12 years, since Oslo. One man, Avri Ran, known as “the father of the outposts,” is taking advantage of obscure Israeli laws dating back to the Ottoman Empire about obtaining the rights to land by farming it. He has single-handedly and successfully expanded the town of Itamar in Samaria, such that there is now room for tens of thousands of Jew there – whereas before his efforts, it was a town that could hold only several hundred families.

 

      The same sort of effort is now being made all over Judea and Samaria, hopefully with the same results. Otherwise, we residents of Judea and Samaria have a “problem.” Our population is amongst the fastest growing in Israel. Thank G-d, couples wed early and have large families. Yet we are not allowed to expand our communities, even the “natural growth” guaranteed by the Oslo accords.

 

      Hence the people of Efrat have now established a new “outpost,” Eitam Hill, on the threatened lands. They understand the game being played by the authorities, and they are not going to fall into the trap of viewing themselves as safe. It is obvious they are not. If the authorities can do such a terrible thing, depriving Efrat of its empty lands, then their obvious intention is to push for a return to the ’67 borders. The residents of Efrat know that only a united struggle will bring positive results.

 

      It is not just the future of Efrat that is at stake. At stake is the entire principal of Zionism and Jewish settlement in our ancestral inheritance. The time has come to put an end to the Israeli “White Paper” policy that prevents Jews from building new settlements in Eretz Yisrael. We must prepare ourselves for a new settlement thrust, to claim the lands of Eretz Yisrael for our children. With G-d’s help families will go there with pride and faith, to the various outposts throughout Judea and Samaria, with the purpose of settling them and building new towns in Eretz Yisrael. Such efforts remain the best answer to the schemes of those plotting against us.

 

      Our presence at the outpost emphasizes our opposition to the fence that serves to strangle us. Through this act of settling the outpost, we are breaking out of the fence. The authorities can invest billions of dollars in the fence, but when all is said and done, with G-d’s help, a strong public with a strong spirit – united in its faith in the Land, and determined to struggle for the Land – will bring it down.

 

      Send comments to Yehudit Katzover of Ne’emanei Eretz Yisrael at Ihuditk@gmail.com.

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