The May 9-17 AFSI Chizuk mission was another remarkable exploration into the enigmatic world of Israel. In that beautiful country live remarkable Jews who put their lives on the line every day. As Hizbullah in the north, Hamas in the south and the PA’s Fatah in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem threaten Israel, the Netanyahu government has the unenviable task of making life and death decisions while contending with pressure from the Obama administration, which seems unwilling or unable to comprehend the dangers.
Tragically, while Israel deals with these existential threats, it is pursuing policies that are self-destructive and demoralizing to its Jewish citizens.
During our visit to the Od Yosef Chai Yeshiva in Yitzhar we heard from Rabbi Yitzchak Shapira that the yeshiva is threatened with destruction.
At Shavei Shomron, a community of 170 families, Rabbi Schmidtlek told us of being beaten by Israeli police while he tried to prevent the destruction of caravans, originally from Yamit, then Homesh, which served as dormitories for the yeshiva boys. Six homes that had been under construction were destroyed.
Eliana Passentin met us in Eli and took us to her beautiful home in Givat HaYovel. Eliana explained that the homes there are not “illegal outposts” – that all legal work had been finalized except for the military stamp from Ehud Barak.
In Jerusalem, we experienced the painful process only Jews must go through in order to ascend the Temple Mount. Rabbi Richman of the Temple Mount Institute endures abuse every time he brings a group to the Mount. Only Jews have to submit passports and stand aside while Christians stream through the gates. Muslims, of course, simply come and go as they please, using the grounds as their picnic and playgrounds.
The Shepherd Hotel in Jerusalem, owned by Dr. Irving and Cherna Moskowitz, awaits the permits necessary to continue its renovation. We learned from Arieh King, founder of the Israel Land fund, that building in Jerusalem is indeed frozen, and despite numerous announcements to the contrary, there has been no demolition of illegal Arab homes. He told us that in Atarot some 10,000 planned units were cancelled.
Additional land freezes can be found in Givat Ze’ev, where 12,000 apartments were scheduled to be built, and in N’vei Yaakov, where 330 apartments had been approved. The E1 corridor, critically important in linking Ma’aleh Adumim to Jerusalem, was supposed to be the site of 187,000 apartments. Instead, Bedouins are settling on the land. In sharp contrast, 1,800 Arab apartments are planned on land originally scheduled to be a park. There is no freeze on that.
At the Shai Dromi farm near Metar we saw the barren room in the goat and sheep pen where Shai Dromi slept to prevent Arabs from stealing his herd and killing his dogs. He is now serving five months of community service for defending his home and farm by shooting at attacking Arabs. Shai’s mother told us that filing police reports was futile; the authorities refuse to take action against the Arabs.
In Hebron, Beit HaShalom is sealed tight while the courts decide whether Jews have a right to live in the building they bought at a cost of one million dollars and spent thousands more to renovate. In Sderot we learned that the government has spent half a billion shekels building shelters and reinforcing buildings against the ongoing Kassam rocket attacks. Rather than eliminating the source of the rocketing, the Israeli government has chosen to put band-aids on the wounds.
As for the refugees from the destroyed Gush Katif communities, a tiny percentage now live in their new homes while the great majority still wait for ground to be broken or to see construction begin where the infrastructure has been laid. It is now five years since the Gaza expulsion.
Now we get to the “Destructo Squads,” as explained to me by Israel Danziger of Mishmeret Yesha. Seventy million shekels have been designated to boost the budget of the military arm that controls building in Yesha. This will help pay for more inspectors and vehicles to investigate “illegal” building by Jews. The squads are made up of 25-30 special-force “Yassamnakim” with vans, trucks, semi-trailer haulers and every type of mechanized construction equipment to conduct orderly demolitions.