A group of young children parade in a circle, waving Israeli flags against the clear blue sky. They are directed by several youth leaders who are trying to keep the kids in line. It is a few days before Israel’s Independence Day and Migron is preparing for the upcoming festive ceremony, held for the entire community.
Some of the mothers come out to watch their children perform. Among them stands Aviela Deitch, originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, who has been living for the past year in Migron, a tiny community of 49 families, located 14 miles north of Jerusalem. She lives in a small mobile home with her husband and six children, in a community considered “illegal” and “unauthorized,” and even marked as a “wildcat outpost” by those who oppose its existence – and subsequently described as such in the international press.
For Aviela, the terminology does not matter.
“We chose to live here because we wanted our children to know the responsibility of building a community in a place that has wonderful people,” she says to the Tazpit News Agency.
“There is a certain quality of life in Migron and a very strong sense of community. The youth are bright and polite and their parents are involved. Our children attend great schools in nearby communities, while the younger ones go to Migron’s community daycare and kindergarten. There is almost a zero-percent crime rate.”
Established in 1999, Migron is made up of mostly young professionals who served in the IDF and national service, graduated from universities, with many now working primarily in social work, special education, rehabilitation, elderly care, computer programming and mechanical engineering.
Until 2006, the residents of Migron lived quietly, certain that their children would continue to flourish in a safe and happy environment embodied by the values of their community.
“I couldn’t imagine raising my kids anywhere else,” says Itay Harel, one of Migron’s founders who established the community 13 years ago.
But an unexpected battle began after the Israeli anti-settlement movement Peace Now, which aims to eliminate any Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria, to be replaced by a Palestinian state, claimed that Migron was settled on privately owned Arab land.
“Who are these organizations to dictate to us where our homes should be?” asks Harel. “We received the proper authorization to establish this community over a decade ago.”
Migron residents claim that the Arabs were not even aware that they supposedly “owned” the land until Peace Now instigated the petition on their behalf.
In an unprecedented ruling in August 2011, Israel’s Supreme Court ruled in favor of Peace Now’s attorney and ordered the government to evict the Migron settlers. The evacuation and dismantling of Migron is scheduled to take place this coming August.
Itay Harel says that the land was barren when he first arrived. “No Arabs were living in this area. There was nothing here when we came to set up this community, which was one reason why we chose build here in the first place,” he says, pointing out the rocky landscape.
Harel runs a horseback-riding therapy clinic for youth at risk with his wife. “Our clinic currently caters to 80 children from across the country, many of whom come from broken homes and could not fit in a traditional school system. They have abused drugs and alcohol, and some are physically-challenged. They are given necessary life-tools and skills through the therapeutic experience of learning to ride and maneuver horses”
An idealistic 38-year-old social worker, Harel speaks warmly about the Migron community. “I helped found Migron with the idea that it would serve as pillar for troubled youth.” He says.
The Israeli government identified Migron as a necessary strategic development, standing as it does on a hill overlooking a busy main road, the site of Arab shootings that left countless Israelis dead in the valley below during the Second Intifada of 2000-2005. The Israeli government set up the electrical lines, the running water and the infrastructure for a functioning sewage, as well as a telephone system. It also provided families with mobile homes which are still in use today.
Come August, Harel does not want to think about losing the home and the community that he has worked for more than a decade to build. “We’ve worked so hard this past year to get the government to postpone the court’s decision. Every week I’ve visited the Knesset to try and ensure that Migron would continue.”
Migron residents feel that the battle is not only with the government and the courts but also with the press, both in Israel and abroad. Many feel they have been portrayed unfairly in the media.
“At the end of the day, I do my grocery shopping with Palestinians, I live alongside of them, and I never have any problems. No one wants a fight here,” says Weiss. “But that’s not what you usually read about us in the news.”
“Sometimes reporters come with pre-conceived notions about our community and it’s difficult to change that. I’ve found that my words have been altered completely in some news pieces and that’s also frustrating.
“I have only one message to the world. I want to live in Migron so that I can raise my kids in this wonderful community. This is my home and I should have every right to do so.” says Deitch.
About the Author: Anav Silverman is a regular contributor to Tazpit News Agency.
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