Many of us are familiar with the statement of Rav Avira (Sotah 11b): “In the merit of the righteous women we were redeemed from Egypt and in the merit of the righteous women we will be redeemed in the future.”
During my recent stay in Israel I met two of the righteous women I believe will help bring about the geulah.
Nadia Matar and Yehudit Katzover are literally redeeming the land of Israel one small dunam at a time.
If Nadia’s name sounds familiar it’s because she’s the daughter-in-law of Ruth Matar, who founded Women in Green, the organization Nadia now leads.
Yehudit, who’s married to Tzvi Katzover, mayor of Kiryat Arba for 20 years, is herself an activist, having been one of the 13 women who moved with their children into Beit Hadassah in 1979 to reestablish a Jewish presence in Hebron.
As Nadia tells it, after they saw what happened in Gush Katif in 2005, they understood Judea and Samaria could well be next. They realized there was a great need to safeguard Israel’s state lands in Judea and Samaria because the Arabs had already organized a campaign to take over area C. (Area A is totally in their hands, as is half of Area B, which combined is 40 percent of Judea and Samaria.) They receive millions of dollars in funding from abroad and have already built illegal homes, agriculture structures, and quarries in Area C and are trying to take over abandoned military bases.
In 2008, Nadia and Yehudit read that the Palestinian Authority had its eyes on the abandoned military base of Shdema, located between Har Choma and Eastern Gush Etzion. They traveled there to see for themselves what was going on and discovered the base had been completely wrecked by Arabs.
“It was clear to us why the Arabs wanted this base,” said Nadia. “It is the only Israeli-controlled Area C between Jerusalem and Eastern Gush Etzion. Jewish contiguity will be cut off if the Arabs control it. We decided at that moment to do all in our power to safeguard that hill and keep Shdema in Jewish hands. But how to do it?”
It worked then and they were hopeful it would work again.
They connected with several activists in Jerusalem and Gush Etzion and formed the Committee for a Jewish Shdema. And they went to Shdema every Friday, no matter the weather – rain or snow, hot or cold. In order to attract people they decided to fix up what the Arabs had destroyed, turning the place into a cultural center with weekly Friday lectures. More people began to come, even before the building had windows and electricity. They also created a lobby to push their case in the Knesset – the Lobby for a Jewish Shdema.
After two years of Nadia and Yehudit’s efforts, the army decided to return to Shdema on the eve of Pesach 2010. The military presence was smaller than it had been in the past, though it didn’t matter because there was no longer a chance the base would be turned over to the PA. But Nadia and Yehudit didn’t rest on their laurels; they continue to bring in people and lecturers every week.
On Lag B’Omer the two women took me on a tour of Shdema and other sites. Shdema was quite impressive. The building has been renovated, with pictures hanging and windows and doors in place. I sat and watched a video about their activities. There we were, high on a hilltop, and the thought of Arabs sitting here instead of our army gave me chills.