Being in the Shomron, we had to visit Chavat Gilad, home of forty families. Excitement reigned there over the new mikvah for women that had begun to be built. Living without Israeli supplied water and fuel has placed a huge financial burden on the community. Yitzhar is also under financial stress and we promised to help raise funds for a new shul. We ended the day with a night-time tour of the biblical garden at the Ashel HaShomron hotel.
The next morning we traveled north. Our guide pointed out that we had to drive west before driving north because Israelis can’t drive through Arab villages, so the by-pass roads need new by-passes. Our first stop was Mitzpe Ilan, named for Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon. The forty families living there hope to increase their ranks, but they are experiencing “environmental terrorism.” The Arabs burn charcoal and by 6:00 p.m. every day, the air is so thick, the residents must stay locked up in their homes. There have been many cases of asthma and a few cases of cancer in the community. The Arab communities of Hadera and Pardeis are also affected, but the Arabs don’t seem to care. They have had some success in getting the burnings moved to Areas A and B, but the wind brings the carcinogens to Chavat Ilan and its surroundings.
Nazareth Illit was our next stop. It is supposed to be a Jewish community but the last election has thrown that off. It seems to be up to the Hesder Yeshiva there to strengthen the city – it is literally the “finger in the dike.”
The next day we began our descent in the Jordan Valley. B’rosh HaBiker, home to the recently murdered Sraya Ofer, was our first stop. Marc Prowisor of One Israel Fund greeted us there and explained how efforts were in progress to increase security; a Hesder Yeshiva had already moved in to establish a presence in this remote, failed, Jewish community.
The importance of Jewish shepherding was reinforced again in our visit to Rotem. Shira Amussai and her husband now graze their sheep on 3000 dunams and are hoping to bring in four caravans to lure other couples to shepherding. After a wonderful lunch at Café Rotem, we drove on to Yeshuv Adaat, near Shilo. The yishuv has 200 sheep on 8,000 dunam of land. The small community, led by Avichai and Eli Weiss, has plans for 150 homes. If they make it, it will help to prove the success story of shepherding.
Friday began with a visit to Shdema where Nadia Matar of Women in Green was waiting with trees ready for planting. We heard from Sarah Nachshon from Hebron and then joined with WIG and the people of Tekoa in a demonstration against Arab terrorism on the roads.
After a short visit to Kever Rachel, we drove south to Hebron passing the entrance to Kiryat Arba and continued further south into the Hebron Hills to visit the outpost of Avigail, near Sussia, where the families of Avner Segal and Elisha Medan, plus an additional 30 other families have created an outpost. Their purpose is to create a presence that will break any Arab continuity of land in the area. Then it was back to Kiryat Arba to get our room assignments in Yeshivat Nir and prepare for Shabbat Chayei Sarah. The group walked down to the Ma’arat HaMachpela, joining the throngs of white-shirted men and festively dressed women. We wished “Shabbat Shalom” to the many soldiers guarding the route down to Hebron, and enjoyed a beautiful and soulful Kabbalat Shabbat in the Isaac Hall, open to Jews only on rare occasions.