On the 28th of October, 1991, a bus carrying residents of Shilo to Tel Aviv was ambushed by Palestinian terrorists on Highway 60, just south of Tapuach Junction in the Shomron. The bus driver, Itzchak Rofeh, and a woman from Shilo, Rochela Druck, were killed in the attack. Later that night, women from the community of Shilo – friends of the woman who was killed – decided to establish a new Jewish community at the location of the murder. They called this a proper Zionist response to those who thought that they could chase the Jews out through the means of terrorism. They said, “On this site, where Jews were killed for living as Jews in their land, new Jewish life will grow.”
On that cold and rainy night, the women set up a tent on the side of a dark and winding road in between unfriendly Arab towns. I remember that night well. When we got word of what was going on not far from our home in Kfar Tapuach, we decided to go out and show our support to our new neighbors. The hike from Tapuach to the campsite was about two and a half miles. It was a very dark night. Along with a group of youth, we walked along Highway 60, winding down from the Tapuach Junction. It was so dark that we almost stumbled into the poor soldiers who had been stationed there to prevent more Jewish “settlers” from reaching the site. We managed to find our way around the checkpoint and reached the site as the first trailers were being unloaded onto the hill adjacent to the road. At about two o’clock in the morning, we tried to get some sleep in the trailer home, but as it was hastily placed on uneven ground, the floors were at such a slant that wherever we lay in the room, we would all roll into the same corner.
From day one, the founders of the community held open channels of communication with the government and negotiated permission for the encampment to be authorized in some manner. In the first stage, the government agreed to the idea that an educational institution would be allowed to operate at the site, which was situated on state-owned land, and not the property of any individual. The women of Shilo would manage the classes and events at the site, but would return to their homes at night, and the IDF would oversee the camp.
In a later development, the place was named “Rechelim” to commemorate Rochela Druck and another terror victim, Rachel Weiss. The plan was to make it a Nachal outpost, operated by the IDF. In a still further development, this was officially declared a “civilian community,” as had been the case with the founding of previous communities throughout Israel, in the history of Nachal.
In 2005, PM Ariel Sharon appointed attorney Talia Sasson to write a report on the expansion of Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria. According to the Sasson Report, Rechelim was one of 105 Jewish communities in the region that were lacking all needed official documentation and zoning rulings to be considered “authorized.” From that time on, Rechelim and all other communities on the list became known as “un-authorized” or “illegal outposts.”
This negative branding effectively caused the development of these towns to come to a complete standstill. This has, of course, been very difficult and confusing for the 50 families who have made their homes there. Many of them are living in homes that were built by Israeli government agencies and paid for with state-approved mortgages.
The classification of this community as an un-authorized outpost brought a stop to all government funding for basic services normally offered to all citizens of Israel. So, for instance, funds previously designated to build classrooms for the community’s pre-school were frozen for the past few years and diverted to other places. This has forced the residents to find other sources of funding for the building of local educational structures that normally would have been funded by the government, through taxes that these residents still pay, just like any other citizens. Homes that had been under construction, with all needed building plans and permits, were left at a stand-still because the town around them became “un-approved.” The families building those homes felt like the rug had been jerked out from under them.
As it later became clear, when Ms. Sasson ran for Knesset in the extreme left-wing Meretz party, she had abused the trust given to her in writing the said report, and used it to promote a very clear political agenda meant to impede the continued development of Jewish communities in Israel’s heartland.
The government’s decision this week to grant zoning permits to Rechelim in the Shomron, and to Beruchin in Sansana, in the hills of Hebron, is nothing more then repairing a wrong. After seven years in limbo, once again the residents of these communities can fulfill their dreams and the corporate dream of their nation – they can finally build their homes in Eretz Yisrael.