Op-Ed: Who Knows Yitzhar?
Giulio MeottiThe writer, an Italian journalist with Il Foglio, writes a twice-weekly column for Arutz Sheva. He is the author of the book "A New Shoah", that researched the personal stories of Israel's terror victims, published by Encounter. His writing has appeared in publications, such as the Wall Street Journal, Frontpage and Commentary. He has just prblished a book about the Vatican and Israel titled "J'Accuse: the Vatican Against Israel" published by Mantua Books.
Yitzhar is probably the most hated, headlined and demonized “settlement” in Samaria.
Only passionately convinced people would visit this Jewish town.
But anyone visiting it would also understand what would happen to Tel Aviv and Herzliya if, instead of Jews, the PLO-Hamas regime would be controlling Yitzhar.
From Yitzhar, located high up in the hills near Nablus, the Biblical city of Shechem, you can clearly see the entire Israeli coast. That’s why the site was chosen by the IDF to set up a Nahal community in 1983.
And that’s why when in 1998 two Israelis from Yitzhar were killed by Palestinian terrorists, then prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for expanding Yitzhar as “a Zionist response” to the ruthless murder.
One of the victims, Shlomo Libman, grew up knowing the feeling of being surrounded by the Arabs. Shlomo was born in Hebron and each day he travelled a few miles north-east of his home to the yeshiva in Joseph’s Tomb under the teaching of Rabbi Yitzhak Ginzburg.
The Jewish shrine, destroyed by the Arabs in 2000, stands in the heart of Nablus, surrounded by Palestinian land, just as Yitzhar might one day be if Israel gives up Judea and Samaria.
Yitzhar, built on “state land”, is surrounded by six Arab villages (Burin, Orif, Asira al-Qibliya, Inabus, Madma and Hawara). Violence is always at the corner, with the Palestinians who are trying to literally burn Yitzhar and lynch its residents and the Israelis who often respond to violence.
But one must always keep in mind that in this equation, there is only one murderous side. Yitzhar is strategic for the security of the entire State of Israel.
The town overlooks Wadi Qana, where terrorists travel from Nablus, a terror hotbed, in the direction of Tel Aviv. Yitzhar is like Elon Moreh, Har Bracha, Kfar Tapuach and Itamar...The Israelis in these towns constantly live in the line of fire.
They hold on to keep the commandment to protect the land. Their children go to school in bulletproof buses. Fences often surround their villages to keep away terrorists. There are military outposts assigned to protect the area. Whenever they leave the towns, they pass cameras along the fence, while soldiers watch video screens to make sure no gunmen are lurking or sneaking in.
AtAt At night, from their towns, you can see the lights from coastal cities of Ashkelon in the south and Hadera in the north. Nablus, the Arab city which Yitzhar and the other Jewish towns literally dominate, is a hot bed of jihadism and terrorism. Some 200 years ago Nablus acquired the nickname “Mountain of Fire” for the blazes its people set to stave off Napoleon Bonaparte’s French army.
Nablus then spearheaded resistance to British Mandatory rule and under “Israeli occupation”, which finished in 1995, it became a cradle of Palestinian terrorism
. In 1967, Nablus was among the last Arab cities to fall to Israeli troops.
The Biblical mount over Nablus, called Gerizim, has the same strategic value of Mount Halhoul near Hevron, more than 1,000 metres above sea level. The natural watchtower makes the area one of the army’s most strategic assets.
Israelis bitterly recall the wars of 1948, 1967 and 1973, when Arab armies attacked from the east. Judea and Samaria’s Jewish communities prevent this from happening again with terror groups, rockets or renewed conventional confrontation.
To give up the 5,000-square-kilometre “West Bank” - a kidney-shaped region roughly 50 kilometres wide and 100 kilometres in length - would be to put Israel in a totally indefensible position by giving up military advantages in four critical areas.
In addition to Mount Halhoul in the south, the region has other key high points. In Nablus in the north, Jebel Hureish, Mount Eval and Gerizim, all between 800 and 900 metres high, offer a wide view to the east.
Because of where they are, people in Tel Aviv can sleep at night in peace and quiet.
It’s like Mount Scopus and the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, which stand 800 metres above sea level. And 1,000-metre-high Baal Hatzor near Ramallah, which commands the centre of the area.
If the Arabs were sitting up there where Yitzhar now is, they could fire missiles into Tel Aviv. Yitzhar and the other small communities keep terrorists from taking over the area and serve as buffer zones for the larger Israeli cities. Dozens of innocent “settlers”, their friends and relatives in nearby towns, have been gunned down by savaged terrorists. But it just strengthened their brave will to continue building in the Biblical holy land.
Their message is: “the more we grow, the safer it becomes”. The leftist media want to portray Yitzhar’s Jews as zealots, extremists, fanatics. But only because of where they are, people in Tel Aviv can sleep at night in peace and quiet. Intimately, most of Israelis know it.
Like it or not, the fate of the Jewish State passes through isolated towns like Yitzhar. If the Arabs will be able to defeat Yitzhar, everyone else in Samaria will go quietly.