Gush Etzion Observes Independence Day Along Fence's Route

Residents of Efrat and surrounding communities in Judea celebrated Independence Day on a strategic hilltop being fenced out by the Partition Wall.

Ezra HaLevi ,

Ascending to Givat HaEitam
Ascending to Givat HaEitam
(Photo: Menachem Kuchar)
Residents of the Gush Etzion region south of Jerusalem celebrated Independence Day by laying claim to an Efrat-area hilltop set to be left on the Bethlehem side of the Partition Wall.

Givat HaEitam, as the contested spot is called, is a hilltop near the large town of Efrat with a commanding view of the Hevron-Jerusalem highway and the main Jewish communities in the region. Residents say abandoning it not only limits Efrat’s ability to expand, but would provide terrorists with a high-point from which to launch attacks on motorists and residents.

Datya Yitzchaki, formerly of the Gush Katif community of Kfar Yam and now involved in the grassroots action committees formed in Gush Etzion communities to combat the Partition Wall, spoke with Arutz-7 about the event. “People came and celebrated Independence Day with BBQs and activities in a place that truly is threatened with abandonment right before our eyes,” she said. This is a true observance of Independence Day.”

Efrat’s Chief Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, who immigrated together with many members of his congregation in New York City to Gush Etzion, took part in the event. “Our presence in this place is required in order to rectify the mistake of the expulsion that took place two years ago, and also due to security and settlement needs,” Riskin told those gathered.

Activists made the necessary preparations at the site for foundations to be poured for a permanent structure there. Others planted trees. Women in Green Director Nadia Matar said that the event was but the first step in the settlement of the site, as well as a return to the norms of settling Judea and Samaria openly and with pride.

Literature distributed at the event described Givat HaEitam as being effectively stolen from Efrat, which planned to build 2,500 housing units there. State lands and privately-owned Jewish land fenced out by the wall has quickly been settled by Arab squatters and hastily sewn with political agriculture.

“Givat HaEitam is the hill connecting eastern and western Gush Etzion,” the pamphlets read. “Do not fall into the trap of ‘divide and conquer’ – of thinking that those who live in western Gush Etzion face a fate any different than that of those [currently being placed ‘outside’ the fence –ed.] in eastern Gush Etzion. The plans of our enemies both without and within are to return to the 1967 borders. Only a united struggle will yield results.

“The fact that Givat HaEitam is being left outside the fence is testimony to the fact that the government intends to abandon us just as it is abandoning those outside the fence…The time has come to rise up and not only save Givat HaEitam, but to return to the basic Zionist values and the inheritance of our forefathers. The time has come to end the White Paper [a reference to the British Mandate directive limiting Jewish immigration to Israel –ed.] policies that prevent the building of new Jewish communities in the Land of Israel.”

Replanting at Sde Boaz
Elsewhere in Gush Etzion, hundreds of residents of Neve Daniel hiked to the hilltop community of Sde Boaz to survey the destruction of hundreds of grape vines and fruit trees by Arabs and left-wing activists in recent weeks.

Dozens spent the day planting new fruit trees where the old ones once stood and the Kfar Etzion field school led tours of the area's archaeological and natural sites.

A group of women from the Syrian Jewish communities in southern New Jersey and Brooklyn, New York also visited Sde Boaz. The group, led by Rabbi Ricky Cohen, is on an educational visit to explore the agricultural laws and spiritual aspects of connection to the Land of Israel.

Click here for photos by Menachem Kuchar of the Givat HaEitam event.

Click here for Jacob Richman’s compilation of photos from other Independence Day events in Jerusalem and the environs.