At least twenty buses of IDF soldiers and riot police are poised to forcibly block Gush Etzion residents’ long-awaited attempt to establish a new community on Jewish land being left outside the Partition Wall.
The main push to ascend the Givat HaEitam hilltop will begin at 4 PM, with groups leaving from the Hativat Beinayim school in Efrat's Zayit neighborhood. The IDF says it will prevent the new neighborhood from being established as it has not been authorized by the government.
Givat HaEitam is part of the Efrat Municipality, with the Housing Ministry planning to build 2,500 housing units on it prior to the government's decision to leave it on PA-controlled Bethlehem's side of the wall.
The land in question is just north of the town of Efrat and is the eighth hilltop in the contiguous range of the Jerusalem suburb. Local Action Committees have organized the ascent to Givat HaEitam. The grassroots activist groups were established in the wake of the Disengagement due to a perceived need for coordination outside the government-funded Yesha Council of Judea and Samaria Communities.
The activists say their message is that the ongoing settlement freeze in Judea and Samaria must be broken and that the building of the wall snugly around Jewish towns is an attempt to insure that there is no future for Jewish settlement in the region. An Arab attempt to build on Eitam has already taken place, with the Civil Administration turning a blind eye. Local activists dismantled the illegal structure.
Local residents of the Gush Etzion and Hevron Hills regions are concerned that the security forces will block Jewish traffic to the region in a bid to prevent even larger numbers of activists from across the country from joining in the effort to settle Givat HaEitam. If that happens, they advise activists to reach the site on foot, walking in groups.
Signs advertising the settlement of Givat HaEitam are plastered throughout Gush Etzion, the Jerusalem region and elsewhere. In Efrat, local email lists were abuzz with logistical planning and volunteerism in the day’s leading up to Wednesday’s ascent. Activists were reminded to bring hats, closed-toe shoes, water, cameras, food, flashlights and sleeping bags.
Other discussions surrounded what to do about the local Pina Chama ('Warm Corner')– a kiosk established to provide free snacks and drinks to security forces. Some suggested closing it down for the day after witnessing riot police relaxing and enjoying the hospitality. Another suggestion was to place a sign making enjoyment of the hospitality conditional on not participating in forcibly removing Jewish residents from their land.
A ruling recently published by Kiryat Arba Rabbi Dov Lior, who heads the Yesha Rabbi’s Council, addressed IDF soldiers and police assigned to prevent Jewish settlement in the Land of Israel. It reads: “Any direct or indirect participation of soldiers in trying to prevent Jewish settlement in the Land of Israel opposes the worldview of our holy Torah. Every person who is concerned with the Nation of Israel and the Land of Israel must not lend a hand, in any manner, to the implementation of such missions.” The rabbi ended with advice adapted from Proverbs (24:6): “In order to comply with both the command of the Master of the World and one’s military obligations, ‘By way of deception you shall wage war.’”
Prior to the 2005 Disengagement operation, the A Jew Does Not Expel a Jew organization handed out pamphlets advising security forces of ways to carry out "grey refusal," saying they were sick or purposely misunderstanding orders when assigned to take part in the expulsion.