Givat HaEitam is the northern most hill of the Efrat Municipality, a south Jerusalem suburb, and was approved as part of the city's limits. Israel's Housing Ministry originally planned to build 2,500 Jewish housing units on the hill. All of that changed when the architects of Israel's Partition Wall planned the route to truncate Givat HaEitam from the rest of Efrat, leaving it on PA-controlled Bethlehem's side of the wall.
Jews from all over the country answered the call to protest the shrinking of Efrat and came out Wednesday to establish a Jewish presence on Givat HaEitam. The Partition Wall is not yet built there, and protestors hope that as a result of their actions, the route will be changed to incorporate Givat HaEitam back into Efrat as per original plans.
MK Aryeh Eldad was at the protests and attempted to lower tensions and relay a report to Public Security Minister Avi Dichter about what was happening.
The activists came to create a new community at the site. 13 people have been arrested, including Baruch Marzel, the head of the Jewish Front movement, who is being held on suspicion that he incited youths to enter a closed military zone, and Rabbi Moshe Levinger, the father of the renewed Jewish community in Hevron. At least two women were among those arrested.
The event's organizers said that hundreds of people continue to stream up the hill and that those who reached the top had begun building a stone structure. Security forces chased down the protestors detaining busloads of them. Police struck some activists and twisted arms, despite the event being one of civil disobedience.
"The ascenders, including old people and women, are being beaten with no justification by the IDF and the police," the organizers claimed. They said that Rabbi Levinger was also beaten by police.
'The ascenders, including old people and women, are being beaten with no justification by the IDF and the police.'
Faced with an onslaught of Border Guard policemen and Yasam Special Force Units, the activists scattered in the fields and reorganized in groups of about 30 each before attempting the ascent again.
Rabbi Shlomo Riskin of Efrat, Rabbi Moshe Levinger of Hevron, Rabbi Gidon Perl and Rabbi Shimon Golan encouraged the civilians to continue in their peaceful action of establishing a Jewish presence on the barren hill.
Activists in Efrat said earlier Wednesday that the IDF should not have deployed large forces to fight them. "It is a national disgrace that in order to prevent the ascent to Eitam, the Yehuda Regiment assembled a large force that includes two infantry battalions, a reconnaissance unit and hundreds of police officers, including YASAM (SWAT) teams," they said. "This force should be used against terrorists and crime families and not against Jews," the HaEitam Headquarters said.
Security forces claim the community on HaEitam Hill is an "illegal outpost."
IsraelNationalRadio Showhost Jeremy Gimpel was amongst those detained temporarily. He said:
"Three guards were watching over our group of detained activists. One guard was from Russia, one from Ethiopia, and one from Kazakhstan. I pointed out to them that I am from the US, and they are each from their respective countries. What brings us together is that we are brothers who have returned to Zion to establish a Jewish presence in our Holy Land after 2,000 years. I continued talking to them about the importance of strengthening Israel through settlement, through Jewish brotherly love, and through a return to Torah values. Suddenly, a 4th guard, apparently a Druze Arab, came over and shouted at me to shut up. The three guards shouted back, however, and insisted that I continue to talk to them."
The HaEitam project is only the opening shot in a large scale campaign of renewal that the activists are planning to put into motion. The organization "Yishuv Achshav" (Settlement Now) is a coalition of organizations that include the Land of Israel Faithful, Youth for the Land of Israel, Women in Green and the Action Committees for Hevron and Kiryat Arba.
The organizers say that groups of families will settle on different hills in Judea and Samaria, with the purpose of building new communities in the Land of Israel. "This is our answer to the ongoing policy of surrendering to the enemy," they said. "We will ascend HaEitam Hill, establish roots in it and declare: 'we shall continue to build you, Land of Israel!'"
"Two years after the terrible eviction of our brothers from Gush Katif and northern Samaria," they lamented, "Gaza has become Hamastan. Sderot and nearby communities are bombarded." Despite the fact that "anyone with half a brain" now realizes that handing over parts of the homeland to the enemy endangers the country," they said, "our political leaders intend to surrender, retreat, give up, hand over more and drive [us] away. Instead of trying to strengthen the People of Israel and defeating the Arab enemy endangering our existence on its own territory, the government busies itself day and night with attempts to set up a terror state in Judea and Samaria."