All eyes were on the clock, with 1:30 PM set as H-hour for the ascent to five new hilltop outposts in Judea and Samaria. Clashes with soldiers and police were expected.
As of 12 noon Sunday, a group of idealistic youths was already climbing the hilltop near Kiryat Arba set to be named Maalot Halhoul.
Near Hashmonaim, in western Binyamin, hundreds of people are making their way to a site they wish to build as the community of Nofei Hashmonaim, just ten kilometers east of Ben Gurion International Airport. The army has declared the area a closed military zone, and is out in force to prevent the Jews from arriving.
In Efrat, Rabbi Shlomo Riskin and hundreds of townspeople are set to gather at 1 PM, preparing to march to the site of Eitam Hill, in the northern end of the city. The organizers say the hill, which connects eastern and western Gush Etzion, "belongs to Efrat, but is being stolen from us by the political [partition] fence. Handing it over to the Arab enemy will endanger all of Gush Etzion and Jerusalem."
Similar attempts to create new Jewish towns are underway in western Shomron, near Kedumim, at a site to be called Shvut Ami ("the return of my nation"), and in eastern Shomron, near Elon Moreh, at a hilltop already named Harhivi (meaning "Expand," based on Isaiah 54: "Expand the place of thy tent... for thou shalt break forth both right and left").
"It would seem that the Israel Defense Forces would be interested in defending Israeli interests," one of the leading organizers, Datit Yitzchaki, told Arutz-7, "and would allow us to build these new towns. Instead, the Olmert government makes plans to turn over these areas to our enemy - repeating the mistakes of the Disengagement and similarly endangering hundreds of thousands more Israelis - and gives political orders to the army to stop us."
Asked what the pioneers are bringing with them to the sites, Yitzchaki said, "They are bringing what they need to remain out in the fields or hills for 24 hours. It depends on how violent the army is going to be. We don't think the army will be able to stay in the area in such force for 24 hours - so we'll wait them out if we have to. We have time. As the motto goes, the Nation of Israel does not fear a long trek."
Three planners of the new Hashmonaim community were arrested in a Wednesday morning raid. The police also confiscated from their homes items such as orange hats (orange being the color of the Land of Israel movement), bumper stickers and T-shirts promoting settlement in Yesha. The most common slogan: "Eretz Yisrael (Land of Israel) - We Continue With Our Heads Held High."
For more information on the plans to start the new Jewish towns, click here.
Some 20 rabbis of Gust Etzion have signed a proclamation in favor of the attempts to build the new towns. The rabbis state that the next step in settling the Land of Israel - "a commandment that is equal to all the others in the Torah" - is now to "build the hilltops, whose construction and development are being held up for various strange reasons stemming primarily from the weakness of our leadership, and also from a failure to see the reality religiously, politically and demographically."
Plans are also underway to march to Homesh, one of the four Shomron towns destroyed during the Disengagement of 2005. The organizers have made no secret of their plans to rebuild the town, and have made dozens of ascents to the area over the past several months. MK Aryeh Eldad (National Union) called on the Defense and Public Security Ministers to instruct the police and army to permit and protect the marchers.