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Daily Israel Report

Supreme Court Hearing Against Yesha City on Sunday

The High Court will hear a suit by two left-wing organizations who want nine Jewish houses in Ofra destroyed - and that's just their opening bid.
By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 6/12/2008, 1:26 PM

The High Court will hear, this Sunday, a suit by two left-wing organizations and five Arabs who want nine Jewish houses in Ofra destroyed.  The organizations, Peace Now-affiliated Yesh Din and B'Tselem, say the entire town of 2,600 Israeli citizens is essentially an "illegal outpost."

The Arabs and the organizations claim that the land on which nine new Jewish houses are being built belongs to the five Arabs.  That this is just a first step in the attempt to uproot more Jews from Judea and Samaria is evident from the accompanying claim by one of the organizations that "the Civil Administration has confirmed that Ofra has no detailed zoning plans nor even its own area of jurisdiction."

This, despite the fact that the town has received official recognition on many government levels, with funding and aid from various government ministries and bodies. 

In addition, Ofra boasts many stores, businesses and factories; a community police center; chapters of the Maccabi and General Sick Funds, Magen David Adom, and Yad Sarah; a fire station; a gas station; a post office; several synagogues; a mikveh [ritual bath]; three elementary schools; an ulpanah high school for girls; four post-high school educational institutions; the Ofra Field School; a library, swimming pool, sports hall and art gallery; orchards and honey plants; and more.

Sabbath Work
The left-wing and Arab plaintiffs seek a judicial order to demolish the nine houses, or at least to ensure they are not populated.  In response, Ofra's Rabbi Avi Gisser ruled that work on the houses must be rushed and executed - by the non-Jewish workers - even on the Sabbath and holiday of Shavuot. This, in keeping with the Jewish law as expressed in the Shulchan Arukh (Orach Chaim 329), which states that "if non-Jews besiege [or plan to besiege] a border town, even if just to steal grain, the Sabbath may be desecrated to defend the town."

Letter to Residents
Ofra is one of the flagship communities of Judea and Samaria, and was founded in 1975 as the first Jewish town in Samaria, north of Jerusalem. The town leadership issued a "letter to residents" this week in which it explained the situation: "These two bad associations [Yesh Din and B'Tselem] are saturated with money from abroad, and wish to undermine the entire Zionist enterprise. Their claim that we have stolen land - when in fact families with young children have paid for it with their hard-earned money, and are about to move in - is unethical."

Some Ofra residents have advocated boycotting the Supreme Court proceedings on Sunday altogether, in the belief that the struggle is not merely a legal one, but rather an attempt by Arabs and some Jews to destabilize the entire Jewish claim to the Land of Israel.

Dr. Yitzchak Klein, head of the Israel Policy Center in Jerusalem, also sees the left-wing court action in a larger perspective than merely legal. He told IsraelNationalNews, "One would have to be naive to believe that the decision about nine houses being built in the heart of a 40-year-old community is really a legal one... [Rather], the perception that this is a part of a comprehensive strategy meant to uproot the entire Yesha settlement enterprise is true.  Peace Now has found what it currently perceives as the weakest link in Yesha- namely, Ofra - and is planning to proceed from there.  To pretend that we can simply duck this threat and it will go away is clearly the wrong approach."

"The enforcement of any demolition orders against Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria by the legal system, whether in Migron, Ofra or downtown Hevron, is selective and discriminatory," Klein said, "and the dictionary term for discrimination against Jews is antisemitism."

Klein recommends action by the Defense Minister: "Since the political sensitivity of Judea and Samaria has been legally recognized, the proper policy is for the Minister of Defense to decide that no demolition orders against building in old and long-standing communities [there] will be issued or enforced.  If the Defense Minister can offer to legitimize some outposts and not others, he can legitimize a veteran community like Ofra."

Shaalvim, 1967
This is, of course, not the first time that the Halakhic ruling to seemingly violate the Sabbath has been implemented.  In 1967, for instance, in the religious Kibbutz Shaalvim which bordered on Jordan at the time, Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Ohrbach, IDF Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren and Kibbutz Rabbi Meir Shlesinger ordered the Kibbutz's tractor operators to plow the fields on the Sabbath, because the Jordanians had begun taking over the area. In the event, as recalled by long-time Shaalvim resident Yitzchak Hildesheimer, the Jordanians actually opened fire on the Jewish farmers, wounding one or two.

"The UN then intervened," Hildesheimer said, "implementing some kind of ceasefire, but the main thing is that this stopped the Jordanians from continuing to try to take over these fields."  Several months later, the entire area was liberated by Israel during the Six Day War - and plans were found in the captured Jordanian military posts outlining the conquest and destruction of Kibbutz Shaalvim.