Settling an Old Army Camp

Facing opposition from the government, army, and skeptics, pioneers continue their campaign to make Shdema, south of Jerusalem, a Jewish town.

Hillel Fendel,

A visit to Shdema
A visit to Shdema

Facing opposition from the government, army, and skeptics, pioneers continue their campaign to make Shdema, south of Jerusalem, a Jewish town.

The struggle is being waged on several fronts at once: Visits to the site, planting trees and planning construction, lobbying Knesset Members, speaking tours abroad, Youtube videos, and more.

Email readers: Click here to view Shdema video

Shdema is the strategic site of an army camp between Jerusalem and eastern Gush Etzion, which played a significant role in stabilizing the capital’s southern front after the Six Day War. The IDF reinforced Shdema with a rampart and bulletproof concrete structures during the Oslo War (September 2000), when bullet fire from nearby Beit Sahour became common. In 2003, however, as part of the IDF’s gradual withdrawal from areas in Judea and Samaria, the dismantling of Shdema began as well.

In 2008, reports began to be circulated that Shdema was actually to be given over to the Palestinian Authority. As a result, Jews of Kiryat Arba, Gush Etzion and elsewhere began their activities to keep Shdema Jewish – and have not ceased since.

The latest video, a professional production, features a visit to Shdema by a busload of Land of Israel loyalists from Raanana, as well as guest appearances by former Lechi fighter and MK Geulah Cohen, MK Aryeh Eldad, attorney Elyakim HaEtzni, columnist Caroline Glick, Shdema campaign leaders Nadia Matar and Yehudit Katzover, and others.

Caroline Glick speaking in Shdema

A carnival for kids in Shdema

The film begins with a typical Shdema scene. Matar, leader of the grassroots Women in Green organization – which has taken a leading role in the struggle for Shdema, as in other Land of Israel causes – is seen helping clear the road for the ascent to Shdema. “The army is not here yet to open it for us," she laughs, "so, as the Sages say, ‘When there’s no man around, be a man – or a woman!’”

The Message: Grassroots Organizations Can Make a Difference!
Other familiar Shdema settings featured in the film, and in many of the ascents to the site over the past year, include speakers, planting, singing, painting and refurbishing the buildings – and inculcation of the idea that, though chances for success appear slim, grassroots movements can succeed in making a difference.

The Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee visits Shdema

Event during Sukkot Holiday at Shdema

An example is the Dagan Hill neighborhood of the nearby Gush Etzion city of Efrat. “Fifteen years ago,” Matar recalls, “ten women, and a few men as well, went up to a barren hill, determined not to let it fall into Arab hands. We were thrown out, we were arrested, we were ridiculed – but we kept at it, and finally, with G-d’s help, it is now a full-fledged neighborhood – with dozens of young couples, a yeshiva, and more. That is how we have to work.”

Katzover agrees: “The People of Israel don’t have the luxury today of being weak… Just like we went to Hevron in 1968 and reclaimed land that had been stolen from Jews, that’s how it always is: We go out, set up facts on the ground, then the officials have to come in [etc.], and then we set out for our next mission.”

Speakers on the video emphasize that the government’s policies facilitate Arab takeover of the land: laws against illegal Arab construction are not enforced, while Jews are barely able to “close off a porch."  Also accentuated is that any land Israel abandons, such as Gush Katif and Shechem, is soon used to launch terror attacks against the Jews.

Eldad: Israeli Withdrawal Won't Solve Global Jihad
“We suffer here from a local symptom of a global disease named Global Jihad,” says MK Aryeh Eldad, on the backdrop of a Hizbullah mob chanting ‘Death to America!’ and scenes of the World Trade Center destruction. “The true nature of the conflict is a religious war, and that’s why no division of the land or drawing of a new border in Israel will solve the problem.”

Abandoned Shdema as activists found it before restoration efforts began

Developing Shdema
The plan for Shdema is now two-fold, the activists say: 1) To make sure the government enforces its current demolition orders on the illegal Arab destruction on the bottom of the Shdemah hill, and 2) to build a Jewish “Shdema Cultural Center.”  The Center will teach the theoretical and practical skills necessary to maintain Jewish independence and full sovereignty over the Land of Israel, including agriculture, construction, self-defense, Bible studies, Jewish history, and Israel advocacy.