As if to signal the possible intentions of the new government, army forces under the command of Defense Minister Ehud Barak, together with Israel Police, made their way to Kokhav HaShachar in eastern Binyamin late Thursday morning, and destroyed four buildings in the start-up outpost neighborhood of Meoz Esther. They then redeployed further to the south, and destroyed another house in Maaleh Shlomo.
Authorities have stated that the outposts, encompassed by barren hills to the east and west, and illegal Bedouin squatter encampments encroaching to the north, is “illegal.”
Among the four destroyed structures in Meoz Esther was a Torah study hall/synagogue dedicated in memory of Yonadav Chaim Hirschfeld, 19, of Kokhav HaShachar, who was murdered in the Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav massacre just over a year ago.
In addition, the homes of two families were razed to the ground, together with whatever property the soldiers did not have time to throw outside before the bulldozers began working.
A National Battle
“Yes, we lost our home,” said Dafna Ronen, who lived in one of the structures with her husband and six children, “but that is really not the main thing. The issue here is that we have lost a battle – temporarily – in our national struggle for our holy land. It simply cannot be that there are Jews who will not allow other Jews to settle in our land, the inheritance of our forefathers, that we have already conquered.”
“Believe me,” she insisted, “the loss of our private property is the least of the issues. We can always sue them for what they damaged; they may be within their rights to destroy the dwelling, but not our private possessions. And in terms of the neighborhood itself, we will start building anew as early as this evening, with a team of youth and others who love the land and will not let it be abandoned.”
Mother Rachel Wants Full Return
“The main question is how we make sure that we show G-d that we are not giving in and are doing everything we can to keep this great gift that He gave us. Everything is from G-d, and He wishes to see if we are unyielding, or if we’ll take the easy way and say, ‘It looks unrealistic, let’s just wait for a more favorable government’ and the like. Our Matriarch Rachel is still sitting and weeping, because even though we have begun to return to our Land, we are sitting pretty with big homes and cars in the cities, and not going all out to return to our full Biblical borders; the verse says that she is waiting for her children to return to their borders.”
Gift from Barak
The Binyamin Residents Committee said in response to the destruction, “This is apparently the gift that Barak wishes to give on the eve of his entry into the government, in an attempt to justify the move. This is his usual modus operandi: Every time the left attacks him, he gives them a consolation prize in the form of evicting Jews.”
Rabbi Dov Wolpe and Baruch Marzel, of the Our Land of Israel movement – a part of the National Union party – said the destruction of Meoz Esther is the “beginning of trouble.” They called on Shas and the Jewish Home to vote against the government they have just joined.
Proper Zionist Response
The second family living in Meoz Esther is a young couple and their toddler. The young wife/mother is one of seven children of Esther (Ettie) G’alyah, a Kokhav HaShachar resident who was murdered by terrorists in late 2002 - and for whom the outpost is named. “There was a time when building a new Jewish locale in the Land of Israel was widely considered the proper Zionist response to terrorism,” one observer said, “but at least in this case, the opposite appears to be true: Zionists take down a site that was built for that purpose.”
The synagogue was the most permanent and expensive structure on the site, and was recently dedicated in a gala celebration by Rabbi Dov Lior of Hevron and others.
The Raze-and-Rebuild Cycle
This was the fourth time that Meoz Esther has been violently taken down since it was first built 16 months ago – “and each time, until today, it was on a sad day for the Jewish People,” said Mrs. Ronen. “It was first taken down on the Tenth of Tevet over a year ago, shortly after it was first built – and then we rebuilt it right away. All was quiet for a few months, but on Holocaust Day, in the spring, it was again razed, and we again built it. Then came the 17th of Tammuz in the summer, when it was again destroyed, and right away again rebuilt. And now, on Rosh Chodesh Nissan [the first of the month of Nissan, a minor festive day – ed.] – maybe they got confused – they razed it again. But our team is already preparing the rebuilding.”
The 17-year-old daughter of the Ronen family was arrested during the destruction. Police said she was suspected of having attacked them. “This is an outright lie,” said her mother. “It is not surprising that people who destroy Jewish life in the Land of Israel tell lies as well. The fact is – and many people saw it – she was standing atop our house, and soldiers or police came and shoved her into the waiting bulldozer bucket below, and that’s how they took her away. Then they arrested her, claiming she attacked them.”
When Digging for Fresh Water - Don't Give Up
Mrs. Ronen said the fight for the Land of Israel is a “long, hard one; we are not expecting immediate results. I think we must renew our commitment to the Land within our own circles, and wage a face-to-face campaign in the wider public specifically regarding the importance of the Land of Israel for our nation... Rabbi Avraham Kook wrote that there will come a time when Jews will seek water in our ‘national well,’ but will come up with only muddy water and will begin to despair and give up. Rabbi Kook calls upon them to be strong and to continue digging further down, and that the fresh water will yet be found – and that those who did not give up, will reap the reward. We must not lose heart, but rather continue to fight for our national heritage, G-d’s heritage.”