Marchers Test Netanyahu: Will He Let Us Rebuild Yad Ya'ir?

Hundreds of people have begun a Passover holiday march to Yad Ya’ir, an 18-year-old neighborhood destroyed 7 months ago by the Olmert-Barak gov't.

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Hillel Fendel, | updated: 12:11

Yad Yair
Yad Yair

Hundreds of people have begun a Passover holiday march to Yad Ya’ir, an 18-year-old neighborhood that was destroyed seven months ago by the Olmert-Barak government.

At 4 PM, a major event will be held at Yad Ya’ir, near Dolev in the Binyamin region of southern Samaria.  Public figures including rabbis and Knesset Members will be in attendance. Monday is the 18th anniversary of the establishment of Yad Ya’ir, marking the murder of Dolev resident Ya’ir Mendelson by Arab terrorists. 

March to Resettle
The area, which is owned by Jews, had been torched and vandalized by local Arabs several times before IDF Division Commander Brig.-Gen. Noam Tivon ordered the town’s destruction last September. The marchers say they are paving the way for Jews to resettle the sight.

It took the IDF two days to demolish the tiny town.  The army first arrived with a force of soldiers and demolition equipment, but called off its plans when it understood the size of the crowd standing ready to protect the town - some 300 Jews from the nearby Jewish towns of Dolev, Talmon, Neriah and others. Two days later, the army arrived in larger numbers and did the deed - even though word of a Supreme Court ruling to delay the action until 4 PM that day had already been received.

The army later claimed that the fax machine didn't work and that the order was not received until it was too late.

Test for the Netanyahu Gov’t
"We still hope to return," a former resident stated recently.  Monday’s marchers are hoping to lay the groundwork for just such a return.  “We have not given up on Yad Ya’ir,” organizers of the march said, “and we plan to return and settle the area once again.  This will be a major test of the Netanyahu government, to see if it puts an end to the leftist policies that allowed unrestrained illegal Arab construction while forbidding Jews to build legally.”

Meir Goldmintz, a long-time resident of Yad Ya’ir, told the story of its establishment in memory of a terrorist victim, its abandonment by the army, the Arab vandalism it suffered, and its ultimate destruction by Israeli forces – despite ongoing negotiations for its peaceful relocation.

Shortly before Passover 1991, after Dolev resident Yair Mendelson was murdered, his neighbors wished to establish a community on the site of the murder, in keeping with the tradition of "a proper Zionist response." However, then-Defense Minister Moshe Arens of the Likud refused. After a protracted struggle, it was decided to establish a military base there. 

Building the Site
"Over the years," Goldmintz said, "a park was also built there, on lands that were purchased from their Arab owners.  For years, the Yad Yair group worked on building up a vibrant Jewish presence there: prayers, Torah classes, activities.  A monument to Yair was erected, as were a playground for children, a plaza, and a synagogue.  Cakes and other foodstuffs were given out to soldiers on Purim and other occasions, we lit Chanukah candles there, and more.  The high point was our yearly springtime event, in which hundreds of people would take part."

The army abandoned the site circa 2004, Goldmintz said: “Thus began a period of constant Arab vandalism, which the army did not 'succeed' in preventing.  Over the course of time, the electric grid was destroyed, the synagogue was looted, the monument was defaced, and the synagogue was set ablaze no fewer than three times."

"Finally, we realized that we would have to do something, and we decided to actualize our right to the land - and start our own town there.  We [finally did this] after a group of leftists and Arabs arrived on the scene, set fire to the synagogue, and even replaced the Israeli flags with PLO flags... 

"In response, our family [Meir, his wife Chana and four children] moved to the site, together with a group of students from Yeshivat Nachliel.  It required great self-sacrifice, as well as financial resources. The yeshiva helped out and held classes there, and nearby communities helped with fuel for the generator, guards, food for the yeshiva students, etc.  But we still had to deal with problems such as minimal housing conditions, getting back and forth to work and school, etc.

"We lived in a container of only 12 square meters (120 square feet), without showers and with no room for furniture; we left the refrigerator and table outside.  Every night we would spread out the mattresses on the floor, and in the morning we would pile them up again."

Meir said that most of the army officers recognized the importance of the location, "and they sent frequent patrols, and even held exercises there.  Don't forget, it's only 100 meters from the outlying homes of Ramallah..."

One of the hardships the family faced was travelling 20 minutes back and forth to their home community of Haresha, "for showers, laundry, and even for the children to be with friends."

Illegal Destruction
The actual destruction of this budding Jewish neighborhood - four buildings and two more under construction - "was also illegal," Meir said, "in that a person may not be forcibly removed from his residence if he has been living there for 30 days, without a legal hearing beforehand.  In addition, they ignored the Supreme Court ruling ordering them to delay the demolition."

Dolev and Yad Yair are located just a few minutes’ drive away from Beit El and other eastern Binyamin towns – but the trip now takes about an hour.  This, due to the closing of the road linking them several years ago, because of security considerations. Children who learned in Beit El and workers with jobs in eastern Binyamin were forced to change their lives when access to these areas was abruptly cut off.  The women of MachsomWatch raised no uproar at the “harm to the quality of life” of the Jewish pioneers.