MK Dr. Michael Ben-Ari, veteran Land of Israel activists Baruch Marzel and Itamar Ben-Gvir, and several others created a dramatic scene in Jericho on Sunday night when they entered the Palestinian Authority-controlled city without IDF authorization.
The group proceeded to the ancient Jericho synagogue as rumors flew regarding their presence in the city and alleged IDF plans to remove them by force. Soldiers and Border Police officers entered the synagogue approximately two hours after the incident began and ordered the activists to leave.
Activists accused police of using violence while clearing Jews from the synagogue and said that three people were injured and in need of medical attention.
Thirty-five people were arrested. The IDF later released a statement accusing activists of entering the city by force, and warned that the army would "do everything in its power to bring those involved to justice." Israelis who enter PA-controlled areas put themselves at risk, the army warned.
The march into Jericho was meant to send a message in favor of a Jewish presence there and against PA sovereignty in historic Israel, said Ben-Ari. “The Oslo accords are dead,” the MK declared. “We will not allow an enemy state to be founded under our nose here in the land of Israel.” (Photo at left: mosaic floor of ancient Jericho synagogue.)
Ben-Gvir said that the group had decided to enter the PA-controlled city in order to protest on behalf of Jewish settlement. The choice of Jericho as a site for the protest was significant, he explained, because Jericho was the first city given to the PA under the Oslo accords.
"The Oslo accords started in Jericho. Rabin and his associates said 'Jericho first' as code words for surrender. Now we're saying 'Jericho first' as code words calling for a return to our land,” he said.
The activist group Garin Yericho stated that the date of the protest was significant as well. The Hebrew date, the seventh of Adar, is the anniversary of the death of Moses, who longed to enter the land of Israel. After his death, the Jewish people successfully entered the land, conquering the city of Jericho first.