As the Sukkot holiday began, hundreds made time last week to turn out and show support for Jewish settlement on Eitam Hill, in the city of Efrat. Supporters came from Jerusalem, Hevron and elsewhere in the region as well as from Efrat itself.
Youth from Efrat quickly put up a sukkah in the area and rooftops for a temporary synagogue. A banner hanging from the sukkah proclaimed, "Obligated to Eitam, obligated to the land of Israel."
Local religious leader Rabbi Shlomo Riskin promised to work for the creation of a camp for youth at the location, and to pressure politicians to complete a planned access road.
The Women for Israel’s Future (Women in Green) movement described the occasion. “The view was excellent. The hill gives complete control over its surroundings… It watches over Jerusalem, and looks down on Bethlehem… Beneath us, the pools of King Solomon remind us that on Sukkot we are judged regarding water.”
Activists are hoping to make Eitam Hill (Givat HaEitam) the site of Jewish homes, which they say will give Efrat much-needed space to grow while simultaneously improving security in the region.
Settling Eitam “is both the fulfillment of a positive Torah commandment of the conquest of the land, and a strengthening of the Jewish and original identity of the state as a whole,” said local rabbi, Rabbi Baruch Efrati.
Events at the site included festive prayers, music, and a climbing wall and other activities for children.
Residents of Efrat have been working for years to restore control of Eitam hill to the city of Efrat. The hill is within the city’s legal limits, and was originally slated to be the site of 2,500 housing units.
Instead of getting new housing, however, Efrat has been left “strangled” by an unofficial construction freeze that has meant a total freeze in the marketing of homes for the past several years. The lack of housing has led some Jewish American families to cancel aliyah plans and remain abroad.