Daily Israel Report

Shdema Military Camp Transforms into Cultural Center

At the abandoned army base at Shdema, a mezuzah has been affixed to an army structure that has been turned into an cultural center.
By Kochava Rozenbaum
First Publish: 10/4/2013, 9:07 AM

Gathering in Shdema (archive)
Gathering in Shdema (archive)
Israel news photo: Flash 90

After a lengthy, five-year struggle by the Women in Green movement and the Committee for a Jewish Shdema against anarchists and local Arabs, the abandoned army structure in the Shdema camp was inaugurated Friday morning as a cultural center.

From now on, cultural events for the residents of the region will be held at the site under more favorable conditions. 

A gathering of reservists who had served at the base was scheduled to take place at 9:00 a.m. on Friday.

This base was abandoned by the IDF in 2006 and was since destroyed and looted by Arabs. In response, members of Women in Green a grassroots Zionist movement, and the Committee for a Jewish Shdema, which includes activists from the Judea region and Har Homa, came to intensify a Jewish presence there against the claims of Arab nationalists and leftist sympathizers. 

In 2008, journalist Hagai Huberman revealed that the Shdema camp, despite its being in Israel-controlled Area C, was to be given to the Palestinian Authority. Many activists immediately began to take action, in three areas: a weekly presence on the ground, the mobilizing of public support from important individuals and elected officials, and the organizing of a political lobby of Members of Knesset and government ministers.

At that time, it became clear that Arab activists had taken over the lower part of the camp where, aided by funds from anti-Israeli organizations from abroad (including USAID), they had established a huge unauthorized compound. A demolition order was issued for this compound, but was never implemented.

From 2008 to 2010, hundreds of activists came every week to struggle against anarchists and Arab extremists, kept apart by IDF soldiers.

Women in Green organized cultural events in the structure of the abandoned and ruined army camp: lectures, events, and concerts that were attended by hundreds of people, government ministers, Members of Knesset, and other public figures. All the events were held in buildings without windows or doors, without a floor, without electricity, water, or toilets.

As a result of the groups' efforts, the IDF returned to the site in 2010, after understanding the essential and strategic nature of the site. The place was partly renovated during the summer, prompting the ceremony to affix a mezuzah, according to Deuteronomy (6:9) which states the ancient Jewish tradition of adorning a doorpost with a piece of parchment with God's name. 

Israel Prize winner Geula Cohen promised to take part in the event, despite her health situation which has hindered her from taking part in such events lately. She said that if she, in her condition, made an effort to come to the ceremony, then everyone could make the same effort because of its importance.

"We live in a difficult and critical time. The Prime Minister is under heavy pressure and we must show loyalty to the Land of Israel. It is not fair to demand it only from Netanyahu. We have to prove our loyalty and devotion to the land of Israel with our feet," Cohen pledged.

Speaker of the Knesset, MK Yuli Edelstein, wrote to the organizers of the Shdema mezuzah afixing ceremony: "I congratulate you from the depths of my heart on the affixing of a mezuzah at Shdema. May many mezuzot be affixed in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem."