Women prepared ground for alternative Netiv Ha'avot neighborhood

Dozens of Jewish community supporters took part in planting operation in Netzer, Gush Etzion, organized by Women in Green movement.

Mordechai Sones ,

Women in Green

One of many struggles over Netzer, that became neighborhood for expelled Netiv Ha'avot residents (2013). On these fields Netiv Ha'avot residents have now built their alternative neighborhood.

Today, after the expulsion of the residents of 15 homes in Netiv Ha’avot and the transfer of the families to new, temporary homes where they will live for the next two years, it is now possible to reveal some behind-the-scenes details involved in preparing the ground for building the new neighborhood.

The first steps taken in the Jewish holdings on the ground in that area began immediately after the expulsion from Gush Katif. Arutz Sheva spoke to Women in Green co-chairwomen Yehudit Katsover and Nadia Matar who, together with residents from the community of Elazar in the heart of Gush Etzion, went to the hills between Elazar and Alon Shvut in Gush Etzion, and worked to safeguard the lands in order to prevent illegal Arab takeover in Area C.

These were the extremely challenging days when PA leader Salam Fiyyad declared a campaign for the Arabs to take over all of the lands of Area C that were, at that time, neither inhabited nor cultivated. From his point of view the aim was clear: Areas A and B were already in the hands of the Palestinian Authority and now it was time for him and his people to take over the uninhabited and uncultivated land of Area C, thus creating facts on the ground to limit the progress of Jewish settlement and strangle it. In this way, Fiyyad hoped and believed that he would quietly build a Palestinian state de facto.

Netiv Ha'avot today on Sussia field
Gershon Ellinson

Fiyyad’s plan turned into practical activities on the ground, funded by billions of dollars that flowed from the European Union and other anti-Israel organizations such as OXFAM, USAID, and others. The Arabs of the PA conducted a wild and aggressive takeover in various ways and using various mechanisms in all empty parts of Area C, beginning with illegal plantings, illegal quarries, including illegal buildings and neighborhoods. The Israeli side saw, knew about it, but preferred to close their eyes, maintain silence, and not react. The Civil Administration of that time had no problem with illegal Arab takeover of lands which, for Civil Administration officials, were at any rate designated for establishment of a Palestinian state according to the vision laid out in Oslo.

Women in Green co-chair Nadia Matar explains: "The Israeli inaction vis a vis the wild Arab devouring of land in the field was outrageous and infuriating. We witnessed it in our daily routine travels on the roads of Judea and Samaria," she said. "On all sides, deserted, rocky hills became Arab construction sites where large buildings were built. The sight was unbearable. Our Land is being stolen from us while our hands are tied behind our back. The pace of the Arab takeover of the area matched the new era – while in the past, an Arab farmer was equipped with a donkey and a hoe, slowly working the land, now he is equipped by the anti-Israeli organizations with modern tractors, trucks and bulldozers, which have accelerated the rate of land theft.

"At this point we at Women in Green decided to be the boy who tries to stop the dike from bursting by stuffing his little finger into the hole. We joined activists from Elazar, obtained a map of the land of Netiv Ha’avot, in the valley between Alon Shvut and Elazar, and in other locations where there was a wild pace of Arab takeover in the attempt to prevent a Jewish contiguity between the communities.

Arabs attack AFSI and Women in Green members planting trees (winter, 2011)

"We called the area Netzer, from the passage in Isaiah 60:21 'Thy people also shall be all righteous: they shall inherit the land for ever, the branch of my planting, the work of my hands, that I may be glorified'. And thanks to donations by lovers of Israel in Israel and abroad we began to plant trees in all parts of the land according to the map that we had, which were not designated as private Arab land, but were state lands or survey lands. To clarify our goals, we signed on a document for the Local Council which stated that we have no claim on the area that we worked, nor on the trees that we planted or the fruits that they produced. Our activity in the area has no economic aspect whatsoever. Our plantings are dedicated to saving the land and a donation to all of Israel. Our model was the original Jewish National Fund.

"The Arabs reacted to our activities with shock and fury. How is it that a bunch of Jews would dare to 'encroach' beyond the boundaries of their communities in an effort to defend and hold onto their lands? How dare these Jews bother us in our illegal takeover of Jewish lands?

Work in Netzer
צילום: Women in Green

"When we planted, the Arabs would come and uproot our planting. In response, for every tree that they uprooted, we planted two. We set up hundreds of meters of an irrigation system and the Arabs came and cut the hoses. Until we managed to repair the system we rolled up our sleeves and watered the trees with water bottles. We saw every tree as a soldier standing on guard for our lands.

"In order to increase Jewish presence in the area we organized weekly lectures in the place as well, and we held various events where public figures and rabbis took part. We also “planted” benches and pergolas. We patrolled the area every day to ensure that the Arabs would not destroy the equipment. The path in the valley, Derech Ha’avot, became a favored place to walk for Jews of the area and supporters of the settlement enterprise, school kids, tourists and sports enthusiasts, as well as others, from all parts of the Land. They all walk on Derech Ha’avot, the Path of the Forefathers.

In response to Arab attack of Jewish farmer in Netzer, women plant on eve of Pesach with Rabbanit Shani Taragin and Sharon Katz (2011)

"This went on for years. In 2014 we got great news. The State of Israel had decided to declare 3799 dunams (940 acres) in Gush Etzion as State lands in those same lands for which we had been conducting a Sisyphean struggle for years. The Left claimed that the declaration was not legal but the state proved that these lands had always been state lands and had never belonged to anyone.

"One piece of land that we had redeemed by blood, sweat, and tears was the part that we called the Sussya field. The area was named for the students from the Sussya Yeshiva who, in the summer of 2011, volunteered for the hard work of preparing the area, weeding, planting, setting up irrigation systems and all other tasks that had to be done.

"A few months ago we received a telephone call from the Gush Etzion Council asking us to move the trees from the Sussya field, since this had been designated as the new neighborhood for those who would be evacuated from Nativ Ha’avot. The official name of the Sussya field is Plot 91.

"We saw this as the closing of a circle – while for years of hard work in which almost every day and every night we came to guard this piece of land between Elazar and Alon Shvut, and although more than once we felt that our Sisyphean work was like emptying the sea with a teaspoon, now, it seemed, that our persistence and tenacity was not in vain, and more quickly than we could have dreamed, these lands became a flourishing Jewish neighborhood. Although the background is indeed sad, if it hadn’t been for the struggle over those lands, it would not have been possible for that place to be chosen in a decision by the High Court as the new neighborhood, near their destroyed homes, for those who were evacuated.

Meet the new soldier in Netzer (2011)

"And here is our opportunity to thank those who participated with us over all those years in Netzer. First of all, Steve and Eli Rodan from Elazar, who began it all, the agriculturist Uri Palsi, who came all the way from the Galilee and spent months in Netzer working at the place and teaching us about Jewish agriculture, Rabbi Gideon Perl who at the time the Rabbi of Gush Etzion and was always there with us, the Gush Etzion council , the many speakers who came and lectured in the middle of the fields, the donors from Israel and abroad thanks to whom we can do and act, and of course, thanks to all of those hundreds of Gush Etzion residents and Women in Green members from all parts of the Land who came to help and take part in the redemption of the land. There is recompense for your actions.

"After intensive additional local battles to safeguard lands, we understood that it is not enough to wage a Sisyphean battle for specific localities. We have to deal with the problem at its root. We need a governmental decision for sovereignty over Judea and Samaria. As long as there is no sovereignty, we won't be able to compete with the billions of dollars that flow in Arab coffers. The Arabs also today continue their agricultural jihad and take over more and more parts of Area C. To stop the hemorrhage, a moment before there will be no more lands in Area C and the Arabs will have succeeded, Heaven forbid, in their plot to establish a Palestinian state, quietly and de facto the government of Israel must quickly enter the picture and declare the application of Israeli sovereignty over the entire area; this declaration will enforce the law against the Arabs’ wild building spree and land takeover and will provide historic justice by declaring the People of Israel’s proprietorship over the Land of Israel," said Nadia Matar.

Raanana settlers in Netzer (2012)

Rabbi Gideon Perl explains importance of Eretz Yisrael and safeguarding lands in Netzer

Let there be no mistake, this is Jewish land (2010)