Army Expected in Givat Assaf Tonight or Tomorrow

Some 1,500 people showed up yesterday at Givat Assaf, north of Jerusalem, for a prayer-and-study vigil. The army reportedly plans to attempt to evacuate and demolish the site tonight or tomorrow.

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, | updated: 12:52

As a sign of things to come, some 1,500 people showed up yesterday at Givat Assaf, north of Jerusalem between Beit El and Ofrah, for a prayer-and-study vigil. Cars and buses were parked for hundreds of meters along the three legs of the T-intersection, and the prayers were recited over a loudspeaker. Worshipers standing on the top level of the hilly neighborhood had a commanding view of the entire area, enabling them to experience first-hand the strategic importance of the location.

Local leaders from Beit El, Ofrah, Givat Assaf, the Binyamin Regional Council and the Yesha Council have learned that the army plans to attempt to evacuate and demolish the neighborhood tonight or tomorrow night, and render its 14 families homeless. Givat Assaf leader Eldad Sorek told the crowd yesterday, "We know that Prime Minister Sharon has personally ordered the army to make sure to demolish this spot - and we have to ensure that he does not succeed. The more people who arrive here when the call comes, the greater our chances are of succeeding, and with a minimum of violence. A victory for us here is significant in many ways, and will have great ramifications on his plans to retreat from and destroy other areas."

It will be recalled that several week ago, when word came of the army's imminent intention to remove three caravans [mobile homes] from Givat Assaf, well over 1,000 people showed up on short notice - and the army backed down.

"The struggle will take place in a passive, non-violent manner," Sorek has often explained. "But it will be a firm and absolutely resolute struggle. We intend to win."

The Givat Assaf neighborhood houses 14 families, a synagogue and a mikveh [ritual bath] at a strategic junction that residents and army sources have long maintained must remain under Jewish control. Beit El Mayor Moshe Rosenbaum and Geulah Hershkovitz - mother of Assaf and widow of Aryeh - both said that Arik Sharon "himself agreed and encouraged us, and gave his personal promise that the site would be settled." Rosenbaum said, "This is a most important site for the entire settlement enterprise in the entire Binyamin region, and for those continuing northward to northern Shomron. Whoever controls it - even in terms of buses and cars that pick up passengers there - controls the whole area. The evacuation of Jews is something that is unacceptable, ethically and democratically, and we will struggle against it in every legal way. We purchased the lands there with good money, but none of this stops Sharon from destroying the place, in the name of a plan whose value, purpose or logic no one understands."

"We have called on residents from all over, near and far, to come with sleeping bags, cameras, sandwiches, boots, tefillin and siddur, medicines and bandages," Rosenbaum said. Tents will be erected in Givat Assaf today to house the expected throngs of Land of Israel loyalists.