Rubble of the home demolished in Sde Boaz, with the cities of Betar Illit and Tzur Hadassah in the background
Arutz-7's Ezra HaLevi reported from the scene at about 3:30 PM:
"The soldiers have just fired tear gas into the house here in Sde Boaz [just north of N'vei Daniel] in order to get people out, and there is serious violence going on here. The soldiers are just hitting anyone who's near the house or the soldiers; they push them, throw them down, hit them... Now I see them taking belongings out of the house, in preparation for the demolition."
At 4:00 PM, the house was totally razed, and the soldiers - and protestors - turned their attention to the foundations of another home, painstakingly built over the past weeks by a young man who had just become engaged.
"The scene now is tremendously emotional and charged," HaLevi said, over the background of yelling and outcries. "The youths are locking arms and refusing to move, even though they face a strongly violent response. I don't know if it's the memories of the expulsion from Gush Katif, or maybe these are people who are seeing this for the first time, but the feelings here [over the destruction of Jewish property in the Land of Israel by Israeli soldiers] are very intense."
Asked earlier if the violence was mutual, HaLevi said, "The protestors were told in advance by the leaders here that violence is not our way, and the like... But there are certainly verbal attacks on soldiers and riot police for 'just following order,' and the police just seem to be losing it [i.e., control of themselves]. They arrested the founder of the community and two other residents as well, along with dozens of outsiders."
A member of the special Yassam riot police slams a protester to the rocky ground
Asked how many people were present to protest, HaLevi said, "There have been hundreds throughout the day, and right now I would say that there are about 250. The weather has been totally crazy - first it was sunny, then rainy and windy and foggy, then it cleared up again, began to hail heavily during the destruction of the house - Sde Boaz is the highest point in Gush Etzion." After nightfall, he later said, there was bright lightning.
HaLevi reported more than 100 soldiers at the scene, but no females, "and so many girls and women have been dragged by male soldiers."
As nightfall approached, HaLevi reported that the demolition forces had still not succeeded in approaching the foundations of a much larger house that one of the community's founders had built, together with fellow residents, over the summer. Protestors linked arms and lay down on the foundations, refusing to back down even when faced with severe violence. Eventually the bulldozer went into reverse and began leaving the community.
The hundreds of activists broke out in song and cheers at the retreat of the demolition forces, with prayer services held on the foundations of the home. Residents promised to rebuild the destroyed home in the coming days and to follow it with ten more houses - all built by Jews.
IDF forces are also preparing to destroy houses in the Binyamin community of Amona next week, as well as in Hevron. The Amona destruction has been put on hold, however, at least until after a Supreme Court hearing on the issue next week. In Hevron, eleven families fear a forced evacuation from their homes near the Avraham Avinu neighborhood. Land of Israel supporters from around the country have been asked to arrive at these two spots, in order to prevent the expulsions - both of which are seen to be test-cases in the expected battles over many Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria in the future.
HaLevi filed this report earlier:
Without warning, a small community in the consensus region of Gush Etzion has become the center of the government's demolition efforts. Demolition forces face unexpected opposition.
Residents of the community of Sde Boaz, 20 minutes south of Jerusalem, received less than 24 hours' notice that Civil Administration officials, accompanied by soldiers, were on its way over, on orders from the government. Their goal: to destroy a newly built house, the foundations of a large home and a large stable that were built over the summer.
A newly-homeless horse nibbles the grass in Sde Boaz after its "unauthorized" stable is destroyed
Border Guard police, accompanied by a bulldozer and Civil Administration officials, arrived at the Gush Etzion outpost community of Sde Boaz early Wednesday morning, but were met by friends of the residents and Land of Israel activists who stopped them in their tracks.
The forces succeeded in bulldozing a large stable, which Sde Boaz residents had built over the summer for their horses and donkeys. When the forces tried to bulldoze the home, protestors surrounded the building and declared that they would not budge. Civil Administration officials, who had claimed that the home was not populated and could therefore be destroyed without approval from a senior officer, entered the home to find a comfortable bachelor's "pad," replete with breakfast set out on the kitchen table.
They then turned their attention to the foundations of a home, built by a recently married resident of the community who serves as a company commander in the IDF reserves. Hundreds of local residents who had flocked to the community through fields and vineyards - police had blocked the main access road - stood atop the foundations and refused to move, locking arms. Police responded with severe violence, but were soon ordered to stand down after commanders noticed the large number of press photographers on the scene.
Sde Boaz is a unique community. It is an environmentally friendly, agricultural community established by religious and non-observant Jews who sought to create an example of what the State of Israel can aspire to be – a home where Jews from diverse backgrounds and outlooks can come together to build and assist one another.
The community is also unique in that it is built entirely through Avoda Ivrit, Jewish Labor. The residents not only refuse to use local Palestinian workers for cheap, and often shoddy, building, but believe that the reconnection of the Jewish people with their land after a 2,000-year estrangement necessitates getting one's hands dirty with its soil. Though the place is populated by professionals – a medical student, a doctor of physics, a dentist, a veterinarian, a security guard, three teachers, an auto mechanic, an organic farmer and two journalists – most of the residents engage in agricultural projects on the side. Fields of wheat, chickpeas, clover (for the animals), peas, chard and beets, as well as olive and fruit orchards surround the community, which spreads out freely and refuses to be fenced in.
Even before its establishment over three years ago, the founders would trek to the future site and work the state lands situated there, keeping them from being claimed by Arab squatters, who receive stipends from the Palestinian Authority to plant far and wide. Agricultural activity is a way of acquiring land under Ottoman and British Mandate law, which is still applied in Judea and Samaria.
Sde Boaz is located less than a mile north of Neve Daniel and Efrat, the heart of the Gush Etzion settlement bloc. PM Ariel Sharon said in the past that U.S. President George W. Bush guaranteed him that Gush Etzion would remain in Jewish hands, in return for the destruction of Jewish towns in Gaza.
The community sits on a high point between the Efrat/Neve Daniel bloc and the city of Betar Illit, with a view of the entire region. After residents move in, the IDF situated an advanced surveillance camera there which can see clear to Tel Aviv and the coastal plain, even at night.
Residents were divided on the extent of active opposition to the destruction, but outside activists soon flooded the small community. Any preference for organized opposition was rendered moot as crowds, singing and dancing in the rain and hail, blocked the bulldozers.
"This isn't just one person's little home and this isn't just our community's small building – this is a Jewish home, built completely by Jews on land that was paid for before the State was even founded, by Jews around the world who donated money to purchase land in Israel through the Jewish National Fund," a Sde Boaz spokesperson told the media. "Such a thing cannot be destroyed due to an arbitrary piece of paper declaring it illegal."
"The Jewish people must wake up to the fact that they have been lied to. The so-called settlement blocs were talked about merely in order to ease us in to the fact that we are being forced to retreat by non-democratic forces, no matter how many times we reject them at the ballot box."
Another resident, Makor Rishon reporter Erez Tadmor, told reporters that the local Palestinians have been building terraces and digging wells under the nose of the Civil Administration for years. He added that there has been a steep increase in illegal building activity in recent months, funded by the Palestinian Authority and Saudi Arabia, in hopes of slicing Gush Etzion in half and inducing the Supreme Court to influence the route of the Partition Wall.