A day after Jews plant a stake in ex-IDF Shdemah base, MK Meir Porush initiates a petition against the building of an Arab neighborhood there.
"The establishment of a Palestinian neighborhood so close to our homes is liable to cause a security danger," Porush understated, "and the government's support of this senseless plan is totally irresponsible."
The IDF abruptly abandoned the area in question - its Shdemah base, just south of Jerusalem - some two years ago. Jews living in nearby Gush Etzion later learned of the plan to give it over to Palestinian Authority control for the construction of a new Arab town or neighborhood. The government initially denied this, but an official Knesset query by MK Uri Ariel (National Union) ultimately elicited a confirmation from Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai (Labor) that a new Arab town was definitely being considered for the site.
In fact, eyewitnesses have noticed surveyors' markings at Shdemah for the beginning of a new Arab town.
Porush plans to begin collecting signatures from residents of Har Homa, the nearest Jerusalem neighborhood to Shdemah, on his petition against the new Arab town.
Keeping it Jewish
At the same time as MK Porush engages in the "depart from evil" approach in order to prevent the place from becoming Arab, activists are trying to "do good" (Psalms 34,15) and make the site Jewish once again.
On Thursday, a group of 150 activists made their way to Shdemah, detouring and evading army blockades, and began initial activities preparing it for Jewish residence. They painted and cleaned up the three remaining structures, hung Israeli flags, and erected a large Magen David (Jewish star). Large army forces began to deploy at the site, however, and the pioneers began to prepare to be evicted.
But then, activist Nadia Matar of Women in Green told Arutz-7, "something strange happened. A mob of Arabs began gathering down below, holding Palestinian flags and chanting slogans - and the army was forced to deal with them. While the soldiers were dispersing the Arabs and making sure they would not endanger either us or them [the soldiers], we were able to continue working here and preparing the site for Jews to move in."
Finally, around 2:30 PM, the soldiers were able to turn their attention to the Jews. "Remarkably," Matar said, "there was no violence - maybe because of all the media that was here. They simply carried us down, one at a time, out of Shdemah."
Return on Friday
On Friday morning, a busload of Land of Israel pioneers returned to the site. "This time," Matar said, "there was just one jeep standing guard. It would not let us pass, so we got out and walked up by foot, and are continuing our work. We're not planning to stay for the Sabbath this time, but I can tell you that we have activities planned for next week, and we hope to soon organize the families that wish to move in."
One of the pioneers, an expert in the geography and history of the area, pointed out a building in nearby Bethlehem in which former MK Geulah Cohen was imprisoned by the British for her pre-State, pro-Jewish activities. The man said that Geulah's mother used to frequent nearby Kever Rachel (Rachel's Tomb), also in eyeshot, to pray for her daughter who was jailed so close, yet so far.
Shdemah Under Israeli Control
Shdemah is in what the Oslo Accords have designated Area C - under total Israeli control, as opposed to other areas that are under partial or total Palestinian Authority control. For this reason, the government's apparent plans to turn it into an Arab neighborhood are even more puzzling to Land of Israel supporters. Some reports are that the Arab presence will begin as a medical center complex.
"I assume they won't officially give it over to the PA," MK Porush told Arutz-7, "but somehow it will become Arab. This is why we need a large public protest."
The Security Dangers
"Amidst all the concessions and gestures that Israel continues to make to the PA," Porush said, "including the removal of anti-terrorism checkpoints, bringing of hundreds of armed PA policemen into sensitive areas in Judea and Samaria, allowing huge amounts of weapons and the like into the PA, this agreement to turn the Shdemah base into an Arab town sets a new level of abandonment of Israel's basic security perceptions."
The Shdemah base overlooks the recently-opened highway leading from eastern Gush Etzion to Jerusalem. Gush Etzion residents say that the road is the only alternative to the Tunnels Highway, which is closed all-too-often because of security alerts and the like.
Porush was Deputy Housing Minister, with the authorities of Housing Minister, in 1996-99, when Har Homa was built. "G-d granted me a great privilege in having overseen the construction of Har Homa," he said. "Then, too, there was great opposition from the left, claiming that it would cause a rift with the United States - but this was proven untrue. Similarly, we must continue with determination to oppose the building of a Palestinian neighborhood in nearby Shdemah, so close to Har Homa."