Jews who saw the "wanton and cruel destruction" in Kiryat Arba this past midnight cursed perpetrators, while media and government attack the victims.
The events of the night in Kiryat Arba, in brief:
- Special Yassam anti-riot police forces arrive at 1:30 a.m. to destroy family home in unauthorized Kiryat Arba outpost - breaking windows over sleeping children, punching mother and children, destroying property, throwing books, yelling, and separating baby from mother in the process.
- Hysterical eyewitnesses are recorded cursing perpetrators of destruction.
- Radio and internet sites headline reports with news of the eyewitnesses' "incitement."
- Government convenes, condemns Kiryat Arba residents; Prime Minister Olmert says, "We are sick of this verbal incitement which leads to violence. I expect to hear from the Defense Minister and Justice Minister what is to be done against these people."
"As on every Saturday night, we go to sleep late. At 1:25 a.m, I received a call from friends who said that they heard that security forces are on their way over to us, and they fear that they intend to destroy our farm. It was strange; there had been no prior warning, so we hesitated to call friends for help. While we were deciding, we hear dogs outside. I look outside and I see a 'black river' [of Yassam police forces] streaming towards our house."
"Noam [Elisheva's husband] went out to see what was happening, and within seconds he was arrested."
"I immediately locked the door. The children were sleeping in their beds. I thought that maybe they were just coming to destroy the trailer home behind our house; I didn't think they were on their way to our house itself. A year ago, they also came to destroy, and they told me that they had a warrant to destroy the trailer home and not the house, so I thought it would be the same this time. But within seconds, or maybe a minute, they broke all the windows [on our house] - even in the children's rooms, with the children sleeping in bed.
"The house was filled with screaming and yelling. The children began to get hysterical, and ran to my room. I asked the Yassam police to let me talk to them and calm them down. They didn't let me, and just yelled, 'Get out, get out, get out!'"
At that point, Elisheva asked her 12-year-old son to take his two little brothers, aged 6 and 8, who were very scared, to the closest houses in nearby Kiryat Arba, and to ask the neighbors to have the children's grandmother come and help with the little children. Elisheva wished to leave, but the children insisted on remaining, so she decided to remain with them and with her months-old baby.
Elisheva and the children stayed in an inner room, leaving the door open just enough for them to watch their house being turned into a pile of ruins.
"I saw the Yassam police breaking cabinets, throwing stuff around, breaking beds, throwing books and clothing and everything else onto the floor. After they finished their destruction, the only thing left was the room we were in. They forcefully took us out, while hitting us and using extreme violence. I heard them giving each other coded instructions, and suddenly I found myself with my hands twisted behind me, and within seconds, my head was turned backward. They hit me and the children systematically. I am now totally bruised up, but nothing in my body was broken - and the same with the children. I am not sure if my daughter's hand was not broken."
"I asked them what they were doing. After a few minutes of not answering, they finally took out a piece of paper and waved it at me and said that it was an order saying they had to evict us. Then they said we are under arrest. They separated me from my baby, and put me and my older daughter into one of their vehicles, and the other children in two other cars. I was worried about my baby when they separated her, and said I wanted to see her, but no one cared."
The police car in which Elisheva was riding broke down, and after a 90-minute delay, they finally arrived at a nearby police station. "I had nothing with me - not baby formula, not diapers, not clothes."
At 4 a.m., Elisheva was released and taken back to what had been her home. "I looked through the ruins, and somehow found my car keys; they hadn't destroyed the car." She drove to her sister's home, and later in the morning returned to the ruins: "I tried to rummage through the destruction to find clothes and coats and other things for the children. 18 years of marriage are buried in the ruins..."
Israel's media reported on the "evacuation of an illegal outpost in Kiryat Arba," omitting the details described above - but highlighted the angry words of two of the Jews who saw the destruction. A man was heard saying that he hopes the perpetrators of the destruction fall or are captured in battle.
The speaker has not been identified, and many people close to the national movement promoting Jewish sovereignty over Judea and Samaria (Yesha) surmised that he might be an agent-provocateur, sent to stir up public opinion against the Jewish pioneers. Alternatively, some have said that he was speaking out of frustration, and that these sentiments are not representative of the populace of Yesha.
Politicians were quick to respond to the media reports and issued sharp condemnations of the residents of Judea and Samaria. Cabinet ministers said that the "inciters" must be put behind bars. Prime Minister Olmert related to the incident at the beginning of the Sunday morning Cabinet meeting, discussing not the apparently illegal destruction, but the angry words expressed afterwards: "This morning in Hevron, there were calls for security forces to be harmed. I have instructed the Ministers of Defense and Public Security to take action against this. We are sick of all this violence, verbal violence that brings to physical violence... I expect to hear from the Defense Minister and Justice Minister what is to be done against these people... Whoever expresses himself that way must be put in jail."
Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann said, "I am disgusted by the incitement expressed by extremist elements in the territories against IDF soldiers and security forces. We will act firmly to uproot this phenomenon. I call on the Attorney General and Israel Police to use all necessary means to deal with this."
Defense Minister Ehud Barak said, "I want to emphasize the gravity of the words and actions of the extreme right-wing in the territories. I am of the opinion that the punishments in this matter are too soft, and the law enforcment and legal bodies must [rectify this]."
Danny Dayan, head of the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea and Samaria, and MK Aryeh Eldad (National Union party) also condemned the remarks. Dayan said, "I have many complaints against the security forces and against the Government of Israel for their activity in Hevron over the weekend, but this does not in the least cancel out the gravity of the words that were said afterwards."
Media: Ignoring the Real News
One Kiryat Arba resident said, "Instead of dealing with the destruction of a home, the media concentrates on a couple of crazies... Instead of interviewing Elisheva Federman about how her children were thrown out of their home in the middle of the night and their house destroyed, they look for an extremist speaking against the IDF."
Journalists and cameramen were not permitted to enter the site of the destruction until around 7 a.m. MK Uri Ariel (National Union) had sharp words against this decision: "It is not coincidental that when journalists are not allowed in, complaints of severe police violence, unauthorized evictions, and acts of cruelty by the forces start streaming in." Ariel said that Defense Minister Barak must find out who was responsible for this decision and ensure that journalists are allowed everywhere unless there are clear security needs otherwise.
What now for the Federmans? "We will return and build it again. This is our land, and we believe with our entire essence that G-d wants us to be there. We will return at any cost, even if we have to live in a tent."