Homesh water tower remains standing
Homesh water tower remains standingIsrael News Photo: (file)

Thousands of nationalists are expected to march to Homesh on Lag B’Omer on Tuesday in an event that the IDF has authorized even though Homesh is in a “closed military zone.” A mammoth bonfire will light up the skies in Tel Aviv as a reminder of the strategic importance of the area.

Homesh and nearby Sa-Nur were destroyed and their residents were expelled nearly four years ago as part of the government “Disengagement” program that was intended to end Arab violence and speed up mutual recognition of a Palestinian Authority state and Israel.

Instead, violence increased, eventually leading to the Operation Cast Lead counterterrorist campaign earlier this year.

Supporters of Homesh First, the name of the group trying to re-establish the town, have maintained a 24/7 presence at the site for more than 18 months despite several government-ordered arrests and destruction of new buildings.

The determination of Homesh First has resulted in an unstated understanding between Homesh First and the IDF. Unlike the Gaza region, the area of the destroyed towns remains under Israeli security control because of the fear that terrorists will use it as a staging ground for attacks on nearby Jewish communities.

Homesh First acquiesced to IDF requests last December not to hold an event during Chanukah because of the Operation Cast Lead campaign. The military continues to raid the community when there are attempts made to construct new buildings, although the old water tower of Homesh remains standing.

Arrests generally have been limited, and the government now infrequently uses the tactic of arresting people at the beginning of the Sabbath or even on the day of rest itself. Politicians backing a Jewish presence on Homesh include Interior Minister Eli Yishai (Shas),Communications Minister Moshe Kahlon (Likud), Information and Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein (Likud) and Science Minister Rabbi Daniel Hershkowitz (Jewish Home).

Many former residents of Homesh and Sa-Nur live in trailer homes in an area known as the Neighborhood of the Banished in the nearby community of Shavei Shomron. Activists at Homesh have manned Homesh with approximately 10 men who study Torah every day, and others guard the area at night.

Shomron Liaison Council spokesman David Ha'Ivri said that several Knesset Members will join the Lag B'Omer event, which will begin at noon at Sebastia, the site of the first community built in Samaria since the 1967 Six-Day War restored Judea and Samaria to Israel after nearly 2,000 years.

The march to Homesh will conclude with a huge bonfire, one of the most popular rituals on Lag B'Omer, to demonstrate to residents of the Coastal Plain the proximity of the hills of Samaria, which also offer a breathtaking view.

Performers Ariel Zilber and Chaim David will appear, and activities for children will include inflated trampolines.