Disengagement? Not in Homesh!

Four years after the Disengagement, a small group of activists have managed to reestablish a Jewish presence in Homesh, just northwest of Shechem.

Yehudah Lev Kay ,

Israel news photo: (file)

Four years after Israel’s Disengagement from the Gush Katif section of Gaza and Homesh and Sa-Nur in northern Samaria, a small group of activists have managed to reestablish a Jewish presence in Homesh, just northwest of Shechem. This week, ‘Homesh First’, the movement to resettle the site, celebrated two years of success.

Activists on the Homesh water tower / Israel news photo: file

“We have had an unbroken presence in Homesh for two years now," activist Yossi Dagan said. "It is only a matter of time until we rebuild Homesh completely. Today it is clear to the public that the Disengagement was a moral crime and a terrible mistake that the government needs to correct as soon as possible.”

On Thursday, around 70 activists spent Tisha B’Av, a day of mourning for the destruction of the Temple, in Homesh. “Spending Tisha B’av in Homesh was difficult but also encouraging,” Dagan said. “We are counteracting the destruction of Homesh daily through our return to the town.”

In contrast to Gaza, where Israel handed control over to the Palestinian Authority, northern Samaria remains under Israeli control. The area where the ruins of Homesh and Sa-Nur are located is still defined under the Oslo Accords as Area C, territory under Israeli military and civilian control.

“It has created an intolerable situation where one of the only places in the world that Jews cannot enter is northern Samaria, an area under Israeli control,” activist Boaz Haetzni lamented.

Homesh was founded in 1978, and numbered around 70 families when it was destroyed by the IDF together with nearby Sa-Nur in 2005. Since Homesh First started operating in the winter of 2006, thousands of activists have streamed to the site, sometimes in large marches and other times in clandestine groups, occasionally with the cooperation of security forces but often without.

Two years ago, in the week leading up to Tisha B’Av, ‘Homesh First’ announced a plan to resettle the town. Although thousands of police and army troops deployed to stop activists from reaching the site, on the morning before Tisha B’Av a thousand activists succeeded in reaching the summit of Homesh.

Since that morning in 2007, security forces have evacuated activists from Homesh approximately 100 times, sometimes even on the Sabbath or Jewish holidays. However, ‘Homesh First’ activists always returned to the site and even managed to hold a circumcision ceremony and a wedding there, as well as establish the Homesh Yeshiva.

“We have to give credit where credit is due,” Dagan said cynically. “Our return to Homesh is due to the senior police and IDF officers who have decided to evacuate us and harass us time after time. They have turned Homesh into a symbol and taught the public that if it is so important to the security forces to prevent us from returning to Homesh, than it must be even more important for us to go back.”

In the past year, the Samaria Regional Council has also joined the fight to resettle Homesh, and National Union MK Aryeh Eldad founded the Knesset Lobby for the Return to Homesh. A law proposal to reverse the Disengagement from northern Samaria garnered the signatures of 40 MKs, some of whom supported the Disengagement in 2005.

“If once it seemed delusional to talk about returning to Homesh, today it is only a stone’s throw away,” Dagan continued. “Many Knesset Members and much of the public support correcting the mistake of the Disengagement. Homesh will be built again.”

Tisha B'Av 2009 in Homesh / Israel news photo: Homesh First

Homesh before the 2005 Disengagement / Israel news photo: (file)