Destruction in Ma'ale Rehavam
Destruction in Ma'ale RehavamArutz Sheva

A dizzying flurry of Supreme Court orders on Wednesday morning were issued deciding the fate of the town of Ma'ale Rehavam, located in Judea's Gush Etzion region, mere hours before the demolition of several local homes.

Large IDF and police forces approached the community armed with means to disperse protests and riot-control gear, after the Defense Ministry was ordered by the Supreme Court to destroy several buildings by next Sunday.

Arutz Sheva's correspondent on the ground managed to film the moments of destruction, as residents pleaded with soldiers to wait for Supreme Court orders to be clarified. One resident stated "this is our country, it's Jewish land."

At one point in the footage, residents can be seen being physically lifted from the area by groups of soldiers holding their arms and legs.

In a dramatic last minute turn of events, the security forces reportedly received an order from the Supreme Court cancelling the destruction at the last minute. However, the court reversed itself within an hour in another order commanding the forces to continue with the demolition.

A Defense Ministry spokesperson told AFP that 11 buildings were demolished, and that five of them had been inhabited.

Earlier residents of the town submitted evidence of ownership over the land to the court; however, the judges rejected the claims and authorized the forces to continue the demolition. The Supreme Court claims that at no point did it give an order postponing the evacuation.

Davidi Perl, Gush Etzion Regional Council Head, reported the initial order cancelling the demolition, saying "to our great joy, at this stage the forces received instructions backed by a Supreme Court ruling to cancel the whole evacuation process, due to the fact that the residents claim and presented evidence of having purchased the land."

The reported order which was later overruled prevented security forces from evacuating any homes, property or persons, allowing them to continue advancing towards the community to police it and enforce the law.

Four activists detained for trying to block demolition

Jewish youth started gathering in the Gush Etzion area as early as Tuesday evening with the goal of preventing the evacuation and destruction. Several nationalist activists who arrived at Ma'ale Rehavam blocked the main road leading to the town, so as to delay the demolition forces.

The activists placed stone blockades and burning tires in a desperate attempt to prevent the demolition from occurring. The Honenu legal aid representation group has reported that four activists have been detained for investigation by police for blocking access to the town.

Security forces are also preparing for demolitions before next Sunday in two additional small Judea and Samaria communities - Givat Asaf in the Binyamin region of Samaria, and Ramat Gilad located west of Shechem (Nablus) in Samaria.

The extreme-left group Peace Now has petitioned the Supreme Court for the destruction of the small communities without let-up in a process spanning several years. Groups supporting Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria have called on the government "not to surrender to the intimidation" of the courts and protect the communities.

"Every destruction of homes is an expression of weakness in our hold of the land of Israel. But we won't recoil or be silent, and will continue to build, to spread out and to lay roots in Gush Etzion and everywhere else," remarked Perl.

Perl took the opportunity to call for Israeli sovereignty over Judea and Samaria, saying "that's also the only way to put an end to the ongoing conflict with the Palestinians and to clarify to the whole world that the nation of Israel returned to its land, controls it all and aims to stay here forever."

A destruction order thanks to Peace Now

As in the case of Givat Asaf and Ramat Gilad, the showdown in Ma'ale Rehavam follows a petition by Peace Now seven years ago, which led to the initial Supreme Court order to demolish three homes in the 11-year-old community that is home to roughly 30 religious and secular families.

A spokesperson of the town said that the land was not private and so the state could have legalized the homes, but did not do so, leading to the Supreme Court instructions that the government demolish them. 

Women in Green protested the decision to demolish the homes, saying "we are talking about houses that are lived in, with families and children."

"There are tens of thousands of homes that are not regulated throughout the country, especially among the Arabs and Bedouins. Somehow in these places nobody rushes to demolish the houses. In fact plans are  worked on to regulate their illegal construction," said the group in a likely reference to the failed Begin-Prawer Plan.

Women in Green added that Ma'ale Rehavam is being targeted "because Peace Now is pressuring…and thus this upcoming destruction is really a political destruction. It’s vindictiveness against the Jews in Judea and Samaria."

The destruction in Ma'ale Rehavam Arutz Sheva