Of Hilltop Outposts and Memorials: Land Bought in Blood
Of Hilltop Outposts and Memorials: Land Bought in Blood

The Israeli Supreme Court has ordered a Jewish town “dismantled” and its inhabitants removed from their houses.

On Tuesday, the Court ordered the destruction of Migron – right off highway 60 – by March 2012. Migron has electricity, sewerage and roads; all its caravans are surrounded by lawns and flower borders and children’s toys.

Until few years ago the only signs of civilization atop that desert hillock were a cellular telephone antenna and a maintenance shed. Claims that Migron is built on “private Palestinian land” have been challenged on legal grounds, since that land was under the jurisdiction of the “Custodian of Absentee Property”, a government agency (based on its British predecessor) established to manage lands that were “abandoned, uninhabited and unclaimed”.  The court claimed the land was parcelled and  given to various recipients by Jordan. 

When first built more than a decade ago, Migron received the support of the IDF and many government agencies because of its strategic location – overlooking Highway 60. No one objected. In 2002, infrastructure and buildings were approved at the highest levels, the Prime Minister’s Office and Ministry of Defense. Over 50 families presently live there.

A few days earlier, Migron had received a boost  from Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, who had called from the plenum podium for the government to authorize the community.

Peace Now and other NGOs tracked down Arabs who claimed to own parts of the area of Migron and supported their legal efforts. But their documents have never been verified.

Migron is the story of the Jewish outposts situated alongside observation points claimed by the military for “security purposes”, within the boundaries of private land seized by Israel for building new bypass roads to settlements, within the vast tracts of “state land” claimed by Israel after the Six Day War, or on private land purchased from Palestinians.

If the ownership can be disputed in the courts, the Jewish dead are unfortunately all well known. In 2003 Raanan Gissin, a senior adviser to Israeli governments, claimed that nearly all of the outposts were a necessary means of defense and a justifiable response to the hundreds of Jewish citizens killed.

The memory of the many who paid with their lives is almost everywhere in the hilltops. The Mitzpe Danny outpost was named after Danny Frei, who was killed by a terrorist in 1995.

Beit Haggai in the Hebron Hills was founded by a handful of Jewish seminary students and their families in 1984. They set up mobile homes on twin hilltops just south of Hebron, and named their community with an acronym of the names of three friends who had been killed in Hebron in 1980. There is no fence or wall around Beit Haggai. In the synagogue, the young people doing reserve duty, among them many commanders, show self- confidence. Their stern faces radiate inner calm. There are Psalm books on the tables, weapons nearby.

Sara Klein lives in the Hayovel outpost near Eli. She is the wife of Roi Klein, who threw himself on a grenade during the war in Lebanon to protect his soldiers. In his last seconds of life, Roi mustered the strength to shout the Shema Yisrael, the prayer declared by Jewish martyrs through the generations. A stone plaque describing his heroism stands at the Hayovel outpost, in front of a park built by donations from the United States.

Aside from the Kleins, the outpost was also home to Avi Wolanski and his wife, Avital, who was in an advanced stage of pregnancy when both of them were killed by a Palestinian sniper as their car neared the village.

Below Eli, you cross through a bottleneck where an Arab sharpshooter eliminated ten Israelis, one by one, with an old rifle.

Maale Rehavam is named after Cabinet minister Rehavam Zeevi, killed by Arab terrorists.

Carmei Tzur is named after a mother and child slaughtered in 1996.

The Aryeh outpost was named after the Fogel family of Itamar.

Yad Yair outpost was named after Yair Mendelson, who was killed in the first intifada.

A week after Meir Chai was shot dead in December 2009, hundreds of residents set up a new outpost on a hill overlooking the site of the murder, and established a “regional Torah center” to be dedicated in Chai’s name.

Daniel Bin-Nun built an outpost with his own hands in memory of Harel, his brother who was killed.

Mitzpeh Shabo was named after an entire family of Itamar slaughtered during the Second Intifada.

Rabbi Netanel Ozeri and his family, including five children, were enjoying a Shabbat meal with friends in their home on Hilltop 26 outside Hebron when he was shot dead.

Rachelim’s outpost permanent status came after Zvi Klein was killed while driving through a nearby Arab town.

Havat Gilad is an outpost named after Gilad Zar, who was shot to death through the windshield of his car. Gilad refused to drive with a bulletproof vest and turned down the army’s offer of a bulletproof car, saying it wasn’t right for him to have one when other Jews didn’t.

David Druck buried his wife Rachel immediately after the “peace conference” of Madrid (1991). Shevut Rachel, “the Return of Rachel”, is named after that young mother slained by terrorists. “A house you can move”, noted David. “A grave you can’t move. This is my answer to the killers”.

When Israel demolished the Sinai settlement bloc of Yamit in 1982 under a peace deal with Egypt, there were no graves to be removed. But relocating the Gush Katif cemetery was one of the hardest moments of the “disengagement”. The dead and the memorials in the outposts are the silent testaments to the Jewish claim on land. Up the hills, a Jewish grave is stronger than a legal suit.