(Woman cries as Jewish homes are destroyed. Photo by Laura Ben-David)

Over a dozen families in the Netiv Ha’Avot neighbourhood in Elazar, a hamlet in the Gush Etzion bloc of communities just South of Jerusalem, have seen their homes demolished after losing a battle against Arabs and leftist groups claiming that the properties were not built entirely legally. Only 5% of the property in question was disputed, and in some homes only one small corner of a home was deemed problematic.

Nevertheless, an intense, protracted legal battle fought by anti-Israel activists at “Peace Now” has resulted in the destruction of numerous Jewish houses, leaving over a dozen families in temporary homes. Hundreds of unarmed police soldiers entered the community early on Tuesday morning, and were confronted by thousands of Israelis staging peaceful sit-ins in some of the houses and outside.

Many of the families have lived in the community for over a decade, with some residing there for close to 18 years. Despite this, the court ruled against them, and set June 12 as the final deadline to demolish the homes.


(“Where’s the logic. Destruction for destruction’s sake”, reads the message on the protester’s T-shirts. Photo by Laura Ben-David)

 

A most emotional moment at the beautiful home of one of the families about to be evicted, their home destroyed. Dozens of people are packed inside the house including the owner’s elderly grandfather (see 1:07), a man who had fought for Gush Etzion in 1967. Suddenly the crowd starts singing ‘Al Kol Eileh’ – a song about accepting the bitter with the sweet – the sting with the honey – and asking God for protection over what the Jewish people have built in the land of Israel – “over all these things.” And everything seems upside down and makes no sense. And all of us are crying…

Posted by Laura Ben-David on Tuesday, June 12, 2018

A most emotional moment at the beautiful home of one of the families about to be evicted, their home destroyed. Dozens of people are packed inside the house including the owner’s elderly grandfather (see 1:07), a man who had fought for Gush Etzion in 1967. Suddenly the crowd starts singing ‘Al Kol Eileh’ – a song about accepting the bitter with the sweet – “the sting with the honey” – and asking God for protection over what the Jewish people have built in the land of Israel, “over all these things.” And everything seems upside down and makes no sense. And all of us are crying… (Video by Laura Ben-David)


(Protesters join the family at the Den Heijer family home, moments before it was demolished: Laura Ben-David)

A campaign by the families to save their homes was regrettably organised too late, seemingly because they were certain that such a situation could never come to pass. When families moved into the empty hilltop and established themselves there, they could never have imagined any legal problems.


(Racheli Bulvik leaves her home. Photo: Laura Ben-David)

Not willing to go quietly, the families called on people to join them protest, and stressed that all joining them should refrain from violence or bad language against the soldiers, who they understood were being put in an awful situation not of their own making.

(Sitting on the rooftop. Photo: Laura Ben-David)

Their calls were heard by hundreds of people from the Elazar community, and thousands more from across Israel. To deal with the challenge of removing so many people from the site, the police were forced to hire 15 buses to take the protesters back to various locations across the country.


(“At this site, the Bulvik family home was destroyed, and within two years, God-willing, it will be rebuilt.” Photo: Laura Ben-David)

Although the families lost this particular battle, many believe that the fight is far from over – Peace Now and other groups seek to undermine the legal status of the rest of Elazar and the surrounding communities. On the other hand, there is reason for cautious optimism as the government has given approval to plans to build upwards of another 300 homes in Elazar and Netiv Ha’Avot.