Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Nadav Shragai, Haaretz Correspondent
February 16, 2009

In translating Shragai's column, Haaretz failed to translate the authors first paragraph-(see below)

We, Women in Green and other Land of Israel activists who are fighting for the different hills and locations in the Land of Israel that are in danger of being taken away from us, sometimes get discouraged that we do not immediately see the positive results of our activism. This article should fill us with faith and strength never give up any struggle. We will continue to struggle for our right to the entire land of Israel and we pray that Hashem will make us see the day when we return, not only to places like Bet Hashalom in Hevron, but to all places we have temporarily been taken away from, such as Gush Katif, Northern Samaria and, yes, even Yamit.Some 1,700 dunams of land in the northern part of Efrat were declared state land last week, paving the way for the West Bank settlement to start the process of seeking government approval to build there.

The Civil Administration issued the declaration after rejecting eight appeals by Palestinians against the move. A ninth appeal was accepted, and the land covered by this appeal was consequently removed from Efrat's jurisdiction.

However, construction is still a long way off. First, the Civil Administration must formally allocate the land to the Housing Ministry, which, under new rules adopted by Ehud Olmert's government, cannot be done without approval from both the prime minister and defense minister.

Then the Housing Ministry must give Efrat's local council a permit to start the usually long planning process, which involves securing permits from various agencies. Only then can the work of building some 2,500 housing units in the Givat Ha'eytam neighborhood begin.

Since the outcome of the elections makes it likely that the next government will lean more to the right than the current one, Efrat plans to wait until the new government takes office before submitting its request.

Efrat, with around 9,000 residents, is the largest settlement in the Gush Etzion settlement bloc, and Givat Ha'eytam is the last unbuilt hill of the seven within the town's jurisdiction. Despite being the hill nearest Jerusalem, Ha'eytam lies outside the planned route of the separation fence, which has yet to be built in this area.

Gush Etzion is one of the settlement blocs that all Israeli governments have said they want to retain under any final-status agreement with the Palestinians.

[Here is the translation of Nadav Shragai's Hebrew paragraphs, as a public service by Women in Green]

A year ago the residents of Efrat, together with the Action Committees of Jerusalem and Kiryat Arba, led a fierce public battle that included constant ascensions to the hill with the purpose of changing the route of the separation fence (that is still not built there) so that it would include the Eitam hill.

The struggle did not succeed but the Ministry of Defense ordered the paving of a road around the Eitam Hill in order to protect it from illegal Palestinian building and in order to increase the surveillance by the Civil administration.

Last Friday, in a belated Tu Bishvat tree planting ceremony held by the Efrat residents on the Eitam Hill, the residents were told about the fact that Eitam's legal status has been confirmed as State land. Israeli flags were waiving on the hill and speeches were given.

Rabbi Shlomo Riskin reminded the public that Efrat should have been started first on the Eitam Hill and then continue southwards. "The assumption was that because of all of Efrat's hills, Eitam was the closest to Jerusalem, it would be the easiest hill to build on. Who would have thought then that specifically for this hill we will need to struggle so fiercely" he said.

The mayor of Efrat, Oded Revivi, said that he would be happy to build his house on the hill. Others reminded of the fact that 300 dunams of the Eitam lands were bought tens of years ago by the Aminouta company (a branch of Keren Kayemet.)

In the coming months, the action Committees who have been part of the struggle for the hill, plan on holding different activities such as performances, lectures and marches, even before the actual planning of the building of the new neighborhood.

At this current stage, the hills of Efrat that are populated are the Rimon hill, Teena, Gefen, Dekel and Zayit. On the Dagan hill there is a neighborhood of caravans with the students and families of the "Siach Yitzhak" yeshiva and additional young couples and on the Tamar hill there is another neighborhood of caravans with young couples and the "Neta Sorek" mechina.

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