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IYAR 5768/May 2008 QUARTERLY UPDATE - LAG BA'OMER SPRING 2008
It is now 12:45 Thursday nite, Lag Ba'omer 5768. I returned a shortwhile ago from a long day in the Shomron. This day began with a phone update from Rabbi Hager-Lau who on Wednesday met with the IDFCommander of the Central Command, General Gadi Shamni, about the snowballing deteriorating security situation, specifically the opening of the major crossings along Route 60 throughout Yehuda. There is a déjà-vu Kissufim, Gush Katif-type situation, developing very quickly along the only road that travels North/South through Yehuda, joining Jerusalem with Bersheva. These four major crossings-Yatta, Sheiuch, Sair and Chalchul, hold the key to all major Jewish traffic in Yehuda.These junctions are about to become major nightmares for our people as the IDF continues full steam to disengage from the communities beyond the wall.
At the same time, the PA has been allowed to re-introducefully armed Arab soldiers into the B+ Villages of Tekua and Seir inEastern Gush Etzion. The Tekua T junction controls the traffic toeight communities in the Eastern Gush. I personally travel on thisroad several times a week and have seen the transfer of these forces twice in the last week.
Make no mistake about it, the deadly cancer of an Arab army is growing daily in the heart of our country. By ten o'clock we had a meeting in Barkan, Shomron, with the new Mayor of the Shomron region, Gershon Masika, and his new activist staff. By the way, did you know the Shomron municipality, the largest in the country, covers 11% of the land mass of today's Israel between the Mediteranean and the Jordan river? Definitely something to think about.
We visited a number of outposts that have been phoning over the last week asking for help to deal with the deteriorating security situation. They have been attacked in every way possible in the lastweeks, from vandalism and theft to outright assaults by gunfire all hours of the night. We finished the day at the outpost of Yad Yair in Western Binyamin. Does the outpost named Yad Yair ring a bell? Apparently Condoleeza Rice knows where this outpost is and felt it is important enough to have asked the government of Israel to remove it during her recent visit here.
Yad Yair was to become a small community that was established after the Oslo accords on a winding slope on the old Dolev-Bet-El road afterthe ambush/murder of Yair Mendelsohn, a father of three, while driving from Dolev to Bet-El on a Saturday night 17 years ago. After the murder, an initial attempt was made to settle the hill where the attack took place. To prevent any large civilian presence and yet provide basic security at a strategic point on an important road, theIDF set up a small base above the 12 ft stone erected on the spotwhere Yair Mendelsohn was murdered. Eventualy a small synagogue was built to serve the soldiers and the civilians who drove by and visited and prayed, perpetuating Yairs name. This place was named Yad Yair("yad" translates as a hand, but also, a goal).
As security deteriorated and the city of Ramallah enveloped this area,the IDF began restricting travel on this road, finally closing it down after Sept 2000. Sensing the eventual abandonment of this area threeyears ago, friends and family of Yair Mendelsohn purchased nine dunams of land around the monument at a cost of $580,000.00. Although theroad was closed, groups would come to study and and pray at differenttimes of the month.
During the last year as the army began reducing its presence, Yeshivat Yeshuat Mordechai from Nachliel traveled to Yad Yair, everyday, before dawn, to pray with a minyan watching the sun rise. They study there until noon, pray Mincha, and return to Nachliel for lunch. Four months ago the army, without notice, picked up and removed all IDF presence.What began as vandalism – spraypainting, gouging out the letters of the monument and damaging of water and powerlines, progressed to cannibalism – tearing out of the ground water, sewage and electric lines, which eventually led to arson and burning the synagogue to the ground. All that remained from Yad Yair was the 12 foot stone bearing his name.
Two months before Passover the Yad Yair memorial committee asked us to build a new synagouge out of plate steel; walls, roof, windows and doors, resembling a huge safe. This we did. Six days before the holiday of Passover in an operation that went on for 48 hours using a truck with a crane, generator, high powered lighting and several armedworkers, this 64 section synagogue was welded together under the nose of the Arabs of Beir-Zeit, Ramallah. Not realizing at first what was going on (all the workers wore IDF unifoms and had wooden M-16s) the Arabs over the first days of Passover finally woke up, organizing a massive demonstration from Beir-Zeit University on Chol Hamoed. The building of the synagogue and the violent Arab response served as a catalyst to finally wake up the Jews of Western Binyamin. Since that day, the Jews of that area, specifically Yeshivat Yeshuat Mordechai,have maintained a permanent presence around the clock, with classes, minyanim and families.
Today, Erev Lag Ba'omer, closes 30 days of permanent presence at Yad Yair. Every spot we visited requires different levels of assistance. All of them are in need of high powered communications systems like the type we are now putting in Yitzhar, covering the central commmunity and all their surrounding hilltops. They require state-of-the- art night vision goggles, and many other important items to help secure our land. This is the part we need to turn to you. We have just completed the revamping and equipping of the Rapid Response Teams of the communities of Kochav Hashacher –Binyamin, Beit Chagai-Har Chevron, Rotem-Jordan Valley, Ariel University-Shomron,Tekoah-Eastern Gush. We have also completed the equipping and began the training program of Rabbi Steinzaltz Yeshivat Hesder-Tekoah.
By the time I finished writing this update it was past two o'clock in the morning. Most of what I have written about and seen in the last few days is survival related to the very life of this country and cover more issues then most people deal with in a lifetime. When I stopped for a moment to feel the silence of the early morning and the beautiful cool air blowing in the wind of Gush Etzion, I heard in thedistance the singing and shouting of children in the dark. Having forgotten for a moment that it was Lag B'omer, I suddenly realized thesounds were children dancing and singing around bonfires on all thehills around the Gush. For a few seconds I reflected on how wonderful it is that kids of all ages can and do walk around all hours of the night (my own kids came home at four) without fear in their own country and celebrate Lag B'omer as we did in Bibical Israel. This is no small thing, where in the world today or at any time could Jewish children feel free to walk around at all hours of the night without fear? Once again, this was a powerful reminder of how important it is to put today's situation in perspective. Not in context of the last 60 years, but in the perspective of the last 3,500 years. Throughout history the Jews have been the scourge of wherever they have been and gouged out of every corner of the earth, wherever they were, theysimply were no more. So, yes, as it is written "there is reward foryour endeavor. " (Israel Danzinger)