A few weeks after an ecological community of 60 residents illegally settled
within their midst, the Ramat Hanegev Regional Council has vowed to evacuate the
The Garin Harel ecological community, which settled atop
Mount Eldad in early August, contains 60 adults and 15 children, according to
data from the settlement. Envisioning a Zionist and ecological lifestyle that
would “integrate with nature and the desert” and promote continuity in the
Negev’s development, the community members explained that they had been
fruitlessly working with all the relevant authorities to establish their
community legally for past seven years.
The council slammed the
settlement members, however, for building their community in the end without any
permits or authorization from them or any of the relevant
Countering the community members’ claims that authorities
were uncooperative with their requests, a council spokeswoman said that the
chairman and representatives of the council have long been in active dialogue
with Harel Garin. During this ongoing dialogue, offers were made to allow the
group to settle in the Negev, including options to join existing communities
within the council’s jurisdiction, as well as Beersheba, Yeroham and Mitzpe
Ramon, the spokeswoman said.
“The members of Garin rejected all
proposals, for reasons known only to them and announced that it was their
intention to opt for settlement in Mount Eldad, a sensitive area of the first
order in terms of landscape and heritage – which does not enable settlement
without compromising nature and the environment,” the spokeswoman
Rona Levine, one of the Garin Harel settlers, stressed that the
community members did not reject all proposals and said that they simply “wanted
to settle in the Negev.”
For example, the community members were more
than willing to become part of Kibbutz Telalim, she explained.
end of the day it didn’t work out because as a small community they decided that
connecting with a group of 60 people was too much,” Levine told The Jerusalem
Post on Thursday. “The same happened in Sde Boker.”
Despite warnings from
the council that they would remove them if they settled at Eldad, the community
members did so regardless, the council spokeswoman explained.
council’s position is unequivocal: Ramat Hanegev strongly opposed the illegal
settlement of Garin Harel and the misrepresentation of an ecological settlement
that its members are trying to present,” the spokeswoman said. “The council is
working with all judiciary and public means available in order to evacuate Garin
Harel from Eldad speedily.”
Two weeks ago, the council issued a
demolition order, after which Garin Harel members issued a one-sided injunction
to prevent this demolition, according to the council. Earlier this week,
meanwhile, the council filed a response to the court and simultaneously has
issued a cleaning order to Garin Harel members in order to minimize
environmental damage in the area, the council said.
location on the top of the hill will have a severe environmental impact,
stressed Guy Rotem, project manager for the council’s environmental committee.
Atop an area with antiquities and remains from the Bronze Age, the Nabatean era
and the Byzantine period, there are now 20 tents, a water tower, sun shades,
signs and a kitchen, a document drafted by Rotem explained.
of the settlement on Mount Eldad disrupts the open space landscape, threatening
to damage the habitats of wild animals and reduce their mobility, Rotem
Meanwhile, the infrastructure that would be required should
the settlement end up remaining there would include road access, sewage pipes
and many other developments that would likewise disturb the space, he
In a clear desert environment where stars are typically visible,
light pollution becomes a problem in a community such as Harel, Rotem
Dust pollution has become problematic in the settlement, as the
dirt road up to the community area is experiencing a “massive movement of
Dust clogs the respiratory tracts of humans and animals, and
settles on the leaves of plants and prevents photosynthesis, Rotem
The Society for the Protection of Nature recently came out
against the settlement, stressing in a letter to the relevant legal authorities
that “there is no place for an independent settlement without receiving
approvals from government bodies.”
The establishment of the community,
the August 21 letter said, occurred on an area of land with natural,
archeological and cultural significance.
“We request that the work being
conducted in the area immediately be stopped, and that the Ramat Hanegev
Regional Council be instructed...
to urgently evacuate the buildings from
the land,” the letter concluded.
MK Yisrael Hasson (Kadima) voiced his
support for the community in the Knesset on Wednesday, lamenting the fact that
the members had worked tirelessly for seven years to achieve legal recognition
and yet still failed.
“Show me one community, in this land, in the past
30 years, that was established without a movement backing them... one community
like this that was established,” Hasson said. “You won’t find it. Do you know
when it was established? On August 11. Do you know where it was established? In
the Negev, Garin Harel.”
Observing how skilled and accomplished many of
the residents are, Hasson told Knesset members that “we owe this to these
Countering the claims that their plans are disturbing the
environment, Levine, meanwhile, stressed that “all of the planning and all of
the building is ecological.”
She explained that the domeshaped
residential structures do not require any kind of digging or
“Wild animals don’t come to this area because it’s a mountain and
there’s no water resources,” she said.
Members have gone so far as to
take pains to protect any spiders they find, according to Levine.
as the dirt road is concerned, Levine emphasized that the road already existed
before they arrived, since it was once used by the Israel Electric
“All the electricity we use is by a solar powered system,”
she continued. “We are the most ecological settlement there is in Ramat Hanegev
and Israel as well.”
The residents use gray water systems to water their
plants, and they perform eight different types of recycling, Levine
As far as added infrastructure goes, in the future, everything
would be kept the way it is now, without additional pipes and disturbances, she
In response to the idea that they were causing light pollution,
Levine stressed that at 10 p.m. the lights are all off.
If they are able
to stay in Eldad in the future, Levine said that she and other community members
would be pleased to work with council on promoting environmental consciousness
throughout the region.
“We very much care about and love the Negev and
the land of course,” Levine said.
“The way we see it, we want to be a
model of the way you can live on a land in the Negev and instead of corrupting
it and polluting it, actually giving back to the land.”