(photo credit: AP [file])
Thousands of right-wing activists streamed throughout the day on Tuesday to the site of the evacuated settlement of Homesh, where a rally was held pledging support for a return to the northern Samaria community.
There have been three earlier protests at the site of the settlement, which was one of four West Bank communities evacuated during the summer of 2005. The site of the settlement was declared a closed military zone following the withdrawal, and while the previous two demonstrations were guarded by the IDF, organizers were not granted official permission to enter the site.
This time, the IDF did give official sanction to the march, which began in the late morning at the old train station at Sebastia and arrived at Homesh in the afternoon. This was also the first time that the The Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip (Yesha) was invited - and agreed - to participate in a march.
The march, which was planned to coincide with the anniversary of the capture of the West Bank in 1967, was promoted under the title "Changing direction, going up to Homesh."
Organizers said they intended this event to prepare the ground for a similar event next month that will involve families who plan to re-settle the hilltop site. Participants were asked to bring shovels, rakes and brooms in order to begin to prepare the ruins for habitation.
In anticipation, the Samaria Regional Council also printed replacement street signs bearing the names of the settlement's streets prior to its dismantlement.
A number of leading rabbis gave their support to the march, including Rabbi Hayim Druckman, head of the B'nai Akiva yeshivas, and Rabbi Elyakim Levanon, the head of the Elon Moreh yeshiva.
"From here we are raising our eyes in the direction of a return to Sa-Nur. That is our next destination," said Levanon, referring to another one of the four evacuated northern Samaria communities.
Following the march, a few dozen youths refused to leave the area, spreading out on nearby hilltops.
Yasam units at the scene were dispatched to round up the youths, and police said they would not be allowed to spend the night in the area.
In April, some 100 activists celebrated Shabbat at Homesh. When police came to remove them from the site, violence broke out and seven people were arrested.