Evacuation of Amona.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
As the security forces descended on Amona on Wednesday with orders to expel the town’s Jewish residents, it was hard to overlook the bitter irony of the move’s timing. For it was precisely 11 years ago, on February 1, 2006, that then-prime minister Ehud Olmert carried out the destruction of the Amona community in a whirlwind of violence and bloodshed that shocked the nation.
And now, here we are, over a decade later, and Amona’s Jews are once again being dragged out of their homes by the very same government that encouraged them to move there in the first place and even provided them with budgetary support and infrastructure over the years. Hundreds of Jewish men, women and children, driven solely by a love for the Land of Israel and the pioneering spirit to rebuild it, will now find themselves without a roof over their head, left homeless in the heartland of the Jewish people.
It should never have come to this.
Whatever legal problems that might have existed with regard to the status of some of the lands on which Amona was built could have been addressed through a variety of other means short of demolition, such as providing compensation to Palestinian landowners. Indeed, the government had ample time to resolve the issues surrounding Amona, which worked their way through the courts over the course of several years via either legislation or negotiations.
But the bureaucrats dithered, and once the High Court of Justice issued its final ruling ordering the community’s obliteration, there was little room left to maneuver.
Supporters of Amona’s removal from the map cite the fact that Israel is a country based on the rule of law, and the law must be upheld. Of course, what they fail to mention is that the manner in which the rule of law is upheld is no less crucial, and that when it is selectively used against one sector of the population more than another, it can hardly be considered to be just.
Spread throughout the Negev, for example, are dozens of the Beduin equivalents of Amona, unauthorized towns and villages that have grown rapidly in recent years thanks to the government’s unwillingness to enforce the law. Last month, the authorities finally took action against one such Beduin town, Umm al-Hiran, but there is a long list of others waiting to be addressed.
Will the supporters of the rule of law be just as vocal about the need to demolish additional illegal Beduin towns as they are regarding Amona? I think we all know the answer to that one.
Adding to the frustration over the government’s handling of Amona is the flippant manner in which various figures on the Left and in the media have sought to dismiss the importance of the community.
Yesterday, Attila Somfalvi, Ynet’s chief political correspondent, interviewed a spokesman for Amona and effectively asked him: What does it matter which hilltop you live on?
Aside from the callousness of the question itself, as though a person’s ties to the home in which he lives are of little consequence, is the stale post-Zionism that underlies it. After all, if one views the Land of Israel as mere real estate, then perhaps it really doesn’t matter “which hilltop you live on.”
But anyone with even a minimal appreciation for Jewish history recognizes just how precious each and every part of our national homeland is. The Amona hilltop isn’t merely a topographical land form. It is part of the very same land from which our ancestors were exiled and to which they dreamed of one day returning. And that is why so many Israelis, myself included, are pained at the razing of the community even if the law of the land left no other choice.
Yet let no one think for a moment that Amona’s destruction is anything more than just a passing blow to Israel’s national reclamation of Judea and Samaria. Yes, it is most certainly a setback, and opponents of the settlement movement are sure to rejoice.
But their celebration will be short-lived because while they may have succeeded in demolishing the physical structures that comprised Amona, they cannot defeat the Zionist spirit that continues to animate the explosive growth of Judea and Samaria’s Jewish population, which has more than doubled in the past 15 years. So let no one underestimate the power of Jewish tenacity.
Amona may have fallen, but it will rise again.