Looking out to the West atop Beit El’s old water tower, which has been converted
into a scenic lookout point for residents, visitors and tourists, you clearly
see the Palestinian Authority-controlled city of Ramallah, just several
kilometers away. Ramallah is in the midst of a building surge, with nearly
completed skyscraper apartments dotting the landscape. Throughout the city you
can see construction cranes in motion transforming this once war-torn urban area
into a thriving metropolis.
Just to the north of the water tower (on
which is painted a massive Israeli flag – clearly a sign of the Beit El
residents’ proud Zionistic and patriotic sentiment), only several meters away is
a neighborhood of 14 nearly identical multi-family apartment buildings home to
over 80 Jewish families, known as Givat Ha’ulpana.
It is impossible not
to recognize the fact that the Ulpana buildings, some of the largest structures
in the entire community of Beit El, were built with permanent Jerusalem stone
and red roofs, and are located well within town limits. In other words, nothing
about Ulpana resembles an isolated so-called caravan
Nevertheless, the Supreme Court has ordered the state to
demolish the upper five buildings of Ulpana, home to 30 families, by May 1,
since according to the court they were constructed illegally on private
Despite the ruling, a government ministerial committee
established to explore the matter is asking the Supreme Court to push off the
demolition in order to examine the claims of ownership in depth and to come up
with a solution.
It seems that recently this has been a trend. Whether
it’s Migron, a house purchased for Jewish families in Hebron, or in this case
Ulpana, while Ramallah and other Arab communities in Judea and Samaria are
flourishing, every Jewish real-estate transaction is placed under a microscope.
If that is the reality, then our own Supreme Court is sadly guilty of
discrimination against Jewish homeowners/ property owners based on their
religion or nationality.
Documentary filmmaker, journalist and Ulpana
resident Alex Traiman, who lives in one of the buildings slated for demolition
with his wife and three children, is dumbfounded that despite the many threats
and challenges Israel is facing – especially the Iranian nuclear threat, “the
Supreme Court’s top priority is the knocking down of five buildings in a Jewish
community which is home to 6,000 residents.” Traiman feels that the true
motivation behind the ruling is the Supreme Court’s “ideological drive [assisted
by the media] to create a Palestinian state at any cost while negating
According to Traiman, who has lived in Ulpana for nearly six
years, all 14 buildings in the neighborhood were built on land purchased legally
from private Arabs nearly 15 years ago, with the backing of the Civil
Administration and the government.
He says that the only real difference
between the five buildings in question and the other nine, which everyone agrees
are legal, is simply “administrative,” since the transaction was made separately
with the land purchased from a different Arab owner.
Traiman is adamant
that the court is questioning the authenticity of the purchase documents in
order to “punish the residents of Beit El, and chip away at the ‘settlement
enterprise’ apartment by apartment, and family by family.”
He says that
the court first questioned the legality of the buildings in 2007, thanks to
efforts by the NGOs Yesh Din and Peace Now, which went out of their way to track
down a cousin of the owner and convince him he had a claim on the
Traiman says that Yesh Din went so far as to cover the cousin’s
legal fees when the issue was brought before a PA court.
to the PA selling land to a Jew is punishable by death, according to Traiman it
was much easier for the court to side with the cousin and literally avoid a
bloody mess. The PA court then brought the issue before Israel’s Supreme Court,
who backed the cousin’s claim despite not being able to present legitimate proof
Adding to Traiman’s theory – that the Supreme Court is
acting out of its own ideological stance, is the fact that the community of Beit
El is currently in the midst of a court case against the “cousin” in the
Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court attempting to prove true ownership over the land.
Unless the government can somehow convince the Supreme Court to put a hold on
its demolition order, at this point the court is unwilling to wait on that
extremely pertinent ruling.
But there is some room for
Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who ultimately has the authority
to decide Ulpana’s fate one way or another, seems to be falling in line with the
government’s stance that more time is needed to study the matter.
while Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu only decided to speak up at the last
minute as the fate of the homes is hanging in the balance, it appears that he
also wants to avoid demolition.
What seems to be clear is that the
residents of Ulpana are pawns on the front lines of a battle of political
It’s time for our court members to stop injecting their
personal feelings and beliefs into their rulings as a means of setting an
example – especially when it comes to decisions involving possibly throwing
Jewish families out of their homes.
The writer is a media expert, writer,
and the host of Reality Bytes Radio on www.israelnationalradio.com. He is the
former foreign press spokesperson for the Yesha Council.