Palestinians on Sunday held the first of what they hope will be weekly protests
meant to halt any attempt by settlers to develop a small Gush Etzion hilltop,
known to Israeli as Shadma and to Palestinians as Oush Ghrab.
dozen Palestinians holding flags and signs stood in the parking lot behind the
hill, which is sandwiched between the Palestinian village of Beit Sahur and the
From a small base on Shadma, a few soldiers looked at the
protesters as a few activists spoke through a megaphone, first in Arabic and
then in English.
George Rishmawi, from Beit Sahur, told the demonstrators
that a settlement on the hilltop would threaten the life of the Palestinians in
his village and prevent its expansion.
“Therefore we are going to do our
best to prevent it. We will stand solid and strong. We need everyone to stand in
solidarity with us,” Rishmawi said.
“We are a small number here today,
but we are hoping and expecting that this number will grown. We know that
popular struggle is not an easy thing or a fast process. It takes time and
patience,” he said.
Jewish residents of Gush Etzion began battling for
the hilltop in 2008, after they discovered that the IDF planned to hand it to
the Palestinian Authority so that a hospital could be built there for Beit
For two years, the Women in Green and the Community for a Jewish
Shadma NGOs held weekly activities there, mostly on Friday mornings, in which
they argued that the hilltop, which overlooked the region and the Nokdim road,
must remain in Israeli hands.
In 2010, they persuaded the IDF to re-open
the military base there it had closed in 2006.
They are now lobbying the
government to build there. A number of signs in Hebrew with the words “Shadma”
already dot the road to the site.
Newly elected Gush Etzion Regional
Council head Davidi Perl told The Jerusalem Post last week that he had joined
that effort, and believed it would be best to start with some sort of civilian
Women in Green and the Community for a Jewish Shadma have
already drawn up architecture plans for a cultural center there.
Succot on Thursday October 4, the two groups held an event at Shadma to honor a
veteran of the settlement movement, Ina Viniarsky, who helped establish 35
Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria.
Among those who attended were
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman (Yisrael Beytenu), who lives in the
neighboring Nokdim settlement, and Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Yuli
Edelstein (Likud), who lives in the nearby Neveh Daniel settlement.
men spoke of the importance of Jewish building at the site.
of Women in Green said, “We should look at it as an additional neighborhood of
[nearby] Har Homa [in Jerusalem],” she said.
“We have to make sure that
people realize how strategically important it is. The Palestinians are eying it
because it is the only nearby [land from] Area C. They are trying to steal it
from us to break Jewish continuity here,’ she said. (Under the Oslo Accords,
Area C is under complete Israeli civilian and security control.) But Rishmawi
said it was the settlers who were trying to steal the hilltop from
Beit Sahur residents who heard of Liberman’s visit were
moved to renew their struggle for the site, which they say has been ongoing for
Until the IDF returned to the hill and declared it a closed
military zone, Palestinians would also make weekly visits there, Rishmawi
If settlers can access the site, despite its military status,
Palestinians should be allowed there as well, he said.
He added that
Jewish building there was illegal under international law.
On Sunday, as
the sun set, the small band of anti-settlement protesters marched from the rear
parking law, down the hill and toward the Nokdim road.
At the bottom
soldiers blocked their path.
For a short time, activists and soldiers
stood within a few meters of each other.
At one point, an activist picked
up a megaphone and yelled at the soldiers: “Why can Liberman visit and we can’t?
Why can settlers visit, why?” “This is apartheid,” he said as he answered his
Eventually, the Palestinians ended the rally, and marched
back up the hill to Beit Sahur.