It took less than eight hours for Border Police to peacefully evacuate all 50 families living in the Migron outpost on Sunday, thereby ending a decade of battles the West Bank residents had waged to keep their homes.The families left of their own volition or police nonviolently removed them.Minor violence, however, broke out in two parts of the outpost as settlement activists from other places clashed with police. They barricaded themselves in one home and manned the roof of the other.Police forced them out and bused them out of the area.Eight of the activists were arrested for assaulting officers.As the afternoon heat waned, Defense Ministry workers clogged the small community’s roads with moving vans and flatbed trucks.A large orange crane stretched across the black tar parking lot and basketball court, where settlers over the years held countless rallies in support of the outpost. Their struggle was often billed as a symbolic stage on which settlers waged a battle to retain their communities.On Sunday night, however, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said the demolition of Migron was a matter of law, and not a political statement about the future of the settlement movement.“We have an obligation to respect the rule of law and an obligation to strengthen settlements,” Netanyahu said at a dedication ceremony for a district court in Lod. “There is no contradiction between these two things.”Respect for the law is a clear principle that he has stood by, even in these sensitive times, Netanyahu said.“I welcome the fact that the matter of Migron, like that of Ulpana [an outpost on the outskirts of the Beit El settlement] ended responsibly through dialogue and not violence.This is how it should be and this is how it was,” he said.But Itai Harel, a Migron resident and founder, said as he stood outside his home that the demolition of the community was a political act in which the High Court of Justice had bowed to the dictates of a left-wing group, Peace Now, which first petitioned against the outpost in 2006.The court had ordered all 50 Migron families to leave no later than Tuesday, saying their homes were built without permits on private Palestinian property.Last month 17 of the families petitioned the High Court to remain, saying they had bought the land on which their homes stand.The court rejected that claim but said the structures on Lot 10 could remain until the investigation into the purchase claim was completed.In the days leading up to the evacuation, Migron residents held several meetings seeking consensus on how the community should react to the order. In the end they agreed that each family should decide for itself how to leave.Some of the families left under cover of darkness, so that by the time dawn broke on Sunday they were no longer in their homes.Migron residents had been warned that although the court had given them until Tuesday to leave, the Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria planned to clear the area by Sunday.In the pre-dawn hours, police blocked the roads to Migron. In protest, activists spread stones, tires and barbed wire across the road by the community’s gate.But by dawn, many of the obstacles had been removed.As the sun rose, Migron families headed to their small synagogue to recite morning prayers. A couple of the men stood outside with their prayer shawls. A small group of women gathered outside the synagogue.In one of the last normal acts of the morning, children put on their knapsacks and headed to school, just as members of the Border Police marched in at 7:30 to hand out eviction notices.The notices asked residents to leave their homes with their possessions by 7:30 even though it wasn’t until that hour that the Border Police began knocking on doors. Many families were outside their homes or did not answer the door.Outpost spokesman Itai Chemo held his baby daughter and leaned against his car as he watched police bang on his door.At that same moment, Migron residents were planting saplings on Lot 10, one of three they say they purchased from Palestinians.Many residents had painted graffiti on the outside walls of their homes, with slogans such as “Migron, we shall return.” One read: “Only the Likud can. [Menachem] Begin = Sinai, [Ariel] Sharon = Gush Katif, Bibi [Netanyahu] = Migron,” referring to Likud party leaders who as prime minister had ordered evacuations of Jewish settlements.At first, the outpost seemed filled with families walking around, but then it quieted down, acquiring a ghost-like feeling, with many locked doors. Police conducted a second sweep of the homes, forcing open doors with crowbars to ensure that they were truly empty.Some families waited until the police insisted that they leave before walking out.Aviela Dietch, her husband, Shalom, and four of their six children walked out of their caravan home holding blue-and-white signs that said, “The eternal people does not fear the long road.”Migron families went to the Ofra settlement where they plan to stay for a few days until homes are ready at a new caravan site that was prepared for them near the Psagot winery, two kilometers away from Migron.Representatives of some of the families, however, returned to Migron in the late afternoon to pack along with Defense Ministry workers. The hill has now been declared a closed military zone.Among those who came in the afternoon was kindergarten teacher Orly Cohen, who opened her classroom last Monday for the start of the school year, and closed it on Friday.On Sunday she held her class at Ofra in a space half the size. In the coming weeks, her class will relocate again to the caravan site near the winery.Harel, the Migron resident and founder, stood next to his horse pen, set up outside his home. On Saturday he celebrated his birthday; on Sunday he watched police walk through the outpost destroying 13 years of his life’s labor.He first came to the hilltop in 1999. But fairly quickly his home was embroiled in battle. Even before Peace Now filed its petition Migron was on a list of outposts founded after March 2001 that Israel promised the US it would remove.Throughout, Harel had remained hopeful he would win out; even on the day of the evacuation he wanted to believe that the families would return to the land. He could not bring himself to pack and added that everything in his home was as it always had been.“This has been a very difficult day, filled with emotions of sorrow and betrayal,” he said.In the end, he said, he hoped he would return to the land and that there would be two settlements on the hilltop, an upper and a lower Migron.
Migron Residents Roof (390) (Photograph: Tovah Lazaroff)
Migron Police (390) (Photograph: Tovah Lazaroff)
Migron Graffiti Hebrew (390) (Photograph: Tovah Lazaroff)
Migron crane 390 (Photograph: tovah lazaroff )
Migron Eviction Notice (390) (Photograph: Tovah Lazaroff)
Migron Grafitti Likud (390) (Photograph: Tovah Lazaroff)
Migron Eviction Police (390) (Photograph: Tovah Lazaroff)