Hundreds of activists from Ofra, the broader Judea and Samaria region and from around Israel confronted police personnel and in some cases actively fought with them in protest at the evacuation and pending destruction of nine houses in the settlement.
Emotions among the home owners and protesters were high especially coming so swiftly on the heels of the evacuation and destruction of the Amona outpost earlier this month. Some of the former residents of Amona went to Ofra to protest the destruction of the houses there.
Rabbi of Ofra Avi Gisser said that he, senior national-religious leader Rabbi Haim Druckman and others had all called on the protesters not to violently resist police efforts to remove them.
This was a message he reiterated by loudspeaker to the protesters in the final house to be evacuated, although in spite of these instructions active resistance was taken by some of the activists.
At least eight policemen were injured, two of whom were taken to hospital for treatment, while at least two protesters were arrested for attacking police personnel.
After eight of the homes were evacuated by the early afternoon, several hundred protesters, some who had been extracted by police from other houses, packed themselves into every room of the final house, filling up the staircase, the balconies and taking up position on the roof as well.
During the evacuation of this house, 18 protesters were injured, most of whom were minors, a spokesperson for the Binyamin municipal region said, and were treated at a medical site in Ofra. Two others were sent to hospital for treatment, one, a 14-year old, with injuries to his hand.
Although the evacuation was mostly non-violent, large numbers of the protesters refused to leave of their own volition and had to be forcibly removed, in many cases requiring four policemen or women to take out each activist.
Ofra Youth rally in front of a home slated for demolition. Credit: Ofra Youth
Several young activists shouted and screamed at the police personnel as they evacuating houses calling them “Nazis” and “worse than the Germans,” while chants frequently erupted of “soldier, policeman, refuse orders!” The protesters were largely young men and women in their late teens and early twenties, many from yeshivas, including large numbers from the Druckman’s yeshiva, Or Etzion.
At one stage, large numbers of activists physically tried to prevent the police setting up a barrier at the end of the street in question, leading to a violent brawl between the two sides before the police pushed the activists back and successfully erected the barrier.
The houses in question are part of a builtup, established neighborhood in Ofra, on two roads at the edge of the settlement.
Many of the protesters entered the settlement on Monday night and spent the night in the houses slated for destruction, with the young male and female activists staying and protesting in separate residences for religious reasons.
Also noticeable among the protesters were members of the Bnei Akiva national- religious youth movement, some of whom wore the movement’s pale blue, laced shirts.
Yair Shahar, the secretary general of Israeli Bnei Akiva visited the settlement in the morning, while other activists were present throughout the day.
One protester who was present in Ofra was Tamar Nizri, a former resident of Amona who is currently living with other families from the former outpost in the religious girls’ seminary in Ofra.
One of Nizri’s daughters, Eliah, 11, linked arms with several teenage girls in front of the last house to be evacuated before the police arrived.
Eliah said she had already been extracted from one of the other houses on the street, and said that she was somewhat afraid of the police.
Asked if she was concerned for the safety of her children, Nizri herself said she was more concerned that “they grow up with strong values” and are not permanently using electronic devices for entertainment.
“They’re doing what they can do for their own values,” she said. “Even if they get a couple of blows, they are well built inside and that’s what’s important,” Nizri continued.
“The Land of Israel belongs to the Jewish People, and this injustice and this unnecessary and idiotic destruction in the middle of a settlement, and this stupidity that we still don’t feel like the owners here and that is unclear that this land belongs to us, this is what they are fighting for here.”
Nizri attributed the destruction of the nine houses to “radical, leftist NGOs who have an anti-Zionist agenda,” who she accused of seeking out Palestinians to file petitions against settlements in the High Court of Justice.
“We do not need to understand the other so much, before we understand clearly what our values are and what we believe and when we understand that we are here because this land as given to us in a promise by God to our forefathers, and we were always here until we were expelled, and now we have returned, and we are continuing our natural settlement of the Land of Israel.
“We need to understand that we are the owners here, and if the Arabs want to live here in whatever way then we will decide, together with them, how they can continue to live here and in what conditions, but the owners are the Jewish people.”