(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Tamar Asaraf's home in Hayovel is six months old. The floor tiling is still white. The wood paneling around the kitchen is still smooth. And the light bulbs hang from the ceiling with no fixtures cradling them, are evidence of a job nearly complete, but not just yet.
But if the High Court of Justice rules in a pending decision against Asaraf and the 11 other families on this West Bank hilltop, near Eli, just off the Ramallah-Nablus road, their homes may soon meet the same fate as the nine which were bulldozed after last week's bloody confrontation in Amona.
"There's law and there's a measure of compassion," Asaraf said, sipping tea with two visitors as two of her four children played with their grandparents in the adjacent living room. "We should respect the law, but respect the families and sit down together and see what we can do to work things out."
Though Asaraf said her home is on public land that her family properly leased from the state, Peace Now claims the permanent homes here, as well as some of the caravans, are built at least partly on Palestinian land.
The organization has petitioned the High Court to force the government to carry out demolition orders on the permanent structures here and in Haresha, a community northwest of Ramallah. The two communities thus have the unwanted distinction of being the next two illegal outposts where forced evacuations and demolitions could occur.
According to the Sasson Report, there are 105 illegal outposts in the West Bank.
Though Hayovel sits atop a mostly baron hill studded with shrubs, where cold winds penetrate even thick clothes on a winter's day, the spirit of the place drew Asaraf to move here eight years ago, she said.
"It is not common to find neighbors of honesty, simplicity and dignity" in Israel anymore, she said. "In Tel Aviv, you see a culture that is not an honest way of living. All of it is for show. Every time I come back here, I thank God for the kind people I live with."
In the evacuation of settlers and demolition of their homes, Asaraf sees not just the destruction of structures and the banishment of families, but a determination by politicians and unsympathetic Israelis to destroy the "precious way of living" in these hills.
Though Palestinian towns surround Hayovel and the perimeter of the settlement is patrolled night and day by residents with rifles slung on their shoulders, Asaraf said that living here allows her children to grow up in relative safety.
"Here, my kids are really kids. They are kept in such an innocent place," she said. "The danger here is from terrorists, but how many kids were murdered here compared to how many were raped or abused in other places?"
The 33-year-old, who grew up in Ra'anana and was a member of the left-wing Hashomer Hatza'ir as a teenager before becoming observant, also sees a disturbing historical parallel.
"Every time a Jewish home is torn down, it breaks my heart," she said. "It's not just my story, it goes way back. It's a problem that is wide and deep."
Nevertheless, if the police do come to demolish her home, Asaraf would not protest violently, nor passively, as did many in Gush Katif, to spare her children the experience. She said that few people here, if anyone, would react like the protesters at Amona, an assertion backed up by Shlomo Bushan, 26, a former resident of Neveh Dekalim who came here after the disengagement from the Gaza Strip.
"We don't support what the people in Amona did; the people here aren't like that," Bushan said. "We don't intend to struggle. It would probably be the same as it was in Gush Katif."
The same may not be true of the Haresha residents. On top of a different hill 40 km. to the south, the mentality is much different. None of the residents there would speak to reporters, and children said cars with TV logos could find their wheels punctured.
The Haresha response to the Peace Now petition, spokesman Yehuda Eliahu said, was to bring to the court's attention the thousands of demolition orders issued by the Interior Ministry against Arab homes that the court and police had not acted upon. There were more than 30,000, according to court documents that he showed The Jerusalem Post which could not be authenticated by press time.
Other than that, he also refused to comment.
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