Settlers from the Binyamin Regional Council held a symbolic breaking of the housing-start freeze on Wednesday evening, in what they said was an answer to the terrorist attack near Kiryat Arba on Tuesday night that left four Israelis dead.
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In an empty lot next to a synagogue and a basketball court in the Adam (Geva Binyamin) settlement 5 km. northwest of Jerusalem, dozens of locals and members of the Council of Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip gathered to lay the cornerstone of a sports center for children.
Those in attendance said that while they could have waited for the freeze to end on September 26, Tuesday night’s terrorist attack reinforced the importance of building immediately.
Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack.
Adam resident Shimon Menashe said the 10-month settlement freeze “has been very hard on us. We don’t have enough houses for all the people who want to live here and there isn’t a place for the children to play sports.”
Menashe said the community, which has about 1,300 families, has major construction plans and views expanding the settlement as “part of the ideology of Zionism.
“We know that every concession by Israel is met by escalation and murder, and we can’t allow this,” Menashe said.
Bebe Vanunu, the head of Adam’s local council, said that in addition to the sports center, the settlement has plans to build an additional 1,400 residential units.
When asked if the cornerstone ceremony had been scheduled to coincide with the diplomatic negotiations in Washington, or if it was a spontaneous reaction to Tuesday’s shooting, Vanunu said, “Let’s say there are a few things that are pushing this decision. There was the attack that happened last night, but also the distress suffered by local children who need this facility built.”
Residents “trust [Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu when he says he will end the freeze, and this is another reason we are not waiting to begin building,” Vanunu said.
He added that he didn’t see it as a criminal act to renew construction before the end of the freeze. “It would be more criminal to leave the kids without a place to play,” he said.
Naftali Bennett, chairman of the Council of Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, told the gathering that continued building in Jewish settlements, which he called “the front line of the free world’s fight against global jihad,” was the answer to acts such as Tuesday’s deadly shooting.
“We respond to their butchery by building. At this moment, in dozens of places across Judea and Samaria, we are building homes, building schools, building synagogues, building a healthy, free country that protects and preserves our people,” Bennett said, speaking before a poster showing the faces of the four victims of Tuesday’s attack and the slogan “They shoot, We build.”
While Bennett said that the ceremony was not planned in advance to coincide with the talks in Washington, he said Netanyahu was “in Washington chasing the dangerous illusion of injecting a Palestinian Arab state into the heart of Israel.”
Every parcel of land Israel had withdrawn from had become “a base of terror,” Bennett said, and such actions cannot be allowed, “just like New Yorkers won’t stand idly by while Islamists build a victory mosque on the ruins of the World Trade Center.”
After Bennett spoke, dozens of children climbed atop a gravel pile and began shoveling pebbles and dirt into a cement mixer.
Singing and waving Israeli flags, the youngsters poured buckets of the newly mixed concrete into a puddle on the ground, tossing large rocks on top to form a juvenile cornerstone.
The children were helped by Likud MK Danny Danon, who, in a suit and tie, poured buckets of water into the mixer.
Danon praised Netanyahu for saying he would end the freeze. Tuesday’s
terrorist attack “showed us that there is no partner for peace,” Danon
Every MK in the Likud feels the same about the impending end of the settlement freeze, Danon said.
Mongi, a Druse construction worker from the Galilee, watched the
celebration while sitting on the front of a bulldozer. He said that the
land meant to house the sports center had still not been leveled, a
process that will take weeks, meaning that in all likelihood the laying
of the site’s actual concrete foundation will probably not begin until
the end of the freeze.
His colleague, Madi, another Druse from the Galilee, started up an
excavator and began scooping up large heaps of dirt as the children sang
“Am Israel Chai” around him.