South Hebron Hills land dispute turns violent

Farmer Yohanan Sharet says he was beaten up by 20 fellow settlers who want him to leave the land.

By
September 4, 2008 23:55
3 minute read.
South Hebron Hills land dispute turns violent

magen david farm 224.88. (photo credit: Courtesy)

 
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Farmer Yohanan Sharet says he was beaten up this week by 20 fellow settlers who want him to leave the land he has worked for eight years so it can be used to build a new neighborhood for Sussiya in the South Hebron Hills. Sharet, who has filed a complaint with the police, spoke with The Jerusalem Post on Thursday. "Twenty thugs arrived at my ranch at 5:45 in the morning [on Wednesday]. One man told the others: 'What are you waiting for?' They began striking me on the head, chest and back until I fell to the floor," Sharet said. He said that all those who came to his home were employees of the Hebron Hills Regional Council. After the beating, "They then cut off my water supply, electricity, and forcefully stole some of my belongings. They even cut me off from the sewage system," Sharet said. He offered the Post a photograph of one of the alleged attackers climbing an electric pole to cut the wire. The incident was part of a campaign going back a number of years to chase him off the land so that it could be developed for residential use, he said. Police said they were investigating and that the incident was part of a long-standing land dispute. Hebron Hills Regional Council head Tzvika Bar-Hai denied all of Sharet's allegations except for those relating to his utilities. Council employees did disconnect the utilities, because it is the council's position that Sharet was trespassing on the property and had no right to be there, Bar-Hai said. He denied that there were any immediate plans to develop it, adding, however, that of course expanding settlement's holdings was always desirable. The land belonged to Sussiya, not to Sharet, Bar-Hai said, and as such the council, acting on behalf of Sussiya, had a right to cut off the utilities and to ask Sharet to leave. But Sharet, who had been working the land since 2000, said he had every right to be there. His business partner, Israel Danzieger, who has moved to Efrat, told the Post he had originally developed the farm, called Magen David. When he first began working the land in 1998, it belonged to the Settlement Division of the Jewish Agency. In 1999, then-prime minister Ehud Barak authorized it's use as farmland. Danzieger said that in 2000, Sharat joined him and took over the daily operations of some 2,000 dunams (200 hectares). Both he and Sharet's attorney, Dov Evenor, said Sussiya had neither a right to the land nor the authority to develop it as it was designated for agriculture use, with only those working the farm allowed to live their. Sharet and Danzieger said this had not stopped seven or eight families from placing caravans on the land to create the small Mitzpe Yair outpost, in a move both men have opposed. Those caravans' placement has been deemed by the Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria to be illegal and there are enforcement proceedings under way against them. But there appears to be no legal problem with the farm, even though its presence has irked the regional council. Sharet's future, however, is made complicated by the overall confusion of the legal status of land in Judea and Samaria. Sharet made aliya from Germany in 1998 and served in the IDF's Combat Engineers. He said he did not toe the Orthodox party line and that there were many reasons why he stood out from his neighbors. His priority is working his farm and not increasing the number of Jews in the area. Sharet also said his German background has been used against him in the campaign to oust him from the area. "I was born in Germany, and whenever they see me, they tell me, 'Get out of here you Nazi German trash.'" Sharet said he had suffered hundreds of thousands of shekels in damage. "I live very simply here. I am turning to the Israeli people with a request for help, be it judicial or financial," he said. Despite hearing of his assailants' intentions to return "every week" and raise the severity of attacks, Sharet said he would not budge.. In the past two days, however, his farm has suffered badly from the lack of water. Some 30 of his 110 chickens have died of dehydration and portions of his olive and wine groves have been destroyed. "Now, my sheep, bulls and plants on the ranch do not have water. The plants are beginning to die, and I have to drive five kilometers on my tractor to obtain water," Sharet said. "I've grown used to their threats. I'm staying here," he said.

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