Couple leads effort to stop Ramat Gilad outpost demolition

Yael and Moshe Zar protest outside the Prime Minister’s Residence with a sign reading, ‘Bibi, don’t steal my land.’

Migron Demolition 311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Migron Demolition 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
An old married couple set up two black folding chairs on the sidewalk outside the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem on Tuesday afternoon, in an effort to prevent the demolition of the Ramat Gilad outpost in Samaria.
They looked bereft as pedestrians and whizzing cars passed by.
“They want to uproot us from the land,” Moshe Zar, 75, said as he stood with his wife, Yael, 73, and spoke with reporters.
“Uproot, uproot, uproot,” he repeated. “Why would they do it?” By Wednesday, the scene had changed dramatically. The Zars had erected a square gray wood and canvas tent, with a yellow sign on top.
“Save Ramat Gilad!” it said in large red letters. Mattresses were stacked inside the tent.
Outside, a number of supporters sat with the couple on folding chairs and argued about politics.
“More people have been stopping by,” Yael said.
She and her husband plan to sit in the tent until Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu halts any Defense Ministry plans to move against the outpost.
They looked more like grandparents dressed for an afternoon walk, than hardcore activists.
He wore a navy suit. A large skullcap partially covered his gray hair and balding scalp.
Her hair was completely tucked into a green and blue wool hat. She had put on make-up and dangling earrings.
The Zars live in the Karnei Shomron settlement, located just below the Ramat Gilad hilltop.
Ramat Gilad’s 10 caravan homes stand on land that Moshe said he bought in 1983 from a Palestinian.
The community was founded in 2001, in memory of the Zars’ son Gilad. He was shot to death that year by a Palestinian terrorist as drove in Samaria. Gilad’s sister Michal Shoham, her husband and their 13 children live in the outpost.
In 2004, the Defense Ministry issued an evacuation order for the outpost. When nothing happened, Peace Now included it in a petition that it filed to the High Court of Justice against six outposts, first in 2006, and then again in 2008, when the ministry still hadn’t acted.
The government has pledged to take down the homes by the end of December, because it categorized the land on which they stand as private Palestinian property.
Peace Now’s attorney Michael Sfard said that some of the Ramat Gilad hilltop is classified as state land.
According to the state, the homes can be relocated to that section of the hilltop, Sfard added, although he noted that the structures would still be unauthorized.
But the idea that the structures can be relocated does little to comfort Moshe, who said that the caravans would not survive such a move.
More to the point, he added, the land is his.
“They keep saying it’s private property,” he said. “It is. It is my private property.”
It was never registered in his name because doing so would have immediately endangered the life of the Palestinian who sold it to him, Zar said. Similarly, he said, he is not able to offer proof of purchase.
Zar said that he had held it for more than two decades without any complaints. This was long enough, he noted, for Israeli law to recognize his rights to the property, even without proof of purchase.
Last week, he turned to a Jerusalem District Court and asked for a ruling on the land’s status.
Zar is a veteran activist who has purchased many plots of land throughout the West Bank. The Gilad Farm outpost is also built on his land in memory of his son.
In 1984, he was convicted of membership in the Jewish Underground of the early 1980s, and sentenced to three years in prison.
“I regret those activities,” he said. He added that he now understands that activism should be entirely nonviolent.
For the last decade, he has rarely taken public stands.
He and Yael could not help but note with irony that they staged their protest at the same spot where St.-Sgt. Gilad Schalit’s parents sat in a protest tent until his release from the Gaza Strip in October.
Moshe and Yael said their battle was for their son Gilad’s memory.
“Our only comfort since Gilad’s death, the only way to survive it, is to build on our land in his memory,” she said.
Although their topic was serious, Moshe smiled a lot as he spoke.
“Don’t do that,” Yael said.
“People won’t understand.”
“Why shouldn’t I smile,” he said and then added, “Our cause is just.”