Shopping beats E-1 activism for some in Ma'aleh Adumim

Many mall shoppers stayed away from the right-wing demonstration held earlier this week.

Maaleh adumin E1 224 (photo credit: Tovah Lazaroff)
Maaleh adumin E1 224
(photo credit: Tovah Lazaroff)
"Where is E-1?" asked a harried mother from Ma'aleh Adumim this week, when questioned about an undeveloped section of her West Bank city that has drawn international attention for its potential negative impact on the peace process. Palestinians and the US have long opposed construction in that hilltop area, on the opposite side of Route 1 in the direction of the Dead Sea, with the claim that it would disrupt the contiguity of a future Palestinian state. But this mother, who sat by a black square Formica table trying to drink coffee at Aroma in the city's mall, seemed puzzled as to what exactly it was. The sudden high-pitched cry of her two-month-old baby lying in nearby carriage kept her from hearing the answer and distracted her from the conversation. She picked him up and walked away with him to calm him down. Other consumers at the mall - filled with chain stores such as Tower Records, Fox, Crazy Line, Steimatzky and Burger Ranch - knew of the site, but had chosen not to join the right-wing demonstration held there during the first three days of this week. Right-wing activists who believe that the government should buck international pressure and permit construction in E-1 and everywhere over the Green Line hiked up to the empty sandy hilltop site, capped by a few green trees. Merav Shoshan, who sat with her 15-year-old daughter, Yarden, in the mall, said she had thought of joining them on the first day, but didn't have the time. "But I support them. It's very important not to give up territory," she said. Another Ma'aleh Adumim mother, Hila Solomon, was holding her two-month-old daughter in her lap as she sat in Aroma catching up with a friend. Solomon said she hadn't known there had been a demonstration, but even if she had, she would not have gone. "It's not a burning issue for me. And I don't agree with it," Solomon added. As a Kadima voter, she said, it wasn't clear to her that homes should be built in E-1. Solomon said she had moved to Ma'aleh Adumim for reasons that had nothing to do with ideology. Her husband works there and the schools and services are good. "I love this city," Solomon said. Although she had opposed the Gaza withdrawal, she said that if a true agreement could be worked out that would finally guarantee peace for both Palestinians and Israelis, it would be worth the loss of E-1. Even in that scenario, neither she nor anyone else interviewed by The Jerusalem Post at the mall believed that a final status agreement could involve the evacuation of their city of 32,000 people, which is the second largest in Judea and Samaria. Similarly, the word settler was startling. "I'm not a settler," said Solomon, although she relented on this point, when presented with the definition that this means anyone living in Judea and Samaria. "Well, then it turns out that I am," she said. The two teenage girls sitting nearby also insisted that they did not fall into this category. "That's really not me," said Rachel Gaversky, 15. Maybe over 20 years ago, when Ma'aleh Adumim was smaller, then it could have been considered a settlement. "But it's not logical, now it's a city," said Vikka Poksarov. But even some of those who hiked out to E-1 on Sunday found the term inaccurate. Binyamin Shmuelyan, who first came to Ma'aleh Adumim in 1977, only two years after it was first settled on Hanukka, said that he would no longer consider himself a pioneer. That is for people who are creating something out of nothing, now this city is one of the best places to live in Israel, said Shmuelyan. His home, he said, is directly across from E-1. There is no reason why the city should not continue to grow and expand there, he added. The area itself was approved for construction over a decade ago, but final permits have never been issued. Although Shmuelyan has not been back to E-1 since Sunday's large demonstration with families, teens have continued to hike up there for the last two days. Twice the security forces evacuated them and twice they returned. Their demonstration, organized by Eretz Yisrael Faithful, was part of a larger event that began on Sunday which targeted eight different hilltops throughout Judea and Samaria. Scores of activists have struggled to maintain a presence on those hilltops since then as security forces have evacuated most of those sites at least once and sometimes twice. On Tuesday, security forces evacuated four of the sites, according to Datya Yitzhaki, of Eretz Yisrael Faithful: E-1, Givat Ha'or outside of Beit El, Ma'alot Halhul outside of Kiryat Arba and Shvut Ami outside of Kedumim. Police allege that during the evacuation from Ma'alot Halhul a settler youth tried to attack an officer with an iron bar, a charge that Yitzhaki denied. She in turn said that the security forces rounded up some 25 people at the site, including one woman who was eight months pregnant and her five children, and dropped them off near Latrun. In addition, she alleged that one policeman had pushed a four-year-old boy during the evacuation of Givat Ha'or. As of Tuesday night, she said teenagers had returned to a number of the hilltops that had been targeted by her group with an eye toward eventually building outposts there.