Thousands of Israeli activists stake claim to West Bank's Homesh hilltop

The family of terror victim Yehuda Dimentman spearheaded a rally with the Samaria Regional Council and Homesh Yeshiva.

Rally at Homesh on December 23

The government must stand on the right side of history and rebuild Homesh, Avigdor Dimentman declared on Thursday as he, his family, and thousands of activists rallied at the West Bank hilltop where a week earlier his brother, Yehuda, was shot dead in a terror attack.

“I very much hope – and from here I turn to the government of Israel – that we will be victorious today and tomorrow,” Avigdor said, hours into the rally at the isolated hilltop where the Homesh settlement once stood.

It was one of four northern Samaria settlements that the IDF razed as part of the 2005 Gaza Disengagement.

The Homesh yeshiva that opened in that community in 2002, was also demolished over 15 years ago but it was illegally reopened there in modular mobile structures.

Dimentman, 25, was a student at the yeshiva and his family – including his parents, wife Ethia and his 11 siblings – have called on the government to honor his memory by rebuilding the settlement and authorizing the yeshiva.

 Yehuda Dimentman, killed by Palestinian terrorists at Homesh, is seen with his wife and child. (credit: Courtesy the Dimentman family) Yehuda Dimentman, killed by Palestinian terrorists at Homesh, is seen with his wife and child. (credit: Courtesy the Dimentman family)

Now that the week-long mourning period is over, they fear that the IDF will evacuate the yeshiva and will place an army or border police unit on the hilltop to ensure that it is not rebuilt. A temporary IDF base was already placed there this week.

Public Security Minister Omer Bar Lev told KAN Radio on Thursday that he believed the hilltop should be evacuated. “What is illegal must be dealt with,” he said.

But at Homesh, the Dimentman family, settlers, right-wing activists, rabbis and politicians voted with their feet.

They braved the wind, rain and cold to march up to the hilltop and they remained there after dark to demand the right of Jews to live there. The Samaria Regional Council estimated that the event drew some 15,000 people.

Yehuda’s brother, Avigdor, warned the government that “if you chose to stand on the wrong side of history” then the people wil take a stand on their own on behalf of the hilltop.

“We will win,” Avigdor said. “It might take us, five, 10 or 15 years, but we will return here and everywhere in the Land of Israel.”

He recalled that President Isaac Herzog had visited the family as it sat shiva in Mevasseret Zion, where his parents live.

“We told him that no struggle or war was ever won with weapons,” Avigdor recalled.

“Wars, struggles and history itself is won only with spirit. We have been here, on this stage for almost 4,000 years driven by our spirit. Most of this time we were without any weapons,” Avigdor said.

“There are those who think that Homesh is far, far from view, far from the heart and far from people’s consciousness,”  he added.

Avigdor referred to events in May that include a Gaza war and ethnic riots between Jews and Arabs within sovereign Israel.

“There are those who think that last May we lost something, we lost some of the sense of the righteousness of our path. There is weakness.

“Most Israeli citizens know what I am talking about,” he said. “We can’t win the struggle in Homesh, in Acre, in Lod and in Jaffa or anywhere without belief in the righteousness of our way,” he added.

Ethia Dimentman said that her husband “left us a will: to authorize the Homesh Yeshiva.”

Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan said: “the nation wants Homesh rebuilt.”

But the Knesset on Wednesday night, showed that any steps to legalize Homesh do not currently have political backing, and a declaration to legalize the yeshiva there along with some 70 West Bank outposts was defeated by 59 votes against to 50 in favor. Even if it had passed, the declaration would have been symbolic and would not have been binding.

It called on Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to “decisively prevent the evacuation of the Homesh Yeshiva, authorize it and to allow its students to study and live there.”

It stated that the eviction of the yeshiva would be an additional act of injustice on top of the initial destruction of that community. Such a step, it said, “would be a prize to terror and a serious retreat from territory in the Land of Israel.”

The Israeli right has long argued for the reconstruction of the four evicted settlements as a first move toward rescinding the 2005 Disengagement, including the pullout from Gaza.

Three of the four northern Samaria settlements – Sa-Nur, Kadim and Ganim – were built on state land, so any possible reconstruction would be a matter of political will.

Homesh, however, was built on private Palestinian property that belongs to the West Bank village of Burqa so any move by Israelis to settle there would be illegal. The High Court of Justice has upheld the rights of Palestinians to farm their land on Homesh hilltop.

On Thursday, the IDF blocked the roads in and out of Burqa to secure the Homesh rally.

Clashes broke out in Burqa between Palestinians and soldiers as a result of the road closures, with the Palestine News Agency, WAFA, reporting 125 injured including from rubber bullets and tear gas inhalation.

Separately, settlers and or Jewish extremists allegedly attacked Palestinian homes in Burqa injuring one person on Thursday evening, according to the left-wing NGO, Yesh Din.

Extremists also vandalized a nearby cemetery and ruptured a water tank, the group said. It provided a photograph of a broken window and the tank.

Earlier, Yesh Din reported that settlers had climbed onto the roof of a Burqa home and hoisted an Israeli flag there.

Both the army and the police said they did not have information on a settler attack on homes in the village.

Lior Amihai, executive director of Yesh Din said that “Burqa’s residents did not receive any prior warning of the roadblocks and they do not know when they will be allowed to come and go from their village.

“They remain imprisoned in their town and are forced to endure the settlers invading their lands once again,” Amihai said.

On Friday, the IDF raised its security in the area following the Homesh march and Palestinian-Jewish clashes in the nearby village of Burqa, Walla reported.

The IDF fears violence could break out over the weekend, especially after Friday mosque prayers.

Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.