Rabbis dragged into outpost dispute

Druckman and Levinger each asked to rule on voluntary evacuation of three Bnei Adam homes.

bnei adam 248.88 (photo credit: Tovah Lazaroff)
bnei adam 248.88
(photo credit: Tovah Lazaroff)
A group of settlement activists have rejected a ruling by a leading religious Zionist rabbi who ordered them Thursday to honor an agreement with the IDF to voluntarily evacuate three modular homes on an unauthorized outpost. Rabbi Haim Meir Druckman, chairman of the Bnei Akiva Yeshivas, ruled that settlers should honor an agreement struck between the Binyamin Regional Council and the army to remove the modular homes from Bnei Adam, an unauthorized outpost just outside Jerusalem. Bnei Adam residents accepted Druckman's ruling. However, a group of right-wing activists from outside Bnei Adam has rejected Druckman's ruling. Instead, they have turned to Rabbi Moshe Levinger in the hope that he will overturn the ruling. What began as a fight between Bnei Adam settlers and the Binyamin Regional Council over the fate of three modular homes on their outpost, had evolved by Thursday night into what was likely to be a competition between two leading religious Zionist rabbis for the hearts and minds of settlement activists. Initially, Bnei Adam residents had rejected on Tuesday a deal brokered by Binyamin council head Avi Ro'eh with the IDF the day before, by which it would voluntarily take down the small one-story white homes placed there three months ago. But as the week wore on, the outpost residents continued to debate the matter. They turned for help to both the High Court of Justice and to their rabbinical leaders. On Thursday morning, in response to a petition by outpost residents, the High Court ordered the army to wait five days before moving against the homes so as to give the residents time to abide by the deal between the IDF and the council. In the interim, Bnei Adam residents asked former Sephardi Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu for a ruling on the matter that was in accordance with Jewish law. Eliyahu referred them to Druckman, according to Bnei Adam spokesman Avraham Roizman. Druckman told the residents that they had to honor the deal to remove the homes. Roizman said he believed that the residents intended to abide by that decision, including three families who planned to remain at the outpost, but who would allow the council to remove their homes. Druckman refused to comment, saying that he had "good reasons to keep his ruling a secret. Eliyahu's spokesman could not be reached. Druckman's ruling in favor of removing the modular homes, however, did not sit well with the dozens of activists from the Land of Israel Faithful, lead by former Kedumim mayor Daniella Weiss, who have gathered at Bnei Adam this week to help defend and support it. Weiss said that her organization and its youth arm did not find Druckman an "acceptable" rabbinic authority, because during disengagement in 2005, he opposed insubordination of IDF soldiers ordered to evacuate Jews from their homes in Gaza and northern Samaria. So even as Bnei Adam residents sought to come to terms with Druckman's ruling, activists from outside the outpost who came to help have turned to Levinger of Kiryat Arba, who is their spiritual leader on these matters. They have asked him to issue his own ruling on the matter. Weiss said she hoped to have a ruling from him either late Thursday night or on Friday. She added she believed he would oppose the removal of the caravans. Posters against Druckman and his ruling have been plastered in the area. Ro'eh said he was glad that the Bnei Adam residents had agreed to the deal. The council chairman said it was important to save the homes, which are valued at NIS 100,000 each, so that they could be used elsewhere in Judea and Samaria. "The [IDF] did not want to take down the outpost, just these three homes," he said. Had the IDF wanted to remove the entire outpost, Ro'eh said, he would have urged the settlers to stand their ground. Ro'eh made the deal with the IDF on Monday, after soldiers and border policemen along with members of the civil administration made a surprise raid on the outpost with the intention of destroying the three homes, which are owned by Amana, Gush Emunim's settlement arm. Located just outside the Adam settlement, on a brown hilltop on the edge of the Judean desert, Bnei Adam is home to eight families and four single adults. Built in 2004, it is one of the 23 outposts constructed after March 2001 that Israel has promised the US it would remove. Still, the civil administration at this time only wants to remove three of the dozen or so structures at the outpost. On Thursday morning, one young couple, Ariel and Hadas Cohen, headed to the High Court in the name of all three families, flanked only by Roizman. They had no attorney with them as they sought to battle the state to save their homes. The judges hinted that the couple should seek legal council and re-file the petition if they chose to. Roizman said that the families had not made any decision on whether to submit a second petition. In the meantime, activists at the outpost have been busy building a new temporary structure. The most important thing was that "people remained at the outpost and continued to build," Roizman said.