Settler homes near Bat Ayin demolished

Structures built in memory of slain musician Erez Levanon.

construction work in beitar illit 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
construction work in beitar illit 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Security forces Wednesday morning demolished two wooden homes that had been constructed illegally in a forest just outside the Bat Ayin settlement in the West Bank.
According to police, 20 officers accompanied the Civil Administration into the forest.
No clashes or arrests were reported, Judea and Samaria spokesman Gili Elhada said, despite a failed attempt by a number of settlers to prevent security forces from leaving after the structures had been taken down.
The homes were built near the area where Erez Levanon, 42, a musician and father of three, was stabbed to death by Palestinians as he prayed in 2007. The settlers have since referred to the area as Mitzpe Erez.
Daniel Winston, who heads the Bat Ayin Committee, said some 100 members of the security forces entered the forest at around 5 a.m. with a crane. Many of the police lacked name tags, he said.
Winston, who is a medic, was called to what he thought had been a traffic accident, only to find himself at the site of the demolitions.
There was a lot of commotion, he said. The homes, which had been built over a year ago, had been destroyed and the families’ belongings were strewn on the ground.
Some people were screaming at police.
Members of the Bat Ayin committee, he said, spent the better part of the day seeking alternative housing for the two families.
“One of the more jarring parts of the whole experience was the recognition that the enforcement agencies were more willing to go after illegal Jewish homes than Palestinian ones,” he said.
Gush Etzion Regional Council head Shaul Goldstein, however, said the structures had been illegal and that their presence in the forest constituted a fire hazard. He added that the families had been asked to leave, but refused.
In a statement released to the media through Women in Green, the families said that “settling in the forest is not an irresponsible picnic by young couples who are looking to relax, but a clear statement of growth and expansion at a place where the life of Erez Levanon... was taken away cruelly and heinously, with the clear purpose of scaring us and paralyzing us so we should not dare to go out and expand.”
“Our settling Mitzpe Erez,” the statement continued, “is the one and real answer to all those who try to paralyze and silence us – whether it is the external enemy or the government, especially at a time of the ‘freeze,’ whose meaning is the destruction of the settlement enterprise and is very dangerous for the future of the Jewish people.”
Women in Green immediately donated $1,250 to rebuild the homes.