At Eli hilltop, festival comes amid threat of evacuation
Matthew Wagner
"God's commandment to build a succa helps me deal with the possibility that I might be evacuated."
"God's commandment to build a succa helps me deal with the possibility that I might be evacuated from here," says Tamar, a resident of Eli, a settlement in Samaria. "The same God that commanded us to leave our homes and live in a succa for seven days could also decide to expel us from our homes forever." Tamar lives on a mountaintop known as the Yovel neighborhood, located 1.5 kilometers south of Eli. About a year ago Peace Now argued in a petition to the High Court of Justice that 12 homes on the hilltop, including Tamar's, were built illegally and, therefore, must be destroyed. This is not Peace Now's first High Court petition against illegal building. Last year, their petition against building in Amona, just outside Ofra, resulted in the destruction of nine homes. Hundreds of pro-settlement protesters were injured in the ensuing clash with police. "With all the pain at losing all this, if that is what the people of Israel decide, I'll accept it," says Tamar. Tamar's house has high ceilings, spotless off-white ceramic floors and natural wood furniture. Holiday cooking fills the house with a savory aroma. Tamar's four children, who come in and out of the house to play, frequently interrupt the interview. "We learned from disengagement that peaceful methods of opposition do not work and Amona taught us that violent demonstrations don't work either. If the Jewish people decide to evacuate me from my house, there is nothing that I can do to stop it," she says. Another house contested by Peace Now is inhabited by Sarah Klein, wife of Maj. Ro'i Klein - killed in action in the second Lebanese war - and her two small children. On July 26 during a battle in Bint Jbail, Klein bravely sacrificed his life to save the lives of his fellow soldiers by blocking the brunt of a Hizbullah grenade explosion. "My longing for Ro'i doesn't leave much room for worrying about the possibility of evacuation," says Rabbi Eliezer Kashtiel, who was Ro'i's friend and educator at the Bnei David Premilitary Yeshiva Academy in Eli. "Besides, what bothers me about being evacuated from my home is not my personal material loss. Rather it is the knowledge that our nation is concentrated on destroying instead of building and developing. It is the exact opposite of what a healthy nation is supposed to do," he says. For Kashtiel, Succot is a time to find a common denominator among Israelis. "Each of us leaves behind all the material possessions in our homes that make us different and builds a succa with simple things like wood and date leaves. For seven days all of us are the same. We should take advantage of this time to foster unity."
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