Yehuda Richter is coming back. The man who barricaded himself in the "suicide bunker" at Yamit in 1982, and a few years later participated in a shooting attack on a busload of Arab workers, is founding a group called "Yamit will not fall twice." Richter plans to recreate the "suicide bunker," this time in Gush Katif and northern Samaria.
Several days ago Richter placed an ad saying that "groups of boys and girls are organizing to take positions in northern Samaria and the Gaza region, to undermine the plan that leads to destruction and to act according to the guidelines of [Kach founder] Rabbi Meir Kahane." Richter himself refused to speak about his plans.
His friend David Ha-Ivri said the idea is to recreate bunkers of the type that existed in Yamit in as many locations as possible in Gush Katif. "The Yamit bunker delayed the evacuation by two days. A few dozen similar ones in Gush Katif will delay the evacuation by two to three months," said Ha-Ivri, currently a resident of Kfar Tapuah in the West Bank.
Ha-Ivri, who only a month ago drew the attention of the police and Shin Bet when he organized the "Train to the Temple Mount" campaign, confirmed that the group has the same kind of "barricading and threat" in mind.
During Yamit's final days Yehuda Richter was commander of the "suicide bunker," a public bomb shelter that was barricaded, welded shut and booby-trapped with gas canisters. Its inhabitants called it the Bunker of Kiddush Hashem (Sanctification of God's Name, a Hebrew term connoting martyrdom.)
About 10 people were with Richter in the bunker. The group said rabbis had given them permission to take their own lives. The historical precedent they relied on was the suicide of King Saul on Mt. Gilboa, and the 400 boys and girls who drowned themselves, to foil their Roman captors' plan to sell them into prostitution.
When Rabbi Yisrael Ariel informed the police and the media of the suicide threat, a flurry of negotiations ensued. The two chief rabbis at the time, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef and Rabbi Shlomo Goren, tried unsuccessfully to dissuade the potential suicides from their mission.
It took Rabbi Meir Kahane, leader of the Kach movement, who was flown to Israel, to persuade them to leave the bunker. He told Richter the nation of Israel would need them for the future battle over Judea and Samaria. The Israel Defense Forces then stormed the bunker and pulled the group out. Richter was arrested. Upon his release several days later, he expressed regret that 45 other public bomb shelters in Yamit had not been put to the same use.
Now Richter seems to want to apply the lesson to Gush Katif. His motto, in Yamit as a young man of 20 and today as a 43-year-old father and rabbi at the Elon Moreh yeshiva, is "Kiddush Hashem" ("sanctifying the name"), or what he defines as such.
In 1984 Richter was involved in a shooting attack against a busload of Arab workers in Mazra'a a-Sharqiya. Six people were wounded. Richter was caught, convicted and, after a plea bargain, sentenced to five years in prison, which was reduced to three and half. Later, at a memorial service for Rabbi Meir Kahane, Richter referred to all those "willing to hand over their souls, who are in prison today, who tried to take care of the external enemy, and the internal enemy who is sometimes more dangerous."
Several of Richter's associates, like the No. 2 on the Kach list for the Knesset elections in 1984, Baruch Marzel, or Itamar Ben Gvir, a former Kach member, are already in Gush Katif at the hotel in Neveh Dekalim. They were recently joined by Rabbi David Druckman of Kiryat Motzkin, who declared his willingness to go to jail.
The thought of civil war does not deter the group identified with Kahane and the Kach movement. A journal published by Kahane disciples recently announced a competition for essays on "The Torah's attitude to civil war," in which the writers were asked to address issues such as "the unity of Israel," and the use of weapons against brethren.
Richter and others of his ilk have no doubts about the precedence of religious rulings over democracy and rule of law. In their view, the present government of Israel is no different from a foreign government. They will guide their behavior according to the religious rulings of Rabbi Meir Kahane. Although this is an extremist group, rejected by most Gush Katif residents, zealotry can sometimes suck others into its vortex.