Ramat Gilad Residents Prefer Their Mobile Homes to Luxury Homes

Last Shabbat marked five years since the murder of Gilad Zar, the security coordinator of the Samaria Regional Council. His sister, Michal Shoham, recalls that after the family completed the week-long mourning period, her father vowed on Gilad's grave that he would establish six settlements in his memory, one for each Hebrew letter of Gilad Zar's name.

Two outposts have already been established: Ramat Gilad - where Shoham lives with her husband, Shmuel, and their 11 children - and Havat Gilad. The Zar family members, who are scattered throughout Hebron and various West Bank outposts and hilltops, have no doubt that the other four will soon be built.

The hilltop of Ramat Gilad, near the Karnei Shomron settlement, practically touches the hilltop where Moshe Zar, the father of Michal and her six surviving siblings, built his home in 1979. Shoham said that she and the other residents of Ramat Gilad will defend their homes "the way a mother defends her child from a tiger's claws. For us, this place is Gilad's tombstone, a tombstone that speaks to me a lot more than the one in the cemetery. It's impossible to flip a switch and say, 'Now we'll get rid of them.'"

Gilad Zar, one of the founders of the settlement of Itamar, was shot dead by Palestinian terrorists on May 29, 2001 while driving between the West Bank settlements of Kedumim and Yitzhar. After his car overturned, gunmen shot him in the head at point-blank range. In addition to his parents and siblings, Zar, who was 41 when he died, is survived by his wife, Hagar, and eight children.

Shoham said that even though her family was joined at the outpost by only one other family in the first two years of living there, and even though they did not always have access to running water, she still prefers her current abode.

"The comfort that we didn't find in the fancy house in Karnei Shomron we found in a rickety caravan that was dragged here from an absorption site for Ethiopians. For three months we lived here without water," she said. "The Israel Defense Forces guarded the bringing of the first caravans here. There are pictures, so that no one can deny it. But afterward, the Civil Administration argued that the structures here are 'not authorized.'"

After that, the Ehud Barak government removed the caravan being used on Ramat Gilad as a synagogue, only to bring it back later, said Shoham, adding that the outpost was threatened with evacuation about 18 months ago.

"Today, heaven forbid, we face a similar threat, and I can promise that here there will be no hugs," she said, referring to last summer's disengagement from the Gaza Strip. "We will not go together to the buses."

Shoham and her family are not the first to take an interest in this particular hilltop. Ramat Gilad used to be a Jordanian military post, and there are still active minefields in its foothills. The outpost provides a good view of the surroundings, and Ariel Sharon, who used to be a close friend of Moshe Zar, used to bring some of his guests up there to take a look around.

Now seven families live in Ramat Gilad, including Michal Shoham and her family and two of the Shohams' married children, as well as a young couple from Tel Aviv and the daughter of the rabbi of Karnei Shomron. On the wall of the Shohams' living room hangs a picture of Tiferet Yisrael - an outpost one of their sons founded in Gush Katif.

Sharon the enemy

And what does Moshe Zar think about his friend Sharon's decision to evacuate Gush Katif? Zar and his wife think he is just like first-century historian Josephus Flavius.

"He too was a hero who was not afraid and who led the camp," said Zar. "But one day he turned his back and became an enemy, but not just any enemy - someone who is very familiar with all the strategies of his people, who knows the strongholds, the combat methods, and uses all this information to defeat his people, to fight them and destroy them. So too with Ariel Sharon, who built all the settlements and knows us and was part of us. He turned his back and took advantage of his close familiarity with us in order to destroy and expel."