Israel’s Education Ministry Helps Funds an Illegal Outpost Near Ma’aleh Adumim

Nonprofit operates rehab program for ‘hilltop youth’ on outpost near Ma’aleh Adumim whose access road is on private Palestinian land.

Hill 387, the unauthorized West Bank settlement outpost where Jewish Shepherd operates a rehab program for teenage dropouts, in Jan. 2017. The photograph shows a few rudimentary buildings in a rocky area near a larger community.
Olivier Fitoussi

Israel’s Education Ministry and a West Bank regional council help support an unauthorized settlement outpost near Ma’aleh Adumim by contracting with an organization that operates a rehabilitation program on the outpost.

An organization calling itself the Jewish Shepherd (Haro’eh Ha’ivri) operates the program on Hill 387, near Ma’aleh Adumim. The group’s core activity is finding dropouts and getting them back into school. In the course of their rehabilitation, the organization sometimes brings such teens from other settlement outposts to Hill 387, which is adjacent to Route 1 between Jerusalem and Ma’aleh Adumim.

None of the outpost’s wood-and-mud buildings are legal, and Israel’s Civil Administration has issued demolition orders against them.

The Binyamin Regional Council, in whose jurisdiction Hill 387 is located, confirmed that the outpost’s access road was built by Amana, a settlement-building organization that was founded by the Gush Emunim religious settlement movement in 1979.

While the local government has been moving to retroactively legalize the buildings in Hill 387, the council stress that it was not responsible for their construction.

In a statement, the Education Ministry said the Jewish Shepherd did not build the structures in Hill 387.

All of these buildings are on state-owned land, but aerial photographs show that the access road crosses privately owned Palestinian land, according to Civil Administration records in the possession of left-wing activist Dror Etkes.

“The Jewish Shepherd is another public body established by settlers, for settlers,” Etkes told Haaretz. “The idea is to route the potential ideological crime to the settlements’ youth for purposes that the settlement establishment wants to promote, such as Hill 387 which was built illegally.” Their ultimate goal is to seize control of hundreds of dunams of privately owned land, Etkes claims.

The office of Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, part of the Israel Defense Forces, said that both the access road and the buildings in Hill 387 were illegal, not having been approved by the Civil Administration. It said enforcement measures had the law have been made, including the issue of demolition orders. “The owners of the buildings have filed for permits, which are being studied by the planning authorities,” it added.

“As part of the fundamental values of the Education Ministry, an educational framework is provided for teenagers at risk everywhere in the country, no matter where they are,” the Education Ministry said in a response statement. “The Jewish Shepherd is an educational outsourcing body that reaches teenagers at risk in the West Bank, accompanies them and gives them education and an educational framework. Its purpose is solely education. It does not occupy hills and categorically does not engage in construction, and any hint that it does is groundless.”