In the building of the Binyamin Regional Council in the West Bank, 400 pro-settlement activists gathered on Wednesday evening for a conference on “building new communities.” The organizer behind the event was the Nachala Movement, the group behind the most famous outpost established in recent years: Evyatar. On the building's grounds roamed young people in shirts reading “Evyatarnik.” Inside the room, the group presented its plans: To establish on the Hebrew date of the 21st of Tammuz (July 20) “10 Evyatars” – in other words, 10 illegal outposts at the same time.
In preparation for the conference, posters inviting participants were put up throughout the West Bank, and small gatherings were held in homes to enlist more people to the cause. “We made a telephone war room and rounds in the ulpanas [religious girls' high school] in the last month,” said a young woman, who added that she is doing her National Service with the Nachala Movement. She sold shirts on the evening of the event with slogans such as "expanding our horizons" and “We demand freedom for Jewish building.”
On stage were a number of speakers. They included the movement's leader Daniella Weiss, who has been a familiar figure since the days of the Gush Emunim settlement movement; the head of the Binyamin Regional Council Yisrael Gantz; and the mayor of Kiryat Arba, Eliyahu Liebman. Weiss made sure to note that it was not a given that the regional council was sponsoring the event. The deputy mayor of Jerusalem, Aryeh King, was also seated on the stage.
They took a similar approach that they did in announcing the founding of Evyatar; they had no interest in hiding the matter. “A year ago, we went up to Evyatar and within a few days houses were built and roads were paved, a community bustling with life was established,” Zvi Elimelech Sharbaf, the chairman of the organization, told the audience.
Evyatar was founded in May 2021 on the land of three villages: Beita, Qabalan and Yatma. Residents of Beita protested every week, and eight of them were shot and killed by IDF troops during the protests.
The residents of Evyatar were evicted in July in accordance with an agreement reached between residents and the government. The residents, the deal said, would leave until the status of the land was determined, and the homes would remain. In February, on his last day in his post, Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit approved beginning the process that could lead to the government approving the construction of a new community at the site.
Sharbaf gave an overview of the present situation at Evyatar. “God bless, there is a military presence there, and the buildings we lived in exist.” But he said that Defense Minister Benny Gantz has yet to keep his promise to allow them to return. “They don’t want one Evyatar to exist – we will build the community of Evyatar 10 times!”
- From the settlers to Biden, Israel's West Bank plans try to appease almost all
- Israel to merge unrecognized Arab village with city of Ramle, despite residents opposition
- Israel advances over 4,000 West Bank housing units for Jews
Everyone who attended the event received a bag with a volunteering form inside. Opportunities to offer service include joining the group of truck drivers, drivers with cars with a trailer hitch and enlisting building contractors. At stalls, enthusiastic young people entered the volunteers’ answers on computers. Flyers were distributed that explained the vision of establishing community “core” groups to begin preparing the equipment needed to build and pave roads to the sites. A team was formed to coordinate all the groups, the form said, and was attempting to found a “development company” to help with logistics.
These core groups are really groups of activists that link together settlement residents from the same area who are planning on moving together to the new outposts. One such group that has already been formed is Oriad, which is active in the Kedumim area in the northern West Bank, where Weiss lives. The group was founded in 2021 with the goal of building an outpost on a hill near Kedumim, also named Oriad. According to local media, the group has already forged an access path to the hill and has held events there over the past year.
Ezra, a 44-year-old teacher from Kfar Eldad in Gush Etzion, said he planned on joining the core group that will build an outpost in his area. “We've already marked four possible locations, and one of the members wants to bring two more possibilities, so we can understand where we should set up,” he said on Thursday. Twenty people came to their first meeting in Neve Daniel.
“I had my head in the ground for years, and then I said: 'What am I leaving for my children? There will be a catastrophe here in another 10 years. When I saw their flyer, I called and my motivation came back.” What led Ezra to want to join was the increasing Palestinian construction, he said. In general, all the speakers at the event described their reasons as concerning the Palestinian “takeover” of the land, while at the same time saying that the government did not allow Jews to build new communities.
Ezra said his 15-year-old son plans to join him: “He’s really into it, he went to learn welding and on Saturdays he volunteers at a farm not far from us for it.” Another member of Nachala told the audience that they planned on conducting trips to locate land for the outposts. “We will do a three-day trip that will go through all of Judea and Samaria at the beginning of the month of Sivan,” from May 31 through June 2. "We will examine the sites on the consideration of the roads, legal issues and the abilities of the core groups – and from there, we'll set up."
Quite a few of the conference attendees had been at Evyatar. Neria, a 16-year-old from Har Bracha, born to parents who had been evacuated from Gush Katif in Gaza in 2005. “I came to build communities. The state doesn’t allow it, so we will build,” he said.
Neria and his friend Eitan, 17 from Kedumim, said that even though the government has not yet let them return to Evyatar, they are still victorious. “That a Palestinian flag is not waving there and the army is there is amazing progress. We have done our part, and now the land is protected,” said Eitan.