The "Tower of Justice" set up by Israel's social protesters lasted roughly ten days. The compound had been erected on July 17 in the spirit of the 1930s tower-and-stockade settlements, to protest housing prices and the current state of public housing.
But on Thursday night, at around 4 A.M., more than 100 private security workers in black shirts arrived at the site and removed the three men and two women found at the compound. The security workers had been hired by Kibbutz Yakum, which owns the property on which the tower was erected. Over the last few days, caravans had arrived at the scene to begin populating the compound. However, water and electricity had not yet been connected, nor had people begun to settle there.
The activists who organized the tower had planned to erect it on a plot of Jewish National Fund land, but they later discovered the place they had chosen was in fact owned by Kibbutz Yakum, which belongs to the National Kibbutz Movement and the Young Guard.
Kibbutz Yakum had declared that it would not evacuate the activists, in support of the social protest. However, they claim that according to their contract with the Israel Lands Authority, they muse evacuate the activists. In addition, the Kibbutz says that the Israel Lands Authority sent them a letter demanding the evacuation of the settlements.
The kibbutz hired BTS, a private security company owned by Col. (ret.) Benny Tal. According to the security firm’s website, BTS specializes in “Forceful security, removal of squatters, fighting against organized crime and protection, and strikes.” According to the activists, no warning was given prior to their expulsion.
Jacky Adary, a veteran social activist from Dimona, who went on a hunger strike last year in protest of the rising price of water and privatization of water companies, was present on the scene when the activists were removed from the land.
“We heard the noise of tractors and a bulldozer that came roaring up and demolished the wall. It moved on to the tower and destroyed it,” told Adary, on the verge of tears.
“About 150 brutes from Benny Tal’s company arrived as well. We went through a tough ordeal; the Tower of Justice, flags and equipment were all completely flattened. I asked them to let me take down the Israeli flag, but the brutes refused.”
“Despite the commotion I realized there were no police on the way. I ran to the nearby gas station and broke a glass window, knowing it would cause the police to come," continued Adary. "Police showed up on the scene, but the tower and everything else was completely demolished. I explained to the police that I broke the window only to bring police officers to the scene. The police took me away, but left the scene, allowing the brutes to continue their work.”
“The legacy of 'tower-and-stockade' was broken today. We were not trying to steal land from Kibbutz Yakum; we were trying to convey the message that something has gone wrong. We will build more Towers of Justice, we’ll take over the land far and wide," he said.
“When the ordeal with the police is over, we’ll go to Kibbutz Yakum to drink coffee with the kibbutznikim, and shake hands," continued Adary, adding "Give us a hug, we’re not enemies. Netanyahu incites brother against brother, that’s his way.”
Gad Haren, another social activist from the “Social Coalition” movement that set up the tower, is less forgiving and plans on filing a complaint against Kibbutz Yakum for expulsion without warning, and property damages. “It’s disappointing that the kibbutz management stooped to such a low level. We have been in contact, but they are hiding behind the back of the Israel Lands Authority, which is hiding behind a smokescreen. It was eviction without notice or warning, and damage to property."
"On the eve of Tisha B’Av the Tower of Justice was destroyed by bad men, and the destruction of the third temple is quickly approaching," continued Haren. "This Tower of Justice needs to find its way to Jerusalem.”
Michael Varbin, the kibbutz secretary, explained the situation from his perspective: "One and a half weeks ago a beautiful display of the protest showed up. We went with them to the demonstrations, but suddenly we discovered that they are protesting here in our house… on our land. They didn't understand that they were touching on our sore spot. We support them, but Israel Lands Authority requires us to vacate trespassers. The police and management saw the compound as a hot potato. They didn’t want to touch it, but they blamed us. So we did what we had to do."
"We have put all the equipment in storage and the owners can come to get it back," continued Varbin. "There was simply a misunderstanding. Gad Haren thought it was JNF land, I showed him the contract that it was leased. We showed him letters from the management is telling us off."
"The police came during the evacuation and said it was done in accordance with the law," said Varin. "According to the law, we did what was necessary." Varbin went on to say that he has known these activists for some time, and all of a sudden they have now been pitted against one another. "It's simply grotesque," he said of the matter.
But both sides agree on one thing: a lack of responsibility on the part of authorities. "The authorities are pushing us up against one another. We'll find a way to do things together in the future, not one against the other.
In response, the Israel Lands Authority said that "the eviction has nothing to do with us, but with Kibbutz Yakum. It is the responsibility of the members of the Kibbutz to remove the trespassers, not ours. The responsibility lies only with the Kibbutz, on its lands."
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