The Outposts / Hill 777 Residents Face Being Forced Out a Second Time

Hill 777, also known as Givat Arnon, is technically part of the Itamar settlement, and has some connection to that community despite the 12 kilometers of road that separate them ?(eight kilometers as the crow flies?). Hill 777 was the only satellite of Itamar that was not authorized by the agreement between the Yesha Council of settlements and former prime minister Ehud Barak. Its first inhabitants, nonreligious members of the Hayl ?(Hosen Yehudi Leyisrael, or Jewish Strength for Israel?) settlement group, were forced to leave, and for one year they lived in mobile homes on Hill 830 instead. They returned to Hill 777 about six years ago and rebuilt their homes.

Shmuel Barak is the only one of the original inhabitants of Hill 777 who is still there. He is nonreligious, the grandfather of two and a scientist who studies solar energy at the Weizmann Institute. Ran Segal is a mathematics lecturer at Ariel College who had been active in Hug Hasekhel Hayashar ?("the common sense club"?), a right-wing academic lobby. His wife, Iyyar, is an officer in the standing army. The two have a two-year-old daughter. Barak and Segal have eight dunams ?(two acres?) apiece of vineyards planted with wine grapes that they tend in between their academic activities.

The Hayl movement, which is considered the outpost's legitimate mother, was born in a protest tent erected by Kfar Yehoshua resident David Ca'anani in March 1994 in response to the series of terror attacks that followed the Oslo Accord. The tent was occupied 24 hours a day for two years and became a focus of arguments and confrontations on settlement issues. It was dismantled the day after Likud's 1996 election victory.

Members of Hayl included Ezer Argaman, a member of Kibbutz Hanita, and Giora Zeid, the grandson of Hashomer Hatza'ir founder Alexander Zeid. Zeid, Argaman and others supported the establishment of Hill 777. The history of the outpost, like that of many others, was connected to a terror attack.

In memory of a guard

The name Givat Arnon was given to the outpost to commemorate Aryeh Agranioni, a religious construction contractor who, on May 7, 2001, took the night watch after Ran Segal at the still unoccupied outpost. He was guarding a railway container housing agricultural equipment and was murdered by terrorists, who also stole his gun. The murder helped accelerate the issuing of a military permit enabling the Hill 777 "exiles" to return to the outpost's original location, within the boundaries of Itamar.

Three religious families live on Hill 777 currently, in addition to the Baraks and the Segals. Ofra and Evyatar Iluz are former Jerusalemites who have three children. Evyatar is an insulation contractor, Ofra is a day care teacher who is active in Alumim ?(Hill 782?). Mordechai Sadeh is a handyman who also produces olive oil, while his wife Hila is the director of the day care center where Ofra Iluz teaches. Yonatan and Kadit Tuav, formerly of Ramat Gan, are the youth activities coordinator of Itamar and an employee of the day care center, respectively.

Ran Segal is encouraged by the fact that Hill 777 was established before the March 2001 cutoff date for the first round of outposts to be evacuated, although he admits that "we are all in total denial and trying not to think about what might or might not happen. Life goes on. Iyyar will give birth to our second child soon, and in two weeks, another family will be joining us."

Life also goes on at Hill 830, the previous temporary home of the founders of Hill 777. A few of the people who had been displaced from the original Hill 777 ? mainly immigrants from the former Soviet Union ? remained at the "temporary" location, effectively making two outposts out of one as a result of the Barak-Yesha agreement.

The IDF chief rabbi's yeshiva

Rabbi Avi Ronsky, who was recently appointed chief rabbi of the Israel Defense Forces, has for several years headed a yeshiva at Itamar's first, most western and closest outpost, known as Nekuda. Consisting of a single permanent structure for the yeshiva and about 30 mobile units, the community has gradually lost its character as a separate outpost and become for all intents and purposes a neighborhood of Itamar.

According to the Talia Sasson report on unauthorized outposts, Nekuda and Hill 777 are located partly on state land and partly on private Palestinian land. The Housing Ministry spent NIS 500,000 on infrastructure in Hill 777 and another NIS 300,000 on public buildings.