“The Israeli government has decided that this is at the very top of their priority list…to destroy this Jewish farm. [It’s] absolute insanity and evil,” said local farmer Jeremy Gimpel.
By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News
A vineyard in Judea and Samaria dedicated to a terror victim is slated to be destroyed by the Israeli government in the near future, and the owner of the farm where the vineyard is located is speaking out.
Rabbi Jeremy Gimpel, an American-born farmer in Neve Daniel, a Jewish community south of Jerusalem, told World Israel News that he could not understand the reason for the decision, aside from sending an anti-settler message.
Gimpel was once the thirteenth candidate on current prime minister Naftali Bennett’s Jewish Home party list, and narrowly missed being elected to the Knesset by just two seats.
“Seven years ago, I was sent by the Israeli government to establish the farm in southeastern Gush Etzion, in the Judean Mountains overlooking the Dead Sea,” Gimpel told WIN. “It was mission impossible from the get-go, in a heavily contested area, people considered it dangerous and scary.”
He was told by officials from Gush Etzion that establishing the farm in that specific location would serve an important purpose for connecting Jewish communities in the region and strengthening security.
After investing years of labor and hundreds of thousands of shekels, Gimpel and his partners created the Arugot Farm, which immediately became an attraction for both domestic and international tourists.
Five years ago, Gimpel dedicated a new vineyard on the outskirts of the farm in memory of terror victim Ezra Schwartz, a yeshiva student from the U.S. who was murdered during his gap abroad in Israel.
“For the last five years, we’ve been developing the vineyard and this farm. Just this Thursday, for no legal reason, the Israeli government has decided to uproot and destroy our vineyard,” Gimpel said.
He said he was originally perplexed by the decision, as there is no one contesting ownership of the land.
“There’s no claim on the land or [argument] that it belongs to someone else or even a court order,” he said. “It’s at the edge of the desert, it’s state land.”
Gimpel said that “planting a tree in the desert is the most basic Zionist act,” and said the move to destroy Jewish agriculture in the Jewish State was a violation of that principle.
‘Absolute insanity and evil’
Gimpel also questioned why the Israeli government had decided to allocate extensive time and resources to destroying the vineyard, as though it poses an imminent threat to national security.
“With all the things going on the world, with the coronavirus spreading, with the tourism industry shut down…the Israeli government has decided that this is at the very top of their priority list, and to first and foremost, destroy this Jewish farm, and to me, this seems like absolute insanity and evil.”
Noting that it is a shmita year, in which farmers are not permitted to grow crops, and also the week of the agriculturally-focused Jewish holiday Tu B’Shvat, the timing of the demolition is particularly brutal.
“Right now, the Jewish government of Israel is going to uproot and destroy thousands of trees and vines planted in the memory of a victim of terror – its incomprehensible.”
But Gimpel told WIN that has suspicions about the reason for the decision, which he believes stem from the political ambitions of one lawmaker in particular.
A goodwill gesture to the Palestinians?
Gimpel said he had not received an explanation from the Israeli government as to why the vineyard was selected for demolition, but he told WIN he believes it’s connected to Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s recent overtures to PA President Mahmoud Abbas.
As Israel’s eclectic eight party coalition appears to be rocked by internal discord, Gantz, who was once alternate prime minister, might be making moves to position himself as the leader of the left wing parties ahead of the next national election.
Noting that Gantz had met with Abbas several times in recent months, Gimpel said he believes that destroying a Jewish vineyard would serve as a very visible demonstration of the politician’s commitment to a two-state solution, which would see Jews evacuated from Judea and Samaria.
“It was literally like a lottery, it happened to be my farm, but it could have been anyone’s,” Gimpel said.
“[Gantz] wanted to make some sort of symbolic gesture to the Arabs and his left wing colleagues. Our farm is just a sacrifice on the altar of his insanity.”
Requests for comment from the Israeli government’s press office and Gantz’s office were not answered by press time.
A temporary reprieve
Late Monday afternoon, Gimpel and his partner said in a statement that the government had postponed the demolition plan.
However, rather than celebrating a victory, the statement noted that the destruction of the vineyard has been “delayed. Not cancelled.”
They can decide on a whim to surprise us and implement these dark and immoral plans. This is not a struggle over our vineyards. This is a struggle over the right of the nation of Israel to live in the Land of Israel! This is a struggle over the right of Jews to live in Judea. This is a struggle of the rights of an ancient nation to live in our indigenous homeland.”
“What starts with Judea ends with Jerusalem,” the statement concluded, warning that the government could decide in the future to move forward with the destruction of the vineyard.