Thousands protest demolition of Netiv Ha’Avot community in Judea

Dozens of teenagers attempting to prevent the demolition of houses in a Jewish community in Judea poured paint and threw bottles at police, injuring four.

By: TPS and World Israel News Staff

Teenagers standing on rooftops of houses slated for demolition poured paint and threw water bottles on police forces Tuesday afternoon.

Four officers were wounded in the clashes and received medical care. Two were evacuated to hospital

Clashes broke out Tuesday afternoon between security forces and youth during the evacuation of the last home in the settlement of Netiv Ha’avot in Gush Etzion.

The police began carrying the youths away one by one. The residents asked them to come down from the rooftops, but they refused.

The clashes took place in the neighborhood of Netiv Ha’avot, in Gush Etzion, where police forcibly removed 15 Jewish families from their homes after the High Court of Justice ruled they were built on private Palestinian land.

The 15 homes were set to be demolished after the High Court of Justice in 2014 ruled in favor of left-wing Peace Now, which represented Palestinian claims, and decided that the houses had been partially built on private land owned by Palestinians from the nearby village of El Khader.

The State of Israel did not argue that the homes had been built legally.

Earlier this year, the Court rejected a compromise proposed by the residents to dismantle the “problematic parts” of six of the homes that jut onto the allegedly private land by a few meters.

Two other supposedly illegal structures have already been taken down by Civil Administration personnel: a carpentry shop was destroyed last November, while a memorial dedicated to IDF Special Forces Lt. Col. Emmanuel Moreno, who was killed fighting terrorists during the Second Lebanon War, was removed in December.

The demolition was originally planned for March but was postponed after the court approved a request for an extension in order to allow the families who had lost their homes to make alternative housing arrangements. The 15 families were moved into temporary structures hastily constructed in a nearby area, where they are slated to live for the next two years until new homes are rebuilt nearby.

Knesset members, local government officials, prominent religious Zionist Rabbis and hundreds of high school students were present to protest the demolition.

‘Completely insane’

Matan Yehezkeli, a resident of Netiv Ha’Avot and father of five, slammed the High Court of Justice for approving the demolition, comparing it to the biblical figure Korach, who challenged Moses’ authority and was punished by having the earth swallow him up. Yehezkeli told protesters that just as Moses’ faith in God was ultimately rewarded, so, too, will the Netiv Ha’Avot residents and the Zionist movement ultimately prevail.

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“When you compare the High Court of Justice rulings vis-à-vis Netiv Ha’Avot to its rulings on illegal Bedouin construction in the Negev, you realize that things have gone completely insane,” Yehezkeli said.

Just hours before the demolition, a mass prayer service was held in the community synagogue, with worshipers packing the room and loudspeakers set up outside for the overflowing crowd.

As the hour of destruction approached, small scuffles between police and protestors broke out and a few tires were set ablaze. Two minors were detained.

The families in Netiv Ha’Avot had all signed nonviolence commitments and left their homes walking, except for two families who offered passive resistance.

“I don’t want to hear anybody cursing the officers who come to pull us out,” said David Den Heijer, who has lived there for more than a decade. “They are not our enemies; they are our friends and brothers, doing a job that they have been forced to do by the courts. Don’t walk out – make them carry you. But in this home, nobody is going to raise a hand to an IDF soldier or an Israeli policeman.”

Bennett: ‘Absurd’ and ‘lacking any logic’

On Monday evening, some 2,000 people gathered at Netiv Ha’Avot to protest the pending demolition.

Addressing the rally, Minister of Education Naftali Bennett, leader of the Jewish Home party, called the demolition “absurd” and “lacking any logic.”

“Sometimes the High Court of Justice takes a very activist position on human rights, but when it comes to the rights of the residents here, then all of a sudden the court becomes very passive,” said Bennett, promising that “whoever wishes to see 15 houses demolished will soon find 350 houses on this hill.”

The head of the Yesha Council, Hananel Durani, told the protesters that “tomorrow we will leave here saddened and pained by the demolition, but with our heads held high as we look forward to the construction of a new neighborhood in Netiv Ha’Avot.”