When settlements have been bulldozed in Judea and Samaria in years past, the scene has usually looked something like this:
Hundreds of police and military show up at the site along with bulldozers and crews. Settler families refuse to leave and are dragged out unwillingly, their furniture being carried out behind them. Entire communities are then bulldozed as their tear-stained occupants are kept back by police. All that is left remaining are twisted pieces of wreckage – metal, glass, concrete, with pieces of rebar sticking out everywhere. The site will remain barren for years as a silent reminder that the world hates the thought of Jews living in Judea.
You may remember several infamous examples of these demolitions in Amona and Migron.
The settlement of Evyatar was evacuated last week, but none of the above scenarios happened. In fact, members of the political right and left rejoiced when the residents left peacefully and no homes were bulldozed. The outcome left some of us scratching our heads in bewilderment.
Evyatar was first established in 2013 in memory of Eviatar Borowski who was murdered at the Tapuach Junction in a terrorist attack. The new settlement that was founded on a nearby hilltop didn’t last long before it was evacuated by the Israeli government. After three yeshiva students were shot at the Tapuach Junction on May 2nd, 2021, settlement organizations came together to reestablish Evyatar as a positive response to the terrorist attack.
Since May, the nearby Arab villages have been constantly harassing and attacking Evyatar. One of their favorite tactics was lighting fires upwind of the community to try and drive their Jewish neighbors out by the smoke. Pro-Palestinian organizations claim that the new settlement was built on privately-owned Palestinian land. The town’s founders say that the land is not Palestinian and is under the jurisdiction of the Shomron Regional Council.
In a short amount of time, Evyatar grew to over 50 families. Prefabricated homes were brought in, a yeshiva was established and roads were even paved. The residents of Evyatar were making a statement that they were here to stay. Until last week.
When Naftali Bennet’s unity government was sworn in, everyone held their breath to see if one of his coalition’s first actions would be to destroy a settlement in Israel’s heartland. Defense Minister Benny Gantz made it clear that he would not allow the prime minister to interfere, and that the evacuation of the community fell under his jurisdiction. Surprisingly, Evyatar members and settlement movement leaders came to a swift agreement that called for the evacuation of all of their town’s residents.
The deal mediated between Evyatar and Defense Minister Benny Gantz called for residents to evacuate in exchange for:
- A yeshiva to be established at the site in the near future with students being allowed to live and study there.
- The Defense Ministry must conduct a survey of the land within six months, with the possibility of the residents returning if it finds that none of the land is on private Palestinian property.
- In the meantime, the IDF will establish a temporary base in the settlement.
Right-wing and settlement leaders declared victory because the community will not be bull-dozed, and they are hoping they will be able to return in the near future.
Left-wing leaders rejoiced because a settlement in Israel’s biblical heartland was evacuated.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett rejoiced because he made both camps happy.
Will Evyatar be resurrected in the near future? With the residents gone, it’s doubtful that Benny Gantz or Naftali Bennett will make rebuilding a priority for their cabinet.
I can guarantee however, that the former residents of Evyatar will not give up the fight easily if it turns out that they are ignored by the new government.
It remains to be seen whether a new community will thrive in Israel’s biblical heartland.