Esh Kodesh, a community of 30 families located in northern Samaria near Shiloh, is set against the picturesque Samarian hills. Jewish residents make their living from the vineyards and olive groves which they planted and have been tending since the founding of the community 12 years ago.
Spokesperson, Aron Katsof, describes life as peaceful, almost ‘dream-like.’
But times have not been easy for Esh Kodesh residents as relations between their Arab neighbors have been fraught with tension and dispute over nearby farmland, exacerbated by left-wing activists, according to Katsof.
“A leftist organization found a local Arab who claimed that this tract of land outside our community belonged to his father,” said Katsof. “But Jewish farmers have been cultivating this land for the past 10 years. The supposed owner says he holds a deed, kushan, from the time of Ottoman rule, which states that the land that lies between one forest and another forest belongs to his family. There are no forests here,” points out Katsof.
The IDF has claimed that its decision to allow Palestinians to farm the land since last Tuesday, January 5, was in line with the High Court of Justice ruling which recognized the Palestinian’s claim on the land. However, Katsof told told Tazpit News Agency that the decision has been exploited by Arabs in the region to instigate violent riots against settlers on land surrounding Esh Kodesh.
“The Arabs feel like they’ve won, that all of Israel is their land. I keep hearing the rioters yelling Tel Aviv,” said Katsof.
Clashes between Esh Kodesh residents, Arabs and Border Police officers broke out Tuesday when Israeli security forces accompanied Palestinians as they plowed the field outside of Esh Kodesh. Jewish residents do not recognize that the field belongs to the Palestinians and continue to protest the decision which they believe poses a security threat.
“The decision to allow Arabs to plow this field has only emboldened violent Arab protesters from nearby villages under Palestinian Authority control,” Katsof told Tazpit News Agency.
Around 250 Palestinians rioted on Saturday afternoon, January 5, right outside of Esh Kodesh. The rioters broke down the fences around the vineyards of Esh Kodesh, causing heavy damage to the vines. A security vehicle was also damaged during the riots.
“Today was one of the worst days of Palestinian violence against our residents and property in the history of Esh Kodesh,” said Katsof. “Some of the Jewish residents were strolling through the vineyards, and a group of Arabs were waiting there in ambush. It seemed that they were ready to enter our settlement – the rioters positioned themselves only 100 meters away from the entrance – which was why the security team was immediately alerted to secure the community.”
Following the disturbances, about 30 residents arrived from the entire Shilo area to Esh Kodesh and pushed out the Arab rioters with hurdled stones. Shortly thereafter, the regional emergency squad was activated by the security forces, and its members fired in the air until the arrival of the IDF and the transfer of management of the incident to the military.
Eleven Jewish residents, including the chief security officer who was hit in the leg by a rock, suffered light injuries during the violent riots and were treated on the spot. One settler who had a rock thrown at his head, sustained a severe head wound and was evacuated by MDA to the hospital. The man was initially taken to Sharei Tzedek, but due to the severity of his head injury he was move to Haddasah Ein Karem.
“There are about 100 children who live in Eish Kodesh,” added Katsof. “We need our state to make wise decisions that don’t place our families at risk.”
Watch a video of the riots below.