Amona Residents Maintain Rights to Land

July 12, 2013 8:14 am 2 comments

Farmer Nahum Schwartz with his child in his Amona raspberry field. Photo: Tzuri Cohen-Arazi.

It is a beautiful clear day on a hilltop in central Samaria. Jerusalem can be seen in the distance, while the Judean desert stretches afar with the large community of Ofra nestled below. Although it’s sweltering outside, under the shade of a tree in the garden of Nahum Schwartz, life in the community known as Amona has an idyllic quality.

Schwartz’s children run around with the family’s dog, Hummus, as the 39-year-old farmer and father of six, takes a moment to look over his home and property.

But Schwartz’s face is creased with worry. Like any community, Amona has its challenges, but under the radar of the Israeli NGO Yesh Din’s judicial petitions, its very existence is in question. Next week, if Israel’s High Court of Justice ruling pans out, Amona residents will be evicted from their homes and forced to relocate on Monday, July 15.

There are 200 people, or 40 families living in Amona, which was established in 1995. The residents work in varying professions including farming, education and academia.

For Schwartz, 39, the looming eviction would be disastrous. “My life is here – my home, my work and my livelihood,” Schwartz recently told Tazpit News Agency. “My sheep graze this land and I grow and market berries here. Amona is not only our home, but also our lifestyle.”

Schwartz’s wife, Yifat, was one of the first residents of the community, which was established by singles and university-aged students mostly from Ofra. Beforehand, Ofra’s residents would often use the barren hilltop on which Amona is located for community events, picnics, and hiking.

“I live here because of my ideals,” says Schwartz who met his wife Yifat in Amona in 1997, when he himself joined the community building project. “There was no one here when we first came. Growing up in Ofra, I would often play on this hilltop.”

However, life as a farmer and shepherd has not always been easy. Five years ago, a large number of Schwartz’s flock was stolen by Palestinians, a severe financial blow. He had to rebuild his flock and now has 130 ewes which he watches and protects diligently. “If we are forced to move, I will have to find a place with grazing area for my sheep,” explains Schwartz. “A move like that could potentially affect my income as well.”

Schwartz also grows a field of raspberries and blackberries and explains that together with his flock, he is able to make ends meet.

But the farmer is very well aware of the legal situation surrounding his community.

He cites Alan Baker, an Israeli expert in international law and a former Israeli ambassador who wrote a recent publication entitled “The Legal Basis of Israel’s Rights in the Disputed Territories,” for the Jerusalem Center of Public Affairs. In the article, Baker notes that: “The legality of the presence of Israel’s communities in the area stems from the historic, indigenous and legal rights of the Jewish people to settle in the area, granted pursuant to valid and binding international legal instruments recognized and accepted by the international community. These rights cannot be denied or placed in question.”

But if Yesh Din has its way, neither Baker’s legal explanation nor Schwartz’s ideals or perspective, will have any place in the organization’s self-described mission to defend human rights of Palestinian civilians.

The conflict surrounding Amona today began when Yesh Din together with Peace Now petitioned Israel’s High Court of Justice to demolish Amona’s buildings in January 2006.  The petition led the High Court to order the destruction and evacuation of nine Amona homes a month later in February 2006, which led to a violent confrontation. Since then, the state has asked to extend the final evacuation of Amona in response to High Court rulings to further Yesh Din petitions while Amona residents have been arguing that they have bought the plots of lands on which their homes reside.

It is important to note that Yesh Din receives major funding from a number of European institutions with the European Union and the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs as their top donors in 2012. Others include the German Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations (ifa) and Irish Aid, among others. Even the Open Society Foundations (OSF), founded by George Soros, donated about $80,000 last year, part of the approximate $1.2 million that Yesh Din received from foreign institutions in 2012.

But no matter what happens, Nahum Schwartz will continue to see Amona as home. “They can make all the decisions they want against me,” he says. “But I am an Israeli citizen and I have rights to this land too.”

2 Comments

  • Thanks for sharing your thoughts about Amona court case.
    Regards

  • Jill Skriver

    After studying International law regarding the entire West Bank, and other lands gained during Israel defending herself; the law is clear. Land acquired because a country has to defend themselves, subsequently owns the land. Why Israel hasn’t yelled out this fact of law angers me. Israel has NO “settlements”. It legally has title to Judea and Samaria. Israel, start calling your land by it’s Jewish names. The West Bank had no status after 1967.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Arts and Culture Middle East Hamas Commander Reportedly Urges Hezbollah to Join Forces Against Israel

    Hamas Commander Reportedly Urges Hezbollah to Join Forces Against Israel

    JNS.org – Five months after Israeli forces tried to assassinate Hamas military commander Mohammed Deif in Gaza, Deif appears to have signed a letter that the terrorist group claims he wrote in hiding. The letter, addressed to Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, expressed Deif’s condolences for the death of Hezbollah terrorists during Sunday’s reported Israeli airstrike in Syria. Deif is said to have survived multiple assassination attempts, but he has not been seen in public for years. According to the Hezbollah-linked Al-Manar [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Theater Shlomo Carlebach Musical Has the Soul to Heal Frayed Race Relations

    Shlomo Carlebach Musical Has the Soul to Heal Frayed Race Relations

    JNS.org – The cracks that had been simply painted over for so long began to show in Ferguson, Mo., in November 2014, but in truth they had begun to open wide much earlier—on Saturday, July 13, 2013. That is when a jury in Sanford, Fla., acquitted George Zimmerman of culpability for the death of a 17-year-old black man, Trayvon Martin. The cracks receded from view over time, as other news obscured them. Then came the evening of Aug. 9, 2014, [...]

    Read more →
  • Theater US & Canada ‘Homeland’ Season Finale Stirs Controversy After Comparing Menachem Begin to Taliban Leader

    ‘Homeland’ Season Finale Stirs Controversy After Comparing Menachem Begin to Taliban Leader

    A controversial scene in the season finale of Homeland sparked outrage by comparing former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin to a fictional Taliban leader, the UK’s Daily Mail reported. In the season 4 finale episode, which aired on Dec. 21, CIA black ops director Dar Adal, played by F. Murray Abraham, justifies a deal he made with a Taliban leader by referencing Begin. He makes the remarks in a conversation with former CIA director Saul Berenson, a Jewish character played by Mandy [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Spirituality/Tradition Placing Matisyahu Back Within a Life of Observance

    Placing Matisyahu Back Within a Life of Observance

    Shining Light on Fiction During the North Korea-Sony saga, we learned two important lessons. The first is that there are two sides to this story, and neither of them are correct because ultimately we should have neither inappropriate movies nor dictators. The second is that we cannot remain entirely fixed on the religious world, but we also must see beyond the external, secular view of reality. It’s important to ground our Torah-based thoughts into real-life activism. To view our act [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Nine Decades of Moses at the Movies

    Nine Decades of Moses at the Movies

    JNS.org – Hollywood has had its share of big-budget biblical flops, but until now, the Exodus narrative has not been among them. Studios have brought Moses to the big screen sparingly, but in ways that defined the image and character of Moses for each generation of audiences. The first biblical epic In 1923, director Cecil B. DeMille left it to the American public to decide the subject of his next movie for Paramount. DeMille received a letter from a mechanic [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Exodus on Screen (REVIEW)

    Exodus on Screen (REVIEW)

    JNS.org – The story of the Exodus from Egypt is a tale as old as time itself, to borrow a turn of phrase. It’s retold every Passover, both at the seder table and whenever “The Ten Commandments” is aired on television. But the latest adaptation—Ridley Scott’s epic film, “Exodus: Gods and Kings”—fails to meet expectations. Scott’s “Exodus” alters the source material to service the story and ground the tale, but the attempt to reinvent the biblical narrative becomes laughable. Moses [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Lifestyle ‘Jewish Food Movement’ Comes of Age

    ‘Jewish Food Movement’ Comes of Age

    JNS.org - In December 2007, leaders of the Hazon nonprofit drafted seven-year goals for what they coined as the “Jewish Food Movement,” which has since been characterized by the increased prioritization of healthy eating, sustainable agriculture, and food-related activism in the Jewish community. What do the next seven years hold in store? “One thing I would like to see happen in the next seven years is [regarding] the issue of sugar, soda, and obesity, [seeing] what would it be like to rally the [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Education Seeds of ‘Start-Up Nation’ Cultivated by Israel Sci-Tech Schools

    Seeds of ‘Start-Up Nation’ Cultivated by Israel Sci-Tech Schools

    JNS.org – Forget the dioramas. How about working on an Israeli Air Force drone? That’s exactly the kind of beyond-their-years access enjoyed by students at the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) industrial vocational high school run by Israel Sci-Tech Schools, the largest education network in the Jewish state. More than 300 students (250 on the high school level and 68 at a two-year vocational academy) get hands-on training in the disciplines of aviation mechanics, electricity and energy control, and unmanned air [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.