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...

  • Education Why We Should Invest in Jewish Children

    Why We Should Invest in Jewish Children

    JNS.org – My wife Suzy and I will never forget our wedding day. It was not just the uplifting ceremony and beautiful party that left an indelible mark. Some life-altering advice that we received from one of our guests informed and shaped our lives from that day forward. My high school teacher, Rabbi Moshe Yagid, pulled us aside just before the chuppah and challenged us to choose one mitzvah that would be the foundation of our marriage and our lives. He explained [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Sports LeBron James’ New Coach Shaped by Summer on Kibbutz and Jewish ‘Life Lessons’

    LeBron James’ New Coach Shaped by Summer on Kibbutz and Jewish ‘Life Lessons’

    JNS.org – Influenced by his Jewish upbringing and a summer on a kibbutz, basketball coach David Blatt is embarking on his highest-profile challenge yet: coaching LeBron James, the four-time National Basketball Association (NBA) Most Valuable Player who has made waves for returning to his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers. After guiding Israel’s storied Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball franchise to its 51st Israeli league championship and 6th Euroleague title this past season, Blatt landed the Cavaliers head-coaching job in June. Just weeks later, [...]

    Read more →
  • Food Jewish Identity Young Syrian Jewish Restauranteur Continues a Family Legacy

    Young Syrian Jewish Restauranteur Continues a Family Legacy

    JNS.org – At the turn of the century, a young Jewish immigrant arrived in New York. So begins the history of many American Jewish families. It is 27-year-old Albert Allaham’s story, too, with a few unusual twists. Albert’s “century” is the 21st—he arrived almost 100 years after the massive waves of European Jewish immigration. Rather than coming from a small town along the Danube river, his shtetl was Damascus. His first American business was not a pushcart on the Lower East [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Jewish Identity A Holistic Look at the Rebbe’s Life and Career (REVIEW)

    A Holistic Look at the Rebbe’s Life and Career (REVIEW)

    Did you know that in the entire Bible, only one birthday is mentioned and it is that of Pharaoh? And did you know that according to some scientists, by accepting Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity, it is impossible to prove or disprove that the sun is the gravitational center of our solar system? In his new book, REBBE, best-selling author Joseph Telushkin reveals many surprising and sometimes shocking details as he chronicles the life and teachings of the charismatic Rabbi [...]

    Read more →
  • Food Mitzvos New Jerusalem Eatery’s Uniform Pricing Seeks to ‘Help People Make It’

    New Jerusalem Eatery’s Uniform Pricing Seeks to ‘Help People Make It’

    JNS.org – Omelet sandwich: 5 shekels. Iced coffee: 5 shekels. Tuna sandwich: 5 shekels. Fresh-squeezed orange juice: 5 shekels. Cheese bureka: 5 shekels. There’s plenty more on the Cofizz menu, but you get the idea. Dani Mizrahi and Amir Amshalm, two Israeli men in their early 30s, asked themselves: Why not launch a take-out food joint in busy neighborhoods around Jerusalem where everything—and that means everything—goes for five shekels, or about $1.50. They’d seen the concept take off in Tel Aviv, where [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Israel New Primetime Drama ‘Tyrant’ Filmed Entirely in Israel (VIDEO)

    New Primetime Drama ‘Tyrant’ Filmed Entirely in Israel (VIDEO)

    The new FX Network drama Tyrant was shot entirely in Israel, just 10 miles north of Tel Aviv, Bloomberg News reported last Tuesday. Tyrant follows the life of an Arab dictator’s second son Barry, played by Adam Rayner, who reluctantly returns home to the Middle Eastern nation of his birth to join the family business away from his suburban life in America. The elaborate set production for the primetime drama included a crew of 300 and a reported cost of over $3 million [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada Supermodel: Jewish Mothers Are Constantly Trying to Set Me Up With Their Sons

    Supermodel: Jewish Mothers Are Constantly Trying to Set Me Up With Their Sons

    Skokie, Il-born 25-year-old Erin Heatherton (Erin Heather Bubley) is rocking the modeling world. And in a new interview accompanying a cover spread for Miami’s Ocean Drive magazine, she says Jewish moms are “constantly trying to set her up with their sons.” Imagine that – who would have thought? “The moms, they’re doing what they do. It doesn’t matter what country they live in, what city – grandmothers, too,” she admitted. “But I’m probably going to do that too one day.” Heatherton was [...]

    Read more →
  • Education Israel First Ever: Turkish Academics to Visit Israel Holocaust Museum for Seminar

    First Ever: Turkish Academics to Visit Israel Holocaust Museum for Seminar

    Some 15 Turkish university professors and lecturers will take part in a first of its kind seminar at Holocaust museum Yad Vashem’s International School for Holocaust Studies starting next week. The trip is especially significant as Holocaust denial is rampant in the Arab world. A Palestinian professor was recently forced to resign after he led a trip to the Nazi extermination camp Auschwitz. Participants in the week-long program at Yad Vashem will experience in-depth tours of the museum’s archives and [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.