Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

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. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Book Reviews Opinion The Syrian Virgin (REVIEW)

    The Syrian Virgin (REVIEW)

    The Syrian Virgin, by Zack Love. CreateSpace, 2015. The Syrian Virgin, by Zack Love, is a very interesting novel. Equally a political and romantic thriller, at times a real page-turner, it gets you intimately involved in the dire situation in today’s Syria, as well as in the romantic entanglements of its mostly New York-based characters — whose entanglements just might determine the fate of that dire situation in Syria. Along the way it introduces a really important idea that somehow […]

    Read more →
  • Features Unpacking the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict and Its Ripple Effect on Israel’s Region

    Unpacking the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict and Its Ripple Effect on Israel’s Region

    JNS.org – Aside from Israel itself, those with a vested interest in the Jewish state are accustomed to tracking developments related to Middle East players such as Iran, Syria, Jordan and Egypt. But much global attention has recently focused on the Caucasus region at the Europe-Asia border, specifically on the suddenly intensified violence between Azerbaijan and Armenia in the mountainous Nagorno-Karabakh area of western Azerbaijan. The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, while not taking place in Israel’s immediate neighborhood, does have what one scholar called […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Features Earth Day 2016: Israel Shines in Water Technology, Recycling, Renewable Energy

    Earth Day 2016: Israel Shines in Water Technology, Recycling, Renewable Energy

    JNS.org – On Friday, April 22, 196 nations across the world mark Earth Day, the annual day dedicated to environmental protection that was enacted in 1970. Not to be forgotten on this day is Israel, which is known as the “start-up nation” for its disproportionate amount of technological innovation, including in the area of protecting the environment. For Earth Day 2016, JNS.org presents a sampling of the Jewish state’s internal achievements and global contributions in the environmental realm. Water conservation Israeli […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture World New Documentary Explores Holocaust Humor, Role That Laughter Played in Death Camps

    New Documentary Explores Holocaust Humor, Role That Laughter Played in Death Camps

    Holocaust humor and the role that laughter played in the lives of Jews during World War II are the focus of a documentary that made its world premiere on Monday at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City. In The Last Laugh, first- and second-generation survivors, as well as famous Jewish and non-Jewish comedians, discuss their thoughts on when joking about the death camps is appropriate or taboo. “Nazi humor, that’s OK. Holocaust humor, no,” Jewish comedic giant, actor and filmmaker Mel Brooks says in the film. “Anything I […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Tragedy Culminates in ‘Celebration,’ Says Israeli Author Who Lost Son to Terror

    Tragedy Culminates in ‘Celebration,’ Says Israeli Author Who Lost Son to Terror

    JNS.org – Sherri Mandell’s life was devastated on May 8, 2001, when her 13-year-old son Koby was murdered by terrorists on the outskirts of the Israeli Jewish community of Tekoa. Yet Mandell not only shares the story of her loss, but also celebrates the lessons she has learned from tragedy. Indeed, “celebrate” is this Israeli-American author’s word choice. Her second book, The Road to Resilience: From Chaos to Celebration (Toby Press), came out earlier this year. The lesson: in every celebration, there is […]

    Read more →
  • Features Opinion For Alan Gross, Cuban Prison Didn’t Harden His Heart or Weaken His Ambition

    For Alan Gross, Cuban Prison Didn’t Harden His Heart or Weaken His Ambition

    JNS.org – Alan Gross used to be nothing more to me than a tragic headline. When I started my position at this news service in July 2011, Gross had been imprisoned in Cuba since December 2009 for what that country called “crimes against the state.” Gross, a subcontractor for the United States Agency for International Development, went to Cuba to help the Jewish community there access the Internet. After his arrest, he received a trial he describes as a “B movie,” […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Features New Movie Shows How Global Economic Instability Grew From Very Local Greed

    New Movie Shows How Global Economic Instability Grew From Very Local Greed

    JNS.org – When I saw the recent Academy Award-winning film “The Big Short,” I was struck by the sheer genius of the financiers who devised the schemes and packaged the loans for resale, but it left me with unanswered questions about how the properties these loans represented were moved. “The Big Short” was largely about paper transactions, big money, and wealthy investors, and it mildly touched on the way the actual end-users — the home buyers and brokers — played into this […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Book Reviews Psychiatry and the Spirit

    Psychiatry and the Spirit

    Why do we think so negatively about psychiatrists that we still insult them by calling them shrinks? Some medics might be quacks, but we don’t generally refer to them as witches! Shrinks; The Untold Story of Psychiatry, by Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman, is a sobering account of how psychiatry has swung from a marginal, unscientific mixture of weird theories into one of the most common and pervasive forms of treatment of what are commonly called “disorders of the mind.” Is it […]

    Read more →