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April 11, 2012 11:53 am

Evicted in 2005 Disengagement, Still Fighting for Return

avatar by Anav Silverman

Photo: Anav Silverman.

Over 6,000 people visited the northern Samaria town of Homesh on Tuesday duringthe Passover holiday including Information Minister Yuli Edelstein, MKs Danny Danon and Aryeh Eldad, Rabbi Haim Druckman and an Israeli Prize laureate, in effort to call upon the return and revival of the Jewish settlement there.  The Jewish community of Homesh was evicted and homes demolished, along with three other communities in northern Samaria as part of Israel’s unilateral Disengagement Plan in August 2005.

Danny Dayan, Chairman of the Yesha Council told Tazpit News Agency that although he was happy with the large turnout, he had mixed feelings about the Homesh situation. “I come here both sad and happy, recalling the uprooting of the Homesh families and calling on the government for their right to return back to their homes immediately.”

“We will keep fighting for this to happen—even if it takes a year, two, or even more,” Danon added.

Since 2005, former Homesh residents and supporters have revisited the ruins and attempted to re-establish a presence on several occasions, beginning with their lighting of a Hanukkah ‘shamash’ candle in 2006 at the site. In 2007, a Kfar Saba court ruled that it was not illegal for Jewish settlers to enter Homesh although they have not been allowed to rebuild their homes since then.

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Homesh was established in 1978 as a Nahal military outpost on Samaria’s highest strategic hilltop, and was then demilitarized when it became residential in 1980 for secular Jewish residents who moved in. Half of Homesh’s residents left as a result of Palestinian terror attacks during the Second Intifada in late 2000. Homesh became a mixed community when religious residents began moving in to build up the demoralized and diminishing community during the Palestinian intifada.

Those who arrived on Tuesday to show their support of the community included religious and secular Israelis alike. In addition to the eviction of Homesh, three other communities—Kadim, Ganim, and Sar-Nur, an artist’s colony—were also destroyed in 2005, with some 100 families forced to relocate elsewhere in Israel.

The 2005 Disengagement Plan from Gaza and northern Samaria under former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon forced residents of those respective areas to pay a heavy price for peace.  Three high schools, seven elementary schools, 36 kindergartens and 42 day-care centers were closed and demolished, with 5,000 schoolchildren relocating to new schools across Israel. Thirty-eight synagogues were dismantled and 48 Jewish graves from Gaza, including the graves of six residents murdered by terrorists, were moved out. Over 8,000 Jewish residents have had to rebuild their lives after working for decades to make their livelihoods and establish their families and communities in these areas.

Homesh, however, is the only community whose residents are actively attempting to return, partly because the status of the area remains unclear. According to the Israeli court ruling in 2007, Justice David Gadol declared that “After the evacuation of Homesh, Ganim and Kadim, unlike the evacuation of the Gaza Strip settlements, as far as I know, the areas were not transferred to what is known as the Palestinian Authority.”

Aryeh, a father from the nearby religious settlement of Havat Gilad taking part in the rally, explained that the most important priority was to resettle Homesh. “We have every right to be here. Homesh (from the Hebrew word for five, hamesh) was named for the five daughters of the Biblical Zelophehad, who according to Biblical tradition received this portion of land for their tribe, Manasseh.”

“We’ve experienced a lot of pain, with many good people killed here in terror attacks but we will continue to resettle no matter the odds,” finished Aryeh.

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