“I’d always known that the water tower is across the line, and suddenly the penny dropped — The street is, too.”
— Dror Etkes, spokesman for Kerem Navot, a non-profit organization that monitors Israeli land policy in the West Bank
Since the mid-1990’s, Mevasseret Zion, an upscale suburb of Jerusalem, with a population of some 25,000, has undergone significant expansion northward, in the form of the Rekhes Halilim neighborhood. It now turns out that in some parts of that neighborhood’s northern section, the homes are situated outside the town’s own municipal boundaries — and also outside the State of Israel. The major deviation is on Bareket Street, where more than 20 structures were built across the 1949 Green Line, in the West Bank. In four or five other cases, the Green Line, [which served as Israel’s border until the 1967 Six-Day War] runs right through the houses themselves.
A little to the west, a facility of Hagihon, the Jerusalem region water company, was also built across the Green Line. Not far from there, about two years ago, local residents placed two mobile homes which became a “pirate” synagogue that has functioned without interference ever since. On top of all this, the Israel Land Authority is promoting a new plan to build 300 residential units in the area. . . .
“Today the church faces a most severe threat at the hands of certain settler groups. The settlers are persistent in their attempts to erode the presence of the Christian community in Jerusalem. These radical settler groups are highly organized. Over the last years we have witnessed the desecration and vandalism of an unprecedented number of churches and holy sites and receive growing numbers of reports from priests and local worshippers who have been assaulted and attacked. Where the authorities are concerned, this behavior goes largely unchecked and unpunished.”
— Theophilos III, the Greek Orthodox patriarch of Jerusalem
Christians in Jerusalem’s Old City say their presence at the geographical heart of their faith is under threat from intimidation and aggressive property acquisition by hardline Jewish settlers.
According to church leaders, priests are being verbally abused and spat at, and property vandalized.
Tensions have risen this year in the Christian and Armenian quarters of the one square kilometer ancient walled city, which includes the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the holiest place in Christianity where Jesus was believed to be crucified and resurrected. The Old City is also home to places of critical religious importance to Jews and Muslims.
“The time has come to embrace the 650,000 people who live in Judea and Samaria. The time has come to find an alternative to the two-state solution . . . we are not going to give away our land anymore. We don’t believe in land for peace. It’s been tested and it’s failed.”
— Yishai Fleisher, spokesman for the Jewish settlers in Hebron
Israeli and American leaders from the Jewish and Christian communities spoke at a packed event on Monday at the historic Sixth and I Synagogue in downtown DC, which focused on combating the de-legitimization of Israel through the embrace of Judea and Samaria.
Yishai Fleisher, the international spokesman for the Jewish community in Hebron, was the master of ceremonies for the event, which featured products that are affected by the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement including dates from the Jordan Valley, halva from Ariel, wines from Psagot and Shiloh, Carni Eldad’s book “Yesha is Fun,” and Saboneto soaps and Argon oil.
Partners for the event included the Jordan Valley Regional Council, Yesha Council, Binyamin Regional Council, Hebron, Ariel University, One Israel Fund, Christian Friends of Israeli Communities, Judea and Samaria Chamber of Commerce, and of course the Ministry of Strategic Affairs.
More than half a million Israelis live in guarded, Jewish-only settlements across the West Bank and East Jerusalem, according to the Israeli rights group B’TSelem. These settlements are considered illegal by the international community.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) documented 107 settler attacks on Palestinians and their properties in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, in 2016, and another 46 attacks so far this year.
So far this year, Israeli forces and settlers have killed at least 22 Palestinians, among them seven children.
An Israeli settler has shot and killed a 23-year-old Palestinian during a protest in solidarity with hunger-striking prisoners near Nablus in the occupied West Bank, according to Palestinian officials.
The Palestinian health ministry said the victim succumbed to his wounds on Thursday shortly after being shot at by the settler who fired live ammunition on protesters near a military checkpoint in the village of Huwwara, local Ma’an News Agency reported.
Palestinian security sources told AFP news agency that a clash near the checkpoint erupted when an Israeli settler in a car attempted to cross a crowd of protesters, with the settler and Israeli soldiers opening fire.
The Palestinian killed was identified by local media and the health ministry as Mutaz Bani Shamsa, from a village near Nablus.