“Netiv Ha’avot,” the Path of The Forefathers. Until this past week, it was a neighborhood of about 15 homes and families in Gush Etzion, Israel.
Two days ago the families were evicted; the homes they built and raised their families in will be bulldozed.
Thousands of supporters came to be with the Netiv Avot families on this sad and painful day, doubly sad because of how unjust it all seems.
So many were drawn to show support to the families in this travesty of justice.
Yet so many other voices were conspicuously absent.
Where were the human rights groups who mount battle cries of immorality when a terrorist’s — yes, a terrorist’s — bedroom is destroyed by Israel after he commits an act of terror?
Not that I compare these beautiful upstanding Jewish families, citizens of Israel, to terrorists. But it’s the principle.
Where were the voices who, justifiably, raised a ruckus in a land dispute when the plight was that of a Bedouin tribe about to be uprooted and displaced?
Their silence speaks volumes.
There is no Arab claimant in the Netiv Avot dispute. Its destruction is absolutely for nothing. No one is going to be gaining the land.
The case was brought not by an Arab claimant but by a third party that seems to relish seeing Jews leave their homes. I say this because, again, there is no winner in this case. It is a lose-lose case. No Arab will be receiving his or her long lost land, because none was ever identified.
Forcibly removing these Jewish Israeli families from their homes and destroying them seems to be cruelty for cruelty’s sake.
Yesh Din, one of the third parties that brought the case, found old birdseye view photos from long ago that seemed to show the land Netiv Avot was built on was once a vineyard. Despite valiant efforts to identify a person linked with this land, none was found.
Yesh Din’s theory was never actually proven. The photos themselves cumulatively added up to a swath of land that, in piecemeal fashion, is made up of a bit of a house here, a corner of a house there.
The families were willing to remove the bit or corner from their homes that were possibly in question.
Yet the court ruled that the entirety of the homes must be destroyed in total and the families uprooted.
How a court decided this is beyond me. It doesn’t take a genius mediator to try and arrive at a compromise or compensation, when so many of the facts are in question and when the issue involves families living in homes. It almost seems malicious. Never mind the empowerment it gives to foreigners funding organizations that brought the case.
When you follow a case such as Netiv Avot, the desire almost seems more to undermine Israel than care for Palestinians, as is claimed.
If the police were bracing for rage, violence and disobedience in response to this injustice and the pain of the families, the precise opposite unfolded.
The families were nothing short of inspirational. In their pain they modeled what the depth of the words ashrei ha’am, “happy is the nation,” can mean.
Amidst tears, the dignity and restraint shown by the families were truly astounding, all while communicating their profound disagreement and displeasure at this unjustified rupture in their lives.
To be forced to go into exile in your own land, by the hand of your own government for no rational reason, for no benefit to someone else, would seem to be nothing but devastating.
Instead, what these families, one after the other, taught us all was an even deeper commitment to Jewish values of building, of brotherly love, of peace, of commitment to Jewish principles, dignity, despite the painful cost.
The articulated message by the Netiv Avot families to the thousands who, with palpable love and support, came to their homes was clear and audible: “We are resisting this decision passively only.
“We will not leave our homes willingly on our own two feet; if we must, we’ll be removed.
“But no violence. No shouting. No rudeness.
“If you feel you can’t abide by these guidelines, please leave this home and this place because such behavior is not in the spirit of our values, of our family, of our community, of this neighborhood.
“The police are not our enemy; they are our brothers. They are simply carrying out their job and their duty.”
Much of the tears of departure and singing, heartfelt, pure, from-the-soul kind of singing, came from youths, the next generation of IDF soldiers, who came to protest as they saw their friends leave their homes for the last time.
As video footage went from house to house, from family to family, from song to song, each and every one of them radiated great dignity in the face of this decision, which truly seemed unnecessary.
In one home, the elderly grandfather, Yitzchak Kopp, was there too, sitting among the youth singing song after song, pulling at the heartstrings time after time. Decades ago, he was one of the fighters for the Gush Etzion bloc. He guarded Jerusalem with his own body in the Six Day War and fought back to regain his beloved lost home in Gush Etzion. On the family’s final walk out of their home, he was the one who unscrewed the mezuzzah from the lintel of his granddaughter’s home. Again, their home in the Gush Etzion bloc was lost.
With a large Israeli flag in one hand, and a mezuzzah in the other, the last family of Netiv Avot walked out for the last time. After all the hours of singing and huddled dancing and tears, silence reigned.
This was “the last stand” of Netiv Avot, as Josh Hasten, the journalist who from the start one year ago brought this story to the public, so poignantly put it.
This was “the last stand” of Jewish people acting with nobility in the face of emotional pain, of one more beautiful and dedicated family after another, evicted from their homes with no known entity to whom the land will go, and no contiguous path of Arab land among the destruction that will come in the wake of this decision.
Although thankfully no human life was lost, but instead the inanimate materials of “wood and stone” that make up a sanctuary of homes filled with love and memories, as Laura Ben David, who was there among the many who joined Netiv Avot on this day said:
“As the families were evicted from their homes, they walked flanked by two lines of police and soldiers, who seemed to be standing in respect, and perhaps they were . . .
“But it felt eerily like seeing the mourner’s procession at a funeral . . . and in many ways it was.”
Copyright © 2018 by the Intermountain Jewish News