Saturday, May 23 2009 Agricultural work and a visit to Hilltop 18 outpost

Left Jerusalem at 8 a.m., with a group of 14.

Khirbet Safa
A small group of ours, composed of 3 activists arrived at Safa and joined an older couple, the husband 75 years old and his wife a few years younger. We accompanied them to their vineyard, in the nearby valley besides the Bat Ayin settlement. The husband had already been attacked several times by Bat Ayin settlers. In one of these instances stones were thrown at him and he was severely beaten, resulting in hospitalization and 4 months of recovery at his home. After the terrorist attack which took place in Bat Ayin a month ago he was attacked again. The couple spoke of the settlers with great fear. We began working in their plot, collecting grape leaves. After roughly fifteen minutes we saw 4 settlers in their Shabbat-clothes standing on the hill above us, near the houses of the settlement, making threatening gestures towards us. According to the couple, our presence was what prevented their being attacked at this point by the settlers. We called the army and local police, and described the situation and the proximity of the settlers. The soldier we spoke to told us that there is a large military force in Bat Ayin, but they have no knowledge of the event we were describing.

We called the army a second time, and this time the soldier said that the military forces have not managed to locate us… In the meantime the number of settlers increased and a group of 15 was standing on the hill shouting and gesturing towards us. Several minutes later the settlers descended into the wadi howling war cries, and shouting “ruch min hon” (get out of here). Above us a new group of about 30 settlers congregated after someone was sent to the synagogue to bring reinforcements. We called the army once more, and were again assured that they were searching for us. When the settlers were already in the valley and began throwing stones towards us, a jeep of the border police arrived on the scene stopping a short distance from the settlers, who remained unimpressed and continued to throw stones at us unhindered. Settlers continued to arrived at the top of the hill and from there continue, shrieking, into the wadi. After several minutes the jeep left the area, while the settlers were still present and throwing stones.

At this point, there were many settlers in the area and we decided to leave the area before being lynched. The couple we were accompanying requested we make haste. We began climbing quickly up the wadi, while the settlers followed us shouting and threatening. Two military vehicles arrived at the top of the wadi and ordered everyone to leave the area after declaring it a closed military zone. They threatened arresting anyone who does not get out of the area, yet none of the soldiers got out of his vehicle or made an effort to prevent the settlers from continuing to run our group out of the wadi. When we arrived back at the village, the couple was scared and very distraught. They kept repeating that the army did nothing to stop the settlers besides feebly calling out from the distance.

Hilltop 18
At 12:20 p.m. we arrived, a group of 14 activists, at hill 18. A military jeep idling on the path to the outpost followed us up and stopped near the outpost. A few minutes later another jeep arrived. At the outpost there was a group of 5 teenagers, who did not confront us physically but were severely displeased with our presence and were cursing us. The soldiers were very aggressive, at the moment we arrived they declared the area a closed military zone and ordered us to leave. We asked to see the order, they brought us an order (which took effect at 12:20, our exact arrival time) which was not signed by the brigade commander. They allowed us 15 minutes to vacate the area after which anyone remaining would be arrested. We asked if the order will be enforced on the settlers as well and were told that once we left the area they would vacate the settlers as well.
After 15 minutes we began leaving the outpost, while the soldiers and border policemen, which had arrived in the meantime, hurried and pushed us. We reached the approach road to the outpost and yet the soldiers and policemen continued to push us and threaten us with arrest if we dared argue or ask why the settlers are not being removed. At some point the commanding officer who was not pleased by the speed at which we were leaving begin detaining activists. We sat down on the ground and stated that we will not leave until they release those detained. At this point the soldiers arrested two activists dragging them forcibly to the military jeep, and requested that Ezra Nawi accompany them as well, despite his compliance with the order. The border police officer who was in command promised us that he would release the activists if we left the area in a haste. He released the first activists detained and promised to release the 3 others soon after. We reached the access road to the outpost. Security forces continued to arrive including civilian police and the settlement security force. In the meantime 3 more settler youths arrived and entered the outpost without any interference by the many security forces present which were supposedly enforcing the closed military zone in the area. We, on the other hand, were being pressed to return to the main road, even though we were no longer within the limits of the closed military zone. The soldiers remained aggressive and pushed us although we did not resist and continued walking the whole time. At the end Ezra and the other two activists were taken to the Hebron police. Ezra was released at the end of the questioning and the others were released after receiving a 15 day restraining order from the area.
It goes without saying, that no effort had been made to remove the settlers from the area.