Studying the route of the Gush etzion security barrier
by Judy Lash Balint
December 10, 2005
See Photos of the proposed fence area at http://flickr.com/photos/jerusalemdiaries/
(With thanks to Ezra HaLevi of Israelnationalnews.com)
Shimon Yitzchak from Alon Shvut led a tour last Friday of parts of the area where a security barrier cutting off Gush Etzion from the rest of Israel is about to be constructed.
The western wall will be built along the Green Line – Israel's pre-1967 border. The eastern side encircles many of central Gush Etzion's communities, but leaves several eastern and southern communities out, including Hebron, Kiryat Arba, Tekoa, Nokdim and Karmei Tzur. Some 50,000 Jews and 18,000 Arabs live inside the wall area.
As Yitzchak led dozens of Gush Etzion residents up a hill next to the Arab village of Jabba on route 367 , he pointed out how the proposed closure of the road would result in the joining of the peaceful community of Jabba with the radical residents of Surif less than a mile away. People from Jabba came down with their kids to see what was going on, and ended up talking to the border police and one or two Gush Etzion residents.
Gush Etzion Regional Council leader, Shaul Goldstein, had initially agreed on a set of five unacceptable criteria that he warned would lead to massive protests if they were ignored:
1. The severing of Route 367, the main road into Gush Etzion from the Ela Valley. The route of the fence on that road will join Jabba to Surif.
2. The strangulation of the community of Bat Ayin, as the wall severs the state lands earmarked for expansion of the community. The route also fences residents of the purposely unfenced community in, while leaving the high ground across from their homes in Arab hands.
3. The severance of state lands earmarked for the expansion of Migdal Oz by the wall.
4. The fencing off of the hill overlooking the Gush Etzion Highway (Route 60) near Efrat's northern entrance. The entrance that provides access to hundreds of residents of Efrat's northern neighborhoods is also slated to be closed once the fence is built.
5. The building of a permanent border along the Green Line, instead of a non-contiguous security barrier using sensor technology, to protect citizens of pre-1967 Israel from infiltrators.
To date, agreement has been reached only on item #4, the one hill near the northern entrance to Efrat.
Some residents insist that the claim that the wall is meant to provide security to the residents of Gush Etzion is an utter falsehood. "The fact that 18,000 Arabs with free passage to Bethlehem will live within the wall as well, debunks this claim," noted Shimon Karniel of Kfar Etzion.
"It is a bad fence – bad for Gush Etzion, bad for Israel and bad for those outside it," Karniel concluded.
Mayor Sha'ul Goldstein agrees: "The fence is a purely political one that does not accomplish anything in terms of security."
"Those behind the fence will be offered compensation and expelled from their homes down the road – that's the plan," Yitzchak said. " The value of our homes will plummet and our quality of life will melt away as we wait for hours at the new border crossings and sit in traffic while some suspicious bag of garbage is removed from the only road out of Gush Etzion."
Work on the wall surrounding Gush Etzion is set to begin at the Abu Suda Forest, located between the community of Migdal Oz and the Gush Etzion Junction. The Defense Ministry chose to start there because the land is designated as a nature reserve, meaning that they won't have to worry about Arabs filing appeals with the Supreme Court.