Thursday, July 15, 2010

15th Anniversary of Givat HaDagan

This month, the community of Efrat and supporters worldwide celebrate the 15th anniversary of the struggle for the Dagan Hill, Givat HaDagan. Today, the Dagan is the home to a popular yeshiva, Yeshivat Siach. Back in 1995, it was Efrat's farthest hill, and one of only rocks and distant hopes.
The Dagan overlooks a Jewish National Fund-Keren Kayemet Forest and Solomon's Pools, both of which, unfortunately, have been given over to the authority of the Palestinian Authority. (BTW, Solomon's Pools – which is no longer in Jewish hands - is a vital part of the water system that brought water from the Hebron area to the Temple Mount during the times of the Holy Temple. The aqueduct runs parallel to Efrat, all along its western side. Many families and teens hike in this aqueduct. It is a fabulous tourist attraction that links the present with our Jewish past 2000 years ago.)
The Oslo Agreement had unfortunately been signed. It seemed very clear that any area with Jewish houses would remain in Jewish hands, and any area bereft of Jewish life would be given to the Palestinian Authority.
Efrat's municipal border reached as far north as the Dagan and the Tamar, however it had never been settled fully past its fourth Hill - Dekel. It was beginning to put caravans on its newest hill (at the time) Givat HaZayit.
Unfortunately, the families were not on the hill for more than a few days when Arabs began shooting at the caravans.
Nadia Matar, Eve Harow, Marilyn Adler and I wondered how we could help secure our friends on the Zayit. Our decision was to try to settle the Dagan. If we brought Jewish life there, then the Army would have to secure Efrat's northernmost point, and Arabs would not be able to come close to the Zayit.
We called our friends, told them to gather their sleeping bags, food, flashlights and whatever they'd need for an overnight stay, and come along with us on a Zionist tiyul (trip). We didn't tell them where they were headed, but they all agreed.
We traveled very far - allllllllll the way to Givat HaDagan. Today it is a two minute drive from the Zayit, but at that time, it was a mystery.
We spent the day planting and setting up tables and tents. The Army quickly showed up and asked us what we were doing. We said, "We are holding on to our land." They said, "You're makinga picnic. Make sure you are gone before dark."
But dark quickly came, and we looked at one another. "Oh my gosh, it's getting dark!!" We called our husbands, and they came right away to keep guard. We slept in tents on the earth, and tried not to show our fear to one another.
In the morning, we were still on the Dagan!! A victory!!
We were not determined to stay on the Dagan until we were sure that it was firmly in Efrat's hands.
The entire summer, friends and supporters came from all over Israel and even outside of Israel. We had dozens of tents set up all over the hill, and became a kind of Zionist Hotel for anyone wishing to join us.
We had a synagogue with a Torah (Rabbi Shlomo Riskin - Chief Rabbi of Efrat - came up to be with us, as Efrat's Rav Shimon Golan, Alon Shvut's Rav Meidan and others). We had a kitchen run by Avraham ben Arye. We had a first aid/medical center built by Yehudit Sidikman.
Land of Israel activists and Knesset Members came to visit us. Every night, we sat around a campfire and tried to plan the next day. They asked us, "What do you want?" You know, what deal do you want to cut? We didn't want to cut any deal, we wanted to keep hold of the hill.
It was the beginning of the cellphone era, and I remember my mother (ad 120) was so worried about me, she bought me my first cell phone.
Hundreds of supporters, especially devoted Efratians, stayed on the hill or visited every day. We had shiurim (Torah lessons) and children's activities. We had deep discussions and quiet moments looking at our beautiful land.
We were filled with dust and dirt. Sleeping in a tent all summer left something to be desired (I guess the kids loved it). We didn't have real bathrooms. (At first we had a moving container, that we cut a hole into. Not your ideal bathrooms.)
But we had such a fervor and a love of the land that it was contagious. Everyone who came up to the Dagan was enthused by it, and infused with it.
We had smachot (happy occasions) there - Bar Mitzvot, parties, excitement.
And we had unhappy times - when the Army tried to dry us out, and evacuated us again and again. But we kept returning. Nothing would deter us.
The radio stations started the day with a dedication, "TO THE WOMEN ON THE DAGAN, this song is for you."
You, reading this blog, may well have been one of the women or one of the folks who came up to the Dagan. You're invited to write your thoughts on the comments of this blog.
We were evacuated. The police and some soldiers were brutal. Some cried. Some refused to evacuate us. We saw them standing on the sidelines. The horses charged the hill. It was like a scene out of a terrible movie. We went to jail for a day. We went back up. We were arrested again. Rabbi Riskin and Nadia Matar were thrown into serious jail. We demonstrated outside the jailhouse.
But look. Today, we have a yeshiva on the Dagan, and soon there will be a beautiful neighborhood there. We cannot wait for the day.
If you were never on the Dagan, or you can't remember it very well, here are some links that you can read.
If you were on the Dagan, and you remember it terrifically, then you're invited to write in what you remember.

The struggle for the Dagan was the beginning of the fight for the hills of Eretz Yisrael. The Dagan will one day be filled with Jewish children, and we pray the other hills of Israel will as well.

By the legendary Ruth Matar:
By the indefatigable Nadia Matar:
By the heroic David Wilder:
By the unstoppable Yehudit Katzover:
By AFSI's Helen Freedman:
A fascinating look at Jewish history by the UNHCR (United Nations Refugee Agency). Can you believe we have "merited" that they even mention the Dagan in the 1995 postings:,,,CHRON,ISR,,469f38a8c,0.html
The Moscow Times (if you're a member, please forward the article to me):
There are even books that talk about us:
Women in zones of conflict: power and resistance in Israƫl by Tami Amanda Jacoby
Chronology - 1 September 1995 — 30 November 1995
LA Times:

Another funny thing. While I was looking up the Dagan, I found this quote from me in December 2000 to Arutz 7:

Gilo Fortification

The Jerusalem municipality and the IDF's Home Front Command are preparing for a massive Gilo fortification program. Some 1,000 apartments will be fitted with bullet-proof windows, at a cost of some 44 million shekels (almost $11 million). Sharon Katz, editor of Gush Etzion's English-language Voices, protests the very conception: "What about bulletproofing the caravans on the Dagan [in Efrat]? And bulletproofing every home, school and car in N'vei Dekalim? ... and bulletproofing the homes on the perimeter of Pesagot? ... and bulletproofing the homes in Hevron? ... Wouldn't it be smarter instead of bulletproofing the entire country, to stop the Arabs who are shooting into every neighborhood? Don't shoot empty buildings - shoot murderers... Instead of bulletproofing the country and letting them continue shooting at us, stop the shooting!" ( Dec 13. 2000)

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