The world has turned upside down. We see it every day in a dozen different regards. It leaves us aghast: the stupidity; the self-centeredness of putative leaders; the rejection of traditional values; the denial of Jewish rights in the Land; the encroaching threats of violence and war.
When my cat is distressed, he burrows under the blankets on my bed.
There have been times lately when I have wished I could do the same: that I could hide from all that is maddening, and frightening. But I know I cannot.
Each of us has a responsibility to stay informed. And more than this: to speak out against the self-centeredness and stupidity, the destruction of traditional values and denial of Jewish rights.
Please, read this to the end, even if it makes you feel like diving under your own blanket!!
A confession: I have not written for over a week in part because I had become overwhelmed, struggling with the question of what to focus on. There is so much.
I was lifted above this struggle on Friday. On my way out of Jerusalem to visit my daughter, I was delighted to see that the almond trees had come into bloom, growing wild in profusion at the side of the road. These are the first trees to bloom in the spring, and the exceedingly heavy rains we have had this winter have likely increased the flowering.
Not only was I very pleased to see the blossoms, I was reminded of an essential truth: We need balance. We must allow ourselves the time and space to also enjoy the beauty of life. Without this we run the risk of surrendering to that impulse to dive under the blankets, because it all becomes too much. It’s easy to forget this in the heat of what is going on, but I dare not.
Increasingly, I see in the words and the actions of certain Israeli officials a distressful failure to assert sovereignty: Often there is a double-standard that puts the Jewish citizens of Israel second.
 Last Wednesday, the Opposition brought forth a bill – advanced by Yariv Levin (Likud) – that would allow young, unrecognized communities in Judea & Samaria to be hooked up to the electric grid. It was shot down on the first reading in the Knesset. The two factions in the government that claim to be “right-wing” (they are not), Yamina and New Hope, voted against it. What makes this so outrageous is that the government, acquiescing to the demands of the Islamist Ra’am party, recently approved a bill that will allow 130,000 Arabs (primarily Bedouin in the Negev) who are in illegal housing to be hooked up to the electric grid.
Levin said the failure of these parties to support this legislation represented “a new height of shame, cynicism and the breaking of promises by people who don’t even care about the distress of small children.”
 We are approaching the Muslim month of Ramadan, which requires fasting from sun-up to sun-down. It is a time of increased Muslim violence against Jews; this was especially the case last year. This year Ramadan coincides with the month of April, and Pesach, which makes it more problematic still.
The Jewish Press has put out a very disturbing report that indicates Shin Bet activity to try to anticipate and then curtail possible Jewish actions against the Muslim violence, especially in the “mixed cities” such as Lod and Ramle where there are Jewish and Muslim residents in close proximity to one another.
“…last week agents met with Jewish community leaders…and asked them for cooperation in providing information on local [Jews] organizing against the possibility of renewed rioting…
“A security man in one mixed city in central Israel told Makor Rishon…that the very convening of the meeting for intelligence purposes outraged him: ‘In a proper reality, I would expect the Shin Bet coordinator to meet with the heads of the Jewish community ahead of Ramadan to present to them the threats and assessment and see how the community can be prepared, and not to prevent alleged illegal activity on the part of the Jews.’
“’It’s annoying and insulting,’ Keren Esh’har who works as a programmer in Lod and is a member of the Forum of Mixed Cities…told Makor Rishon. ‘I don’t understand how the system still operates on the notion that we are the attackers. They deserted us in our homes when hundreds of rioters roamed outside and it was a miracle they didn’t break in, so when did we become the source of danger?’
“Esh’har recalled that after last May’s riots, the police wanted to confiscate the weapons of all the city’s Jews, but had a change of heart after a furious media campaign. According to her, the recent Shin Bet initiative is reminiscent of those confiscation attempts.” (All emphasis added)
 “A fire broke out on Friday night at the home of a Jewish family in the Shimon HaTzadik [Sheikh Jarrah] neighborhood of Jerusalem…after several firebombs were…thrown at the building… Members of the family affected have previously reported severe harassment by their neighbors, and their vehicles have been set on fire nine times in recent months.
“Significant damage was done to the house. The family members were not present at the time and miraculously no one was injured…”
Tal Yushuvayev, owner of the house, said: “I appealed to whoever I could, begged them to stop the Arab terror directed against my family just hundreds of meters from the Israel Police’s national headquarters, but the police and the government preferred to invest their energies in harassing the Hilltop Youth. This time, miraculously, there were no injuries. Next time – who knows? The bloodshed here is the fault of the government and the police who continue to abandon us.”
MK Itamar Ben-Gvir (Religious Zionist party) blamed lax police presence in the neighborhood for the fire:
“There is no law and no justice. The writing was on the wall and we warned about it several times. The police are abandoning the residents instead of protecting them from bloodthirsty rioters.” (Emphasis added here and above)
Ben Gvir (pictured) on Saturday night announced intentions of setting up a temporary office on the site. In response, MK Mossi Raz (Meretz) denounced the plan: “Attempting to set up a parliamentary chamber in Sheikh Jarrah is trying to stir up the situation…”
Here we can see the rough outlines of a very tense situation. Raz (who is a member of the Meretz party, which may identify as Zionist but is hardly that) identifies Ben Gvir as a trouble-maker. I see him as no-nonsense, and tough-talking. He is committed to protecting Jewish rights in the land at a time when many play fast and loose with those rights.
He spoke about setting up an office in Shimon Hatzadik — something he had done once before — because the police are obligated to send in reinforcements to protect a member of the Knesset.
On Sunday, he moved forward with his intentions of opening that parliamentary office, setting up a makeshift arrangement – a table under an awning. The situation promptly dissolved into a melee, and Ben Gvir is being blamed as an instigator of violence. Several points are missed as these charges are levied:
First, he was there because the police had not properly responded to the security needs of the Yushuvayev family. “The frustrating and ridiculous thing is that I have warned, spoken, shouted. Time after time they set fire to my cars, tried to burn my home, multiple times,” said Yushuvayev in a video that was circulated. The police failure here is at the heart of the matter. Ben Gvir would not have proceeded with his temporary office if they had acted to protect the Yushuvayev family.
Second, and very importantly, it must be noted that Hamas has gotten into the act: Mohammad Hamadeh, Hamas spokesman, warned of a “severe” response should Israel continue its “assaults” in eastern Jerusalem.
”We call upon our people to support the people of Jerusalem by clashing with the occupation at friction points,” Hamadeh said on official Hamas television.
This is very clearly incitement. It should be noted that Arabs gathered at the scene, with some launching fireworks at the police and others attacking Jews gathered there. There were no “assaults” on Arabs by Israel in the Shimon HaTzadik neighborhood, any more than Jews are going to destroy Al Aksa Mosque, as Hamas claims time and again.
What Hamas has done is utilize Ben Gvir’s involvement as a pretext for why Arabs should attack.
Ben Gvir’s comments regarding the Hamas threats:
“Hamas tries every day to set Jerusalem on fire, every day Jews are harmed here by the Hamas terrorist organization. I hope that the Israeli government will understand that a terrorist organization must be responded to accordingly, not in submission, not in humiliation, but in force.”
I think I can speak for Ben Gvir in saying that he intended his words rhetorically. He knows that the Israeli government will not respond with strength. Quite the contrary, the police wanted him gone because they want to keep things quiet: It doesn’t matter if he had a right to be where he was, if his presence can be utilized for incitement, the goal is to move him out. Is this so different in principle from telling Jews they cannot pray on Har Habayit – Judaism’s holiest site – because the Arabs might riot?
There is one other factor that should be mentioned here: The underlying tensions because of Court rulings that certain homes in Shimon HaTzadik are legally the property of Jews and the Arab tenants/squatters must move out. I have written about this before and will come back to it again.
An attempt was made by police last night (Sunday) to reach a compromise with Ben Gvir that would have included his leaving the area. But Ben Gvir’s people were still involved in those negotiations – which included demands for a police presence at the Yushuvayev home and the installation of security cameras in the neighborhood – when the police began to dismantle his makeshift office. This infuriated Ben Gvir, who said the police had severely overstepped their bounds. He then declared that he wasn’t leaving. A scuffle with the police ensued. Ben Gvir fainted (precisely what happened is not clear to me) and was taken to the hospital. He says he will return to Shimon HaTzadik.
 A week ago, Prime Minister Bennett and Defense Minister Gantz ordered the Judea and Samaria Supreme Planning Committee to halt discussions on approving a plan to build in the E-1 area, which would connect Ma’ale Adumim and Jerusalem. (See map below)
Development in this area – “a stretch of mountainous terrain around 4.5 miles long between the two cities and within the municipal boundary of Ma’ale Adumim” – has been under discussion since 1995. It never received official approval because of international pressure.
Now it appeared that the plan was about to become official, until the order from Bennett and Gantz. That order came after Bennett had spoken with Biden (who is opposed to any building in Judea & Samaria).
Also taking action against this plan was Meretz. (Yes, them again. That’s what happens when they are included in the coalition.) And wouldn’t you know, there was a statement from our “good friend” Mossi Raz, who took credit for stopping this now.
The plan, had it been actualized, would have seen construction of some 3,500 housing units on roughly 3,000 acres of largely government-owned land.
The charge from the left is that this will prevent establishment of a contiguous Palestinian state. Ma’ale Adumim Mayor Benny Kashriel says this is not so. “After years of a building freeze in E1 when we finally started moving on the path towards the approval of [building] plans, this intervention is unacceptable,” he said. He demands that the process be started again. (Emphasis added here and below)
The current situation is different from what had prevailed in the past, however, because of illegal Bedouin building that is proceeding without intervention. Ultimately, this building will preclude Jewish development if it continues unimpeded. Included here is the illegal village of Khan al-Ahmar, which several Israeli governments failed to evacuate in spite of repeated orders by the High Court. (At the end of September, the government was given six more months by the High Court to resolve this issue.)
Israel Gantz (not to be confused with Benny Gantz, Defense Minister), who is head of the Binyamin Regional Council that is adjacent to E1, told JNS, “The decision to cancel construction between Jerusalem and Ma’ale Adumim causes tremendous strategic damage to the State of Israel. The cancellation of the plan weakens Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem and in all of Israel.”
For a review of all of the issues pertaining to Israeli interests and rights in E1, see here:
 “Hundreds of Israeli security forces raided the Homesh hilltop in northern Samaria overnight on Tuesday to demolish three illegally built dormitories for students of the yeshiva there. The yeshiva was left intact.
“Students living in the dormitories were forced to evacuate their beds, but remained on the hilltop and will continue to study in the yeshiva as usual…
“In another incident overnight, Israel Police officers forced Israelis who had taken up residence in an illegal encampment in the Negev Desert, named after Paula Ben-Gurion, wife of Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, to evacuate. Residents said that they had built ‘Ma’ale Paula’ in response to the state’s refusal to deal with illegal Bedouin construction in the area.
“The residents were evacuated, and police said that two people were arrested and taken in for questioning on suspicion of violating public order and not obeying the police.” (Emphasis added)
Well, bully for the police. And how many Bedouin have been arrested for not obeying police?
See this from Regavim, put out on January 31:
“This morning, Bedouin lawbreakers herding flocks of thousands of sheep invaded the IDF Tzeelim Base, leading to a confrontation with the Israel Police and the Green Patrol who were called out to remove the intruders from the IDF’s live-ammunition training area. The intruders called in backup of their own – Bedouin residents of the Bir Hadaj squatters’ camp – who stoned the police officers, faced off with the enforcement patrol, and attempted to run over one of the inspectors.
“As this scene was unfolding, a different face-off was taking place in the Knesset, where ministers were embroiled in a tug-of-war over the government’s new five-year plan for the Negev. Over the past several weeks, the previous five-year plan…that included 200 million shekels for forestation, land protection and law enforcement…ran its course. The new plan…does not include one single shekel for these crucial projects; the chapter on enforcement was simply cut out of the draft legislation.
“The plan in its present form…will cause long-term damage to the state of governance in the Negev.” (Emphasis added)
As I write, my information is that this is being debated in the Knesset.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by independent journalist Arlene Kushner. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.