The settlement of Itamar
Yishuv Itamar is located in the Gar Hahar region, or literally, "the Hump of the Mountain".
It is hill country, tremendously big, picturesque and mysterious, varied with long and wide valleys who resemble a mosaic coat of many colors ranging from pea to deep jade greens and chestnut browns in the winter and spring months. In the summertime the colors are dry, like the colors of Rebbeca's jug, in which she served Eliezer and the camels in Babylon.
Once again we must question how fanatical arabs get into these Jewish strongholds ?
The question begs whether the Mossad has been the mastermind of such attacks. In this particular one ( Itamar ) we learn that there was a good probality that some of the dead were killed by Israeli soldiers.
All the Jew soldiers do is watch a road - How did arabs get past them ?
A month earlier three teens were killed
|SettlersGunman - misfits - malcontents|
A coming war?
Some settlers appear almost to relish such a prospect.
Yaacov Hayman, a luxuriantly bearded American-born resident of the hard-line settlement of Itamar, is quite matter of fact about the mayhem he foresees.
"There comes a time when you say that if I want to live in peace, I have to make war," Mr. Hayman says.
"We cannot live with the Arabs ... and though we are not looking for war, I don't see any other way to stability here. In the next war, we will have to do what we did not do in 1967, drive them out, including the Israeli Arabs" who live within Israeli borders.
One of Hayman's neighbors, who identified himself only by his first name, Alon, sounds an equally bellicose note. "There's going to be a war, and there will be a hard core [of settlers] who will fight to the end," he says, as gunfire echoes in the valley below.
Itamar is home to about 500 Jewish settlers, most of them members of Gush Emunim, a messianic settler movement who believe there is a biblical imperative to "redeem" the West Bank under Jewish rule.
Despite its minuscule population, Itamar commands a land area of 7,000 dunums (4 dunums=1 acre), much of it confiscated from local Palestinian farmers and guarded by seven illegal settler outposts, according to a recent report by the Israeli human rights organization, B'tselem.
When we made aliyah to Itamar 15 years ago by Divine Providence, a strong vibe pervaded the air- here I am, where I ought to be.
Gav Hahar is crowned by two noble peaks that rise 3,000 feet above the surrounding country, the mountains of the Blessing and the Curse- They sometimes resemble twin Mount Sinais simmering in a purple Holy haze of splendor, the gray, jagged rocks breaking through on the Eval side, and majestic forests waving on the Gerizzim. You cannot imagine why G-d created these mountains for any reason in the world than just to be the gate, the very shoulders of the Land of Israel, with Shechem (literally-shoulder) resting in the valley.
In the winter, the winds blow incessantly here. They strike the sides of the mountains and hills and blow against the windowpanes of our homes. Sometimes the houses shudder from it. The clouds, which travel with the wind, release the blessings of the dew and the bounty, the blessings of Joseph. Huge droplets of rain pour down the little streets of the yishuv and form little temporary streams and pools. The sky can become very gray and dark with a range of gray clouds and you remember Noach sheltering his family in the ark. In fact, the most rain falls in these parts. That is the way it usually is, when the blessings are given. When Joseph was thrown again into the pit, the skies suddenly cleared and the grounds await It is a drought year. But, even so, the fields are full of scarlet poppies and blue pansies. The deer run free in these parts and skip from hill to dale.
Interestingly enough, not many Jews have come to resettle this Land. It is still a hidden place to most. In all Gav Hahar there are no more than 500 families. They are spread upon these ancient mountains, Harey Kedem, sparsely. There are 4 yishuvim, Itamar, Bracha - situated on the mountain of the Blessing, Yitzhar, and Elon Moreh. Each yishuv has a panorama unique to its position on the "hump of the Mountain".
Elon Moreh sloping off to the north and the famous portion of the daughters of Zlofchad, Yitzhar, to the west and a breathtaking view of the Great Sea, Bracha- upon the whole of Gav Hahar, and Itamar to the east, to the Jordan.
Before the recent intifada AlAksa, some curious Tel-Avivers would drive out in their 4x4's to catch the breath of this land that reaches beyond time and space. That has stopped now. We, the local settlers, are inquisitive about any vehicle that is not a bulletproof bus on these roads. At times, life on the yishuv seems like that of a hermit, with the stillness of the night sometimes so out of the ordinary. But, all of the time you can feel the overshadowed existence of the local natives, much like the Canaani, the Perizzi and the Chitti, running parallel with your own but on a completely different plane. You can't help but wonder, when will this end? The echoes of our ancestors, the echoes of the screams of Joseph call out from the nearby pit, and you can hear "Ode Yoseph Chay". History and the future whisper in the spring wind. They console. They inspire.
Fom Jerusalem Post May. 29, 2002:
Three yeshiva high school students were killed late last night and two were wounded when a terrorist infiltrated the community of Itamar, near Nablus, and opened fired near the yeshiva.
At least one terrorist infiltrated the settlement of Itamar near Nablus last night,
killing a mother and three of her eight children and the head of the community's emergency
One of the murdered children was trapped in the family's house after it caught fire during the attack.
Murdered in Itamar Massacre
Rachel Shabo and three of her children were murdered by terrorists who infiltrated into the Shomron community of Itamar on Thursday night. Also murdered were three of her boys, Nerya, 15, Tzvika, 12, and Avishai, 5, as well as a neighbor Yossi Twyto, who responded to assist in saving the family.
Among the wounded is another child of the family, a 10-year-old boy in serious condition and his sister, 13, with moderate-to-serious chest wounds.
|Itamar, home of some of the most militant Israeli settlers in the West Bank, is not fenced in. Settlers insist the whole West Bank belongs to the Jews. On May 29, a Palestinian gunman attacked a high school at the settlement, killing three Israeli teen-agers.|
By IAN FISHER
Then, at the end of a week of violence, something happened that laid bare this
conflict's widening circle of hate, violence and revenge. A few carloads of Jewish
settlers outraged at the deaths on Thursday night of a mother and three of her
children in their own home, as well as that of a security guard drove to a nearby
village and shot an Arab man dead.
"They wanted to kill," Abdul Odeh said not long after the body of his younger brother, Adnan, 22, a stonecutter, was taken away.
Less than 24 hours separated the deaths. Less than two miles separates the Jewish settlement of Itamar and the Arab village of Burin, where Mr. Odeh lived.
But the distance between the two sides seemed vast when viewed through the lens of these dual tragedies. Even on normal days, tension is high around the settlements, where Jewish families have built homes and are expanding rapidly on what had been Palestinian land.
Today almost no one on either side spoke of compromise or of sympathy for the other's dead.
"These are people who came to our land," said Mr. Odeh, 34, a teacher and Adnan's oldest brother. "They built their homes. When someone comes into your house and steals a room, what do you do? Do you stand still?"
The talk was of warring cultures and religions. The prospect of negotiations for a Palestinian state, even a provisional one, as President Bush is reported to be ready to propose seemed far away.
"Don't reward terrorism," said an angry Kenny Lerner, 61, an Israeli who is a friend of the family whose members were killed at the settlement. "Don't give them a prize. We have tried." Yasir Arafat "is not interested in peace," Mr. Lerner said. "He wants war and terrorism."
Mr. Lerner had just toured the four-story house where Boaz and Rachel Shabo, married for almost 20 years, had lived. The roof was gone, its red tiles blackened and collapsed into the top floor. Six eggs lay on the kitchen counter, a few feet from a pot pocked by a bullet hole. Upstairs, a cleaner shoveled away the bloody stuffing of a child's pillow.
Mrs. Shabo, 39, recently left the job of settlement secretary and so was a well-known figure here. The night before, she had been cooking dinner and making a cake. Five of her seven children were home, the two youngest watching television, according to an uncle, when a Palestinian gunman came in the backdoor carrying what one family friend said was 20 clips of ammunition.
It was a chaotic scene, and Lieut. Col. Yossi Idiri, the area commander for the Israeli military, said he believed that the gunman first killed three of the children downstairs, Neria, 16, Svi, 12, Avi Shai, 5, and then Mrs. Shabo. The gunman then fired out a window, killing Yossi Tuito, leader of the settlement's rapid response team, as he approached the house.
The gunman died roughly an hour later after a gunfight that ignited a fire that destroyed the house. He was shot dead after jumping from a second-floor window when Israeli special forces threw grenades into the room where he was hiding. He was identified by the militant Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine as Iyad Amin Ramaha, 19, of the Bet el-Ein refugee camp in nearby Nablus.The two other children in the house, Asa, 10, and Avia, 9, were wounded.
Colonel Idiri said he could not rule out that Israeli gunfire had killed some of the people who died in the house and that the priority had been to kill the gunman before he escaped.
As he spoke, several women from the settlement heckled him, saying that the Israeli military had not protected them. Less than a month ago, three yeshiva students were also killed by a Palestinian gunman who sneaked into Itamar, a militant settlement where residents have resisted building a strong fence, on the grounds that they should not have to wall off what they see as their own land.
"After the last attack, I told you we're in a terrible situation and there was panic," one woman said. "And you said there was no problem."
Anger at the military ran so high at the funeral that scuffles broke out between settlers and the police and the army during the eulogies. The word "vengeance" was scrawled in the windshield dust of several cars, suggesting that some contemplated taking the law into their own hands.
Dan Vered, 36, armed with a submachine gun, said no amount of fencing or armed protection would be adequate. "It will take a change in the makeup of Palestinian society," he said. "You can't preach murder and death as an ideology for 20 or 30 years and expect that generation to turn off the tap. It's a joke."
The anger spilled over as mourners left the hilltop settlement after the burials, driving south through the Arab village of Huwara, which had been under curfew since 11 a.m. to prevent any attacks from settlers. About half a dozen cars left the main road to come to the village of farms and olive trees. Residents said the settlers began throwing stones at houses, which crashed through windows, striking one woman in the forehead.
Abdul Odeh had been working inside the small family grocery with his youngest brother, but he locked the door and left when the settlers came. The settlers set two cars on fire, one of them in front of the Odeh family house, where members of the family gathered on the roof.
The two sides shouted at each other and threw stones. The settlers fired off several rounds of bullets at the house and the rooftop crowd, one of them striking Adnan Odeh in the chest. He died almost instantly, his brothers said.
"We are full of anger," said Ali Omar, 36, a Palestinian Authority police officer who is a cousin of he dead man.
Another cousin, Muhammad Salih, added: "The settlers want us to leave this country. They burned our lands, attacked our houses and kill us. They want us to leave. But we will die here and will not leave."
One of his five brothers called Adnan Odeh "a simple man" who had recently finished building a house in anticipation of getting married.
Mr. Omar, the officer, said the settlers were wrong when they said in a refrain heard more and more often around Israel that Palestinians would not rest until all Jews were driven out.
But, pointing out new annexes of settlements on the nearby hilltops, he said that in his view they must leave the West Bank and stop harassing Palestinians.
"We do believe there is such a thing called the Israeli state," he said. "It's a fact. You cannot deny it exists. It will exist for the next generations. But without a Palestinian state, peace and security will be a dream for Israel."
A farm outside of Itamar ( stolen Palestinian land )
Itamar: Religious West Bank settlers
The Jewish settlement of Itamar seeks to present itself as a vision of rural tranquillity.
High in the windswept hills above the West Bank town of Nablus, the residents live in simple groups of homes linked by dirt tracks.
They earn their living by growing organic crops and raising sheep and goats.
But the illusion of a peaceful farming community is just that - an illusion.
Itamar is just one of a string of heavily defended Jewish settlements occupying the heights above Nablus, the most populous city in the West Bank and the repeated target of Israeli incursions aimed at Palestinian militant groups.
The Jewish settlements in Gaza and the West Bank are a constant reminder to Palestinians of the occupation of large parts of what they and most of the international community see as their land, and a source of great resentment.
Settlers are often heavily armed and travel about the West Bank on especially constructed roads that by-pass and isolate Palestinian towns and villages .
Attacks on settlements
In the past four weeks alone, Palestinian gunmen have killed nine of Itamar's settlers.
The most recent assault, for which the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine claimed responsibility, saw a mother and her three children shot dead.
Rachel Shako, 40, and her sons Naira, 16, Save, 12, and Alicia, five, died in their home after it was taken over by two gunmen. A security guard also died in the attack.
Unlike those settlers who were attracted by the promise of cheap housing in areas of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the residents of Itamar see themselves as pioneers.
Itamar, which was founded 15 years ago, is home to about 500 settlers.
Most are members of Gush Emunim, a messianic settler movement which argues that there is a religious imperative for Jews to settle the West Bank.
International law has a different view.
It sees this and other Jewish settlements as illegally built on land occupied by Israel in 1967.
|To add fuel to the fire, one of Itamar's founders, Gilad Zar, was the son of Moshe Zar - a militant Israeli convicted in the mid-1980s for assisting those who planted the bombs that crippled the then Mayor of Nablus, Bassam Shaka.|
Gilad Zar died last year when Palestinian ambushed him in his car, pouring bullets into the vehicle.
But the unswerving faith of the settlers and their belief that their arrival in the hills around Nablus was pre-ordained by God keeps them there, running the almost daily risk of being attacked.
"We are the emissaries of the people of Israel, except the people of Israel don't realise it," insists one of Itamar's residents, quoted on the settlement's website.
"You need a lot of faith here, otherwise you couldn't last a second with all the dangers hiding behind every rock."