You might be surprised to learn that, despite what you're likely to read in the newspapers, the vast majority of these youth are good, serious and selfless kids from fine families who want only to return Jewish pride to the Land of Israel and lead her people to a better future. That's right, they want to lead, because they perceive a dangerous leadership vacuum in Israel. They see today's Israel as a rudderless ship foundering in a turbulent sea of hate. They see a bankrupt political leadership with no direction, no values, no backbone, no self-pride and certainly none of that good ol' Israeli chutzpah (utter nerve). They see an army turned gun-shy, fighting with one arm tied behind its back for fear of being charged with using "disproportionate force" by the liberal courts. They see an interfering and insensitive police force blind to the importance of their mission. They see in Israel a people who, after more than three decades of exposure to relentless Left-wing media "brainwashing", are confused, desperate and searching for a way out of the morass. And they see in Israel today a society largely detached from its roots, one that has forgotten the reason why they are here, one that has long ago traded their self-sustaining idealism for empty and ephemeral materialism.
Their solution to these problems is to assert what they see as the Divinely given Jewish right to settle the land, openly and proudly, without restriction and without apologies. They are undaunted by the Arab presence in these parts. The Torah, they say, gives them the right - indeed the imperative - to spread out over the land, far and wide. The U.S. President doesn't like it? Sorry, we Jews answer to a Higher Authority. The Israeli Army is frustrated that they can't keep us away? They have no business sending in troops against us to begin with, they claim. The world-view from the Shomron hilltops is counterintuitive; rather than causing Israel to be alienated from the nations of the world, they believe that by davka* settling the land with Jewish pride, purposely and pointedly, will Israel be strengthened and earn the world's respect, admiration and support. They draw this conclusion in part from the bitter after-effects of the Israeli 2005 unilateral "Disengagement" from Gaza and Northern Samaria. Despite government attempts to window-dress this retreat as a bold move taken from a position of strength which will earn Israel international praise and support, the very opposite occurred. Israel's wholesale abandonment of her territory seriously eroded her security, deterrence and lowered her world-wide standing and image to levels theretofore never seen. Such a display of weakness and naivete, they say, must never happen again.
(* Davka is one of those hard-to-translate Yiddish terms which approximately means "because of but also in spite of").
The hilltop youth of Samaria see themselves as the new vanguard of the settlement movement and the fulfillers of the Zionist dream. They consider themselves the guardians of Israel's heartland region, still unclaimed by the government. They are the spiritual heirs of the fabled Tower and Stockade pioneers of Israel's pre-state era whose toil and self-sacrifice renewed the Jewish Yishuv in the Land of Israel after a 1900 year absence. They have the vision, drive, tenacity and gumption to establish new points of settlement (outposts) on barren patches of state land, despite police and army interference. They are concerned about unchecked Arab encroachment on these lands and fear that the State of Israel's indifference to Arab tresspassing and neglect to protect her land rights will eventually cause Israel to lose control of and title to the land (see Jewish Rights to the Shomron section). Yesteryear's settlement movement, once a dynamo of energy and idealism, has been beaten down over the years to the point where they have all but given up on Greater Israel and are now thankful to be able to retain just the "settlement blocs" near pre-'67 Israel. These relatively concentrated and built-up areas cover no more than about five percent of the land. Thus, they've all but given up fighting for the other 95% of Judea and Samaria! That kind of "ghetto mentality" and weak resolve is anathema to this fiery new breed of young men and women. Any hill not taken, they say, eventually falls to the Arabs.
|Rebuilding a destroyed outpost, again. While most Israeli teens |
chat on Facebook or cruise the mall, these hilltop youth build the land.
The Israeli political Right and the hilltop youth stalwarts in particular beg to differ. Not only must we never again be fooled into believing any future pie-in-the-sky land-for-peace promise, they maintain, we must proactively push out and settle the entire land, up until the Jordan River. Drive out all the Arabs? Not necessarily, they would say, we can live with them as neighbors IF they don't threaten us. But let's be perfectly clear about whose land this is. The ever-elusive peace, they believe, indeed lies in the Jewish dominion over all of Eretz Yisrael, the ancient Biblical homeland of the Jews. Because the political Right and Greater Israel supporters are so delegitimized and marginalized by the media, this admittedly outside-the-box viewpoint is missing from the public debate and not taken seriously as a viable option (see "2 State Solution Alternatives" section). Thus a land-for-peace resolution continues to appear to be the only game in town. However, the land-for-peace model will necessarily fail as it has done repeatedly in the past because, as these youth understand, the Mideast conflict isn't about borders at all but about any Jewish presence in the land. The much ballyhooed Two-State Solution can, according to the Greater Israel advocates, only lead to The Final Solution. Only when our land is shalem (whole), they say, can there be shalom (peace). Only when the Nation of Israel finally takes its rightful place in the Land of Israel will a global equillibrium be restored. Only then will there be justice and harmony in the world, because this is G-d's master plan for mankind. Though this flies in the face of conventional wisdom and probably sounds crazy to some, it's no crazier than Israel's plan to abandon her strategic heartland to her sworn enemies aligned with Iran, all for a worthless piece of paper.
The hilltop youth are becoming hard to ignore. They've even made it to the silver screen:
That some supporters of the settlement movement would criticize these youth and frown upon their actions demonstrates how misunderstood these kids really are. The fact is that virtually every single yishuv (Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria) today started out at one time as an "illegal outpost" set up by "hilltop youth" before developing into a full-fledged mature settlement. The same is true, by the way, for many and perhaps most towns and cities inside Israel proper. If you are opposed to the settlement enterprise, then you have good reason to be concerned - these kids are more committed to building up settlements than the government is to destroying them. But if you believe that settlement building is the way to go, then know that these uncompromising youths are doing the dirty work for the future generations and will emerge as tomorrow's leaders of the settlement movement and possibly of the state.
|A young family copes with the razing of their Maoz Esther outpost home. |
Their house was destroyed, but not their spirit.
As you might expect, these kids can be a thorn in the side of the Israeli government, and for good reason. Driven by religion, ideology and their utopian vision of what the Jewish State ought to look like, these tenacious and fearless kids (boys and girls) dare to challenge the state's authority. According to them, laws forbidding Jews to settle the Land of Israel (such as prohibiting "illegal" outposts or barring Jews from entering Area 'A') are immoral, discriminatory and thus non-binding. There is simply no way that any man-made law can, even if promulgated by the Israeli Knesset, trump the Biblical imperative to settle the land. Thus, they resort to civil disobedience. While their views and tactics may be considered controversial and some may consider them to be "extremists", their motives are pure and their ideology is no more radical than that of their polar opposites, the far Left, which isn't subjected to public smearing by the media at every turn.
So, what exactly are outposts? Outposts are nascent Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria (a.k.a. "West Bank"), typically, but not always, consisting of several simple OSB or primitive caravan structures populated by single teens (boys and girls separate) and/or young idealistic families, situated on barren but strategic hilltops, usually nearby established settlements. These living and breathing communities are deemed "unauthorized" or "illegal" by the Israeli government because their establishment was never formally sanctioned and as such are under constant threat of destruction. In many cases, it all boils down to something as simple as a zoning law violation or some document missing a signature. Despite the fact that all their paperwork has been done and all permits issued, there are many Jewish communities, some of them well established and developed consisting of dozens of families, permanent homes and infrastructure, which are in legal limbo simply because certain political figures refuse, for self-serving reasons, to give the required stamp of approval.
The panoramic views of the expansive Samarian landscape from atop the hills have captured the imagination of many visitors and pioneers. The pristine, undulating hills carpeted with green vegatation and the scented breezes wafting out of the vast stillness of the distant mountains have left an indelible mark on those Jews and "lost 10-tribers" who have returned to their homeland. Read this woman's heartfelt and moving essay about the Shomron to understand why she summed it up as such:
"After standing on a hill in Samaria, I can never feel the same about standing on a hill anywhere else."
Read here the experience of another woman's visit to the hilltops of Itamar.