After the failure of a weak legislative attempt to save five of 14 identical buildings in the more than 10-year-old Ulpana neighborhood, the government will likely proceed with plans to expel 30 families and demolish the beautiful area in accordance with the High Court order.
Many believe the court's ruling was complete and sacrosanct. Yet the decision hinges on land record laws created during the illegal Jordanian occupation of the West Bank, on rulings by a Palestinian court interested in creating a Judenrein state, and by the legal efforts of a politically motivated nongovernmental organization that receives foreign funding to petition our courts over settlements and outposts.
In the case of Ulpana, many have been led to believe that destroying the buildings will return once lost property to a Palestinian land owner. It will not. The buildings in question do not affect the long-standing borders of Beit El. As such, the property will be returned to no one.
In two months' time, Jews will be able to come and picnic on piles of rubble where Jewish mothers once changed their babies’ diapers while their older kids rode bicycles. No Arab will have access to these plots in Beit El, similar to the piles of rubble that sit just several miles away in Amona where nine buildings were destroyed in 2006.
Beit El and similar communities are bursting at the seams. Growing numbers of Israeli citizens seek to live in such thriving towns for the quality of life, peaceful atmosphere, school system, and relatively low cost of housing. Yet for political reasons, permits to build are rare, even within the existing borders of the community — and as such, prices are skyrocketing.
Like many similar cases, final permits for the Ulpana buildings were never granted, despite financial and infrastructure assistance from the government. Yet, the amount of construction in Israel that begins before permits are finalized is staggering. Thousands upon thousands of existing buildings, whether Jewish, Arab or Bedouin have never received all the appropriate paperwork. Yet the court has proven itself extraordinarily selective over which buildings should stand and which should fall.
Supporters of the demolition believe that destroying these homes is necessary to alleviate criticism from the international community. Nothing could be further from reality. Over the past several months, representatives from dozens of international media outlets have come to Ulpana to fill their pages or air time with stories of illegal settlement and brazen settlers.
Very few were interested in the facts. Most made sure to point out during their interviews that the international community considers the entire Jewish enterprise in Judea and Samaria to be illegal.
Yesh Din and their colleagues at Peace Now similarly believe that it is not simply five of the 14 Ulpana buildings that are built on private Palestinian land. Rather, they claim that 95 percent of Beit El is illegal, together with the majority of Jewish-claimed property in the region.
I would be curious to know which five percent these groups deem legal.
What many forget is that Israel legally, morally and equitably conquered the land in 1967, property that was initially partitioned by the international community decades earlier to be part of a Jewish national homeland before Jordan’s illegal occupation. These people similarly forget that the Oslo Accords, signed with Yasser Arafat in the presence of international officials and diplomats, designated the lands on which Jewish communities like Beit El were built as “Area C,” areas under full Israeli control.
Knocking down these five buildings in Ulpana is unlikely to alleviate pressure from the international community. Instead, destroying Jewish homes in our homeland will only encourage the international community to continue its push to undo what is perceives as the historical wrong created when the Jewish people exercised its rights to its ancestral land.
For the international community, destroying these homes is not meant to resolve a problem — once and for all — but rather to chip away at the deep meaning that Jews attribute to archaeological findings and use to tie their homes to their forefathers.
Beit El, and Ulpana in particular, is not merely part of a hilltop overlooking Ramallah (which in the days of its origins used to be known as Beit Allah). Solid archaeological evidence, which most Israelis have never explored, demonstrates that for more than 2,000 years this mountain was considered the site of Jacob’s dream in which angels ascended and descended the famous ladder.
It was during that dream, the Torah tells us, that G-d told Jacob (a.k.a. Israel) that the very land on which he sat was to be his inheritance — and that he and his descendents would return to this place and expand in all directions, north, south, east and west.
When Jacob awoke from his dream, declaring the site to be none other than the abode of G-d and the gate of heaven, he vowed that if G-d returned him to this place and his father’s house in peace, then the stone upon which he sat would become G-d’s house. He called the place Beit El, though it had been called Luz before.
After 2,000 years of exile, the Jewish people have returned precisely to this place. And the Ulpana buildings are just meters from this revered location.
Yet instead of fulfilling the words of our forefather, we concern ourselves instead with satisfying the international community — which criticizes our very existence.
Perhaps the name of the place will revert back to its original, Luz, as we chip away and “lose” sight of the commitment that led us to build up this great Jewish nation. The Jewish people are the ultimate “losers” in the Ulpana affair.
Worst of all is that there is little to no public outrage over this impending tragedy: another destruction of Jewish homes by a Jewish government. Even people who seemingly care for the welfare of the land and our deep connection to Jewish holy sites have largely remained silent.
Such voices should be heard — loud and clear — the world over. They should state that the Jewish people have the right to live and build on our ancestral homeland, even if the Jordanians; the Palestinians; foreign-funded NGOs; the international community; and our selective, politically narrow-minded court believe otherwise.
Unfortunately, it seems as though there is little will among Israel’s diverse political and religious spectrums to find an equitable solution for the buildings and their residents.
Our hearts should go out in prayer for the buildings themselves, as well as for the 30 families who must now renew their commitment to the State of Israel in homes they manage to find elsewhere.
Alex Traiman is an award-winning documentary filmmaker, and after eight years in Beit El, including the past six years in Ulpana, has now resettled with his wife and children in Jerusalem.