לא עוצרות בירוק
תם עידן המגאפונים והצמתים, הגיע הזמן לפעול במסדרונות הכנסת וברשתות החברתיות: יהודית קצובר ונדיה מטר, פעם "נשים בירוק", מקדמות בכל הכוח את החלת הריבונות ביש"ע – כן, גם בשטחי A ואפילו בעזה. השיטה שבה הצליח השמאל להנחיל את "פתרון שתי המדינות", הן אומרות, תעבוד גם כאן. ומה לגבי מיליוני הפלסטינים שיסופחו? "הם לא יצביעו לכנסת. זו אמנם לא דמוקרטיה מלאה, אבל זה רחוק מאפרטהייד. אין מה לעשות, כל דמוקרטיה חייבת להגן על עצמה"
The era of megaphones and demonstrations at traffic junctions is over. Now it's time to take action in the corridors of Knesset and social networks: Yehudit Katsover and Nadia Matar, of the organization known in the past as "Women in Green", are promoting the application of sovereignty in Judea, Samaria and Gaza – yes, even in Area A and Gaza, with all of their strength. The way the Left succeeded with the idea of the "two state solution", they say, will work here too. And what about the millions of Palestinians that will be annexed? "They will not vote for Knesset. It may not be full democracy, but it is far from apartheid. We have no choice, every democracy must defend itself"
Hodaya Karash-Hazony, Makor Rishon Newspaper Friday November 9th, 2018
Photography: Hadas Frosch – Flash 90
Translated to English by Sally Zahav
For the original Hebrew article and pictures: https://www.makorrishon.co.il/magazine/90837/
And for that one moment, Cynicism was gone. And there was electricity in the air. For this one isolated moment, as the hands were raised in favor of the proposal, Nadia Matar had the sense of pure ideology. "I saw that people were saying – 'We want the Land of Israel. It is ours'. We felt like it was Basel", as she described the meeting of the Likud Central Committee at the end of December of last year. "A few seconds later, it was politics again, but during the vote it was real, and it was exciting. And that's why it will happen. The sovereignty train is already on the tracks".
The proposal that was unanimously approved that evening called for Likud representatives "to act toward allowing unconstrained building and to apply the law of the State of Israel and its sovereignty over all the liberated areas of Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria". This gathering, which required 900 signatures of member of Likud Central Committed in order to be convened, was one of high points in the unyielding and determined efforts of Nadia Matar and Yehudit Katsover, two women with one resolve, who have for the past five years, been leading a consciousness-raising campaign for the application of Israeli sovereignty in Judea and Samaria.
We meet in the caravan where Yehudit and Tsvi Katsover live on weekends, at the Oz veGaon Preserve, next to Gush Etzion Junction. This part of the forest, which was acquired by Jews about a hundred years ago, had deteriorated into a kind of Palestinian waste disposal site and was redeemed by Women in Green in 2014, after the abduction of the three youths from a hitchhiking station at Alon-Shvut Junction. The hilltop's name commemorates Gil-Ad Sha'er, Eyal Yifrah and Naftali Frenkel. Since the terrible night when the murder of the three became known, Matar and Katsover have been working tirelessly to turn the hill into a popular site for tourism and Zionism.
Katsover's house stands at the edge of the "Zionist Boulevard", a path that has wooden signs carved with Zionist sayings by the leaders of Zionism over the generations over its entire length. "We understood from the groups that come here that the sense of Zionism is weakening – they do not know enough. This is why we set up the boulevard, as well as shaded seating areas where one can learn Zionist songs", Katsover explains. If you scan the barcode on the benches, your smartphone immediately begins playing beloved songs of the homeland. And there is a synagogue here too, and picnic tables and a study room that hosts an extensive cultural program with events several times per week.
Since they met, during the struggle against the Disengagement, the two women have become a team of activists almost capable of moving mountains. They devoted themselves to holding onto parcels of land in the area of Gush Etzion: they prevented leftist activists from abroad from taking over Shdema, the army base east of the Gush that had been deserted, and secured the state's hold on land in Netzer, near Elazar. "The residents of Nativ Ha'avot were transferred to the area where we had planted trees in Netzer", Matar says. "If we had not planted trees there, there would have been no place for them to go. In Shdema there is now a huge military base, and it is not bragging to say that it is one hundred percent clear that if it weren't for us, the place would not be in our hands. We could have gone to the area and said, "We did something here and we did something there", but this would not have been enough. Meanwhile, the Arabs go around with millions of dollars in funds that they receive from abroad, and are constantly taking over land. With that kind of activity, we will not be able to save Judea and Samaria.
"After Gush Katif, we understood that you can kill fish in one of two ways: either take them out of the water as was done there, or make a small hole in the acqarium and little by little, without the fish realizing it, the water empties out. This is exactly what is happening in Judea and Samaria. In our camp, there are many people who truly object to the idea of two states, but since the application of sovereignty is a complicated thing to do, they say that they support the 'status quo'. They do not understand that every moment, even as we speak, the situation on the ground is changing. Salam Fayyad (the former Palestinian Prime Minister – HCH) declared during his term that he 'doesn't know how to read the letter C' and formed a scheme for the gradual takeover of Area C. This is what is actually happening".
"The residents of Judea and Samaria think that what you see from the road is all that is happening. But we do not see deeply into the territory", says Katsover. "Even from the road one can see more signs of international organizations, more plantings, and nothing is done about this.
Why, only last Shabbat I went for a walk in Efrat and saw that the Palestinians had taken over another hilltop. Another tent and another building. Anyone who thinks they are supporting the status quo does not understand that meanwhile, Area C is increasingly being illegally occupied by the Palestinian Authority and that we are losing the Land. We must act soon. Otherwise there will be nothing over which to apply sovereignty."
The pergola next to the Katsover's caravan is surrounded by plastic sheets to keep the cold Gush Etzion wind from penetrating. Like the rest of the hilltop, this external add-on to the house is also diligently maintained. With a sofa and carpet, curtains and pictures, and lunch. With Nadia and Yehudit, there is no cheap improvisation or disorder: everything is well taken care of, clean, cozy and pleasant.
Both of them are well-known veteran activists of the Right. Yehudit Katsover (71) is an educator, married to the former head of the Kiryat-Arba Council, Tsvi Katsover, and was herself the former deputy head of the council. She was one of the group of women who barricaded themselves with their children in Beit Hadassah, in the beginning of the renewed Jewish settlement in Hevron. Nadia Matar (52) is a resident of Efrat and was born in Belgium. In the nineties, she founded Women in Green together with her mother-in-law, Ruth Matar. This was the rightist parrallel to Women in Black, who used to hold protest vigils every Friday in Jerusalem against "the occupation". The Women in Green demonstrated in the intersections against the agreements with the Palestinians, and broadened their activities to become a well-known and feisty NGO (non-governmental organization) under the leadership of Nadia and Ruth, who passed on just a few weeks ago. "We were not looking for conflicts, but the police were looking for them" says Matar. "According to the law, up to 49 people can stand at the intersections in a protest vigil. We did not break the law; nevertheless, they would come to break our bones. They got instructions not to allow us to express ourselves".
The years passed, and the activities changed with necessity. Now they act to promote the subject of sovereignty, and they have succeeded in mobilizing ministers, members of Knesset, public figures and academicians. Among the members of the movement are Prof. Aryeh Eldad, journalist Caroline Glick and many others. Katsover explains that the Women in Green movement still exists and is very active, "but now we are the Sovereignty Movement founded by Women in Green. This name is more correct. And we have a steering committee – it is not just the two of us. The motto is the same motto, "the Land of Israel belongs to the People of Israel" but we have gone from acting in the field to political, policy-oriented activity".
Katsover: "The Left, for twenty years has tried to brainwash us with the idea that we must have two states. And it sank in. So we are conducting a campaign for sovereignty and that will sink in too. This is the model; this is the strategy. But we don't have the same kind of money that they have and the media does not support us and we also hope that it will not take twenty years".
The first Sovereignty Conference took place in 2013. Since then they have been publishing a journal devoted to the subject and are steadily enlisting politicians to the cause and holding conferences and other events, all in order to explain the urgent need for sovereignty. "There is a real question about the Right's plan: What are our aspirations?" says Katsover. "We have said no to Oslo, no to giving them rifles and no to a Palestinian state – but what does the Right actually want? And here is the answer: sovereignty".
Then the question immediately arises: Do you want 2 million Palestinians from Judea and Samaria voting for Knesset?
"I want sovereignty. They will not vote for Knesset, but they will have a status similar to what the Arabs have in east Jerusalem – they are residents who can vote in local elections, but not for Knesset. Such a program can be workable for a generation or two and only then will full citizenship be considered. Even people who immigrate to America do not get citizenship immediately".
But then they will say that Israel is an apartheid state.
"This is apartheid? It is indeed, not full democracy, but far from apartheid".
Matar: "We need a Zionist democracy. We didn't come here to live in a democracy; we came to live in a Jewish state. The Jewish state is an ideological value; democracy is a form of government. Also, no state has a democracy of one hundred percent. That's just how it is – every democracy must defend itself. There is the kind of democracy where the individual is the most important, but we believe in the collective, in nationalism, in Zionism. We don't want to violate anyone's human rights, but it might be that in this specific case of the right to vote there will be some degree of violation, and we need not be ashamed of this. And even if the Palestinians only get the status of resident, their conditions will still be better than in any Arab state. Today too, the Arabs in Israel do not have the right of return as Jews have, so is this apartheid?"
Katsover: "We owe the idea of sovereignty to Uri Elitzur, obm, who spoke about it clearly. He said – 'Will we give up the Land because of an argument about voting rights?' This is exactly the point. He also blessed our continuation along the path at that time. He did not believe that we would be persistent, but we are persistent.
"A hundred years ago there was an Arab majority here. So? Did the Jews say 'they are going to be a majority in any case so we don't need to make aliyah? Of course not. Democracy is the best form of government and we have no other choice, but there are priorities. And first of all, we must guard and hold onto the Land".
It might get to the court in The Hague.
"Maybe. But with the U.S. we now have a window of opportunity and we don't know how long it will last".
Realistically, do you see some international willingness to accept the application of sovereignty?
Matar: "That depends on us. In many cases, Donald Trump does what he thinks is right. He stands up and says – this is what is good for America and this is what I am going to do. He is not ashamed to do this".
Katsover: "Our friends who are close to Trump – for example, Representative Alan Clemmons, who changed the Republican platform and removed the reference to two states – say 'we will help with whatever Israel asks for'. But we have to ask".
Matar: "The problem is that our leadership does not know what it wants. Especially the prime minister".
Katsover: "The painful thing about Netanyahu is that he comes from a strong historical, Jewish orientation but nevertheless does not move things along. He has had opportunities to renounce the Bar Ilan speech and the Oslo Accords, but he does not do it. It may be that there are international pressures, but he should do something".
Is there anyone else in Israeli politics who would go along with the application of sovereignty?
"Gideon Sa'ar surely would. He says it in all of our conferences. A large majority of Likud members of Knesset support the application of sovereignty. I think that to have Gideon Sa'ar in the government would be an asset for the Right. As minister of education he decided, for example, that school trips should visit the Cave of the Patriarchs, and that was not easy to do. Minister Ze'ev Elkin also understands very well the importance of sovereignty and supports it. And Yuli Edelstein. Minister Yariv Levin is in favor of equalizing the law so that it would be the same for both sides of the Green Line. Minister Ayelet Shaked is doing good work in this area. Former member of Knesset Orit Struk has done a lot too – she is dynamite. And Bezalel Smotrich, of course.
Sa'ar does say that sovereignty will be applied first only in Area C, but that's okay. It is not my intention to give Sa'ar publicity now, but I also don't accept that there is no substitute for Netanyahu".
Matar: "In the beginning, we gave a stage in our journals to anyone who expressed an opinion on the subject of sovereignty. We did not take any particular position. We also brought in Bennett, who talks about leaving Areas A and B for them. For our part, we think that there will not be sovereignty without the dissolution of the Palestinian Authority. This is a basic prerequisite".
Katsover: "Even if it happens in stages, it would be excellent. We are in favor of the application of sovereignty for Ma'ale Adumim, in favor of sovereignty for Gush Etzion.
"We have been dealing with the topic of sovereignty for years, and I think that it has settled into the Israeli consciousness. Now we must bring it about in practicality. We are now in an election year, and we must emphasize this subject very much and compel the politicians to relate to it. Like the campaign that we did recently with the heads of local councils". Before the elections for local councils, they published a list of candidates in the towns and counties in Judea and Samaria who support the application of sovereignty. "This is the future of our life here", is how Katsover explains the relevance of the issue even on the local level.
Besides the campaign among the politicians, the two women also deal with practical planning for the day when the State of Israel declares that Judea and Samaria are part of the state in every way. "The heads of authorities here are involved in mediation, fundraising to get one more part of a road paved and another water pipe laid", Katsover says. "We cannot move forward this way. There must be a government plan for what to do with Judea and Samaria. In 2048, there will be 17 million people in the State of Israel, Gush Dan will be more crowded than Gaza is today, and the population will have to move eastward. Minister Yoav Galant has already said this, because that is the only way that the cost of housing will decline.
We have engaged architect Yoram Ginsburg and asked him to prepare a plan. He has gathered experts in transportation, law, ecology and more, and began working on the TAMA (National Outline Plan). The plan includes partitioning the Land into 12 districts, each one of which will have a governor. The partitioning will be done in such a way that there will not be an Arab majority in any district".
Meaning, for these purposes, you, in Gush Etzion, and a Palestinian resident of Hevron, would be voting for the same district head?
"Not exactly. It will be partitioned into sub-districts. In each sub-district, there will be a key city. We are talking about this with the Palestinians too. It was a little bit surreal, but at the Women in Green Conference that was held in 2017 there were Arabs on the stage too. Sheikh Abu Khalil al-Tamimi from Ramallah was there as well as Sheikh Rafid Jabari from Hevron. They ask us when we will rid them of the Oslo Accords. We are not naïve and we understand that they want one state but those over the age of forty who still remember Israeli rule really do want to live with us".
Isn't it better to invest resources in determining facts on the ground with settlements?
"They used to say that the border would be defined by the furthest furrow of the plow. However, we have seen how in Gush Katif, in Migron, and in Nativ Ha'avot that this is not what counts. Now you might also say that even sovereignty is no guarantee, because we do have sovereignty in the Negev and the Galilee and there are problems there nevertheless. But it is clear to us that if the State of Israel had put an end to the saga in Judea and Samaria, if she had applied sovereignty and implemented it, everything would have been different. As long as this gap exists, it is confusing to the Arabs and to the world. There is no state that would leave the situation unresolved for fifty years. We must apply the law. So there will be some noise, but afterward, we will be left with sovereignty. Just as with the case of the Nationality Law that was passed recently, there was a little noise, a few changes were made. Okay, but it passed.
"If, in the early seventies, you had interviewed the entire generation of Rav Moshe Levinger and Hanan Porat, and asked them if hundreds of thousands of people would live here in the future, they would not have believed it. Why, in the Golan Heights, they are not talking about sovereignty anymore, they are talking about international recognition.
We have to know what we want. And we want this Land. We are not giving up on Nablus or Jericho or Jenin. And not Gaza either".
Always on the Edge
The most significant thing that has happened to them during the past year, they say, is the wave of support from the younger generation. "It's amazing", says Matar. "In the past, more than a thousand people came to our conferences but to be frank, we did not see young people there. And suddenly, around Pesach of last year, we got telephone calls from a few young people who had undergone expulsions in Amona and Migron. They told us that they are tired of being called upon only to lie down in front of bulldozers, and that they understand that if there were sovereignty here – the destruction of the houses never would have happened. We began meeting with them and we found them to be high-quality people. Most are not from Judea and Samaria. They come from Sderot, from Kfar Saba".
This is not the "Hilltop Youth"
"No, they are very "mamlachti" (establishment oriented). It is not easy to organize the youth for this subject, because in the Shomer Hahadash, for example, you get work tools and go out on guard duty. Here the youth says – okay, let's say that I join the Sovereignty Movement, what would I actually be doing? We explain that the purpose is to bring about a change in consciousness, to talk with people. True, this is difficult work. We told them – start with booths, let's see if you are serious. They asked for flyers suitable for youth, pens, T-shirts, and went out into the street in a hasbara campaign. Not demonstrations. In general, demonstrations are not done so much anymore – people don't want it anymore. After the booths, they came and told us that many questions were posed to them that they did not know how to answer. They asked us to organize a conference. We said 'okay, let's take a hall with 200 seats'. They told us – we need 1,500 seats'. We asked them 'Do you know how expensive that is?', but we took the chance. We engaged the Hechal Shlomo hall in Jerusalem, a hall for a thousand people, and 1,200 youths came! Some had no place to sit. Later, we did a focus seminar for fifty of them, here on the hill".
Hallel Bareli-Suissa from Sderot is the leader of the youth that joined the movement. At the youth conference that was held last May in Jerusalem, she stood on the stage and explained that "Judea and Samaria belong to the State of Israel just the same as Tel Aviv, Beer Sheva and Tiberias do".
There are, of course, young people who do not connect to this view as much. "More than a few groups from military preparatory schools meet with us", says Matar. Some of the young people who come to us are quite bewildered. For them, we are 'Yehudit and Nadia from the Right' and they come here after a tour where they have heard Ahmed from Beit Lehem tell them that this is his Land, and the Peace Now representative say that we must give everything to the Palestinians. They are confused and for some of them it is very difficult. We tell them that they have to think for themselves. Like the journalist Joan Peters, who held pro-Palestinian views but in the process of her research on the Middle East she discovered the truth. Even the religious youth in these groups are no less confused. It's frustrating. And then, last year, we suddenly met another sort of youth who know that the Land is ours, and this is natural for them. They know that sovereignty is necessary, they just need the tools in order to be able to explain it well".
Katsover: "Our youth is looking for challenges and implementation. In the past it was establishing new communities, today this is not so. There are many charity projects, and now they also work for sovereignty. Their affiliation with us has given us so much. How can you become tired when you see such youth"?
They become sad for a moment as they explain that the one who documented the conference with pictures and publicized them on Facebook, was Ari Fuld, Hy"d, who was stabbed to death in a terror attack at Gush Etzion approximately a month and a half ago. "But this is our motto here on the hill: Growing from the pain. We owe him. We must go on".
When I ask about disseminating their ideas on social media, they say they are "working on it". Engaging professionals in the field, explain the two women, is not inexpensive.
How do you manage to fund all of your activities? Are donations enough?
Katsover: "We get many small donations, and there are a few people without whom we would not be able to continue".
Matar: "We are always on the edge. After every project, we need months to try to find resources. It is not easy to work this way. Look at the Geneva Initiative people: they have so much money. They invite people to hotels. We get their emails and we see this. If only we had such a budget".
Later in the day, they prepare to go to the Knesset to protest the arrest of the Palestinian real estate agent by the PA, who is accused of selling property to Jews. "We are mobilizing all of our people for the purpose. It would be interesting to see if leftist activists would ever come to fight against the arrest of a Jew".
How do you manage to keep your high level of energy?
Matar: "After the expulsion from Gush Katif there was a critical point. It was either we give up or find new challenges".
Katsover: "At the time, I felt that they wanted to finish us off. And this we would not allow".
On the wall near us was hung a picture of Netanyahu on a visit to this hill. "He came to observe the junction after all of the terror attacks. They suddenly discovered that Oz veGaon is a strategic spot", says Matar. "On all of the maps this place is supposed to be developed for tourism. We have indeed started working on the macro, but do not neglect the micro here".
After the conversation, as they take me by jeep on a tour of the rocky surroundings, and show me the ancient winepress that they discovered here, a group of blooming saffron and another nice observation point that strategically overlooks Gush Etzion – and this is when their issue becomes clearer. Suddenly it becomes obvious that despite the declared decision to change from megaphones to conferences and campaigns and Facebook and ideological engagement in order to spread the message, what really, really fills them with life is another new path in the field and another furrow of land returned to Jewish proprietorship, and an additional connection to the Land.