Arabs and leftists uprooted a Jewish orchard and went on to plant olive trees in a Jewish community on the Jewish "New Year of Trees.â€ One left-wing activist hit a security guard with his car.
The incident occurred Saturday morning at Sde Boaz, a hilltop community in Gush Etzion located at the regionâ€™s highest point, between Neve Daniel and Betar Illit.
The destroyed orchard, consisted of apple, cherry, pomegranate, pear, carob and olive trees. After destroying the trees, a dozen activists made their way to Sde Boaz. They accompanied Arabs from the PA-controlled village of El-Khader and began planting olive trees adjacent to the community. Dozens more foreign volunteers and Arabs climbed up from the valley, where they had been waiting, and ignored IDF calls to cease until the Civil Administration could clarify the landâ€™s ownership.
A man who said his name was Ariel, from the Taâ€™ayush organization, argued with IDF officers, claiming that the fact that the government destroyed a stable that Jews had built there proved that the land did not belong to the residents and could therefore be assumed to belong to the Arabs, even without a deed. The stable was destroyed in January, 2005, just weeks before the clashes at the Amona outpost.
Ezra Nawi, a veteran Taâ€™ayush coordinator usually active in the southern Hevron Hills, arrived at the scene with hundreds of olive trees and several American, Norwegian and British volunteers. Nawi drove through the community of Sde Boaz, striking the security chief with his car.
Soldiers who witnessed the incident accompanied the security chief to file charges against Nawi when the police arrived, about a half-hour later.
Nawi also screamed racial epithets at an Ethiopian Jewish soldier and used the derogatory word â€œfrenkâ€ to refer to the PA Arab he was illegally driving through the community.
The IDF regional commander showed up with an order declaring the area a closed military zone, but declined to enforce it until the police came. Eventually, two police officers arrived, but only after nearly all of the trees planted, including in one of the communityâ€™s vineyards, did the large group begin to make its way back toward El-Khader. The commander told Sde Boaz residents that anyone who touched the olive trees would be arrested.
The group began planting at another plot along the road, hastily sticking the remaining trees in the ground. Residents say that plot of land is worked by an elderly Arab man who has good relations with the community.
When police and IDF soldiers attempted to arrest one of the Arab youths, the foreigners and the Arabs, directed by the Israelis, freed him by force. The man escaped and Taâ€™ayushâ€™s â€œArielâ€ was arrested for directing the violence.
Only after the group finally left did residents notice that the communityâ€™s orchard - in the valley below Sde Boaz, below the point of vision - was destroyed. The vandalism occurred on the very day that the trees reached the age at which their fruits became permitted for consumption according to Jewish Law. Saturday was Tu Bâ€™Shvat, the Jewish New Year for Trees, from which three years are counted before fruit is consumed.
The actions of the raucous group left local residents in shock. â€œIt is unbelievable that these people, on their way to pull on the heartstrings of the police and IDF, telling them â€˜we only want to plant these olive trees as an expression of peace,â€™ spent what had to be a long time uprooting and destroying a beautiful orchard on land that clearly belongs to the community,â€ a statement from the Sde Boaz secretariat read. â€œThat they did this on Tu Bâ€™Shvat makes it no less than a hate crime.â€
Residents also said that the provocation failed in its intention to provoke them into violence. â€œWe somehow doubt the fact that these people brazenly destroyed an orchard, hit someone with a car and freed an arrestee from IDF and police custody through violence will figure as prominently in the headlines as name-calling by Jewish residents of Hevron or dubious claims of uprooted olive trees in Samaria,â€ the statement concluded.
At press time, none of Israelâ€™s state-run television or radio outlets have reported the incident.