Tuesday, March 27, 2007

A return, hopefully the first of many

Thousands of settlers return to vacated West Bank town

HOMESH, West Bank: Ariel Hazani stretched out on a sleeping bag next to a silver pup tent on the same patch of grass where his home once stood in this former Jewish settlement. Around him on Monday, about 2,000 other right-wing activists were also setting up camp for the night.
Like them, he hopes that their gathering will signal the beginning of an official return to the settlement, one of four in the northern West Bank that Israel evacuated over the summer of 2005 together with the Jewish settlements of the Gaza Strip.

The reoccupation, even temporarily, of a destroyed Jewish settlement deep in the West Bank, near Jenin, is an open challenge to a weak Israeli government. How it plays out will be viewed by Palestinians as a sign of whether Israel intends to keep its pledges, or whether settlement activity will continue to proceed unhindered, despite Israel's promises to halt it.

"We are not here to cry," said Batya Danziger, 16, one of the many teenagers who took part in the effort to reach the now desolate Homesh. "We are here to live and build it back up again."

"Hooray, a house!" her friends shouted out in delight as they used palm fronds to fasten a lean-to against one of the few remaining stone walls.