Tovah Lazaroff, THE JERUSALEM POST Jul. 25, 2007
Settlers are taking their claims of police violence to one of the Internet's most popular sites, YouTube, where they plan to post video clips of security forces attacking right-wing activists on the outer edges of Efrat.
On Wednesday night, more than 1,000 people hiked for an hour to reach an undeveloped area of Efrat called Givat Haeitam.
In the past, organizers said, activists sought to build outposts on isolated hilltops outside of legal settlements. Now they are trying to put up new homes in sections of existing settlements that are legally designated for such activity, but where no formal approval to build has been given, such as Givat Haeitam.
Wednesday's event, said Rabbi David Marcus of Efrat, one of the organizers, "is part of a chain of events that will be held in multiple locations to show the government that they cannot choke the settlements."
The march was illegal; many brought still and video cameras with them. Upon their return, they turned in their clips of police and border police attacking protesters to Marcus as he sat with his computer in a blue tent on a main road in Efrat leading to the site.
"We have photographs," said one 13-year-old boy, still panting from the hike as he took off his knapsack and hunted for his camera.
Hanging off a fence on the other side of the street was a sign that read: "Judea Belongs to the Jews."
Marcus said the decision to turn to YouTube, which allows users to post personal and public video clips, to publicize Israel Police and Border Police brutality was a difficult one, but he saw no other way to combat the violence.
"It's not a pretty picture that we would like the world to see," said Marcus.
Already, he alleged, they had received countless accounts of police unnecessarily hitting and pushing activists.
For hours, people of all ages, from elderly with walking sticks to babes in arms, hiked to the site, where Efrat residents hope to build a new neighborhood. When soldiers blocked the road, they climbed up rocky slopes and stone fences, through the vegetable fields of neighboring Palestinians.
Along the way, many stopped to pray, individually or in groups.
While several hundred made it to the top of Givat Haeitam, others went only to the edge of the hill.
Hundreds of police officers were waiting for them. In some cases they hunted the protesters down through the rocky hillside and forced them to leave. In other cases they simply offered them rides.
Settlers reported the arrest of three to five activists. Police at the site said they didn't have exact figures for those arrested and the Border Police spokesman could not be reached for comment about the allegations of violence. But The Jerusalem Post observed no such incidents on the hilltop itself.
One 15-year-old whose hands were tied together by Border Police with a plastic strip, said he had been stopped because the officers thought he had spit on them.
"I didn't," he said.
One Efrat resident, formerly of New York, said his reasons for making the hike were personal. His mother, Sara Blaustein, was killed by terrorists in a drive-by shooting in 2000 on the road from Efrat to Jerusalem. The Palestinians shot her because they wanted this area to be free of Jews, and he came to the hilltop Wednesday to show that the Jews were not leaving, he said.
The clashes between Israel Police, Border Police and demonstrators continued past press time. As police buses with activists headed down the hill down into Efrat, they were meet by teens and some adults who tried to force them to stop and unload the activists. Security forces, in turn, pushed and dragged protesters off the road.
Earlier Wednesday, military and civilian police set up temporary roadblocks in Gush Etzion in an effort to prevent dozens of pro-settlement activists from reaching Givat Haeitam. They also held up a group of Peace Now members who were trying to enter Efrat through its northern edge.
Protest organizers Nadia Matar and Datya Yitzhaki of Women in Green said the event was a success.
Meanwhile, Border Police spent the fourth day in a row removing protesters from the site of the former Samaria settlement of Homesh, which was evacuated in August 2005, during disengagement.
And in the South, at the Kissufim crossing to Gaza and in Netivot, thousands of Gaza evacuees gathered to mark the second anniversary, on the Hebrew calendar, of the start of disengagement from the Strip.