Thursday, August 30, 2007

Protests Pay Off, E. Gush Etzion-Jerusalem Road to Open Friday


See? Jews behaving badly (protests) gets a lot more reaction from the government than Jews agreeing to concessions or trying to politely ask for things.

This is something everyone learns very quickly in Israel, isn’t it? If you stand in line politely, you will never get service. You must push to the front and demand things, or you don’t get them.

Where are our demands? Why haven’t we held up “peace talks” to demand access to our own Holy Temple? Why haven’t we demanded protection of Jewish towns? Why haven’t we demanded the stop of terrorist activities?

Strange that the Arabs have learned this lesson, but our own government doesn’t seem to get it?

I think the MKs need to spend a bit more time in line at falafel stands and grocery stores and health clinics and a little less time at gala soirée's where they are waited upon hand and foot.

They have come to think they are deserving of things and have forgotten how to fight for them.

by Ezra HaLevi

( After years of work by activists and the local municipality, eastern Gush Etzion will now be reconnected directly to Jerusalem.

The new road, which will be opened Friday morning, will make the drive from eastern Gush Etzion to Jerusalem less than ten minutes. Residents now travel upwards of 45 minutes, much of it in the wrong direction, to reach the capital.

Eastern Gush Etzion, south of Jerusalem and straddling the Judea Desert, has been isolated from the capital ever since the start of the Oslo War in 2000, when the road connecting it to the capital was deemed too dangerous to drive on.

Prior to that, residents still faced intermittent attacks following the Oslo Accords and the deployment of armed PLO forces in nearby Bethlehem.

In the mid-90s, when about 90 percent of the residents of Judea and Samaria benefited from Rabin government’s construction of bypass roads leading around areas handed over to the PLO, eastern Gush Etzion was not included.

Protests in Recent Years
Several grassroots protests aimed to pressure the government to open the road, which lay nearly finished for over a year. Local residents of Tekoa, Nokdim, Maaleh Rechavam, Meitzad, Pnei Kedem and Maaleh Amos stood to benefit most from the road’s opening, but residents of western Gush Etzion towns like Efrat also sought the opening of the road as an alternative route when traffic tie-ups or accidents block off the main Tunnels Road on the Jerusalem-Hevron Highway.

Marches were held and activists tried to traverse the remaining unpaved segment of the road. Last December, MK Aryeh Eldad (National Union) said at one of the protests: “It is Defense Minister Amir Peretz and Chief of Police Moshe Karadi who are preventing the opening of this road. They are doing so for political reasons alone.”

Now, with Peretz out of the picture after losing Labor Party elections and Karadi forcibly retired due to corruption, the road is finally being opened this Friday.

The Announcement
Last week, Gush Etzion’s municipality sent out a message announcing the road’s opening. “After many years of anticipation, and countless efforts with government offices we are happy to finally announce the opening of the new Jerusalem – Gush Herodion Highway (or Zaatra bypass road). The name Gush Herodion Highway comes from the fact that the road runs just below the flat-topped Herodion fortress constructed by King Herod. The King’s tomb was recently uncovered at the site as well.

The highway will open at 6 AM, Friday, August 31, with a festive ceremony at the Mizmoria Junction at the Jerusalem side of the highway following a convoy leaving from the Herodion at 7:30 AM.

“In the first stage, the highway will be open daily from 6am-6pm only,” the municipality wrote to residents. “We are continuing to work together with the IDF to extend the hours.”

Activists Happy, Apprehensive
Anita Finkelstein, who heads Tekoa’s grassroots Action Committee, says she has been waiting for the construction of the bypass road since it was mentioned to her upon her moving to Tekoa 21 years ago.

She and her neighbors are still apprehensive. They have been informed before of the opening of the road and are waiting until they see it with their own eyes until they believe it. They are reluctant to take the opening of the road as a sign that they will now be included "inside" the route of the Partition Wall - which they are now set to be excluded from.

Overall, however, local activists are pleased that one of their goals has been reached. “All of us feel that everything we did was important to bringing this day,” Finkelstein says. “We hope and pray that it will encourage tourism in the region and that more and more people will decide to live here.”

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