Published by The Freeman Center
The Maccabean Online
Political Analysis and Commentary
Here We Are Building Tourism
by Orly Goldklang
5 September, 2014
Translated into English by Women in Green
It's hard to miss the tourist sign leading to Givat Oz veGaon, if only
because of the picture of the three kidnapped youths that it bears and
that causes a twinge in your heart. As soon as you leave your car, the
smell of a Bnei Akiva camp fills the air, the smell of youth, summer,
and everything that was taken from those three, as if it comes to
compensate those who remain here.
This was a Monday, Tammuz 2 [June 30], the last day of the past school
year. At eight that night the official announcement was received about
the finding of the missing youths' bodies. At eight and one minute
Yehudit Katsover and Nadia Matar were already on the way to the Gush
Etzion junction with sleeping bags and an inexhaustible amount of
ambition. The objective was the nearby hill, but on the way they came
across a spontaneous assembly of Gush Etzion residents close to the
hitchhiking station where the kidnapping took place, and they joined
the crying and prayers there. Later that night they came to the site
reinforced by many supporters, and began to prepare the hill, that is
named after the three youths: Gilad, Eyal, and Naftali. Nine and a
half weeks later, it's hard to believe that not long ago this was a
bare, rocky hill, not to mention - a garbage heap, with an abandoned
and filthy Jordanian structure.
temporary here. There are signs, there is order, there is
organization. The Jordanian structure was spit-and-polished that very
night, trails were prepared, along with a not inconsiderable number of
hearts and minds. The first generator arrived, and after it a steel
door and windows were purchased. They say that they find Divine
Providence everywhere there. For example, on the first night, when
they discovered a well with water that proved helpful in scrubbing the
place, or, for instance, the dozens of volunteers who spent this
summer building the sites, or the donations of food, trees for
planting, and wood for furniture.
about Tekoa E or Bat Ayin D, of blessed memory. The establishment of
yishuvim has become a dirty word, and at any rate, the time has come
to advance a bit. A ramified tourist corner is situated here, one that
is taking its first steps with impressive speed. The full vision of
the two Women in Green includes guest rooms and a museum, a visitors'
center, and even a hotel. Nature has provided the rich forest, they
plan to mobilize the rest.
They met during the struggle against the disengagement, two women
infused with faith and charm, who are twenty years apart in age.
Somehow, the older woman of vision and the younger, temperamental one
became best friends. Which one is the actual leader of all this?
Depends who you ask. If you ask Nadia, it is clear to her that Yehudit
is the leader. If you ask Yehudit - you guessed right - Nadia is the
one who leads. They shared a tent at the site during the first three
weeks of setting up. Two women who already have grandchildren, one of
them is approaching seventy, set up shop in the heart of the forest
and continued working.
After years of major struggles, they no longer believe in petitions or
calls for protest. "If you collected ten thousand signatures and you
succeeded in making noise," Nadia says, "so what? Without a presence
on the ground, it doesn't work."
was in flames and the north suffered from a dearth of visitors, this
natural tourist pearl succeeded in attracting many scores of youth and
adults who are the farthest away from the hilltop youth that can be
imagined. A Canadian Jewish National Fund delegation worked here and
prepared paths, youth from Ezra and Bnei Akiva who came from
throughout Israel planted, cleaned, developed. Groups from Bat Yam and
Petah Tikvah built wooden tables and pergolas. And alongside this, the
weekly activity of Women in Green (Women for Israel's Tomorrow, to be
precise) moved to here.
Surprise - this doesn't anger the army. To the contrary. When we begin
the local tour, we are joined by a group in uniform. As they draw
nearer, we see among them the deputy commander of the Etzion
Battalion, Eitan Picard, and Safi, the Druze ordinance officer, who
immediately gives out tips on the right way to plant medicinal herbs.
Whatever you need, Picard says, just ask. The Etzion Battalion
commander, Amit Yamin, visited here that same day together with the
[Gush Etzion Local] Council head. "He was all white and filthy, after
18 days of searching," Nadia relates. "This, our presence here,
caused him to smile after the long, tense days." Like him, politicians
who visited here, too, have already given their blessing.
several meanings here. Toilets with sawdust, water recycling, recycled
materials. An ecological hill? I ask, doubtful, and the two give up
and admit: This is the thing of the young people, they brought it. The
young are the forest guardians, headed by the Kimhe couple and their
outdoors baby who manages to charm everyone here. The cute one
year-old baby, who in the first days was afraid to step on the stones
here, now confidently runs between the children's corner and the
social coffee house (five shekels for a cup, for those interested)
that was opened in the Jordanian house, and which now boasts a new
kitchen and impressive mosaic paving.
(separate) tent area Efraim and his group. A young man with a heavy
Russian accent, a student in Rabbi Neeman's Zionist Midrasha, who set
up here together with other Midrasha graduates. Nadia and Yehudit beam
with pleasure. The two hard-working directors have nothing but
admiration for the young generation that has joined together with
them, and for the 75-year-old Orbach from Alon Shvut who directs the
The barbecue and zula hangout are already set up. But don't let all
this deceive you. "People come here to work," Nadia says. "Parents
came to us with tears in their eyes, and explained what this place did
for their children. They don't move at home, but here, all of a
sudden, they want to show their parents the wonderful thing that they
built with the own two hands."
the trees that were planted in their memory, several celebrations have
already been held here. There was already a brit (circumcision) and a
sheva berakhot here, and a seventieth birthday party for a grandmother
in whose honor a fig tree was planted. If you're considering a
celebration in the area, don't wait too long. Several additional
events are already signed up - from bar mitzvahs and bat mitzvahs to
weddings, and other events. Not to mention the Sukkot events that are
heels, but every day that passes here, another path is prepared and
another part of the place is brought to life. Anyone who came this
week will not recognize it in another month. But as Nadia promised,
Yehudit looks far ahead. "This will be a rural area in the style of
Neve Ativ in the Golan. A small place that preserves a rich and
pampering tourist area." And when she says small place, she obviously
looks out at the nearby hill and the nearby target, for it should be
mentioned: "Under no conditions will any tree, plant, or branch be cut
from it, just as we are adamant in the current area."
thirteen women from [Beit] Hadassah [in Hebron], who have been engaged
in settlement activities already for decades. "If you stand still for
a moment, you go backwards," Yehudit says. "You have to think and plan
ahead all the time."
to be cool. What will be in the winter, I ask them, but they aren't
getting excited. "Don't ask what will be in the winter," Yehudit says.
"Come. Give your support. It will be a fine winter here. Nahshon son
of Aminadav did not ask what will be in the winter when he leaped into
the sea. He did not wonder what was the temperature of the water or
whether it was cold."
Sea opened and the Children of Israel passed through on dry ground. Oz
veGaon has already succeeded in opening the southern gate of Migdal Oz
and in renewing the Jewish presence on the road leading to it. When
Nadia and Yehudit stand as a wall on their right and on their left,
dozens of young people and adults already pass along the way,
preparing it for the next generation. Of them, and perhaps of the
State, as well.