Dear Friends and Supporters, Shalom!
We are pleased and proud to share our Annual Survey of Regavim’s activities in 2019.
As has been our custom for over a decade, Regavim’s Annual Survey is circulated in honor of Tu B’Shvat, the day that celebrates the Land of Israel itself, as we approach the end of the fiscal year.
The Annual Survey offers a taste of the central topics addressed over the course of the year, illuminating the connection between our Fieldwork Divison, our Legal Department, our Policy Division and our Media Department. Through a sampling of individual cases, we try to connect the elements that comprise our organic, lateral strategy to address the “big picture” of Israeli public policy in the present and future.
This past year has been one of organizational changes at Regavim. New members have joined our team, expanding existing departments and establishing new ones. At the close of 2018, we bade a fond farewell to Yehuda Eliyahu, Regavim’s long-time Director General. After years of untiring activism, sleepless nights, unflinching determination and unparalleled good humor and spirit at the helm of Regavim, Yehuda has taken up his next challenge as Director General of the Binyamin Regional Council. We wish him every success.
A significant part of Regavim’s day to day activities may be characterized as political: Regavim takes an active role in the legislative process, participates in Knesset committee hearings, maintains direct contact with Members of Knesset, and more. The current political stalemate, and the fact that Israel has not had a stable government for nearly a year, have had a very serious impact on life in Israel. This impact is most immediately felt by our Policy Division, which shifted its focus in 2019 to hosting as many legislators as possible out in the field for informational tours and fact-finding expeditions (more details are provided below).
This report gives us an opportunity to share the turning points and significant events of the past year with our friends and supporters, but it is also an opportunity for us, the Regavim team, to look back with a sense of gratification and take stock of the fruits of our labor thus far – and then, without missing a beat, to regroup, readjust our sights, and take the next steps toward meeting the challenges that lie ahead.
In the pages that follow, we present some of the positive changes we have had the privilege to be a part of, with God’s help. Real, quantifiable progress has been made in protecting state land, promoting Jewish, Zionist land-use policy for the State of Israel, protecting Israel’s natural beauty and resources, and fighting the scourge of selective law enforcement. Some of these successes bear our signature, boldly and proudly; others are the result of our work behind the scenes.
Without your support and encouragement, without the partnership and shared enthusiasm with which you and others like you have showered us over the past year, we would have been incapable of maintaining our vigilant watch over our shared legacy.
Together, with God’s help, we will continue to invest every last ounce of our strength and resolve to fulfill the Zionist imperative of protecting the birthright and national home of the Jewish People. I thank you for enabling us to continue to do so.
Battling the Palestinian Takeover of Area C
This year’s activities in Judea and Samaria focused on “Ten Years of the Fayyad Plan.” In 2009, Salaam Fayyad, Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority, published a master plan for the creation of a de facto Palestinian state in all of Judea and Samaria, based on the creation of land bridges and the disruption of the contiguity of Jewish communities through construction in strategic areas. This past year, Regavim launched a campaign to raise awareness of the Fayyad Plan’s impact. Our campaign, “A Terrorist State – Right Around the Corner,” brought the heads of Judea and Samaria’s Regional Councils together for a broad-based public media campaign. We published a major report, “The Roots of Evil,” based on meticulous mapping of the changes on the ground in Area C in the decade since the Fayyad Plan’s launch, and proposed practical steps and policy changes necessary to address the problem. The report’s launch was accompanied by publication of a series of viral video clips, widespread media coverage, paid advertisements, and direct messaging to millions of Israelis to explain the threat. We launched a series of attention-grabbing media stunts to maximize this campaign, such as decorating major intersections in Judea and Samaria with Palestinian flags, pushing this crucial issue to the top of the public agenda.
Our year-end assessment of the “Terrorist State- Right Around the Corner” campaign is overwhelmingly positive: A sea-change has been set in motion. The Defense and Security Cabinet held a series of meetings and deliberations to formulate a strategic response to the threat posed by implementation of the Fayyad Plan. Israel’s Ministry of Defense, and the IDF Central Command in particular, have classified this area of activity as “The Area C Front,” and have begun to make the necessary operational adjustments to win the battle that is raging on this front.
This “Terrorist State- Right Around the Corner” campaign will be ongoing in the coming year.
Re-Greening the Galilee: Regavim’s Campaign for Law Enforcement against Illegal Junkyards
We spearheaded a broad campaign against the illegal automotive scrapyards in the north of Israel, which in turn jump-started a large-scale enforcement sweep. Our in-depth report and expose’ revealed that hundreds of dunams of land that were once orchards and vineyards have been turned into highly-polluting “automotive graveyards” – hubs of a booming black-market spare parts market. Our research mapped out over 150 illegal “chop shops” that pose safety and environmental threats, and our report exposed the enforcement void created by lack of coordination among the relevant government ministries. The report’s findings served as the basis for a number of lawsuits we filed against junkyard operators and owners –petitions upheld in their entirety by the courts. This spurred a major television expose’ by Channel 12 News and resulted in broad enforcement activity. We are monitoring the situation on the ground in order to ensure that this momentum is not lost, and that clear, effective and permanent policy guidelines are created and enforced.
Battling Drug Production on IDF Training Grounds
One of the most basic elements of Regavim’s mission is to restore Israeli sovereignty to all parts of the country, and one of our major successes in 2019 illustrates our dedication to this mission: Some time ago, we uncovered a large-scale drug operation, owned and operated by one of the large “crime families” of the illegal Bedouin camps in the Negev, who had based this element of their illegal operations on the IDF’s Tze’elim Base. The drug-production compound was the core financial engine behind their organized crime empire in the Negev, and spawned a web of criminal activity. Our fieldwork, surveillance and research, published by a number of media outlets, exposed the vast extent of the problem and the damage it was causing to IDF training exercises, and led the Israel Police to formulate guidelines for the on-site eradication of drugs, without the need to receive a specific judicial order for individual search-and-seizure actions. These new guidelines gave the police the enforcement tools that enabled them to destroy illegal drugs with a street value of millions over the course of 2019 alone, dealing a lethal blow to organized crime in Israel.
Major Elements of Regavim’s Comprehensive “Negev Challenge” Plan Adopted as National Policy
For years, the State of Israel has not developed the Bedouin settlements of the Negev, because a small percentage of the members of the Bedouin sector have claimed ownership over hundreds of thousands of dunams of land in the area. In order to promote regulation and development of this region, the government was willing to go far beyond the letter of the law, and to offer each and every Bedouin who claimed ownership an extraordinary package of monetary and land-swap compensation. The claimants consistently rejected these generous offers, and continued to press for ever-greater compensation, leading all attempts to settle the dispute (including the Prawer and Begin Plans, both of which were based on the Goldberg Commission Report) to a dead end.
In 2017, Regavim published “The Negev Challenge: A Comprehensive Plan for Regulation of Bedouin Settlement,” in which we recommended unlinking the various elements of the issue, setting aside the resolution of ownership claims for a later date but moving forward with development and relocation plans on available state-owned land in the Bedouin townships. During his tenure as Minister of Agriculture, the ministry responsible for Bedouin Affairs, Uri Ariel adopted the core principles laid out in our “Negev Challenge” Plan, and the Bedouin Authority began to develop tens of thousands of residential plots on vacant state land.
Merav Arlozorov, a journalist for Haaretz, summed it up best: “It’s hard to argue with Regavim… These guys know how to get things done. Their arguments are backed up by facts, data, and endless aerial photographs and maps in the “Negev Challenge” report. I can assure you that this report is highly effective.”
The U.S. Government’s Statement on the Legality of Israeli Settlements: Regavim at Work Behind the Scenes
Recently, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo released a statement indicative of a tectonic shift in the US government’s position regarding Israeli settlement in Judea and Samaria: The United States government does not consider Judea and Samaria “occupied territory,” and Israeli settlements in this territory are not a violation of international law.
Over the course of the past year, Regavim held a number of meetings with the most senior staff of the US Embassy in Israel, and hosted key members of a number of Embassy divisions on field tours. We shared our research, maps and other materials with them, explained our position, discussed the legal and contractual issues involved, and laid out the political, security and strategic ramifications of our findings. We also provided translated versions of academic papers written by leading scholars of international law, published in our Adam v’Adamah Institute’s first volume of articles, Land Law and International Law in Judea and Samaria. The feedback we received was most encouraging; our behind-the-scenes efforts, along with the efforts of other Zionist organizations, had a significant impact on the clarification of the legal issues upon which Secretary Pompeo’s policy announcement was based.
Demolition of Rebuilt Homes of Terrorists
In October, the IDF demolished – for the second time – the home of Islam Yusef Abu Hamid, the terrorist convicted of the murder of IDF Staff Sgt. Ronen Lubarsky. In the months prior to this second demolition, Regavim’s Legal Department submitted a brief to the court arguing that the emergency measures that empower the government to demolish terrorists’ homes should be applied to re-demolition of these same homes if they are rebuilt. Our brief further argued that the rebuilding of terrorists’ homes by the Palestinian Authority harms the security interests of the State of Israel and undermines the effectiveness of deterrence against future acts of terrorism.
Regavim’s opinion brief, which was presented to the Prime Minister and the IDF Command, included our study of Arabic media and other sources, all of which proved that the terrorist’s home had been rebuilt through funding provided by the Palestinian Authority. We also provided video documentation of the re-construction work – filmed by Regavim’s field staff in the Al Amari refugee camp in Ramallah.
We will continue to monitor the situation on the ground, to ensure that this case serves as a precedent for preventing terrorists’ families from benefiting from acts of terror.
Environmental Protection – Saving the South
This year we mapped out dozens of illegal garbage dumps in the Negev. One of the most notorious was located on a plot of land slated to house Likit, the IDF’s Intelligence Compound. When the Ministry of Environmental Protection didn’t respond to our request for information on fines issued by Ministry inspectors to eco-criminals in southern Israel, we petitioned the court, demanding that this information be made public. As a result, the Ministry of Environmental Protection was forced to respond, and we learned that in the entire southern region, from Ashdod to Eilat, the ministry employs only 5 inspectors, who have issued an insignificant number of fines. The court required the Ministry of Environmental Protection to pay our court costs, and as a result of our petition and the pressure we generated on this issue, additional inspectors have been appointed to the Green Police, and have taken up posts in the southern region in recent weeks.
As we have done every year since Regavim was founded, in 2019 we opened hundreds of new case files against illegal construction, trespassing on state land and IDF training grounds, illegal road projects, illegal quarrying and more. Our inquiries have led to scores of enforcement actions and demolitions nationwide. Often, our initial complaint to the local authorities is sufficient; in some cases, enforcement activity is taken only after we give notice of our intention to initiate legal action, while in other cases, only full-fledged legal petitions manage to spur the authorities to enforce the law.
Stemming the Sprawl of Illegal Settlements in the Negev
The data we collect in the field forms the basis of the only existing database on illegal construction in the Negev: Our Field Coordinator for the Southern Region conducted on-site monitoring of new construction in the illegal Bedouin encampments in the Negev, and alerted the enforcement authorities in order to ensure that no new squatters’ camps are allowed to establish a foothold. At the same time, we monitored the development of infrastructure in existing illegal encampments that have been scheduled for relocation and absorption into the legal Bedouin townships of the Negev, to ensure that these “temporary” encampments are not gradually gaining permanence. Among other things, we exposed and blocked the inauguration of a new school that was built illegally in a squatters’ encampment slated for relocation to Rahat. Through a petition to the Municipal Court, we were able to force the Naveh Midbar Regional Council to destroy an illegal road it had paved, and along which hundreds of illegal structures had been built – all on land privately owned by Jews. We are currently leading a High Court of Justice case, in cooperation with the owners of the land, to reclaim the land illegally commandeered by the municipality and the squatters.
Our Newly Launched GIS Mapping Department
A significant aspect of our work depends on Global Information System (GIS) data, which we use for mapping, analysis, and research, enabling us to build a knowledge base for legal action. Because of increasing reliance on this data, in 2019 we established a new department that focuses on mapping and research. Among the central projects completed this year were an overview of construction in Judea and Samaria, both by Jews and non-Jews, tracking change over the decade spanning 2009-2019, and analyzing the land-utilization ratio (developed area versus available land reserves) in areas under Palestinian Authority jurisdiction. Additional projects included mapping of all illegal construction in the Negev and a study of the growth of this construction on a timeline comparing 2005, 2010, 2015 and 2017. Another project mapped out illegal construction along the Trans-Israel Highway (Route 6) and the National Infrastructure Corridor that runs alongside the highway’s route. We mapped out the firing zones and nature reserves of Area C, as well as archaeological sites throughout Judea and Samaria. A project still underway examines the accuracy of property tax assessment and reporting in a sample of Israeli municipalities.
Establishing Land Protection Departments in Judea and Samaria Regional Councils
As a result of long-term, close cooperation between Regavim and the local councils of Judea and Samaria in matters concerning protection of land resources, local councils have begun to understand the necessity to appoint field coordinators of their own. With Regavim’s support and at our urging, over the past year a number of land protection departments have been established under the auspices of regional councils, and we are working closely and in full operational and judicial cooperation with the newly-appointed field staff, sharing our expertise, training and guiding them through the learning curve. We congratulate the heads of regional councils who have committed considerable resources to this national imperative, and have begun to share the responsibility for Israel’s land reserves.
The Temple Mount’s Mercy Gate – A Test of Israeli Sovereignty in Israel’s Capital
In February 2019, the Muslim Religious Trust (Wakf) took over a 1400-year old structure at the Mercy Gate, effectively turning the building, which had been shuttered by court order for many years, into the newest mosque on the Temple Mount. This move automatically bars access to the site for Jews, and extends the Wakf’s control to additional sections of the Temple Mount – using the same method employed at other ancient sites on the mount: The mosques at Solomon’s Stables and the Hulda Gates. We submitted two separate petitions to the High Court of Justice; the first, to fight against this blow to Jewish rights at the holy site and to the status quo; and the second, to compel the government to enforce the closure order issued by the Jerusalem Magistrates Court – at the government’s request. Unfortunately, Justice Menachem Mazuz, who took the lead role in managing this case, granted the government an exceedingly long ( and in our opinion, unjustified) period of time to respond to our petition, and pushed off the date of the hearing repeatedly. When a hearing was finally held, the State’s attorney informed the court in an ex parte communication, what steps the government claims are being taken in this matter. In light of the weighty and sensitive political issues involved, the State’s attorney explained, the matter is being managed at the highest levels of government. We submitted our summary of arguments to the court, and we are awaiting a judgement.
Legal victory in the Junkyards Case
As part of our larger campaign against illegal junkyards, we submitted our first petition against an illegal junkyard in the village of Rameh to the Haifa Regional Court, in which we demanded that the municipality issue a closure order for the highly-polluting, unlicensed “chop shop” that is destroying dozens of dunams of land in Israel’s scenic north. The judge upheld our position in its entirety, reprimanded the Rameh Municipality, fined the junkyard owners, and required them to immediately clear the lot and restore the land to its previous condition. We are pleased to report that the court’s decision was implemented only a few weeks after it was handed down. We hope the outcomes of this case will serve as a precedent for the entire issue.
Bir Hadaj – The Battle for Property Rights
Several years ago, we submitted a joint petition to the Beer Sheva Regional Court, together with owners of private property in the Negev, demanding that the government remove Bedouin squatters who had seized their land. This petition was denied in light of the government’s claim that it was engaged in dialogue with the squatters in order to reach an agreement for their relocation. Our appeal of this decision was rejected as well, when the High Court declined to overturn the Regional Court’s decision.
Almost one year ago, we petitioned the Regional Court again, after the government’s official announcement that all attempts at dialogue had been exhausted and there are no plans to remove the squatters. In the government’s statement to the court, it became clear that the majority of enforcement action carried out against illegal construction in the Bir Hadaj area involved state land, and only a small percentage of enforcement involved privately-owned land. Nonetheless, the Regional Court once again rejected our petition, claiming that judicial intervention is uncalled for.
When this petition was rejected, we appealed simultaneously to the High Court of Justice and to the Magistrates Court against the Local Council that had paved an illegal road on privately-owned land. We argued that it is inconceivable that a municipality would illegally seize private land. A judgement was handed down instructing the municipality to destroy the road by September 2019 at the latest; in fact, the road was demolished in November, as a result of our continuous pressure.
The School at Al Zarnoq – Enforcement in Support of Regulation
In August 2019, the Naveh Midbar Regional Council and the Ministry of Education built a high school in an illegal encampment in the Negev – an encampment situated almost entirely on land privately owned by Jews – without the requisite building permits. We appealed to the Beer Sheva Regional Court, since the State had announced earlier that this particular encampment is scheduled for relocation to Rahat within two to three years, making the construction of a school there unreasonable, particularly in light of the fact that there are alternative education facilities located nearby. The court partially upheld our petition, and ordered the school at Al Zarnoq to remain shuttered until building permits are issued for the structure. This case is one element in our comprehensive project monitoring infrastructure development in the illegal encampments. The project’s goal is to block projects that give permanence to these encampments and hinder efforts to regulate settlement in the Negev.
Khan al Ahmar
Over the past decade, we have led the High Court of Justice battle in the Khan al Ahmar case – a symbolic, flagship case that showcases the State of Israel’s problematic conduct in the face of the Palestinian takeover of Judea and Samaria. Following a High Court decision on our petition that cleared the way for law enforcement action, the Ministry of Defense made the necessary preparations for evacuation and relocation of the outpost, but one year ago the Prime Minister made the infuriating decision to postpone the evacuation and demolition of the squatters camp, claiming that enforcement would be delayed “by a matter of a few weeks.” We submitted another petition to the High Court of Justice, and the State requested an extension until after a new government is formed – a request that illustrates why we must keep this case at the top of the public agenda.
Suing the Palestinian Authority for Building a School in a Nature Reserve
Towards the end of 2019, we submitted a first-of-its-kind petition against the Palestinian Authority: With the help of funding provided by the European Union, the PA built an illegal school in the Nahal Machokh Nature Reserve, on Israeli state land. There is no question that the PA is and was fully aware of the legal status of the land on which the school was built. We are demanding that the PA be compelled by the court to answer for this violation of environmental protection statutes, trespassing on Israeli state land, and infractions of the Building and Planning Code.
Freedom of Information Petitions – Transparency and Clean Government
In the context of our ongoing efforts to increase government accountability and transparency, we submitted a number of Freedom of Information petitions over the course of 2019, in which we requested data related to law enforcement activities carried out by the relevant authorities, information compiled by the Civil Administration, and information in matters concerning environmental issues.
Reduced Number of Petitions
This past year, we filed fewer petitions than in previous years, We attribute this reduction to the fact that the relevant authorities have increasingly taken action in response to preliminary correspondence from Regavim’s legal team, making full-scale court proceedings unnecessary. We have seen a shift in enforcement policy, in Judea and Samaria as well as in the Negev and the Galilee. This is a very significant achievement. Since Regavim’s founding, we have used all the tools at our disposal to bring about change in land-use policy so that the state will act quickly and efficiently to preserve national lands resources. This year, the shift in policy became evident as we were almost completely unable to find cases that warranted legal action against the government, as more and more often, law enforcement bodies took the necessary enforcement action as soon as we informed them of infractions. While the status of national land preservation is far from perfect, we saw a marked improvement over the course of 2019.
Zionist Policy and Re-Drawing Municipal Borders
This year we invested considerable time and energy in lateral, overarching policy issues, particularly the question of the government’s policy for re-drawing the jurisdictional lines between local governments. Our research revealed that over the past several years, many dozens of requests for jurisdictional re-assignment were submitted, affecting over 200,000 dunams of land. On average, the municipalities’ requests sought to increase their jurisdictional area by 50%, despite the fact that existing master plans and land reserves remain only partially utilized. In many cases, these same municipalities were plagued by rampant illegal construction, and expanding their jurisdictional area would, in all likelihood, lead to an uncontrolled and exponential rise in similar building offenses. Most of the municipalities requesting additional territory are classified as urban settlements, but virtually no urban-style, dense construction is to be found. Earlier this year, we published a position paper on the necessity for comprehensive policy formulation on this issue that balances current municipal needs with modern planning principles that address future needs, through the prism of national Zionist land-use policy. We hope that a stable government will be formed soon, and we will be able to make progress toward establishing this important policy platform.
Specifically, we responded to an urgent request we received from the Local Council of Katzir, a communal settlement threatened by a plan to cede territory belonging to the Menashe Regional Council to the Arara Municipality that would have caused irreversible harm to Katzir. We submitted an alternative plan to the Ministry of Interior’s Geographical Committee that would enable both Katzir and Arara to grow in an optimal way, and headed off an expedited hearing process that would have excluded Katzir’s residents from the decision-making process. The problematic plan has been submitted to the oversight committee for hearing, and we are following developments closely.
In another case, we prevented similar moves that threatened the town of Kasif. We learned that the Planning Commission intended to reach a final decision committee hearing on Kasif, a town built for the haredi (ultra-orthodox) sector, which would have been re-categorized as a Bedouin city. Our emergency application to Minister of Housing Yifat Shaasha Biton resulted in a last-minute freeze of the plan. The minister announced that the hearing and decision on this case would be postponed indefinitely in order to allow legislators the opportunity to draft appropriate policy guidelines. This case also remains on our agenda for the year ahead.
The Continuing Battle Against Polygamy
After two years of tireless efforts, with Minister of Justice Ayelet Shaked and Minstry Director General Emi Palmor, to place this issue on the government’s agenda, we continue to monitor operational progress by the official bodies involved in this matter as we continue to push for full implementation of the government’s policy decision.
Bringing MKs out into the Field
As a result of the political stalemate of recent months, the Knesset has been virtually inactive for most of the past year. We took advantage of this period to conduct one-on-one meetings and field tours for dozens of MKs from a range of parties and factions, to introduce them to Regavim’s activities and to give them a first-hand look at the challenges as we see them.
Policy Papers – Toward Coalition Talks
In advance of the national elections we formulate our “100-Day Plan for Protecting Israel’s National Lands.” We presented ten short position papers to each of the nationalist parties outlining the core areas of Regavim’s activities, including government projects, legislative amendments, policy statements and by-laws, in order to embed these topics in the parties’ policy platforms, and as a basis for coalition negotiations. Due to the unusual, complex political situation that has developed in the interim, we are reworking these position papers for the upcoming round of elections.
Regavim’s Adam v’Adamah Institute for Zionism, Law and Society is dedicated to the creation of legal doctrine that supports the settlement enterprise and to the dissemination of this doctrine among the academic, professional, media, legal and lay community.
After many months of fine-tuning, we completed the preparatory stages for publication of “Commercial Law in Judea and Samaria,” the second volume of legal analysis of issues pertaining to Judea and Samaria. Publication will begin with a festive launch event after the installation of a new government.
Expert Opinions as the Basis for Policy Formulation
We have developed an extensive network of contacts who are leading authorities and specialists in their fields, with whom we consult when drafting policy and research papers. To this end, we convene forums to discuss and explore various topics on our agenda, among them the question of extending Israeli sovereignty to Judea and Samaria. We discussed the possibility of advancing legislation that would disband the Civil Administration and generated security, political, and environmental impact analyses of the Fayyad Plan’s impact.
Establishing a Legal Clinic for Environmental Issues
In conjunction with the Shaarei Mishpat Academic Center for Science and Law, this year we launched a legal clinic for environmental issues, placing special emphasis on issues that intersect with our ongoing work. The clinic connects participating law students to environmental issues, and they accompany related cases through the adjudication process. An additional outcome we hope to achieve is to spark interest in these issues and influence the participants’ choice of specialization as their legal careers develop. This cooperative program joins our successful legal course, attended by some 25 law students each year.
Conference on The Judicial Override Clause
As we have done in previous years, in 2019 Regavim hosted a session of the Annual Conference on Judea and Samaria Research at Ariel University. The topic of the 2019 session was “The Judicial Override Clause and the Balance between the Judicial, Executive, and Legislative Branches in the State of Israel.” Leading members of the academic community addressed a range of views in favor and opposed to this legislation.
Seminar for Honors Students and Public Sector Jurists: “Law in Judea and Samaria”
We marked the successful completion of another session of our course on legal issues pertaining to Judea and Samaria, offered in conjunction with Legal Grounds and the Kohelet Policy Forum. The course is designed to establish and illuminate the legal underpinnings of Zionist activity in these areas. Among the twelve participants in the most recent session were outstanding law students from several universities, alongside freshman jurists at the start of their careers in the public sector. The participants heard unique lectures on these important topics, delivered by renowned scholars.
In an effort to combat the devastating phenomenon of antiquities theft and destruction of ancient heritage sites in Judea and Samaria, joined the “Preserving the Eternal” forum, a coalition of non-profit and civil society organizations dedicated to protecting historical treasures in Judea and Samaria and throughout Israel. This past year, this coalition shifted into high operational mode, joining forces with field operatives and the field schools of Judea and Samaria (Gush Etzion, Ofra, and Shomron). This combined force has created an exponentially greater level of activity and has begun to affect real change, both in terms of the pressure we can exert on decision makers and in terms of exposure and awareness among residents, hikers, tourists and others who visit Judea and Samaria. The “Preserving the Eternal” Facebook page publicizes articles, news items and informative posts on antiquities, sites of historical importance, and incidents of theft desecration. Hundreds of people are already avid followers of this page; we invite you to join them. Despite the language barrier, the photos and maps intrigue, delight, and energize.
National Masterplan for Protection of Heritage Assets in Judea and Samaria
The “Preserving the Eternal” Forum formulated a national master plan with clear operational directives for protecting national heritage sites in Judea and Samaria, including site preservation, archaeological excavations, preventative measures against theft and destruction, and more. The plan was presented to relevant politicians and professionals.
Database of Antiquities Theft
In recent months we began a comprehensive, methodical mapping project of sites in key areas that have suffered significant damage from antiquities theft. Our research has uncovered very troubling data regarding archaeological sites; to date, this data has never been compiled or examined systematically by any of the official bodies responsible for protecting and preserving the historical record. The completed map will be an invaluable tool for grappling with this massive problem, and we are releasing the data and our analysis and conclusions to the media as it becomes available, to provide a real-time view of the situation. In the course of this mapping project, we drafted the “Preserving the Top 100” report, an intervention plan for 150 archaeological sites that stand out in terms of their size and their historical and scientific importance, as well as archaeological sites that are situated in strategic spots. The report has been translated into English, and includes extensive background information on each site, a general map, location coordinates and high quality photographs.
From Field Work to Enforcement
We have had several important successes on this track, including the demolition of an illegal structure built on Tel Beitar, the ruins of a biblical city and fortress from the Bar Kochba rebellion. Our efforts in this case were carried out in conjunction with the staff of the Kfar Etzion Field School. Another significant enforcement sweep was carried out on the illegal structures and the illegal garbage dump at the Hasmonean Palace of Jericho. A third successful campaign involved illegal construction at the Hasmonean burial ground near Jericho: The extraordinary catacombs at this site had been looted extensively, and an illegal structure was built on the catacombs by local Arab trespassers who were ‘caught in the act,’ leveling the area for agricultural use. Thousands of bones that had been resting in sarcophagi deep in the catacombs were scattered in the freshly-plowed fields surrounding the cave entrance; the rare, ancient (and extremely valuable) sarcophagi were gone without a trace. “Preserving the Eternal” saw to it that the remains were collected and reburied in a special section of the Kfar Adumim cemetery, where a moving ceremony, made possible by the Binyamin Regional Council, the Civil Administration and the Ministry of Religious Affairs, was attended by hundreds.
Reporting by volunteers and hikers – A Facebook page and a WhatsApp group were created by the forum and have been making waves and drawing attention and interest on the part of hikers and new volunteers, all of whom have begun to share real-time reports on cases of looting, antiquities theft, illegal digging of archaeological sites and other related findings.
“Sun-free Tours” – We launched a series of night hikes on evenings when the moon is full, to explore endangered heritage sites. The hikes are led by expert historians and archaeologists, and have become very popular.
Lectures on Antiquities Theft – In the days leading up to Chanukah, we held a “mini-conference” series, open to the public, with lectures by historians and archaeologists at the “Beacon Overlook” on Mount Scopus.
Regavim’s International Division makes our research, policy and opinion materials accessible and understandable to the public beyond Israel’s borders, providing reliable and effective information to local and international media outlets, foreign diplomats and politicians, activists and public opinion influencers.
Regavim’s publications and statements are translated and circulated broadly among English speakers in Israel and around the world and have become a primary source of information and insightful analysis upon which Israeli diplomats rely when they are interviewed by foreign media correspondents or when they host foreign diplomats and VIPs.
In 2019, Regavim made its first trip to the European Parliament in Brussels, as part of our efforts to halt the EU’s illegal activities in Judea and Samaria. We met with 16 MEPs in their parliamentary offices, including members of the Finance Committee, the Israel Delegation, the Budget Oversight Committee, and more, and presented what proved to be eye-opening facts about the EU’s financial and non-financial support for illegal activity in Judea and Samaria, the EU’s one-sided support for the unilateral establishment of a Palestinian state in the heart of Israel, and the effects of the EU’s actions on the prospects for a peaceful future in the region. Although we have a long way to go to achieve a total moratorium on EU support for this activity, we have already begun to see positive results: Formal information requests demanding transparency and analysis of expenditures and their outcomes have been submitted to the European Council by MEPs who met with us – an important development which we hope is the first step toward our goal.
Over the course of this past year, we conducted dozens of meetings and field tours for foreign journalists, researchers, visiting diplomats, study groups and political activists. These meetings enable us to present Regavim’s research and analysis directly and in-depth, to raise and explain the challenges we face, and to illustrate our field methodology.
In 2019, we focused on opening channels of direct communication with foreign embassies and official representatives of key international organizations, among them the US Embassy in Israel, the British Embassy, the United Nations’ Special Envoy to the Middle East, European parliamentarians and key political and parliamentary staff members, academics and policy researchers, public opinion influencers from around the world, and leading media figures. We held meetings with leaders of major Zionist organizations, including UK Lawyers for Israel, directors of the Zionist Organization of America, the leadership of CAMERA (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America), leaders of Americans for a Safe Israel, the World Beitar Movement, the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, the One Israel Fund, the Middle East Forum, and others.
In addition to lectures and presentations in New York, Los Angeles, Toronto, San Francisco, Manchester and London, we held dozens of meetings and lectures for study groups, pre-military academies, Regavim supporters and others interested in learning about our activities, among them organizations and opinion-leaders from both the left and right of the political spectrum.
In 2019, over 300 press items appeared in foreign print and broadcast media – in English, French, German and more. Regavim’s social media presence grew by some 15% this year, bringing our message to a large, diverse, growing audience worldwide.
One of the important areas of Regavim’s activities is our media presence, an essential means of raising awareness of our activities through traditional media, local and sectoral media outlets and digital communications. This past year, over 1000 of our communicated background, informational and news items were published, in addition to the many hundreds of times Regavim was mentioned in Israeli and international media.
No less vital is our social media presence, where we publish real-time updates from the field, the courthouse, and the Knesset. Surfers of the net are able to actively connect with the issues and send direct messages to government functionaries and enforcement bodies through social media, and our Facebook pages also serve as a platform for constant contact and for two-way reporting on illegal construction, environmental abuse, and more.
Our Hebrew Facebook page presented some 300 posts that reached 6,200,000 viewers, and nearly 100 more on our English page . Our following has grown steadily each year, with a total of some 46,000 active followers who react, comment, and share hundreds of our posts in Hebrew and English.
This past year, we published some 120 videos clips and video-articles on our core agenda items, with over 1,150,000 views on our Facebook pages and hundreds of thousands more on other media outlets and platforms.
On Twitter, the communications platform favored by politicians and media personalities, we had a reach of over 3 million – an incredible increase of nearly 100% over last year, with hundreds of new followers.
This year, we launched our Instagram account, and hundreds of people are already avid followers. If you haven’t already done so – please join us at https://www.instagram.com/regavimisrael/