The ancient aqueduct. Credit: Preserving The Eternal

The illegal Palestinian quarry in Beit Fajjar has damaged around two kilometers of the ancient aqueduct that runs between Gush Etzion and Jerusalem. The aqueduct, which dates back some 2,000 years to the time of the Second Temple is considered a marvel of engineering, as it twists and turns for a distance of some 40 km (25 miles) along rocky, hilly terrain that has virtually no incline.

For over 15 years, Regavim has been waging a legal battle to shut down the illegal quarry in eastern Gush Etzion. Responding to our first petition over a decade ago, the government informed the High Court that it had carried out a number of enforcement steps, and was working on a zoning plan for the area that would establish land-use directives for quarrying at the site.

On the basis of the government’s statements and commitments, the High Court rejected Regavim’s petition at that time. Then-Chief Justice Dorit Beinish, who presided over the case, stressed in her judgement that “we are assuming that the enforcement and regulatory actions taken by the respondents will continue, and that the policy that has been formulated will be enforced without interruption.”

Unfortunately, over a decade has passed, and not only have the Israeli authorities failed to take any steps to prevent the continued operation of the quarry, they have allowed it to expand by 33%, deepening the invasion of state land by more than 200 dunams beyond its boundaries. When repeated inquiries and correspondence on the matter were ignored, Regavim went back to court, filing a petition against Minister of Defense Beni Gantz, Minister of the Environment Gila Gamliel, the IDF Commander of Central Command, the Civil Administration and the Israel Police.

Above: 2019. Below: 2009.

The environmental damage caused to this area by the inaction of the authorities responsible for law enforcement is staggering, and, sadly, irreparable. The State of Israel has strict regulations for quarrying permits, and owners and operators are required to finance the rehabilitation of quarried areas when they become inoperative in order to minimize the environmental impact – but this policy vanishes when the imaginary line into Judea and Samaria is crossed. Adding insult to injury, when micro-measures are taken to rehabilitate illegal quarries in these areas, they are paid for by Israeli taxpayers, and the criminals who cause the damage simply carry on, rapaciously exploiting the natural resources of the Land of Israel as they scoff at the law and pocket vast profits, without any responsibility for the destruction they leave in their wake.

Now, in the latest development, our friends at Preserving the Eternal (“Shomrim al Hanetzach”) have exposed the grave damage to one of Israel’s major archaeological treasures.

A screenshot of the Kisan village’s Facebook page that notes Swiss involvement in the construction of an illegal school

In early September, there was a special celebration in the village of Kisan in eastern Gush Etzion in honor of the opening of a new school. But, as we told you before, the school was built without permits by the Palestinian Authority.

The construction period was short, and lasted just over a year. As soon as construction started, we sent urgent letters to the Civil Administration and the other Israeli authorities to stop yet another land grab. But that didn’t help. So we went to the Jerusalem District Court, although our petition was rejected because of the State’s promise in the court hearing to enforce the law at site.

But, of course, the law wasn’t enforced, and the school began to function in September 2020. Immediately, we petitioned the Court (again) to request an interim order that would prevent the opening of the school, but the Court didn’t comply with our request. And now, a year later, the illegal school in Kisan celebrates the Israeli authorities’ failure.

And it’s important to mention a line published on the village’s Facebook page: “It’s worth noting that the Kisan school project was funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC)”. That’s right, the famously ‘neutral’ Switzerland, that claims not to take any side in any conflict, is defying Israeli law, the European Union charter, and international law. The Swiss government is aiding the Palestinian Authority’s plan to establish a de-facto state in a territory that belongs to Israel according to international agreements.

For years, we’ve been protesting against the gross intervention of European governments in Area C. And for years, the State of Israel has decided to shut its eyes and ears as it squanders state lands. This is a major disgrace – in every sense.

Regavim: Protecting Israel’s Resources, Preserving Israeli Sovereignty

Up close: The illegal school next to the Herodion

For over three years, Regavim has been involved in a legal battle over an illegal school built right next to the Herodion, probably one of Israel’s most important historical sites.  

Back in 2018, we petitioned the High Court of Justice against the Civil Administration as the new school was allowed to spring up without permits. A demolition order had been issued, but the Civil Administration took no steps to enforce it. Our petition was rejected because the State had reached an agreement with the construction criminal whereby he would submit a permit request to the Planning and Authorization Subcommittee.    

After his request was dismissed, he petitioned the Jerusalem District Court to protest the decision. The Court issued a temporary order to instruct that until a different decision is reached in this case, the Civil Administration would not take enforcement steps against the structure.    

Since our 2018 petition was rejected, we consistently questioned the Civil Administration to clarify where the school’s planning and administrative procedures stood. Occasionally, we received partial updates about the legal status of the school.    

In March this year, the Civil Administration responded that indeed the permit request submitted by the construction criminal was rejected, yet they are unable to tear down the school because of the temporary order from the District Court.    

However, the Civil Administration is simply not telling the truth.    

We checked and found that the construction criminal’s petition had already been dismissed, along with the temporary order that had been cancelled, ten days before the Civil Administration’s response. It turns out that there was no legal obstacle in the way of exercising the demolition orders! The Civil Administration didn’t mention this important fact, nor did it take any practical action.    

Now, with legal procedures exhausted, we demand that the Civil Administration act immediately to carry out the demolition order against the school – which has expanded over the last year.    

The Civil Administration must prove that it is committed to the rule of law and to the protection of important heritage sites that belong to the State of Israel. No more excuses!

Illegal construction in Nahalin

We’ve been in the business of protecting Israel’s land resources for many years, but this episode is something we’ve never encountered before. In one of our recent legal cases, the Jerusalem District Court accepted the Civil Administration’s narrative, despite its neglectful conduct, and decided to hit Regavim with a 10,000 shekels fine!

Let’s start from the beginning.

A year ago, we told you about the illegal expansion of the Nahalin village in Gush Etzion. The moment the new plots began to be developed (illegally!), we recognized the threat posed to the nearby community of Rosh Tzurim, which is being choked.

We approached the Civil Administration, an official enforcement body of the State of Israel that must act in accordance with the law, to demand law enforcement at the site. However, the CA didn’t do much. Inspectors came to the site and hung up stop work orders, but construction continued relentlessly. The orders were completely ignored, and the area is now an illegal, Arab neighborhood.

After we sent more alerts to the authorities and didn’t receive any proper responses, we filed a petition with the Jerusalem District Court against the Civil Administration. As usual, the CA told the judges that enforcement at the site would happen “in accordance with established enforcement priorities”. This was not surprising.

However, this time, instead of criticizing the CA for not doing its job, the Court bought the excuse of “enforcement priorities”! Our petition was rejected, and we were charged with the expenses, a hefty fine totaling ₪10,000.

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The Civil Administration’s goal is to exhaust Regavim, and to make us relinquish our efforts. You see, CA officials don’t really like it when we submit petitions and alerts, and when we present their deficiencies in the media and elsewhere. The CA prefers to deflect public criticism, attempting to hide their failures.

With each petition we file, we know that there is a chance that it will be rejected. But we are always guided by the importance of our mission, first and foremost: the protection of Israel’s resources and preservation of sovereignty. If Regavim didn’t exist, the situation on the ground would be much worse.

We call on you, our friends and supporters in Israel and abroad, to help us cover the costs. In order to continue our Zionist activities, and to point out the shortcomings of Israel’s enforcement bodies, we need your help. Make an online, tax-deductible donation here.

Aerial map of Nahalin; numbers indicate illegal structures

Regavim petitions High Court of Justice: Apply the enforcement tools legislated in 2018 against new Palestinian Authority de facto annexation in Gush Etzion region of Area C.

Following the Regavim Movement’s urgent requests to the Ministry of Defense to halt further progress on an illegal road being paved by the Palestinian Authority in a strategic area of Gush Etzion, Regavim filed a petition in the High Court of Justice this morning (Wednesday). The road, which connects the Area B villages of Battir and Husan, will effectively strangle the Jewish community of Har Gilo.

Last week, the Regavim Movement submitted a second urgent alert to Minister of Defense Benny Gantz and to the Civil Administration, demanding immediate enforcement action against a strategic Palestinian Authority project in Gush Etzion – a road connecting the Palestinian villages Battir and Husan.

The road skirts the Jewish community of Har Gilo, spanning the Heletz Valley, and connects the illegal “northern extension” of Battir to the village of Husan, both of which are designated as Area B (under Palestinian Authority jurisdiction).

Eitan Melet, Regavim’s Field Coordinator for Judea and Samaria, who documented the ongoing roadwork, explains that the land on which the Palestinian Authority is laying the road is of particular strategic importance: “This,” he says, “constitutes the corridor connecting Gush Etzion to Jerusalem, and is a vital strategic asset for Israeli control of the area. The illegal road, and the further expansion of the Palestinian villages that it will eventually facilitate, will turn territory under full Israeli jurisdiction into an isolated enclave surrounded by territory under de facto Palestinian Authority control.”

Gush Etzion Regional Council head Shlomo Neeman stressed that this incident illustrates the Palestinian Authority’s systematic method of achieving territorial contiguity: “The Batir road is one more attempt to dismantle Israeli sovereignty. The road work must be stopped – yesterday! – and we must prevent the creation of a Palestinian state right under our noses. Protection of Israeli state land and law enforcement against illegal construction, land-grabs and encroachment on our national resources must be at the very top of the list of priorities of every Israeli official.”

Regavim issued two separate alerts in recent days calling for a criminal investigation against the perpetrators who are carrying out the work, and full disclosure of any and all enforcement activity that has been carried out. In light of the urgency of the matter and the pace at which the work on the road is progressing, and after no response was received and no enforcement activity was carried out, Regavim petitioned the High Court of Justice to instruct the Ministry of Defense to apply the relatively new legislation, passed in 2018 and approved by the High Court in recent rulings, that empowers the demolition of new structures.