The long Sukkot vacation was used to full advantage for illegal Palestinian construction throughout Israel – but most effectively at the site of the illegal outpost springing up adjacent to the Israel Railroad tunnel in the Jerusalem Corridor, despite a High Court order forbidding work at the site. Regavim’s field workers have documented the “Workman’s Holiday” that is celebrated throughout the Arab sector during Jewish festivals, when building inspectors are off duty.
In the village of Beit Iksa, between the Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramot and Mevasseret Zion, the intermediate days of the Sukkot festival were spent feverishly building illegal structures just meters away from the recently-completed tunnel and bridge for the Israel Railroad line to Jerusalem – despite the temporary injunction issued by Israel’s High Court in response to a motion filed by Regavim.
Adjacent to Dir Dibwan near Ofra, Arab builders illegally seized State land over the course of the holiday, using heavy machinery to blast a new access road and to clear land for construction.
In another instance, Arab builders took advantage of Sukkot to break ground for illegal construction on State land within the municipal boundary of Kiryat Arba.
Yishai Hemo, Regavim’s Field Coordinator for Judea and Samaria, received numerous reports of construction violations over the course of the holiday through Regavim’s interactive website-reporting app, “Building Irregulations Reporter” (Charigon). Hemo notes that the many incident reports he received from concerned citizens are just the tip of the iceberg: The systematic abuse of Israel’s national and religious holidays by building offenders has given a new and sinister meaning to the holidays: They are now days of celebration for criminal Arab construction throughout Israel, and particularly in Judea and Samaria.
Most illegal construction throughout the year begins on Fridays and Saturdays, when there are no inspection tours. The Civil Administration currently suspends all inspection operations for weeks at a time – or even longer – over the High Holidays and Passover. During the extended hiatus, there are no inspections or enforcement activities whatsoever throughout Judea and Samaria, which is an open invitation to a week-long frenzy of unhindered illegal construction of massive proportions.
Several years ago, Regavim publicized a report entitled “Workman’s Holiday” that exposed this phenomenon. Among other recommendations, the report suggested that the Civil Administration hire non-Jewish (Druze) employees to continue inspection and enforcement activities on Shabbat and Jewish holidays, similar to the system used by the Ministry of Labor to enforce the Days of Rest Law, or the system used to enforce the Hamtez Law on Passover by the Ministry of the Interior.
“Although we spotlighted the problem several years ago, unfortunately the situation has remained unchanged,” says Hemo. “We demand that Defense Minister Lieberman and Vice-Minister Ben Dahan create a systemic solution that will put an end to the anarchy on the ground and that will facilitate effective enforcement of the law on Shabbat and holidays – but first and foremost, the relevant bodies must fulfill their responsibility to enforce the law, unequivocally and immediately, after the ‘holiday building spree.’ The message they send to building offenders must be clear and tangible: Building crimes don’t pay, and Jewish holidays must no longer be used for illegal construction.”