The Testing Ground of Shdema

The Testing Ground of Shdema
By Timna Katz
November 2009

History: Past and Present

Shdema is an abandoned Israeli army base built in 1967 on the remains of a Jordanian army base. It is five minutes south of Jerusalem’s southern neighborhood of Har Homa and five minutes north of eastern Gush Etzion.
Going further back, the Shdema area was densely populated by Jews during the First Temple period and resettled again during the Second Temple period.
Despite the scant archeological attention the area has received, remains of Jewish settlement have been identified from the Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, and Mameluke periods. The Hasmoneans waged their final victorious battle there.

Shdema’s fate since Oslo is typical: designated as Area C, under full Israeli sovereignty, the IDF nonetheless began to abandon Shdema together with other army camps in Judea and Samaria despite the security disaster brought on by the Oslo Accords. Massive and politically directed illegal Arab building proliferates throughout Judea and Samaria, while Jewish growth is frozen. Recently, the double standard has become even more flagrant.
The nearby municipality of Beit Sahur has illegally built a sports and entertainment center on Shdema lands with funding provided by European agencies and the U.S. Agency for International Development.
In April 2008, a group of individuals led by Women in Green halted the total destruction of the base and determined to maintain a Jewish presence there to prevent a complete Arab take-over of the strategic hill overlooking the Jerusalem-Gush Etzion highway. The Committee for a Jewish Shdema was formed, and since then, Shdema has become a vibrant cultural center with weekly
events and holiday festivities. The Committee, with the support of Women in Green, has plans to build an educational and cultural campus at the site that will foster Jewish and Zionist values and goals.

The Oslo vs. Shdema Paradigm

The lesson of Oslo is tragic but profound. Oslo turned the “peace process” into the country’s supreme value and goal. To keep this process going,  the Israeli leadership was prepared to sacrifice almost every Jewish and Zionist truth. It exchanged the old values and ideals for a realpolitik that served the enemy’s narrative and goals. Even when the results of Oslo proved to be the polar opposites of its intended goals — war instead of peace,  increased Arab rejectionism instead of increased Arab acceptance, international isolation instead of international normalization – Israel continued down the same disastrous path. The one and only justification against total capitulation to Arab demands that Israel mustered was the ‘security’ card:

Israel can’t immediately relinquish all of Yesha because she has no choice but to defend herself against ‘terrorism’.

While the damage of the above approach has been great, its bankruptcy has become so evident that even current leaders who continue to dance to the Oslo tune have started to pay lip service to the old values and truths:  that the Land of Israel belongs to the Jewish People and Jews cannot be ‘occupiers’ in the Biblical heartland and cradle of their civilization. However, it’s not enough to pay lip service to those truths: if the Jewish People won’t physically live those truths, it is now abundantly clear that we’ll lose our land – all of it.

That is where we stand today and that is the message behind the struggle for Shdema: the current government continues to follow the Oslo paradigm, even while knowing that it is untenable. The Jewish majority are becoming increasingly frustrated by leaders who talk the post-Olso talk but won’t walk the post-Oslo walk. Shdema has become a testing ground of these tensions and the opposing forces rumbling beneath Israel’s surface.

Thus the struggle to keep Shdema Jewish has not only been supported by the local populace, idealistic youth, and right-wing politicians, it has also received support from elements in the army and the political center.
Meanwhile, however, the status quo maintains its hold and the Arabs continue to build illegally while a Jewish government ties Jewish hands.

A Tipping Point?

Positive change is occurring, though the evidence of it – whether in the Jewish cultural awakening within secular Israel or in the supporting visit of the Knesset speaker to Shdema – doesn’t yet indicate what its eventual force or impact will be. Unfortunately, destructive counter-forces maintain their momentum and time is running out. We of the Committee for a Jewish Shdema believe that Shdema will be a testing ground for this nascent change and hope that you will help us in making it happen. God willing, if we
all act now and act forcefully, we can reverse the fatal Oslo tide and unleash the tremendous positive energies inherent in the Jewish return to Zion.

*Timna Katz, resident of Neve Daniel in Gush Etzion, is a member of the Committee for a Jewish Shdema and Women in Green

Women For Israel’s Tomorrow  (Women in Green)
POB 7352, Jerusalem 91072, Israel
Tel: 972-2-624-9887 Fax: 972-2-624-5380


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