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Bunker Hill

Aharon Granevich-Granot

They have no face, no name, and no official leadership. They live on isolated hilltops, arousing the anger of their Palestinian neighbors. The security forces who’ve tried to evacuate them gave up against the phenomenon calling itself the “hilltop youth.” Yet when an anonymous arsonist strikes a mosque in the middle of the night, all fingers are pointed at them. When IDF property is damaged, everyone is certain that they are responsible. Are they behind the mysterious “price tag” activities?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Five years ago, Meir Brettler was banned for six months from his home on a windswept Samarian hilltop — joining a list of 20 others thrown out of their communities in Judea and Samaria by administrative orders. At the time, it didn’t stop him from sneaking back into the Yishuv HaDaat farm (population three families at the time) for his second child’s bris. Today the Brettlers still live on that lonely hilltop, and Meir still infuriates Israel’s intelligence network.

Brettler, 25, would never fit into Lakewood, but he looks just like the other “hilltop youth” whom he mentors: a massive knit kippah covering his head, a large beard, wild peyos, and tzitzis fluttering in the wind. And he has no qualms about doing things that the Israeli government and security forces feel will inflame the Middle East — as long as those actions help him achieve the goals that he believes in.

“We are the front line,” he says. “There are two million dunams of land here, and we will settle them. Our Zionist ancestors established their settlements in secret, in the dead of night, like thieves. We conduct our activities with pride, in the open — we’re not embarrassed to say this land belongs to us. Or does it? We demanded an answer, and when the leadership wasn’t willing to give it to us, we provided it ourselves.”

Despite his young age, Meir Brettler, whose charisma has attracted dozens of young supporters who follow his lead unquestioningly, has already succeeded in founding the Union of Hebrew Towns, which stakes a Jewish claim to biblical cities in spite of current political realities. They often try to enter Jericho, now under PA sovereignty, in order to return to the ancient Shalom Al Yisrael synagogue. And they are regular visitors to Shechem, unfazed by the Palestinian police who tail them.

“Kever Yosef [destroyed by rioting Arab mobs in the 2000 intifada] is currently lying in disgrace. Shechem is the spiritual key, the spiritual source of all settlement in Eretz Yisrael, and as long as it remains disgraced, the Arabs will overpower us.”

Brettler and the boys surrounding him — all of them minors — don’t even consider that they are tempting fate by being so visible in “enemy” territory. “People tell us that all the time,” Chanamel and Rafael, two youths from other “illegal” outposts whom we met at Brettler’s home, interject. “But it’s always the people who are obsessed with one thing who create results. Before the shameful expulsion of Jews from Gush Katif, people told us that love would prevail. But we lost out, simply because we were trying to pacify public opinion.”

“Mordechai also didn’t bow down to Haman,” Brettler adds — although he refuses to name the rav who gives him spiritual guidance. “He inflamed the entire world. Everyone hated the Jews. It appeared that Mordechai’s actions were the direct cause of Haman’s decree. You see, when it comes to the honor of the Jewish nation, we don’t make calculations.”


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