A group of about 40 journalists from leading media outlets around the
world visited the Ulpana neighborhood in Beit El on Sunday.
The neighborhood is under a threat of being demolished under a
Supreme Court ruling, which was issued after the left-wing group Yesh
Din filed suit, claiming the buildings in the neighborhood have been
built on land owned by a Palestinian Authority Arab man.
However, the question of who owns the land has not yet been resolved
in court. Beit El residents were not heard in the initial case, and
have appealed to a lower court, arguing that the land is in fact
On Sunday, the Supreme Court ruled that the demolition, which was
scheduled for May 1, may be postponed by 60 days. State attorneys
requested the deferral in hopes that the extra time will allow them
to find a solution other than demolition.
Last week, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his senior ministers
decided that the State Attorney´s Office would approach the Supreme
Court and ask for the demolition to be delayed. At the same time,
according to the decision, a committee will be established to examine
the legal status of the houses and their future.
Aryeh Green, head of Media Central, Honest Reporting who led the
journalists on the tour, told Arutz Sheva that the reasoning behind
bringing the foreign journalists to the neighborhood is to show them
that it is a legitimate neighborhood of Beit El.
“This is making no political pronouncement as to whether it is or
isn’t legal, legitimate, should or shouldn’t be dismantled,”
emphasized Green. “That’s a question for the legal and the political
He added that most foreign journalists have a misconception of what
the Ulpana neighborhood really is, noting that most describe it as an
outpost, which likely means they visualize the neighborhood as being
made up of a few caravans and being disconnected from the rest of the
“We felt it was important that they come and see for themselves and
hear from [local residents],” said Green.
During the visit, the journalists heard from local residents who
emphasized that the Israeli government built the entire
infrastructure in the neighborhood, including roads, phone lines and
electrical lines, because the government had recognized that the land
was sold legally.
“Ten years later someone comes along, waving a piece of paper and
saying, ‘It’s mine,’” Judy Simon, coordinator of Beit El Tourism,
told the journalists. “It’s a pivotal case, because it’s something
that could, G-d forbid, happen anywhere in Israel and then every
homeowner is at risk.”
Simon added that the residents of Beit El have chosen not to reveal
the name of the Arab man who sold the land, because of the
Palestinian Authority law which states that any person who sells land
to a Jew gets the death penalty.
“We could show [the proof of sale], but we won’t, because we value
life,” she said. “That is the way it stands today: If a Palestinian
sells land to a Jew, he’s got the death penalty. So we have protected
the Palestinian who sold us the land because we value his life,
perhaps more than his brothers do.”
Green said that he heard comments from the journalists who said the
visit had truly changed their perspective on the situation.