Ulpana: A view from the hills (JERUSALEM POST OP-ED) By JOSH HASTEN 05/02/12)
JERUSALEM POST Articles-Index-Top
Looking out to the West atop Beit El’s old water tower, which has
been converted into a scenic lookout point for residents, visitors
and tourists, you clearly see the Palestinian Authority-controlled
city of Ramallah, just several kilometers away. Ramallah is in the
midst of a building surge, with nearly completed skyscraper
apartments dotting the landscape. Throughout the city you can see
construction cranes in motion transforming this once war-torn urban
area into a thriving metropolis.
Just to the north of the water tower (on which is painted a massive
Israeli flag – clearly a sign of the Beit El residents’ proud
Zionistic and patriotic sentiment), only several meters away is a
neighborhood of 14 nearly identical multi-family apartment buildings
home to over 80 Jewish families, known as Givat Ha’ulpana.
It is impossible not to recognize the fact that the Ulpana buildings,
some of the largest structures in the entire community of Beit El,
were built with permanent Jerusalem stone and red roofs, and are
located well within town limits. In other words, nothing about Ulpana
resembles an isolated so-called caravan “outpost.”
Nevertheless, the Supreme Court has ordered the state to demolish the
upper five buildings of Ulpana, home to 30 families, by May 1, since
according to the court they were constructed illegally on private
Despite the ruling, a government ministerial committee established to
explore the matter is asking the Supreme Court to push off the
demolition in order to examine the claims of ownership in depth and
to come up with a solution.
It seems that recently this has been a trend. Whether it’s Migron, a
house purchased for Jewish families in Hebron, or in this case
Ulpana, while Ramallah and other Arab communities in Judea and
Samaria are flourishing, every Jewish real-estate transaction is
placed under a microscope. If that is the reality, then our own
Supreme Court is sadly guilty of discrimination against Jewish
homeowners/ property owners based on their religion or nationality.
Documentary filmmaker, journalist and Ulpana resident Alex Traiman,
who lives in one of the buildings slated for demolition with his wife
and three children, is dumbfounded that despite the many threats and
challenges Israel is facing – especially the Iranian nuclear
threat, “the Supreme Court’s top priority is the knocking down of
five buildings in a Jewish community which is home to 6,000
residents.” Traiman feels that the true motivation behind the ruling
is the Supreme Court’s “ideological drive [assisted by the media] to
create a Palestinian state at any cost while negating logic.”
According to Traiman, who has lived in Ulpana for nearly six years,
all 14 buildings in the neighborhood were built on land purchased
legally from private Arabs nearly 15 years ago, with the backing of
the Civil Administration and the government.
He says that the only real difference between the five buildings in
question and the other nine, which everyone agrees are legal, is
simply “administrative,” since the transaction was made separately
with the land purchased from a different Arab owner.
Traiman is adamant that the court is questioning the authenticity of
the purchase documents in order to “punish the residents of Beit El,
and chip away at the ‘settlement enterprise’ apartment by apartment,
and family by family.”
He says that the court first questioned the legality of the buildings
in 2007, thanks to efforts by the NGOs Yesh Din and Peace Now, which
went out of their way to track down a cousin of the owner and
convince him he had a claim on the land.
Traiman says that Yesh Din went so far as to cover the cousin’s legal
fees when the issue was brought before a PA court.
Since according to the PA selling land to a Jew is punishable by
death, according to Traiman it was much easier for the court to side
with the cousin and literally avoid a bloody mess. The PA court then
brought the issue before Israel’s Supreme Court, who backed the
cousin’s claim despite not being able to present legitimate proof of
Adding to Traiman’s theory – that the Supreme Court is acting out of
its own ideological stance, is the fact that the community of Beit El
is currently in the midst of a court case against the “cousin” in the
Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court attempting to prove true ownership over
the land. Unless the government can somehow convince the Supreme
Court to put a hold on its demolition order, at this point the court
is unwilling to wait on that extremely pertinent ruling.
But there is some room for optimism.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who ultimately has the authority to
decide Ulpana’s fate one way or another, seems to be falling in line
with the government’s stance that more time is needed to study the
And while Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu only decided to speak up
at the last minute as the fate of the homes is hanging in the
balance, it appears that he also wants to avoid demolition.
What seems to be clear is that the residents of Ulpana are pawns on
the front lines of a battle of political ideology.
It’s time for our court members to stop injecting their personal
feelings and beliefs into their rulings as a means of setting an
example – especially when it comes to decisions involving possibly
throwing Jewish families out of their homes.
The writer is a media expert, writer, and the host of Reality Bytes
Radio on www.israelnationalradio.com. He is the former foreign press
spokesperson for the Yesha Council. (© 1995-2011, The Jerusalem Post
Return to Top
MATERIAL REPRODUCED FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY