UPDATES 9 am Israel time, Monday, September 1 2014:
**Another Israeli soldier has tragically died from wounds in the recent war.
20-year-old Sgt. Shahar Shalev of the Paratrooper Brigade died last night after an incredible fight for life following wounds he suffered in fighting in Khan Younis in Gaza.
Shortly after having been airlifted to a hospital, Sgt. Shalev had to have one of his legs amputated; then just a few days ago, the other leg was amputated because of gangrene. In the process of these operations, Sgt. Shalev’s blood had ceased clotting, and he had received more than 1000 blood transfusions.
Israelis from all over the country had rallied to his support and donated blood to keep him alive.
May Sgt. Shalev’s memory be blessed.
**The Israel school year begins today with 2,105,394 students enrolled in classes from kindergarten through 12th grade.
149,705 students are first-graders while 112,750 are twelfth graders. There are 164,999 teachers and teachers’ aides.
Does this mean that everything is back to normal here in the South?
No. Many of the children who live in kibbutzim and towns along the Gaza border are also starting school, but not in their own school districts. They have been living in different locations across the country, and are starting the school year in those locations.
It hasn’t been a good year so far for housing construction in Israel (housing starts were down 10.8% from January through June compared to the year before), but it has been a far worse one for housing starts in Judea and Samaria.
There the number of housing starts decreased 72% compared to the year before with only 507 homes begun during the January-June period.
Your humble servant mentions these numbers in the context of reporting that the IDF (through its COGAT unit) declared yesterday that 400 hectares (988 acres) of land in the Gush Etzion Bloc is now officially “state land”. The land is beside the Alon Shvut yeshiva where the three Israeli teenagers studied who were abducted and murdered several months ago.
The COGAT unit, no friend of the Jewish communities of Judea and Samaria, astonishingly yet correctly ruled after an extensive investigation that “none of the land is privately owned Palestinian land.”
The declaration means that this tract of land, known as Gva’ot, will now supposedly be opened up to construction, and the hope is that a 5th Jewish city will now be built in Judea and Samaria to join Ariel, Ma’aleh Adumim, Betar Illit, and Modi’in Illit.
Will any construction ever actually take place there?
Consider the tortured history of the area:
1. In 1982, the then Israeli cabinet approved developing the site as an IDF base.
2. In 1984, the IDF actually created the base and stayed there until 1996 at which time it closed the base.
3. In 1996, the Shvut Yeshiva (in which the 3 Israeli teenagers studied) began using the modular buildings left behind by the IDF as its home. The yeshiva has remained in place until today.
4. In 1998, the Gush Etzion Regional Council developed plans to build a 6000 home city where the base had been located.
5. In 2000, the Regional Council abandoned the plans.
6. In 2008, the Regional Council resurrected the plans and petitioned the government in 2009 for action following the collapse of the Annapolis Peace Talks.
7. In 2012, the Israel Defense Ministry finally acted and authorized the construction of 523 houses.
8. In 2013, the Israel Defense Ministry froze the project.
9. Two months ago, in response to the murders of the teenagers, the Gush Etzion Regional Council renewed its call for development.
10. All of which brings us to yesterday’s decision, and the fact that all those opposed to the decision have 45 days to appeal.
Already self-proclaimed “human rights” NGOs are teaming up with local Palestinian leaders to claim that the land really belongs to nearby Palestinian communities–despite the fact that none of the communities possesses a deed to the property. This morning we have PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi declaring that the COGAT decision is a “war crime” that Israel will have to answer at the International Criminal Court.
And in a move that can only be described as par for her hypocritical course, Israel Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who has supported building in Gva’ot all along, has switched course today and condemned the announcement in lock step with John Kerry and the U.S. State Department.
Again, will any construction ever actually take place at Gva’ot?
Your humble servant leaves it to you, dear reader, to make the call.