Every Rosh Chodesh (first day of the Hebrew month) stands out as a unique day at Jerusalem’s Western Wall plaza. Not only are there special prayer services that are conducted in honor of the new month, but many also seize upon the opportunity of the monthly occasion to schedule religious celebrations such as bar and bat mitzvahs, at the Western Wall.
Thursday was a bit different than the usual Rosh Chodesh, at least at the entrance to the Western Wall plaza and the Temple Mount, as a group of Israelis came to pray outside the entrance of the Temple Mount for an entirely different reason. A large number of residents from the Jewish outpost of Amona, located north of Jerusalem in the West Bank’s Binyamin region, came to pray and to ascend the Temple Mount, in an attempt to make somewhat of a religious beseechment for the continued existence of their community.
“I came to the Temple Mount today because I think that our fight for Amona is the same fight for the Temple Mount,” said Amona resident Emunah Abel to i24news, standing with two of her young children by her side outside the entrance to the Temple Mount.
“Both Amona and the Temple Mount are a part of the fight for the land of Israel. And when I fight for my home, I fight for God’s home.”
Emunah is fighting with many of her friends and supporters in the face of Amona’s scheduled demolition on December 25, in accordance with a Supreme Court ruling in 2014 that found the outpost to have been built on private Palestinian land.
Nachum Schwartz, one of the first residents of Amona, expressed a similar perspective to Emunah’s, regarding his ascent to the Temple Mount today.
“We came here to the Temple Mount because we see an attachment between our private homes and the home that’s supposed to be built on top of the Temple Mount, a home of Israel and the whole world,” Schwartz told i24news.
“Our return to the land of Israel, including Amona, will be completed when we rebuild this house on the Temple Mount.”
Nachum was one of outpost’s many pioneers from the small Jewish community of Ofra that is adjacent to Amona, and for him, his entire life belongs in the outpost.
“Amona was actually my playground when I grew up,” he related. “I met my wife there where we have our family, my business is there and my whole life is in Amona now.”
For that reason alone, Nachum sees no possible way that he and his family can accept a situation in which they will have to be expelled from the outpost.
“We can’t leave Amona,” he said. “Like I said before, my whole life is in Amona and I can’t reinvent myself again.”
Emunah feels exactly the same way as Nachum, and said that there was nothing the Israeli government could offer her as an alternative to staying in Amona.
“I don’t have plans to go anywhere else and on no terms they offer me, will I leave,” she stressed. “This is my home and I will never give up my home, and I don’t think any normal person would give up their home.”
The Israeli government has already considered alternative options for Amona’s residents, among which include removing them to some 98 housing units next to the Jewish town of Shiloh, located further north in the West Bank’s Binyamin region.
At the same time, the Knesset is considering passage of a proposed bill that would retroactively legalize the Amona outpost, known as the Regulation Law. The bill would essentially spare the Amona outpost from demolition.
“It is a very good bill,” Nachum said, as he expressed hope for its approval by the Knesset. “This bill leaves Amona in its place and also recognizes the rights of the so-called owners of the land and gives compensation to the owners in the form of money and alternative land.”
“This is the will of the voters, and the right thing to do and is the best solution,” he added.
Emunah for her part, expressed a sense of both determination and optimism for Amona’s fate.
“I hope it won’t happen,” she said regarding Amona’s scheduled demolition. “But we’re not afraid and we will stand up for our rights.”