Ousted, with heavy hearts, from the vistas of King Saul

Ousted, with heavy hearts, from the vistas of King Saul

The residents of Migron leave quietly, asserting — amid their sense of betrayal — that they will return

Mitch Ginsburg is the former Times of Israel military correspondent.

Itay Harel, one of the first settlers to move to Migron, was also the last to leave. He stood outside the stable and kicked some hay in the direction of his horses.

Outwardly, at least, Harel, the son of the founder of the Yesha settlers council and a father of six, is not an emotional man. Like so many people who work with horses, he is frequently gruff and taciturn. On this day, though, perhaps his last in Migron, he leaned against the corral fence and smiled, bashfully, spreading his arms wide, opening himself to the type of questions he usually fields with a grunt and a verbal jab.

Harel said the situation – the evacuation of all 50 families from Migron on Sunday — was awful, surreal and a desecration of God’s name. He said it threatened the entire Zionist enterprise. He admitted that he felt “sad and distressed.” But most telling was his admission that he felt “betrayed” by the government of Israel.

He scratched his forearm, looked down at the ground. It was clear he was deeply uncomfortable. The ideological settlers, perhaps the numerical minority in the West Bank, but the lifeblood of the movement – the ones willing to pay an enormous personal price to live in frequently harsh and hostile corners of the land – rely, of course, on their belief in God and His promises regarding Biblical Israel. But they also rely, to a great extent, on their perceived position in society as pioneers, the leaders of the Zionist camp.

Itay Harel outside of his horse stables in Migron (Photo credit: Mitch Ginsburg/ Times of Israel)
Itay Harel outside of his horse stables in Migron (Photo credit: Mitch Ginsburg/ Times of Israel)

On a day like Sunday, when police forces arrived shortly after dawn and knocked on the thin aluminum doors and handed out eviction orders to each of the families, many of the residents of Migron and other outposts felt abandoned by the camp they seek to lead.

“This is just a reflection of what is happening in the state of Israel. The ties to the land of Israel and to the Torah are still lacking. And that is expressed in these measures,” said Rabbi Yair Frank, the rabbi of the nearby outpost of Amona, who sat in the synagogue at Migron and studied Talmud alone by the light coming in from the window.

Rabbi Yair Frank, using his last moments in Migron to study Talmud (Photo credit: Mitch Ginsburg/ Times of Israel)
Rabbi Yair Frank, using his last moments in Migron to study Talmud (Photo credit: Mitch Ginsburg/ Times of Israel)

Avi Roeh, the head of the Binyamin Regional Council, looked on as David’s Movers, a company contracted by the Defense Ministry, loaded the cribs from the settlement’s kindergarten onto shipping containers. “It is inexplicable to me that the authorities felt the need to wipe clean the settlement in its entirety,” he said.

He, too, used the word betrayed.

Further down the road lay the Migron evacuees’ alternate site of Givat Hayekev. It is nothing like Migron. The wind does not stir the brittle yellow grass. The houses are close together and uniform. The noise of the road is near. Unlike in Migron, one can hardly imagine King Saul sitting under a pomegranate tree there.

“Believe me,” said Meir Pilo, the contractor who built the new homes in the neighborhood, “they should build these for the young people all over Israel. It took five months to build and it cost next to nothing.”

Dozens of Palestinian workers from the village of Hizma scrambled to clean the freshly tarred road and to finish the construction of the new settlement’s synagogue. They said the last of the air conditioners were being installed and that the village – gifted to the residents of Migron courtesy of the Israeli taxpayer – would be ready within days.

For now, the new settlement is empty of inhabitants. The former residents of Migron — ordered off land that the state said was privately Palestinian-owned — are living in the field school in the nearby settlement of Ofra. There, during the day Sunday, children played on the lawn. Adults clustered around benches. School girls led youth groups. The residents asked for privacy, for time to re-group.

But the writing left behind at the entrance to Migron conveyed the two sides of their conviction.

The first, on an old sign near the gate, is Biblical: “Founded on the basis of deep faith in the word of God, who has returned the people of Israel to their land, and out of the privilege of taking part in the Divine-historical return to Zion, on the path that rises toward Jerusalem.”

The second, on a large, new placard there, is practical. It features a picture of a mountain. Near the top is a dot that is labeled as Upper Migron. Near the bottom is another dot. It is called Lower Migron. The text reads: “In the end there will be two settlements.”

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