'We're prepared to shower, comb our hair and dress nicely'

Hilltop youth invite Israelis to get to know them in new video

Far-right activists often associated with attacks against Palestinians and IDF say they choose their rugged lifestyle out of love for the land

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US correspondent based in New York

A video screenshot of hilltop youth members being interviewed. (Screen capture: YouTube)
A video screenshot of hilltop youth members being interviewed. (Screen capture: YouTube)

There’s no price tag on a fair shake. In a new campaign, members of the notorious band of far-right activists known as the “hilltop youth” are reaching out to the Israeli public and asking for a chance to show they aren’t as bad as all that.

“You hear about us in the newspapers, in the media, from politicians; so you think that we all must have horns, a tail, a long nose, that we smell — oh, how we smell! You’ve vomited us out! You’ve pushed us to the fringes, and you didn’t even give us a chance to explain ourselves!” says Yehoshua Lambiasi in the opening of a Hebrew video published by the “Hilltop youth — getting to know up close” Facebook page on Thursday.

Lambiasi was among several youth who were served administrative orders barring them from the West Bank due to a number of violent confrontations evolving both neighboring Palestinians and Israeli security forces during their stints living in the Baladim outpost.

Also starring in the video are Yedidya Schlissel and Yitzhak Ettinger, two activists who have also received administrative orders in the past banning them from the areas east of the 1967 Green Line.

Hilltop youth members Yehoshua Lambiasi (L) and Yitzhak Ettinger. (Screen capture/YouTube)

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, one of the campaign’s organizers told The Times of Israel that the goal of the PR drive was to create a “direct channel of communication with the broader public, bypassing the media and inviting people to meet these pioneering youths.

“We don’t intend to embellish or play pretend, but to invite anyone who wants to to hear what we have to say,” the organizer added.

While the hilltop youth are largely known as delinquents who cling to illegal outposts on windswept peaks, resisting soldiers’ attempts to evacuate them, and sometimes carrying out hate crimes against Palestinians, the young activists wish to highlight their architectural and agricultural work throughout the West Bank, which they say stems from a profound love of the land.

“It’s clear that we are not a typical phenomenon. There’s something different about us, something unconventional,” Lambiasi continues in the video. “We also have friends who are sitting in prison for price tag attacks…”

Illustrative Members of the Hilltop Youth try to rebuild a structure demolished earlier by Israeli troops in the West Bank outpost of Maoz Esther, a hilltop site northeast of Ramallah, in May 2009. (Sebastian Scheiner/AP)
Illustrative: Members of the Hilltop Youth try to rebuild a structure demolished earlier by Israeli troops in the West Bank outpost of Maoz Esther, a hilltop site northeast of Ramallah, in May 2009. (Sebastian Scheiner/AP)

“God forbid!” Schlissel pipes in jokingly upon mention of the attacks against Palestinians and other non-Jews, branded as a “price tag” because they are ostensibly carried out in reprisal for Palestinian actions and Israeli policies deemed unfriendly to settlers.

“But bear with me for a second,” Lambiasi continues. “What are we looking for? We go to sleep in the cold mud, get beaten up… Instead of working, playing, handing out at the beach, we’re here, building our land, again and again and again…”

With each “again,” the camera pans to Lambiasi standing in front of signs for three outposts that the hilltop youth have established and that were razed by security forces several times over the past decade.

“As the situation in Israel deteriorates,” he says, “we prefer to leave our homes… To seek and demand change. No, we are not looking for sympathy; we believe in what we are doing and are willing to pay the price for it, even if it’s a heavy one.”

Meir Ettinger, a leader of the hilltop youth, stands at the Nazareth District Court in Nazareth Illit on August 4, 2015 (AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ)

“We also do not think that anyone could survive what we go through if he didn’t really believe in it, if he was not doing it out of responsibility and concern for the people of Israel. Out of love,” Lambiasi continues. 

“Even if you think we are young, reckless and sometimes mistaken, remember what we are looking for. We are not asking you to join us or even for you to agree with us. Just talk to us like (human beings)… We’re prepared to shower, comb our hair and dress nicely. Are you ready to come?”

A short message accompanying the video on the group’s website and Facebook page welcomes those interested to reach out for information regarding tours of the hilltop youths’ outposts.

The group returned to the headlines in recent months after Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman signed off on a new batch of roughly 30 administrative orders against the group, stripping them of due process. The orders —  which can include detention, bans from entering the entire West Bank or contacting certain individuals, and nighttime house arrest — were issued after a portion of the activists were accused of carrying out attacks against neighboring Palestinian villages.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman leads a faction meeting of his Yisrael Beytenu party at the Knesset on October 23, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

“Some of them are absolute anarchists and disturbed idiots,” the defense minister said, explaining the move to reporters in August. “When a family or a Palestinian child is burned… it delegitimizes the entire settlement enterprise,” Liberman added, referencing a 2015 terror attack, attributed to Jewish extremists, that burned to death an 18-month-old baby and his parents in the Palestinian village of Duma.


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