State to pay NIS 400,000 compensation to yeshiva seized by military in West Bank

Od Yosef Chai seminary was taken over by security forces in 2014 amid spate of attacks on local Palestinians blamed on settlers; institute says actual damage is NIS 800,000

View of the settlement of Yitzhar, in the West Bank on October 31, 2019. (Sraya Diamant/Flash90)
View of the settlement of Yitzhar, in the West Bank on October 31, 2019. (Sraya Diamant/Flash90)

The state will pay compensation to a far-right yeshiva that had been identified as hotbed of violence against local Palestinians and Israeli security forces, according to Hebrew media reports on Monday.

A sum of NIS 400,000 ($118,750) will be paid to the Od Yosef Chai yeshiva in the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar to cover the cost of the building’s use by security forces since it was seized in 2014. The amount was reached in an agreement between the state and the yeshiva.

The yeshiva said in a statement that it estimated the total damage to the premises as over NIS 800,000 ($237,000), “but this is the beginning of rectification.”

It added that it hopes that one day the yeshiva will return to its original location at the Joseph’s Tomb site, which lies in the Palestinian city of Nablus in the West Bank.

Yitzhar is a stronghold of far-right sentiment in the northern West Bank. Its yeshiva is led by Yitzchak Ginsburg, an American-born rabbi known for authoring a book which apparently approves of the killing of non-Jews. According to Ynet, the yeshiva’s leaders have been questioned by police over incitement to violence against Palestinians.

In early April 2014, an enraged mob protesting the demolition of five illegal buildings in the area of Yitzhar stormed an army post in the settlement. The attack was preceded by several acts of vandalism against IDF vehicles in and around Yitzhar and a string of anti-Arab incidents of vandalism in the surrounding Palestinian villages by local settlers and yeshiva students.

According to a military source, the settlers threatened the reservist soldiers and told them to stand aside to avoid injury. Eight people, including six border guards, were injured. All of the military equipment at the site was destroyed, including tents, heating equipment, a toilet, and a water tank.

In the wake of that attack, a Border Police company was positioned in the Od Yosef Chai yeshiva building in Yitzhar.

What was initially intended to be a short-term seizure of the seminary was extended in 2015 after then-defense minister Moshe Ya’alon noted that the military’s presence in the building dramatically reduced the spate of so-called “price tag” attacks.

Intended to exact a price for Israeli government policies seen as detrimental to the settlement enterprise, “price tag” attacks — designated hate crimes by Israeli authorities — target Palestinian and Arab Israeli property, but have also included attacks on other non-Jews, as well as left-wing Israelis and the security forces.

It was not clear from reports when the military stopped using the building. The yeshiva claimed in its lawsuit that it had been  unable to use the premises ever since it was taken over.

AFP contributed to this report.

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