Yitzhar (Hebrew: יִצְהָר) is an Israeli settlement located in the West Bank south of the city of Nablus just off Route 60, north of the Tapuach Junction. The predominantly Orthodox Jewish community with a population of 895 (2009) is within the municipal jurisdiction of the Shomron Regional Council. Under the terms of the Oslo Accords of 1993 between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization, Yitzar was designated Area "C" under full Israeli civil and security control.
The international community considers Israeli settlements in the West Bank illegal under international law, but the Israeli government disputes this. According to a Peace Now report of 2006, 35 percent of the land Yitzhar is built on, is privately owned, all or most of it by Palestinians. Settlements on privately owned Palestinian land are illegal according to international and Israeli law.
The inhabitants of Yitzar have a reputation as being among the most extreme Israeli settlers and regularly clash with members of the Israeli security forces and local Palestinian civilians. The settlement is at the forefront of the settler movement's so called "price tag" policy which calls for attacks against Palestinians in retaliation for actions of the Israeli government against West Bank settlements.
The settlement was originally established in 1983 as a pioneer Nahal military outpost and demilitarized a year later when turned over to residential purposes in 1984 with the assistance of Gush Emunim's settlement organization Amana. The settlement continuously grew from a population of 200 in 1994 to almost 400 in 2002, and reached a population of 895 in 2009, predominantly strictly religious Jewish settlers.
The Nahal settlement was called 'Rogen', a play on words from the Hebrew root meaning 'annoyance'. The Hebrew term 'yitzhar' is a biblical term, meaning "high quality olive oil", and derives from one of the region's major industries.
Yitzhar is situated east of the Israel-Westbank separation barrier, 20.5 kilometers from the Green line in the mountain-range area about 10 km southwest of Nablus. One of the Jewish settlements ringing the city of Nablus, Yitzhar is built on the ridge of Salmen al Parsi, a mountain 808 meters above sea level south of Mount Grizim.
Lehavat Yitzhar, established in 1998 , has ten families and five caravans and six permanent structures. Shalhevet Farm (Yitzhar West), established in 1999, has eight families and thirteen caravans and nine permanent houses. Hill 725, established in 2001 outside the boundaries of the parent settlement Yitzhar, has 23 inhabitants and six caravans and two permanent structures. Mitzpe Yitzhar, established in 2002 outside the boundaries of the parent settlement Yitzhar, has six structures and was dismantled in May 2004 for the third time, but in early 2005 it was reestablished. Shalhevet Ya has three permanent houses and a caravan.
The settlement has vineyards, a winery and wheat fields. Only Jewish labor is employed, and all private homes, community buildings, and internal roads and development are done by Jews only, mainly residents of the settlement itself, according to the Shomron Regional Council's website.
Education is a priority of the community and several institutions operate locally: a daycare center, preschools, the boy's Zilberman Talmud Torah, and the Od Yosef Chai (Joseph Still Lives) institutions headed by Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira, comprising the Dorshei Yichudcha yeshiva high school, a post-high school yeshiva gedola, previously located in Joseph's Tomb Nablus, headed by Rabbi Yitzhak Ginzburg, and a kollel. The yeshiva, built illegally according to the IDF military prosecutor, supports the so called "price tag" policy, and senior rabbis of the yeshiva are suspected to encourage students to attack Palestinians and Palestinian property and the Israeli security forces. Several students affiliated with the yeshiva were forbidden to enter the West Bank on "well-founded suspicions that these students had been involved in attacks on Arabs, including "price tag" attacks on Arab property".
In 2003, rabbi Ginzburg who is a member of the Chabad Lubavitch Hasidic movement, was indicted for incitement to racism in his book "Tipul Shoresh" ("Root Treatment"), which contains calls for the Arabs to be expelled from Israel and for the land to be "cleansed" of foreigners and compares the Arabs to a cancer. Previous demands to indict Ginzburg had been rejected by Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein in 2001 and following the 1998 publication of Ginzburg's book "Baruch Hagever" ("Baruch the Man"), which praised the mass murderer Baruch Goldstein. Ginzburg was offered an end to all criminal proceedings against him in return for his explicitly and publicly retracting his offensive statements about Arabs.
In January 2010, rabbi Shapira was arrested for alleged involvement in the torching of a Palestinian mosque in the village of Yasuf, after five of his students had been arrested on suspicion of torching the mosque's carpet and book closet and obstructing the investigation. Shapira, who refused to say which of his students had taken part in the attack, was released a day after his arrest.
According to Haaretz, Israeli security service Shin Bet is urging the Education Ministry to stop funding the Od Yosef Chai Yeshiva in Yitzhar. In 2009, the yeshiva high school received NIS 468,000 and the yeshiva gedola received NIS 847,000 from the Education Ministry. The yeshiva also got NIS 707,000 from the Social Affairs Ministry for a project to rehabilitate ultra-Orthodox drop-outs, and an additional NIS 156,000 to operate a dormitory. In January 2011, it was decided not to transfer funds to the yeshiva gedola, but after political pressure was applied, the yeshiva received a letter saying funding would be restored. Od Yosef Chai, for its part, is preparing to petition the High Court of Justice if its funding is halted.
In November 2011, Israel's Education Ministry decided to withhold funds from the Od Yosef Chai yeshiva and close down the Dorshei Yehudcha Yeshiva high school. The decision was based on information received from the defense establishment of extensive involvement by students and rabbis in violent acts against Palestinian residents and Israeli security forces.
Yitzhar has been called "an extremist bastion on the hilltops commanding the Palestinian city of Nablus ... [where] a local war is ... being waged" by the New York Times. On Saturday, 13 September 2008, a Palestinian entered the illegal Yitzhar-outpost Shalhevet, set fire to an abandoned building and stabbed a nine-year-old boy who had spotted him and tried to call for help, wounding him lightly. Dozens of settlers from Yitzhar responded by marching through the adjacent Palestinian village of Asira al-Qibliya where the attacker was thought to live, using live fire and wounding eight people and torching dozens of Palestinian homes and buildings, with Israeli soldiers present, in what then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert called a "pogrom". One week later, a fourteen year old teenager from Asira al-Qibliya, was shot dead by Israeli border police while walking toward Yitzhar, intending to throw a Molotov cocktail at the settlement. Police later said they had identified him as the attacker of the boy, thanks to forensic evidence.
Four inhabitants of Yitzhar were arrested on 14 June 2011 on suspicion of "attacks on public order", including arson attacks on Palestinian property. Yitzhar residents have reported dozens of arson attacks by Arabs, primarily on Fridays and Saturdays when women and children are often at home while men are in synagogue.
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