The New Guardians of Israel

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Moshav Tzipori, in the Lower Galilee, is a microcosm of the history of the Land of Israel. A regional capital under King Herod, Tzipori was the seat of Jewish learning and the preservation of the Torah through some of the most tumultuous periods of Jewish history.

After the Romans destroyed the Second Temple in Jerusalem in 70 CE, refugees from Jerusalem fled to the Galilean town. Rabbi Yehuda Hanassi, who presided over the writing of the Mishna, or oral law, moved to Tzipori from Beit Shearim, and it was there that he codified the six books of the Mishna and died.

The Jews of Tzipori revolted against the Roman Emperor Constantine, refusing to accept Christianity and the city was destroyed. The Jews later returned during the Islamic period. On and off, for the next millennia, Jews settled, were forcibly removed and resettled the city several times under various conquerors of Israel.

During the 1948 War of Independence, the ancient city was the site of a major battle between the new Israel Defense Force and the neighboring Arab villages assisted by invading forces from Syria and Lebanon. The Arabs were routed. In 1949, Moshav Tzipori was founded.

LAST FRIDAY afternoon, the struggle for Jewish control of Tzipori, the Galilee and the Land of Israel as a whole continued on the ancient ground. On that quiet afternoon of Purim, under the blistering sun, three horses stood happily grazing in a field of shrubs and grasses. The only problem with the otherwise pastoral scene was that the horses belong to Arab squatters from the Kablawi clan. In recent years, the Kablawis have built themselves an illegal village of some 20 houses masquerading as storage containers on stolen Jewish National Fund land adjacent to Tzipori's fields. The horses, who entered through a hole cut into the field's fence, pranced about and ate, destroying the field that was painstakingly cultivated for the moshav's cattle herds.

The farmers and ranchers of the Galilee, like their counterparts in the Negev are at wits' end. Fearing Arab riots or political condemnation by the Israeli Left, Arab leaders, the Islamic Movement and their allies abroad, the police and the state prosecutors have simply stopped enforcing the laws against the Galilee and Negev Arabs. Surrounded by increasingly hostile and lawless Arab and Beduin villages, local Jews' livestock and crops are continuously plundered.

They are faced with three equally unacceptable options for contending with this state of affairs. They can do nothing and let their livelihood and lives' work be destroyed. They can pay protection money to Arab criminal gangs, who in exchange agree not to rob them. Or they can try to sell off their lands and abandon agriculture altogether.

The obvious recourse – filing a complaint with the police – is an exercise in futility. Thousands of complaints are filed each year. Almost none of them end in indictments or trials. Most of the files are closed by the police due to "lack of public interest."

ON FRIDAY, the field in question belonged to a cattle rancher named Haim Z. Over the past few years, Haim has filed more than 250 complaints against local Arabs from the Kablawi family and from neighboring Arab villages like the Islamist stronghold Mashad with the police. None have ever gone anywhere. Last year, a helpful police officer recommended that Haim simply start paying protection money.

Last year Haim told his son that he had had it. The son of the moshav's founding generation, Haim said that he just couldn't go on anymore. The state's refusal to protect Jewish property rights had forced him to devote all of his energies to playing cat and mouse games with Arab poachers. He couldn't invest in his herd. He couldn't develop his land. All he could do was sit by and watch as year in and year out, his lands were plundered, his cattle stolen and the work of his life and his father's life was destroyed.

HIS SON, a 23 year old soldier in one of the IDF's elite commando units decided that it was up to him not only to save his father's farm, but to stem the tide of Arab infringement on Jewish land and property rights. Due to his position in the IDF, his name is classified. We'll call him J – for Jew.

In response to his father's desperation, J. took a storage container to a hilltop that overlooks Tzipori's fields, the surrounding Arab villages and the access routes to the moshav's fields. He placed a sofa, a bookshelf full of Jewish history books, religious texts and philosophy classics, and canned food inside and moved in during his furloughs from the army. Rather than hang out with his friends, he began standing guard. He confronted every Arab he caught infiltrating the moshav's fields, and both filed complaints with the police and chased them away.

Given his impossible schedule, J. enlisted his friends to help out. The sons of other desperate farmers, who also serve in combat units, they joined him enthusiastically. Within months, J. had set up an organization of more than a hundred young volunteers – soldiers, college students, and high school students from his moshav, other moshavim in the lower Galilee and surrounding non-agricultural communities.

He called the organization, Hashomer Hayisraeli Hahadash – or the New Israeli Guardsmen. The original Hashomer, or Guardsmen was established in the Galilee in 1909 for the same purpose – protecting Jewish farming communities from Arab marauders who demanded protection money from the farmers. It was the progenitor of the Haganah, which in turn, became the Israel Defense Force.

As J. puts it, "We're not simply a security service. We see ourselves as a new movement. Our activities rest on three foundations: securing the land, expanding our operations throughout the Galilee and the Negev, and teaching Zionist and Jewish values to our members, our communities and the general public."

TZIPORI, ONE of the stops of the Cross Israel Hiking Trail, is a popular destination for school groups, youth groups and just regular hikers. J. has organized visits to his guard post for thousands of hikers over the past year. During their visits the hikers listen to lectures about the New Guardsmen, about the Jewish history of the Galilee and the development of agriculture in the area, and topics of general interest provided by local residents, politicians and professors.

Friday afternoon, after noticing another encroachment on his father's field, J. called the police at the Nazareth police station. Joined by two of his fellow guardsmen, who are also sons of farmers and soldiers in commando units, they waited in the sun for over an hour for the police to arrive and planned their moves. They approached the horses with reins and bits.

"We will seize the horses and bring them back to our stable. If the Kablawis pay the damages, then I'll give them back, if not, I'll sell them," J. explained.

As the young men approached the horses, Yasser Kablawi, the head of the clan appeared. According to Haim, over the past year, the Kablawis have trampled his fields with their animals on more than 20 occasions.

Haim, who arrived at the scene some 10 minutes before the police made their grand appearance turned toward Kablawi and said, "Why are you doing this?"

"This land belongs to the JNF, not to you," Kablawi said.

"Why are you lying? I sat in your home with the JNF inspector months ago, and he told you straight that this is my land. You know you are stealing from me, and you're doing it while you're illegally squatting on JNF land. You've caused me tens of thousands of shekels in damages by trampling my fields today alone, and you know it."

By the time the police arrived, J. and his friends had roped one of the horses. Kablawi was joined by three grandsons and four sons. J. was joined by another seven Guardsmen. It was a standoff.

THE POLICE, who were informed of the pr
esence of a journalist at the scene, acted with some resolution. After speaking with the JNF inspector, they explained to Kablawi that he could either sign a statement acknowledging that the land belongs to Haim and that he would be arrested if he trespassed again, or they would allow Haim to seize his horses. Kablawi signed.

J.'s activism is not just a personal quest to save his father from economic ruin. "If it were just about me and my family, my brother and I could take care of the thieves. They'd leave us alone. But then they'd just move on to our neighbors. It isn't about one family. This is a question of control over the land of Israel. The state is weak. We need to be strong if we want to remain here."

Last month, J. registered the Guardsman as a non-profit organization. He has a grand vision for the future.

"In the space of just a few months, I have brought in thousands of people, exposed them to our mission. I have more than a 100 volunteer guards. We have reduced theft by 80 percent.

"I want to raise money to buy night vision goggles and some all terrain vehicles to do proper patrols. I'd like to be able to give students scholarships so that they can guard and study at the same time. I've been in touch with farmers and ranchers in the Negev and they are anxious for us to expand to the south. I believe that within five years, the Guardsmen can end the protection rackets."

BACK IN June 2005, then vice premier Ehud Olmert gave an American audience his opinion of the Israeli people. "We are tired of fighting, we are tired of being courageous, we are tired of winning, we are tired of defeating our enemies," he whined.

Young people like J. and his colleagues, secular, yet deeply rooted Jewish sons and daughters of Galilee and Negev farmers, like their religious friends prove everyday that Olmert was not speaking for his countrymen. Whatever messes Olmert and his colleagues in the government still manage to make before they are finally thrown from office, it is absolutely clear that these young people and millions like them are willing and able to clean them up for themselves, their countrymen, and for the next generation of Jews in the land of Israel.

Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.

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13 Comments

  • Marc Handelsman, USA 03/25/2008 at 0:26

    When organizations like Hashomer Hayisraeli Hahadash are needed, it proves that the government is incapable of keeping its basic obligation of protecting Israelis. Every parcel of Jewish land is precious and must be protected. If the Olmert regime will not enforce property laws, then a better man is needed to be prime minister. Israel needs statesmen who will restore a credible deterrent, and make Israel’s enemies think twice about squatting on Jewish land.

    Reply
  • Donald Braun 03/25/2008 at 0:33

    Hail the New Israeli Guardsmen!, Hail the Guardian Angels! Hail the Minutemen boarder patrol! Hail all brave men and women who defend the right! On the other hand a curse on the weak pathetic governments who refuse to do what these brave heroes are forced to do because their governments are totally out to lunch!

    Reply
  • yaffa ganz 03/25/2008 at 10:42

    Request: Was this article (New Guardians of Israel) translated into Hebrew somewhere? Can I get a copy?

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  • Barbara 03/25/2008 at 10:51

    Dear Caroline — What a moving story! I’ve been here in Israel for nearly 10 years and have even weekended at Moshav Zippori, and have never heard about this inspiring group of young people. Thanks for calling attention to an issue largely ignored by the Israeli and international press.
    B. Rome

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  • Eliyahu 03/26/2008 at 3:46

    Dear Mrs. Glick,
    First allow me to thank you for what you do on behalf of Am Yisrael. Knowledge is the key to ur survival and you bring it to us in abundance.
    I would like to ask you to spearhead the following idea that I got after reading your last column. I am sure there are thousands of Jews and non Jewish allies who would love to contribute in a meaningful way to Israel’s survival. However when we are confronted with a suicidal elite running/ruining Israel as they are.. giving money to any establishment group seems futile to me.
    I wonder does there exist a fund … a Jewsih Mutual Fund that relays $$$ to groups like the young heroes you describe above protecting their farms? If not why not? This seems to me is an urgent matter. Surely there is enough interest in the likes of the backer s of ateret co. and the moskowitz group and others to put together such a group. The funds would be distributed to nay group which reclaims and fortifies Jewish land in Israel. Pure and simple. This process would bypass the liberal/lemming ‘supreme’ court and be a vital lifeline to keeping Israel Jewish. I shudder at the thought that everyday a piece of Israel is being snatched while the ‘govt’ does NOTHING. This cannot stand.
    I appreciate your time.
    Am yisrael Chai

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  • Jana 03/26/2008 at 4:19

    What a breath of fresh air… Israeli’s who are courageous and bold in defending the land YHWH gave to them! May they be joined by many others and be blessed by our LORD.

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  • Bernard Shapiro 03/26/2008 at 14:28

    I sent this article to thousands of people and several have requested information on how to contibute money to the non-profit org of New Guardians of Israel. My best wishes, Bernard Shapiro, Freeman Center For Strategic Studies

    Reply
  • Aline, Canada 03/26/2008 at 21:37

    There was a comment (#15) made on your Jerusalem Post column. The reader’s name is Ze’ev, a soon-to-be-retired policeman who’s extremely frustrated at the way police are kept from doing their job of protecting the Jews against Arab crime and violence and encroachment of Jewish land. He wrote saying he was eager to connect with J and expand J’s strategy to the south.
    There are problems in Israel that are indeed enormous, such as the plan to create another Arab state on Jewish land. To have an active opposition is not easy for individuals. However, there are things that are still within the areas “permitted” by the government, such as those described on this column.
    The problem seems to be one of lack of organization by individuals who share the same love of the land and who see it as sacred and worthy of defending it.
    There must be a way to promote communication among those Israelis so as to get organized. I thank you Caroline for publicizing heroic efforts such as J’s, but one is left wondering why isn’t there a central coordinating website (in English and Hebrew) where people can exchange ideas and report on both progress and difficulties.
    I recently read that the Jews who organized a referendum on the Gush Katif expulsions in 2005 were recently given a jail sentence just for having asked a question! Things like that would not occur if there was a mass opposition of respectable size in Israel.
    This lack of organization is why the government, with only a minority of support, is taking advantage and suppressing dissent one Jew or one group at the time.
    If there’s a central website that already reports on and coordinates acts of protection of Jewish life and land by all kinds of groups, please Caroline, find the way to give it exposure on your column.

    Reply
  • Aline Walker, Canada 03/27/2008 at 18:15

    Although not directly related to the issue on this column, I have a concern about Jewish land – the possible loss of a critical piece of Jewish land – that I would like to ask Caroline to please address, as often as possible: it’s the creation of an Arab corridor between what is now Gaza and the PA in order to facilitate movement within the Palestinian state.
    Caroline, I have written comments on the Jerusalem Post, but this subject never passes the censor. I don’t know why.
    You have the courage to address pretty much any issue dealing with Israel’s security, so I’m hoping that you will present an analysis of how there can’t be a Palestinian state WITHOUT the corridor – and how there can’t be an Israeli state WITH an Arab corridor splitting it into two.
    There is some kind of denial of reality going on right now, where Bush, Rice and other pro-Roadmap Americans on one side, and the Israeli government and the Israeli left on the other, are keenly interested in NOT mentioning this crucial item: the corridor.
    There are two maps readers can see at the Masada 2000 website and at the Tamar Yonah’s blog on Arutz 7 where you can clearly see tiny Israel among a sea of Muslim nations, and then another map showing this already pathetically small Jewish country split into two with an Arab corridor slicing it through its middle.
    Anyone should be able to realize that this is an impossible demand placed on any state.
    There are other solutions to the problem of the Arabs in the PA and Gaza. The creation of another Arab state at the expense of Jewish land and the survival of Israel is not it.

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  • Jonathan 03/27/2008 at 19:48

    Thank you for an interesting and inspiring article. Definitely not the kind of piece one would read in the mainstream Hebrew media.
    While I condemn the encroachments of Arabs on farmland in the Galilee and the Negev, and while I support the actions of the Shomer Hachadash, I can’t help being troubled by the situation in Judea and Samaria, which in many respects parallels what goes on in the North and South of Israel.
    Leaving aside the question of whether a Palestinian state should at some point in time be founded and (if so) under what conditions, I think we both agree that private property should be guarded by the law regardless of the owner’s nationality and that of the state.
    If reports by such organizations as Shalom Achshav are even partly true, it would appear that quite a number of settlements and outposts are built on private Arab land (see http://www.haaretz.co.il/hasite/spages/790753.html). Not much has been done by the government and IDF to address this problem (evacuations so far have sought to appease the Palestinian nation, not individual Palestinians). The lawless behavior you describe is therefore not limited to Arabs, nor is a blind eye turned to the imperilled safety of Jews alone. Fields are trampled and trees uprooted on both sides of the Green Line.
    This leads me to the conclusion that, so long as Jews and Arabs continue to view their conflict in terms of which collective has exclusive rights over the area drawn up by the British in the wake of WWI, individual rights will continue to be infringed.
    I’d appreciate your comments on this issue.

    Reply
  • Lady-Light 04/02/2008 at 22:27

    Kol HaKavod to J. for founding “Hashomer Hayisraeli Hahadash” and kol hakavod to you, Caroline, for continuing to enlighten the public on the truth of Israel and its lying, aggresive neighbors. You are eminently qualified, because of your writing skills and your years of service in the IDF to shed the light on this situation, in an increasingly anti-Jewish and anti-Israel world. I currently have (in addition to three other adult children in Israel) my youngest daughter serving as a lochemet in the Combat Engineering division of the IDF.
    May G-d protect all of Am Yisrael, and bring Justice to Israel and the world.
    I would be honored if you would glance at my blog, at http://www.lady-light.blogspot.com
    kol tuv.

    Reply
  • Oliver Ruvo 03/29/2010 at 12:05

    Thanks for the superior publish I really like your blog. I’ve bookmarked it to read later. I used to be having bother accessing your RSS feed although not sure if it was a problem my end or right here?

    Reply
  • JP 11/25/2012 at 22:24

    Israeli farmers are right in protecting property, and it is a sin that the state does not step up in their responsibility. In America the federal government has allowed thousands of illegals to enter the U.S. while border states are trying to defend their own areas. I am sure that the federal government is over riding the Constitution regarding states rights. The people will need to step up to the plate as did this brave young man.

    Reply

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