Hashomer Revived: Protecting Israeli Citizens



By: ELAD BENARI  
Published: June 24th 2010
in News » Israel

L to R: Aharon Pulver and Yoel Zilberman
Pic: Dan Verbin

“My father sat us down during a Friday night dinner and said: ‘Listen guys, I can’t hold on to the cattle any longer,’” said Zilberman. His father got into a situation in which he was threatened by a Bedouin family from the nearby village Rumat al-Heib. “My father said: ‘I can’t take it anymore. These guys are cutting fences, igniting the property, slaughtering animals, stealing animals, threatening my life, throwing stones at me in front of the police.’ At the time he already had more than 200 complaints against that family.”

 

Zilberman and his father encountered complete insensitivity by police officers, who refused to help them. “The captain of the Nazareth police told my father: ‘You only have one choice. Give them half your property and they’ll leave you alone. We’re not going to help you,’” said Zilberman. “My father called the police to complain about an incident, and the desk sergeant told him: ‘If you call one more time, I’m coming over there to arrest you.’”

 

Zilberman, who was still in the IDF at the time, understood that he needed to take matters into his own hands and protect his father’s property on his own. His friends expressed their support and together they took action. “I went up on one of the hills on my father’s property and started guarding. I spent all my time there. For an entire year I spent Shabbat there. I never left the area. I’d get there after a whole week of training with other members of my crew. We’d just sit there and guard. We drove away the thieves who broke in every day with their sheep and cows and we drove them away. We tired them out, chased out the cows, closed the gates. Just as we were. Of course this was accompanied by threats on their side.”

 

The news about Zilberman and his friends protecting the cattle themselves spread like wildfire and slowly they learned of more stories about farmers and cattlemen who were forced to abandon their property since they could not handle the harassment from the Bedouins. They also received word about communities who had to give up their properties due to similar harassment, and in addition were fined by the state for failure to protect their properties. The more stories they heard, the more Zilberman and his friends realized that they must come together. “We said in the simplest manner that when your brother is shouting for help you leave everything and help him,” explained Zilberman. “That’s the point. There are no pretensions, no right, no left, nothing. There’s one point here: Citizens who feel unsafe in the Negev and the Galilee, and we get together and protect one another. The whole thing is done to strengthen the country.”

 

According to Zilberman and his friends, the reason for the Bedouin “calamity” as Pulver called it is not necessarily because of the Bedouins themselves, but rather due to a problem within Israeli society. Zilberman said that when he meets the younger generation, he finds that they are completely disconnected from Israel, its history, and its land. He added that the present roles models for Israeli youth are the participants of Survivor and Big Brother. For example, he said: “When you ask the younger generation who is Katzenelson or Jabotinsky or Nordau, for them it’s not even a street in Petach Tikvah. It’s meaningless. They have no clue which book Herzl wrote or what Ben-Gurion wrote. And this is going back 100 years or so. If I go back as far as Judah Macabee, Rambam, or Ramban, it’s like I’m not even speaking Chinese with them. They have no clue what I want from them. When you speak to these guys you suddenly understand what the Bedouins see. You suddenly understand that it has nothing to do with the Bedouins.”

Related articles: (Israel Independence Fund, Hashomer Hachadash, Bedouins, Negev, Galilee)
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