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Protecting the Yishuvim of the Shomron: An Interview With Yossi Dagan, Head of Shomron Regional Council

While all eyes in Israel are on the south and the fighting in Gaza, many are not aware of the tension and the great challenges faced by the residents of the Shomron.

Elchanan Klein, HY”D; his wife Hela; and their children.

While all over the country Israeli cities and towns are under heavy shelling, the residents of the 32 yishuvim (towns) of the Shomron are preparing for the worst. The greatest fear of both the Israel Defense Forces and the leaders of the yishuvim is that of an intrusion into the yishuvim similar to what happened in the south. Indeed, just this past week, Prime Minister Netanyahu instructed the IDF to be prepared for an October 7th-like scenario (God forbid) in Yehuda and Shomron—thousands of terrorists trying to cross into yishuvim near the Green Line.

At a time when 80% of the families in the Shomron are seeing their fathers or sons being recruited into the reserves to fight in the north and south, many women are left alone in these communities, while simultaneously enduring terrorist attacks that are carried out on a daily basis.

Just last Thursday, Elchanan Klein was murdered in a shooting attack. Elchanan was on his way back from the reserves for a one-day break to see his family, when he was killed in a shooting attack on the road between Shavei Shomron and Einav in the Shomron. Elhanan left behind a pregnant wife and three small children between the ages of 1 and 5. He was a resident of the town of Einav in the Shomron.

His wife, Hela, paid tribute to him: “My dear and beloved Elhanan, yesterday my sky fell, everything shattered. The husband I loved, the father, is gone and will not return. Thank you, Elhanan for the magic in life that you brought into my life. Elhanan: We had plans going forward, to renovate our home, to buy a new car, to have a new child. We talked about what we would do after the war. Turns out you could have come back earlier, but activity popped up and you had to go, I can’t believe you were killed two minutes from home.

Bullet holes at a home in the yishuv of Rechalim, November 3.

“I feel that in the last month God has prepared me to be ready for life after you, to sleep diagonally and to be a mother and father to our children. I cry for what we didn’t get to do, for everything we planned to do and for our sweet children who will grow up without a father, and a baby who won’t know her father. I just want a little more of you, but now you’re upstairs. So work diligently and ask Hashem to put an end to our trouble and bring about our redemption. Light the way for us because it’s a little dark. Love you forever.”

Inside the yishuvim there is likewise a clear and present danger. This past Friday night, terrorists shot into houses in the yishuv of Rechalim, which is adjacent to the hostile Palestinian village of Kablan. Yael, a resident of Rechalim, recounts: “Around 9:30 p.m., after Shabbat dinner, I went with my daughter to the room to put her to sleep. The children were playing in the living room. I heard noises; my husband jumped up and said, ‘Lie on the floor.’ I lay down on my daughter, and some of the children went to the bomb shelter. We said Tehillim. Then I saw that a bullet went over the head of my 6-year-old son.”

Eliyahu, another resident, recalls: “Around 9:30 p.m. after Shabbat dinner, I fell asleep on the sofa. The rest of the family were sitting and talking, six children, the eldest 11 years old and the youngest 2 years old. Suddenly shooting started. I told everyone to lie on the floor. One bullet penetrated through the display case above the head of my 6-year-old son. Since I am drafted under Army Order 8, I immediately sent a report to the army, and forces soon arrived on the scene. The feelings are hard. A feeling of insecurity inside the house. This is a situation that must not continue.”

Shomron Council Governor Yossi Dagan delivering a eulogy at the funeral of Elchanan Klein, HY”D.

We chose to interview the head of the Shomron Regional Council, Yossi Dagan, about the daily challenges they face.

What is the current situation in the communities in the Shomron from a security point of view?

There is a significant fear that what happened in the south will happen here to one of the yishuvim, or even to several of them. This is a difficult reality that could be catastrophic if it materializes. The residents feel this insecurity, and so we must provide them with security. Even the Knesset is discussing the real possibility that weapons from the Palestinian Authority and other parties will be directed towards terrorism in the Shomron. This is of real concern.

How important is settling in these places and protecting them?

History teaches us that where there is less Jewish population, there is less army, and where there is less army there is more terrorism. We see this prominently in northern Shomron. There, as part of the 2015 disengagement plan, four yishuvim were dismantled, and now that’s where most of the terrorism comes from.”

How do we prepare for these significant threats?

We are trying to prepare all yishuvim security-wise for threats from Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. Our major challenge is a lack of combat equipment for the residents, and a lack of weapons. Our goal is that everyone who has training and a firearms license will be armed. However, despite the severe threats, we have not yet succeeded in arming everyone due to funding challenges.

God forbid, what will happen if the residents are forced out of the Shomron due to security threats? How will that affect the rest of the country?

The residents here are strong and want to get stronger in our defense. It is clear for everyone to see how this area is the protective belt of the center of the State of Israel! The Shomron makes up 12% of the land mass of the state of Israel. It is clear to us that if we are not here, and there is no Jewish presence in this whole area, then there will be a real danger to the residents of Kfar Saba, Ramat Hasharon, and many other major cities in the center of the country. After the events that took place in the south, this changes the validity of this scenario.

Do you think people know and understand the significance of the Shomron for the security of the State of Israel?

People already understand that the yishuvim are our most important security measure. A week ago, guests came to me from the United States to visit the Shomron, and I took them with me to stand on my office’s balcony. They stood there and looked, and saw Tel Aviv, Netanya, Herzliya, and other major cities in the not-too-far distance. After that, I didn’t have to explain our significance to them anymore. They looked at me and said, ‘We understand everything.’ This is a message that we will all have to remember.”

What is the security situation in the Shomron?

Security is problematic. There are a lot of shooting attacks on communities and residents. This also includes consistently dealing with stone-throwing on the roads. Just this week, we buried a resident of the Shomron who was murdered in a shooting attack. I was at the scene and saw the late Elchanan. The ferocity of these vile terrorists is unimaginable. We literally have daily altercations with terrorists living amongst us. We restore security first of all by eliminating the despicable terrorists and those who help them.

So you actually live within ongoing security tensions?

Yes, for sure. The winds of war from the south blow here and the residents try to bravely face all the challenges, but it is difficult because the residents do not always have all the essential equipment we genuinely need. We in the council are working tirelessly and doing everything we can to give the residents security. But it takes moving around the little equipment that exists.

Why isn’t the IDF sufficient protection for these communities, and why can’t the state provide the necessary security equipment?

Unfortunately, the army is facing huge shortages, both in terms of personnel and equipment. You have to understand that within 24 hours the State of Israel added over 300,000 soldiers to its rankings to protect the northern and southern borders, but that also means that each of those soldiers needs to be given the necessary combat equipment ahead of civilian defense teams.

How can Jews who aren’t living in the Shomron help ensure your safety?

Firstly, through tefillah. Never underestimate how much of an effect a tefillah in New York or London can have on the situation on the ground in Israel. Secondly, we need to raise funds to equip our volunteer civil defense teams with the security equipment necessary to keep our yishuvim safe, and defend ourselves. This includes thermal-imaging cameras, bulletproof vests, vehicles and firearms. The Israeli government is fast-tracking permitting and arranging for the logistical movement of the equipment, and we were baruch Hashem able to secure the supply we need. However, now we are tasked with fundraising for the efforts.

Please help us protect our lives, our communities, and our land. Donations can be made online at https://www.jgive.com/new/en/usd/collect/donation-targets/70740/amount

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