Amir Yosman, his wife Miriam and their one-year old son Eitan moved to the West Bank community of Itamar in September, six months after the brutal murder of the Fogel family in the same settlement. “We moved to Itamar as a way to express strength and not weakness, to show our faith, and the justice of going down the correct path,” Amir Yosman tells The Blaze.
Turns out, the Yosmans are not alone. Since the Fogel family was murdered in March, 13 families have moved to the community located near the biblical town of Shechem, or modern day Nablus where the biblical patriarch Joseph is buried.
Speaking to The Blaze by phone from his home in Itamar, Mayor Moshe Goldsmith says the 13 new families join the 200 who already live in the town. Arutz Sheva reports only six families moved in during the year before the Fogel murder, calling this year’s influx “Israel’s answer to terror and tragedy.” A religious community that subscribes to the Bible's dictate to “be fruitful and multiply,” Goldsmith says many families have between six and ten children. This explains the statistic that 200 families make up 1,000 residents of the town, which also houses 400 students from two religious seminaries.
In March, two teenage Palestinian cousins scaled the town fence and crawled through the Fogel family’s window. Inside, they butchered parents Udi and Ruth,11-year-old Yoav, 4-year-old Elad, and before leaving, stabbed to death their baby girl, 3-month-old Hadas.
Some of the newcomers have cited their desire to show solidarity with the community that experienced such a brutal attack as one reason for their move. Mayor Goldsmith says “They want to show that the terrorists will not weaken our stance on Israel.”
“This is the Bible belt of the Land of Israel. This is the area our forefathers settled in this land. This idealism and connection to our history and Torah is what draws these families out,” Goldsmith says.
Despite the first-hand experience with terrorism, Goldsmith says most residents consider Itamar a safe place to live, with neighbors who are “spiritual, God-fearing people.”
“People want to kill us from outside, but the social fabric is very strong,” he says.
The Liebovitch family moved in two months after the Fogel murder. They are no strangers to terrorism. Their son Elazar was killed by Palestinian gunmen in Hebron in 2002. Father Yoseph tells The Blaze even though their goal was to help lift the settlement from what they assumed would be a gloomy, “down” mood, they feel they are uplifted and strengthened daily by their neighbors.
“We moved in order to strengthen and be strengthened, to give and to receive. We receive more than we give,” Yoseph says. “Because we experienced loss ourselves…we thought we’d have something to contribute and something to receive.”
An appropriate tribute to the Fogel family and specifically the father, Udi Fogel, a rabbi who was also the absorption coordinator for Itamar where he helped new families through the process of moving to town. The mayor says one family whose move Udi was facilitating arrived just days after the brutal murders.
Palestinian officials - who call all Jewish residences in the West Bank and East Jerusalem illegal colonies - say one of their conditions to renewing peace talks is a freeze on all settlement construction. No U.S. administration has recognized Jewish settlements beyond Israel's 1967 borders as part of the Jewish state. Answering calls from U.S. officials echoing the Palestinian demand, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last year froze some construction for 10 months. If renewed, a construction freeze would mean no new houses or new community infrastructure for those wishing to join the Yosmans and Leibovitchs as seen on the community website.
This week marks a bittersweet event for the Fogel family. Daughter Tamar Fogel who discovered the bloody scene of her murdered family turns 13, the first birthday without her parents and murdered siblings. A two-year-old and eight-year-old brother survived along with her, and now live with their grandparents in Jerusalem.
H/T: Brian of London