By Shai Gefen
Terrorist leader Yassir Arafat’s hopes were dashed. Yishuv Sa-Nur in the
northern Shomron nearly fell into the hands of Palestinian terrorists a few
months ago, but was saved by the arrival of a Chabad chassid, Rabbi Uriel
Garfinkel, and an additional group. * A chanukas ha’bayis was recently held,
with hundreds attending. * Shai Gefen reports on life in the shadow of war in
this isolated yishuv rescued at the last moment.
(Continued from last week.)
The scenery at the yishuv is captivating and the pure
air is refreshing. There are mountains the likes of which are seen only in
enchanting photographs of Switzerland. If not for the background music of
explosives and shooting, it would be the Switzerland of the Shomron. But for now
it’s a war zone. Travel is only by military escort-and only when the army can
provide an escort. Leaving involves aggravation because you can get stuck for
hours in traffic. Residents leave only when urgent. Food supplies can be
obtained this way only every few days.
On the day the new families arrived in a large convoy with
their luggage to settle in Sa-Nur they were greeted by a welcoming committee:
near the village of Silat a gas balloon suddenly exploded, hiding the terrorists
who set it off. "I was in the car near where the gas balloon exploded," says
Itzik Sendroi. "I immediately veered to the side as the armed escort jumped and
returned fire. The terrorists fled. Then we realized the magnitude of the
miracle - there had been another large gas balloon that hadn’t exploded, which
is why the entire convoy was saved."
Every breath taken here is a miracle. "One day we were going
in the direction of Chomesh when we encountered a stone roadblock," adds Sendroi.
"Molotov cocktails, rocks and bullets began flying from all directions. We
returned fire, but the danger was enormous. It was only a miracle that we
managed to escape."
"The Birkas HaGomel bracha is a regular part of our
davening on Mondays, Thursdays, and Shabbos," adds Sendroi.
Uriel Garfinkel continues, "Two weeks ago we had another big
miracle when a vehicle from the yishuv was going towards Chermesh. The
driver noticed something suspicious on the road and stopped at the last minute
about 30 meters away from a huge bomb."
The terrorists have been following the goings-on at the
yishuv - its falling apart, abandonment, and revival. It seems likely that
they gather intelligence information using telescopes, helped by Arabs who used
to work there. The revival definitely worried them, and in recent months the
yishuv has experienced a great deal of shooting.
"On more than one occasion we’ve had to quickly hide and
return fire until things quieted down," says Uriel. "One time a bullet entered
the gas tank near the shul. It was a miracle that nothing happened. You
realize that the closest Arab settlement to Sa-Nur is only 700 meters away."
These people are living under almost constant siege. "What is
the longest time you were under siege?" I asked Garfinkel.
"There was a two-day period when we couldn’t get out. They
told us the army was setting up ambushes. Then they reported explosives on the
road. There’ve been other incidents which kept us in the yishuv. We
received constant intelligence information about one group of soldiers or
another who were on the way or hiding in fields. The situation is not easy."
A faded yellow sign hangs from a green iron pillar. It says
"Sa-Nur to Netanya via Tzomet HaSharon: Line 38." This used to be Eged’s bus
stop, but in the past ten months there has been no public transportation. Yossi
Dahan complains, "Obviously no one will stay here. It’s not that the residents
left; the government simply forced them to leave." He points towards Chomesh and
says: "Up to the Sa-Nur Junction is where explosives are placed, and from the
junction and on, leftwards towards Afula, is one big shooting gallery. A bus
used to come here five times daily. Now it’s been ten months since we’ve had any
bus at all."
Dahan is the secretary of Chomesh and Sa-Nur. They are five
kilometers away from each other, but the road between them passes through the
village of Silat-a-Dhar. The village is supposedly under full Israeli control,
but the reality is that this village is a frontline enemy enclave. Movement here
is impossible for Jews - travelers are likely to be shot at with bullets,
Molotov cocktails, and stones. To go from one yishuv to the other, Dahan
has to take a roundabout route and travel an extra 150 kilometers.
Q: It’s no wonder people left.
Garfinkel: "I don’t blame the people who left the
yishuv, but we chassidim of the Rebbe are aware of the great danger
threatening the Jewish people. That’s why we saw it as our obligation to do
something in order to stop the withdrawal and to help provide security for
millions of Jews living here."
Itzik Sendroi of Yitzhar describes the situation in Sa-Nur as
similar to that of Kever Yosef, which was surrounded in the difficult days after
the evacuation of Sh’chem.
It seems the settlers receive a great deal of siyata
di’Shmaya both from the yishuv and from the yeshiva. "The
yeshiva provides chayus for the whole place," says Uriel. "Imagine
how you feel when you go into the yeshiva and see bachurim in the
middle of a shiur or a farbrengen."
The yishuv is more like one happy family than an
assortment of people. Each evening they gather and eat, talk and farbreng
in the homey atmosphere. The Shabbos meals are an experience. The bachurim
who came here have changed so much as to become unrecognizable.
Our trip to the yishuv was an introduction to what the
residents go through. Every so often we hear about incidents in the area, like a
roadside bomb that was discovered or a terrorist who was killed a few minutes
earlier in shootouts with the military presence in the area. The core group is
not shaken; they know they are there for the sake of the Jewish people. "We will
absolutely not leave," says one of the new settlers. "We will not give in to
Arab terror. Senior army officials have told us more than once that our presence
here has saved the entire region because if we wouldn’t be here, the army would
"We take people who can handle these difficulties, because
not everybody can come to a place like Sa-Nur," says Itzik. He is formerly from
Yitzhar, but admits that Sa-Nur is a far more difficult place to live in. "Now
we mostly need moral and financial support to be able to continue to build up
At the moment the yishuv is suffering from many
problems. The food supply is irregular and basic supplies are difficult to
obtain. The army tries to help, but the situation is complicated. For the
Yud-Tes Kislev farbrengen, the mashpia who was supposed to
farbreng got stuck on the road because of a roadside bomb. Not only couldn’t
he make it to lead the farbrengen, he was the one who had the
refreshments too… Instead of a seudas Yom Tov, the besieged of Sa-Nur
farbrenged on mashkeh and a little mezonos.
Garfinkel: "Our goal is to transform the place into a
flourishing yishuv. We have 13 dunam of agricultural land to
develop which can support us, but we need additional manpower. Primarily we need
moral and financial help. This is the initial period, so it’s hard, but I’m sure
we’ll weather the trials. As a chassid, I know that Lubavitch always
exhibited mesirus nefesh, and now too, we continue to hold on with
mesirus nefesh. I wouldn’t be able to last here a minute without the
kochos and brachos we get from the Rebbe."
When the first settlers arrived the place was neglected. The
houses were deserted and some of them didn’t even meet minimal requirements.
There was no shul. "We had to take the destroyed mosque and turn it into
a shul," says Garfinkel. "We renovated, painted, and hung a large
Moshiach flag on the top spire. We also put together a makeshift mikva,
and life began."
On Sunday, the eighth light of Chanukah, the yishuv
had a chanukas beis ha’kneses along with a hachnasas seifer Torah.
About 500 people came, including rabbanim of the yishuvim in the
area, such as Rabbi Levinger of Chevron, Rabbi Yehoshua Schmidt of Shavei
Shomron, Rabbi Drei of Einav, Rabbi Shilo of Kedumim; the head of the Shomron
Council, Mr. Bentzi Lieberman; the Jewish Agency representative, Mr. Yoav Ariel,
and the members of the Shomron Council. All the speakers mentioned the
mesirus nefesh of the Chabad chassidim who took this difficult task
upon themselves. They expressed their hope that in the z’chus of their
Jewish heroism, they would be victorious again b’z’man ha’zeh, like
The minister for Homeland Security, Mr. Uzi Landau, sent his
greetings for the event. "The minister doesn’t just send greetings," says
Garfinkel. "He is constantly helping us settle Yesha. He sees settling here as
being on the front line of the war to protect Eretz Yisroel from terrorists. His
deputy, Mr. Gideon Ezra, also helps a great deal, as does Zev Chever (Zembish)
of Amana, and Bentzi Lieberman. They encourage us and try as much as possible to
help us hold on to the yishuv."
"I would like to thank Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Wilschansky, the
rosh yeshiva of the Chabad yeshiva in Safed, who sends talmidim
to strengthen the yeshiva. This gives us a wonderful atmosphere."
Q: Is there any improvement in what the army is doing?
Garfinkel: "The army is definitely doing important things
that until recently had not been done. There are great numbers of elite forces
in the area, and they enter villages, make arrests and liquidate terrorist
cells, but this is only a drop in the bucket when you consider the enormous
stores of arms the Arabs have."
"I’m sure we’re doing the right thing by guarding Eretz
Yisroel and giving the Rebbe MH"M nachas ruach. The constant brachos
of the Rebbe give us a good feeling, and the miracles we regularly
experience prove to us clearly that the Rebbe is with us."