MIGRON, WEST BANK // Jewish settlers vowed yesterday to return to their illegal hilltop enclave in the West Bank, a day after Israeli authorities imposed a court order and evicted them from the Palestinian-owned site.
"We will start a new fight," said Elisheva Razvag, 27-year-old mother of two who works as an occupational therapist.
She and her family were among the 300 Israelis peacefully vacated from the hamlet of Migron on Sunday, after Israel's Supreme Court ordered the state to relocate them by today.
That decision was the final one in a legal battle that began in 2006 when the Israeli rights group Peace Now petitioned the court to enforce demolition orders already issued against Migron.
Located 15 kilometres north of Jerusalem, this community of ultranationalist Jews was built in 2001 on land owned by Palestinians.
The state moved Mrs Razvaq and the other Migron residents to recently built settlement homes only two kilometres away, but she and others were not appeased by the alternative - and free-of-charge - accommodations.
They now want to link the new community with their vacated homes in Migron. They intend to continue planting trees and building there.
"We are building a new community down the hill, yes, but we will continue to build in Migron again," she said. "The government can't stop us."
Her husband, Nadav, 27, who studies fulltime at a religious school, emphasised that they had moved to Migron three years ago. "because of the land, not the house".
That is a common refrain among the more messianic of Israel's settlers. They believe their right to settle West Bank land trumps even the most solid Palestinian ownership claims because theirs is ordained in the bible.
The Razvags were both angered and mystified by the Israeli government's decision to force them out. While the state deemed Migron illegal because its construction had not been officially approved, various government agencies still paved roads here, built a sewer system and supplied utilities and day care facilities for families.
Israel makes the distinction between illegal outposts and legal settlements. Most countries consider both a violation of international law.
In most cases, however, Israel has failed to act against the nearly 100 unauthorised settler outposts built, with a nod from government officials apparently opposed to the creation of a Palestinian state, after the Israeli-Palestinian peace process began in the early 1990s.
While describing the evictions as little more than a political charade, settler leaders pledged to cooperate with the military personnel sent to dismantle Migron. Its structures are slated for demolition on September 11.
"I really got to know these people, and while it's important that they don't work against the state, they are struggling against this injustice," said Miri Maoz-Ovadia, spokesperson for the Binyamin Regional Council that helps administer settlements in the area.
Yesterday, she oversaw Israeli security personnel and volunteers transferring possessions from Migron homes to the new ones. But she was not happy with Israel's pro-settlement government, led by the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. She blamed them, above all else, for harming the settler cause.
"We expected them to keep to the agenda they were voted in to do," she said. "This situation here would have been easier to stomach had it been taken by a left-wing government."
Aviela Deitch agreed.
"This will be taken to account during the next election," said the 40-year-old secretary. She and her husband, Shalom, who works in information technology, also in his 40s, were waiting for moving vans to bring possessions to their new, four-bedroom home.
"You become a part of that mountain," she said of Migron, where she moved last year from a nearby settlement. While she said she had no problem living beside Arab communities, she also lamented Migron's evacuation because its hilltop position prevented "terrorists" from using it.
That was a reference to Palestinian fighters.
But for the Razvag family, Migron's problems resulted from nothing more than government hypocrisy.
"My son asked my why we had to move. We use the same road to get here, and it's the same area that we lived in before, but it's just down the hill," Mrs Razvag said.
"He's a smart child, because none of it makes any sense."