Judea and Samaria are the mountains which make up the spine of the central mountain range of the Land of Israel. Samaria is made up of ridges and valleys. Its northern border is the Jezreel Valley and Wadi Ara and its southern border is the Jerusalem Mountains. On the west, the mountains are bordered by the coastal plain and on the east, by the Jordan Valley. The Hebron Mountains are a long range which starts in the northern part of Gilo Mountain and ends at the Arad Valley and the Shoket-Beer Sheva Junction. On the west, they border the plain area and in the east, the Judean Desert.
The sons return home
The first ones to demand settling the areas of Judea and Samaria, which were liberated after the Six Day War, were the sons of Kfar Etzion who asked to return to and rebuild their destroyed kibbutz, which had fallen 19 years earlier in the War of Independence. Hanan Porat stood at the head of this group. The decision was approved by Levi Eshkol, the prime minister of Israel. After the establishment of the kibbutz in Kfar Etzion in 1968, the settlement of Kfar Gilo in the northern part of the Gilo Mountain was founded. That same year actions were taken to renew the Jewish settlement in Hebron. The settlers lived in temporary housing under a military government for two years. In 1971 Kiryat Arba was built as an urban neighborhood adjacent to Hebron.
Sebastian and the Gush Emunim movement
After the Yom Kippur War the “Alon Moreh Group” began to organize. They believed in settling in Samaria, which until then had no Jewish settlement. Benny Katzover and Menachem Felix were the first to set forth this idea. They established the Elon Moreh Group, which started out with attempts to get government approval to establish a settlement in Samaria, as close as possible to Nablus. Time after time their requests were rejected until the group decided to take practical steps towards settlement. They made eight attempts to establish a settlement. The attempts received so much publicity that each new attempt brought more and more supporters.
In 1975, the Alon Moreh Group and its supporters carried out the famous attempt to build a settlement on the ruins of the Sebastian railroad station, which finally led to the Kadum Agreement between the government and the settlers. The two sides agreed to a compromise in which the settlers agreed to move to Kadum army camp, which later became Kedumim. That was the first time that approval was given to settle in Judea and Samaria.
The Alon Moreh Group’s attempts to settle Judea Samaria led to the birth of the “Gush Emunim Movement”, a movement which worked for the settlement of Judea and Samaria and established most of the rural settlements in Judea and Samaria. After Begin became prime minister in 1977, the Israeli government began to work seriously on a broad government settlement plan for Judea and Samaria. Between 1979 and 1984 tens of rural settlements and urban settlements (Ma’aleh Adomim, Ariel) were built. Today, there are more than 400,000 people living in Judea and Samaria.
The future of the lands of Judea and Samaria
After the Six Day War, the Israeli society had to deal with the question as to what to do with the extensive territories that were captured from the Jordanians in the war. There were some who saw the territories as a bargaining chip that could be used in future peace talks, while others saw them as vital to the security of Israel (widening the country’s “narrow hips’). A third group saw Judea and Samaria as an integral part of the State of Israel – the realization of a dream, the return of the Jewish nation to its land and to its holy Biblical places which are located throughout the length and width of Judea and Samaria. Immediately after the Six Day War, Israel annexed East Jerusalem, exercising sovereignty over the area. Israel annexed the Golan Heights in 1981. There is still a military government in Judea, Samaria and the Jordan Valley.
It was the government that led the initiative to settle the Jordan Valley, the Sinai and Gaza. They started at once with Nahal settlements and later making them civilian settlements. In Judea and Samaria, it was a bottom-up decision. It was the initiative of the settlers and their actions that led the State to recognize the settlements, and later with the change in government in 1977 to make a comprehensive settlement plan.
The Jordan Valley and the Northern Dead Sea
Until the Six Day War, the Jordan Valley and the northern Dead Sea were in the hands of Jordan. The border of Israel went through the northern valley near the Gilboa and in the south the border was in the northern part of the Dead Sea, north of Ein Gedi. It is an area which borders the mountains of Samaria and the northern part of the Jerusalem Mountains.
Immediately after the Six Day War, Israel started to settle the Jordan Valley and the northern Dead Sea by establishing Nahal settlements, which became agricultural settlements. The settlement in the Jordan Valley won widespread support from the Israeli public. The settlements were established according to the “Allon Plan”, whose security based philosophy was that the settlements would determine the borders of the State and that strategic control of the Jordan River was essential in order to create a barrier between the threat from the East and the narrow State of Israel. Jerusalem must be the center of the country in order to function as its capital. Yigal Allon charted a plan whereby a double row of settlements would be established in the valley. One row of settlements would stretch along the valley road and the second along a route named after the plan, the Allon road on the slopes of eastern Samaria.
Today there are 28 settlements in the Jordan Valley (Jordan Valley Regional Council) and the northern Dead Sea (Megilot Dead Sea Regional Council). The latter is the smallest regional council, consisting of six settlements and approximately 1000 residents.
The Jordan Valley settlements support themselves mainly through agricultural, services and education. These settlements have not been able to expand, largely due to their distance from the center of the country, the harsh climatic conditions and the impact of the political and security situation.