Sunday, August 22 2010 The Settlements’ Winery

Approximately two months ago we learned that the largest wine producer and distributor in the country, Carmel Wineries, is putting pressure on wine growers from the South Hebron Hills settlements to sell it grapes exclusively and thus to harm the local wineries.  In order to prevent seeming “loose lips,” and to duck under the ban on products from the settlements, Carmel is acting in secrecy and silence.  We decided, the activists of Taayush Jerusalem, to investigate the issue intensively, to see if there was any truth in the accusation.  Yesterday, Monday August 22, 2010, at almost ten at night, the phone rang.  On the line was Ezra: “Do you want to come now to the Hebron hills?”  This is an offer it is impossible to resist.

We drove quickly that night on the turns of highway 60, arriving at the Susya settlement.  In one of the grape arbors north of the settlement we saw lights and heard voices rising from the arbor.  A harvester was moving among the rows of the arbor, along with two large trucks, a pickup and a security car guarding.  Everything was done in complete silence and by the light of flashlights alone.  With Nisim filming, we tried not to reveal ourselves.  At around four in the morning we heard that the harvester had finished its work, and the crew leaving the arbor in the direction of the gate of the settlement.  The trucks turned right, towards the south.  After about one and a half kilometers, we turned left towards “Metsudat Yehudah” and also the trucks.  We arrived at a checkpoint.  After they asked where we were from and we seemed to them kosher Jews, the guards lifted the gate and allowed us to pass.  At that very moment the two trucks arrived at the crossing, and blew their air-horns and called on us to stop.  We quickly passed through the area of the crossing (about 100 meters in length) and stopped by the side of the road, waiting for the trucks.  After two minutes the two trucks started driving quickly towards us as both drivers blew their air-horns and passed only centimeters from the Ezra-mobile, endangering our lives in an act of hooliganism.  The trucks continued at speed and we after them, and after three kilometers the trucks turned left towards Arad.  We followed.  We drove for another quarter hour, while grape leaves and juice were flying from the trucks, as the driver of the truck whom we were following made a point to drive in the middle of the road so that we could not pass him.  The trucks turned left to “Produce Hebron Hills.”  After another few hundred meters we arrived at “Yeter Winery,” which is located on the site.  The trucks entered the winery to unload.  We stopped and on the Ezra-mobile’s right side was the entrance to Yeter Winery.  One of the trucks drove in reverse and straightened out in front of us.  I thought that the driver intended to unload the grapes, but suddenly he started driving quickly towards us while his air-horn blew and his lights were flashing.  It was not so pleasant to see tens of tons moving at speed straight towards us.  It was clear that the truck was going to crush us!  In order to leave the area we had to turn around 180 degrees.  I started driving like a maniac in the dusty lot in from of the winery and we succeeded in fleeing, the Ezra-mobile breathless.  It was truly frightening and we were lucky that we managed to escape; it could have ended very badly…