You won’t find a shower here, and don’t even think about a mobile phone. Nor are any of these girls dreaming of amusement parks. Welcome to a summer camp for the daughters of the outposts: three days of Krav Maga (a martial art and eclectic self-defense system developed in Israel), whitewashing of unauthorized buildings and tree-planting.
In recent years, right-wing activists have started to recognize the potential of summer vacation. Thousands of young would-be activists are sitting idle, presenting the perfect opportunity to be hammered with some love for the Land of Israel, and to be taught along the way how to beat up the occasional Arab who might attack them.
More and more summer camps are propping up around Judea and Samaria for young people identified with the right wing. On Tuesday [July 17], we had the privilege of catching a rare glimpse into such a camp for girls, the purpose of which is to train and enlist the next generation of women fighters to settle the hilltops.
After the proper road ends, and even the dirt roads are no longer fitting for cars, visitors must go by foot to the heart of the Ramat Migron outpost. On Tuesday afternoon, next to a large wooden shack, 20 young girls were gathered, kicking one another.
“The attacker is a person acting out of a negative motivation,” a counselor whose hair is wrapped in a scarf explains to them. “You need to establish a limit, or try to neutralize him.” The diligent students approach her one by one and try their luck at kneeing her. Most of them — alas — are too gentle, but there are least five girls whose knees you wouldn’t want to encounter.
"Self-sacrifice, not amusement parks"
The Ramat Migron outpost has become a household name among hilltop youth (a term commonly used to refer to hardliner, nationalist youth in Israel, often noted for establishing illegal outposts outside existing settlements). Security forces destroyed the outpost’s wooden shacks, constructed by the youth, dozens of times. But they don’t give up, consistently returning to rebuild two small outposts, one for girls and one for boys. The repeated construction following each demolition has turned Ramat Migron into a symbol, and its tenants particularly patriotic.
For most Israeli children, a camp in an isolated outpost without electricity and water or any means of communication with the outside world would seem a form of punishment. But in Ramat Migron, participants are proud of the number of girls who come, especially those from the western side of the Green Line, in order not to shower for three days.
For example, Sapir, 17, came on Sunday morning from Giva’at Shmuel, a student town in the Ono Valley in central Israel. For the permanent residents of the outposts, that compares to the upscale Tel Aviv neighborhood of Ramat Aviv Gimmel.
“When I came on Sunday, I thought I had arrived in a place inhabited by cave-people,” admits the young woman, who learned about the camp from an online forum for religious girls. “I didn’t believe that one could live without a phone charger. But I quickly connected to the girls here, and we saw that our connection to the Land of Israel links us all.”
“Whoever comes here isn’t looking for a trip to an amusement part, but rather to sacrifice herself for the Land of Israel,” says Esther, one of the locals.
Know your rights
The girls’ schedule is packed: they cook for themselves on portable gas burners, and throughout the day they whitewash the walls of the new shacks, plant trees and listen to lectures.
MK Michael Ben-Ari (National Union party), for example, lectured the girls, who he called Trumpeldor’s successors, on volunteer work for the benefit of the Land of Israel. Meir Bretler, a hilltop youth leader, gave a talk on the status of the outposts today, and on what is needed to reinforce them. Right-wing activist Benzi Gopstein spoke about the organization Lehava, which combats romantic relationships between Jews and non-Jews, and rightist leader Itamar Ben Gvir, who recently received a license to practice law, explained to the girls their rights should they be arrested.
How do they have the energy to survive this heat? Maybe because lights-out happens at 8:30 p.m., when the outpost is engulfed by near-total darkness.
“Of course you don’t get used to the place the first time,” Sapir explains just before heading home to shower. “But if I come over and over again, it’s possible that I could really be able to live here.”