newsIsrael-Palestinian Conflict

Samaria women raise awareness about the threat in Israel’s backyard

"What's happening in Judea and Samaria is not just about there, it's about Tel Aviv and Kfar Saba,” says HaTzafot co-founder Hadas Madmon.

Israel Defense Forces activity in Tulkarem, Samaria, May 7, 2024. Credit: IDF.
Israel Defense Forces activity in Tulkarem, Samaria, May 7, 2024. Credit: IDF.

A group of women from Judea and Samaria are leading the charge to raise awareness regarding what they say is the growing security threat in the region, as most eyes are turned towards Gaza and the Israel-Lebanon border.

Their organization, HaTzofot, meaning “The watchers” in Hebrew, is composed of mothers and wives of Israel Defense Forces reservists who are working day and night to ensure the safety of themselves and their children.

According to Hadas Madmon, one of the organization’s leaders, it was founded after Hamas’s Oct. 7 massacre because “the citizens of the south screamed warnings but no one heard.

“We feel concerned because we see and hear the threats but we are not heard,” she told JNS.

Judea and Samaria are the country’s “backbone,” she said. Pointing to a map, she highlighted the terror hotspot of Tulkarem, where terror groups such as Palestinian Islamic Jihad have taken hold. Moving her finger just a few centimeters, she pointed out that the Samaria city sits only eight miles from Israel’s densely populated coastal plain, in some cases less than 15 minutes’ drive to cities such as Kfar Saba and Netanya.

Even some residents of these Israeli cities are unaware of just how close they are to Tulkarem, she said.

HaTzofot is a strictly non-political organization, working with Knesset members and organizations across ideological lines.

Eliana Mandell Braner, the sister of Koby Mandell, a 13-year-old Israeli-American citizen who was murdered alongside his friend Yosef Ishran, 14, in 2001 by Palestinian terrorists who have never been caught, is also a part of the organization.

“We speak to all politicians,” she said, “This is not right or left, it’s about our lives.”

She added: “What’s happening in Judea and Samaria is not just about there, it’s about Tel Aviv and Kfar Saba.”

Like the other women of the organization, her husband is serving in the reserves. While the women applaud the IDF’s efforts, Mandell Braner believes that Israel’s military is too defensive in its mindset.

“After Oct. 7 it’s clear the enemy wants us all dead. We’re asking the army to go on the offensive” to solve the problem, she said.

Former Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard is a supporter of the organization and was outspoken about the dangers brewing in Judea and Samaria even before the war.

“Unfortunately [HaTzofot] is necessary,” he said, adding that while people talk about the threats Israel faces from Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran, “The most dangerous threat is in Judea and Samaria, the center of the country.”

The threat, Pollard said, is “existential.”

“These women are defending Israel, and if they fail, it will bleed over to all of Israel,” he said.

MK Dan Illouz, a member of the Knesset Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee, shared his concerns with what is happening in the region.

“The State of Israel must wake up and understand the dangers to the residents of Judea and Samaria, who are Israeli citizens in every way and deserve full security. It is time to start developing an alternative to reliance on the Palestinian Authority, which encourages terror,” he told JNS.

Madmon says their fight will not end until they feel safe.

“We are in a war. We demand a change,” she said.

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