Batsheva and the Story of Bet Hagai

November 9, 2023
The community of Bet Hagai mourns the loss of Batsheva Nigri. Local teens create a Star of David out of memorial candles to symbolise their determination to hold on to the land regardless of the danger.
The community of Bet Hagai mourns the loss of Batsheva Nigri. Local teens create a Star of David out of memorial candles to symbolise their determination to hold on to the land regardless of the danger.

On 20 August 2023, Batsheva Nigri left her home in Bet Hagai, together with her 12-year- old daughter, to run some errands in Efrat and Jerusalem. She never made it. Just a few hundred metres from the entrance to her community, she was murdered by an Arab terrorist who opened fire on the car. Miraculously, her daughter was not hurt.

Batsheva was not the first person from Bet Hagai to be murdered by terrorists. In fact, there is a memorial plaque in the centre of the community with the names of seven residents of Bet Hagai who were murdered by terrorists over the years. Batsheva’s name will now be added to the list.

The story of Bet Hagai actually begins with a horrible terrorist attack. May 1980, Hebron. At the time, Jews were not permitted to live in Biblical Hebron but only in neighbouring Kiryat Arba. But a number of very brave women entered an old Jewish building in Hebron, Bet Hadassah, in the middle of the night in April 1979 and established a permanent Jewish presence in the city. For the first time since 1929, when Jews were massacred by Arabs and the survivors were driven from the city by the British, Jews returned to live in Hebron.

The Israeli Government at the time was not happy with their presence. The leadership of Israel was not willing to stand before the Arabs in Hebron and declare our Jewish claim to the city. And they were not willing to stand before the world and declare our right to Judea and Samaria. But the Israeli Government also could not bring themselves to forcibly evict women and children who had taken up residence in a building that belonged to Jews, where Jews had lived and worked for years before 1929. But in the hope that they would voluntarily leave the city on their own, the government did not allow the husbands to join their families in Hebron, leaving the women and children alone in the dilapidated building. Jews were able to visit Hebron freely, however, and every Friday night, Jews would gather at the Tomb of the Patriarchs and welcome the Sabbath with prayers and songs. Before walking up the hill to Kiryat Arba, they would stop in front of Bet Hadassah and sing Sabbath songs to the women and children inside. On one such Friday night in May 1980, Arab terrorists ambushed the group and opened fire on the men as they were singing and dancing in honour of the holy Sabbath. Six men were murdered.

Three years later, students of the Kiryat Arba yeshiva decided to start a new community in Judea, just south of Hebron, in memory of their three friends, fellow students at the yeshiva, who were murdered in Hebron on that tragic night. Using the initials of their first names, Hanan, Gershon and Yaakov, which spells the word Hagai in Hebrew, they named their community Bet Hagai. From the beginning, the people of Bet Hagai were

committed to settling the Land of Israel as the fulfilment of God’s will. They understood that the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 was the first step in the ultimate redemption and Messianic age that the Prophets of Israel spoke of thousands of years ago. And then, when Israel returned to the Biblical Heartland in 1967, they saw an opportunity to play a critical role in the fulfilment of prophecy, as spoken by Ezekiel: “But you, O Mountains of Israel, shoot forth your branches and yield your fruit to my people of Israel for they will soon be coming… And I will multiply people upon you, the whole house of Israel, all of it. The cities shall be inhabited and the ruins rebuilt” (Ezekiel 36:8, 10). Israel had returned to the Mountains of Israel, Judea and Samaria, and it was time to inhabit the cities and rebuild the ruins.

It was a difficult beginning, but the early pioneers persevered. But almost from the start, they did not just want to settle the land. They wanted to give back to Israeli society as a whole, to embrace a project that would serve people from all over Israel. They opened the Bet Hagai Youth Village in 1989, initially in mobile homes. Theirs was a unique concept. The Youth Village would not just be a place for troubled boys living in dormitories. Their village would mirror a real family. Young families would live with the boys in a group home, and the boys would not only receive therapies and specialised education. They would also receive the love and sense of belonging in a family that they so desperately needed.

Batsheva and her husband, Eliyahu, moved to Bet Hagai several years ago, and Eliyahu became part of the staff of the youth village. Batsheva and Eliyahu were quiet people but full of kindness and love. They had difficulty conceiving a baby, and it was years before they were able to have their only child, today a lovely 12-year-old girl.

But they have fostered children for years in their Bet Hagai home. The Nigri family, like the entire community of Bet Hagai, is all about love, about children and about reaching out to those most in need, without fanfare, without fuss. Just being there for the people who need them most.

Christians for Israel, together with supporters of CFOIC Heartland from all over the world, have been helping the people of Judea and Samaria, and particularly the people of Bet Hagai, for decades. Thanks to your support, there are security cameras to protect the children and staff of the Youth Village from terrorist infiltration.

Christians for Israel has provided assistance for the construction of some of the family homes, for the art centre, the music centre and ongoing needs for the boys. Bet Hagai has stood firm in its dedication to settling the land and has spread love and comfort to those who need it most. Thank you for partnering with them.

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Sondra Baras

Sondra Oster Baras was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio in an Orthodox Jewish home. She was educated at the Hebrew Academy of Cleveland, a religious all-day school sponsored by the Cleveland Jewish community. Today, Sondra is the director of Christian Friends of Israeli Communities at the Israel office, coordinating much of CFOIC Heartland’s community support programs world-wide.

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