|Founded by||Gush Emunim|
Ofra (Hebrew: עָפְרָה) is an Israeli settlement located in the northern West Bank in the jurisdiction of the Mateh Binyamin Regional Council. It is situated on the main road between Jerusalem and Nablus (route 60), 25 km from Jerusalem, and has 3,000 inhabitants. Ofra is viewed as a flagship of the Israeli settlement project.
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The location of Ofra nowadays is believed to be close to the site of biblical Ophrah, also known as Ephron and Ephraim:
- "The tribe of Benjamin, clan by clan, had the following cities: Jericho, Beth Hoglah, Emek Keziz, Beth Arabah, Zemaraim, Bethel, Avvim, Parah, Ophrah..." (Book of Joshua 18:21-23)
- "Abijah pursued Jeroboam and took from him the towns of Bethel, Jeshanah and Ephron, with their surrounding villages..." (Second Book of Chronicles 13:19)
- In the New Testament, "Therefore Jesus no longer moved about publicly among the Jews. Instead he withdrew to a region near the desert, to a village called Ephraim, where he stayed with his disciples". (Gospel of John 11:54)
Ofra's establishment was part of a struggle between the Gush Emunim settlement movement, which was founded in February 1974, and the Israeli Labor government, which opposed Israeli settlement amid densely populated Palestinian areas. The establishing group first obtained jobs at a nearby military base on Mount Baal Hatsor, then in April 1975 got permission to sleep over in the abandoned barracks of a Jordanian army base, but then brought in their families and raised an Israeli flag. Though opposed by then Prime Minister, Rabin, and perhaps because of his opposition, Ofra was given the political backing by Shimon Peres, then a leading member of Rabin's government. After the Labour Party was defeated by the Likud Party in the 1977 Israeli election, the new government recognized Ofra as a community and paving the way for expansion into the surrounding hills.
Most of the now built-up land in Ofra was non-inhabitable rocky terrain belonging to absentee landlords who controlled much of the territory including that now occupied by nearby Arab villages of Betein (Biblical Bet El), ‘Ein Yabrud (Moslem), Silwad (Moslem), and a-Tayba (Christian). Building is in accordance with a government plan for regional development. Haaretz reports in June 2007 that 179 of the 600 buildings in Ofra are considered illegal by the Israeli administration, a somewhat surprising statistic since the infrastructure was provided by the government, which also provided preferential mortgages.
Today there are kindergartens, elementary schools, a girls high school (Ulpana Ofra, established in 1986), a midrasha (Midreshet Shuva) and a field school (a special school for biology environmental studies). The field school holds a permanent exhibition of the fauna of the area and of ancient agriculture. Ofra also has a bird watching center, located in a reservation near the Givat Tzvi neighborhood.
Ofra is situated 850-900 meters above sea level. The climate is mediterranean-mountainous. Cold and humid winters with several days of snow almost every year and a rain yearly average of about 750 millimeters (29.5 inches). The summers are dry and mild. This climate is suitable for growing cherries, nectarines, kiwifruit, grapes and olives. Other branches of agriculture include honey and poultry farming. In the nearby industrial area there are some small light manufacturing workshops of carpentry and welding.
The town is divided into three main neighborhoods: Neve David, Giv'at Tzvi and the core of the town, which is itself divided into four sections. In addition there are three caravan neighborhoods and another neighborhood ("HaShkhuna HaZmanit", lit. the temporary neighborhood) of houses belong to the Ofra Cooperative Society, rented mostly to newcomers including a community of Bnei Menashe from Manipur and Mizoram.
Neighboring Ofra are some Palestinian villages and towns, such as Deir Dibwan, Ein Yabrud, Silwad, Kafr Malik, Deir Jarir and At-Taybeh, the last is identified with the accurate site of biblical Ofra.
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The Sasson report in 2003 introduced criteria for determining the legality of a given settlement. Since the reports release, B'Tselem has argued that Ofra is an illegal outpost because it violates 3 of the 4 established criteria. Although Ofram was authorized in 1979, it was never defined a jurisdictional area, never had an outline plan approved and no lawful building permits were issued. It claims that parts of the village also lay on registered Palestinian land. 
- ↑ "Table 3 - Population of Localities Numbering Above 2,000 Residents and Other Rural Population". Israel Central Bureau of Statistics. 2009-09-30. http://www.cbs.gov.il/population/new_2010/table3.pdf. Retrieved 2010-01-29.
- ↑ "Ofra - An Illegal Outpost". B'Tselem. 2008-12. http://www.btselem.org/English/Publications/Summaries/200812_Ofra.asp.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Ofra|
- Ofra website (Hebrew)
- Midreshet Shuva (Hebrew)
- Ofra in Google Maps
- The Ofra Settlement - an Unauthorized Outpost. December 2008.