I finally got my things together to write about one of the two topics I knew I have to write about ever since I started this blog but somehow never wanted to do it in between. They just have been too important to me.
So number one – the one I’ll spare for another day – is the one I’ve been collecting material about like madbut never so far put it together: Sderot. That cozy lil’ place in the Western Negev desert mentioned in my second to last blog, where Qassam-rockets are as usual as … well … donkeys. It’s one of those places the whole world – including Israel – tends to forget about for it’s frightening to have a look there.
Number two would be a topic which is far from being ignored. It has been for the best part and still is one of the most important topics of the Middle East Peace Process (someday somebody has to think about a better word then that cause it’s growing into a bad joke calling it “Peace Process”…): The so called “Settlements”. Hereby meaning areas mainly in the “Westbank”, land within the Palestine Authorities or the Borders of 1967, being inhabited by jewish, Israeli people. There are about 265’000 “settlers”– including those living in Ramat HaGolan, the Golan Heights but excluding some of the biggest cities and Eastern Jerusalem – and they are virtually comming out of every possible class within society. There are religious communities and secular communities. There are Sabre, people born in Israel, and there are Olim, new immigrants. And of course there are Ashkenazi, Mizrachi and Sephardijews. Thoroughly mixed up in just one community. And there are bigger cities, like Modi’in or Ariel, as well as tiny agricultural villages with no more then a hand full of date trees.
For Europeans or Americans they are likely to be regarded as the the main obstacle to a finally successful peace process. Just as an Arab would describe them. And guess what: For Israelis it’s mostly just the same!Your random Tel Avivi would be the first one to drag them out of their settlementswith his own hands and motions to boycott products from settlements might be even stronger there then in Europe or the US. They are, in the end living on land that, by law of nations, belongs to another people.
I have travelled to one of the “settlements”, a medium-sized village making a living of the land surrounding it and I went there full of scepticism yet at a time I had already learnt that with the Middle East conflict hardly anything turns out to be as simple as it looks like. So I was forewarned that the “settlers” being the “bad boys” might be a little too easy. And the people I met there confirmed just that. They are religious yet were living their idea of Judaism in a way that deeply moved me and made me wish that one day I could live and pass on just that attitude towards religion to my children. They said they’d sometimes skip synagogue in order to go to the hillsand pray – or medidate – there.
Yes, they may go to the hills alone though they are living in the middle of the West banksurrounded by Palestinian villages of whom you can see a lot from the “settlement”. They have Palestinians repair their carsand work in their village and the only causalities they had to suffer were members of the community being away from home, mostly in Jerusalem. (Actually one of the community’s boys died at the assault at the school in Jerusalem lately). In their village they live in peace. Damn they don’t even have a perimeter fence as most kibbuzim in the midst of Israeli territory would have them. (Which shocked me after a couple of months of Israel …). All they have is a hand full of armed guards and dogs which for Israeli standards is close to inattentive.
These days they are living a life in fear. Not of their Palestinian neighbours – they’d happily invite them over for BBC and I’ve heard of other communities where it happens – but of their own government which might get them expelled from the village they built and the trees they planted. They are farmers; trees mean a lot to them and they are people who have strong roots. I am not sure if it is “right” that they are there, that they came there to begin with. But the fact is that at one place the Israeli government made them settle down there. They gave communities the possibility for a start there and land to grow plants on; they subsidized it. I doubt anybody would have moved there if they hadn’t been encouraged by the authorities so much. And in the end it’s not even the people living there today but rather their parents. They’ve grown up there.
And then when their youngsters grow up and want to build a house on their own they are in troubles for there’s all of that stop of settlement-expansion; Sometimes they either stay with their parents, even if they are married themselves and have kids, or go to the cities of Israel which are strange to them and way to big. And where they can’t be farmers. I can see why nobody would want additional people going to the west bank but I cannot see why they wouldn’t let those who are already living there build houses for their children. Besides politicians of course, who are concerning nothing but the statistics they forged and what it will look like for the outsider.
So much on the “settlements” for today, Part II to follow up.