A decade in the West Bank: a recap

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When I was a bride on the point of my wedding, my future husband and I were looking for a quiet rural place where we could raise our children close to nature and away from busy roads and packed streets. There are such places in Israel, but they are either remote or hugely expensive. In an act of thinking outside the box, we explored the possibility of hopping over the ’67 border, or “the green line”, into the Judea and Samaria area, also known as “The West Bank”.

It was not a political statement (at least not initially). We did believe, and still do, that Jews have the right to live in every part of the Promised Land as it appears in the Bible. Otherwise, all Israelis are nothing more than greedy colonists and might as well pack up and leave. But it was not what led us to move to the settlement of Kedumim and later, when that, either, did not answer our rural dream, to the surrounding outposts.

We soon found out that our motives in living remotely were vastly different from almost every other person we came in contact with. While we essentially wanted a homestead and complete privacy, our neighbors emphasized community and “doing things together” (which did not sit well at all with me as an individualist, and which in my opinion led to lots of gossiping and people sticking their noses into each other’s tushy).

Israeli farmers and settlers have historically been forced to band together for safety reasons. Independent farms are few and far between. We have not been able to attain this dream; perhaps we never will, now. Living among the rolling hills and picturesque views was lovely while it lasted, but it came with a cost.

One was safety. I don’t have statistics, but tragedies happen all the time. People die in car accidents. Hospitals are always full. But this can’t compare to the palpable feeling of pure evil walking all around you, of knowing that there are monsters in human skin who are out there to kill you and your children just for who they are.

During our time in the Shomron, we came in contact with two incidents of such evil: the attack on the 11-year-old Ayala Shapiro, whose family were our neighbors, which left her with severe burns that had maimed her forever; and the murder of Rabbi Raziel Shevach, who was likewise our neighbor in the last place we had lived before leaving the area.

I don’t run a political blog, but no, civil casualties during armed conflict are NOT the same as a terrorist who deliberately sets out to kill innocents, and the more helpless and weak they are, the better. During the massacre of the Fogel family in Itamar, the scum of the earth monster who had already murdered the parents and two of the children was about to walk out of the house when the 4-month-old baby, whom he hadn’t noticed before, started crying in her crib. He went back and stabbed her to death.

During our last four years in the settlements we lived in what you’d call the “hardest core” outpost. People there were no fuzzy sunshiny “let’s all get along” types. We were publicly shamed for doing business in the neighboring Arab village. But you can bet your life none of those isolated “fanatics” would have walked into a random Arab home to kill babies.

One thing I have realized most strongly was that the Shomron is an integral, indispensable part of Israel. I used to be able to watch the sunset glimmer on the surface of the Mediterranean Sea from my living room window. That’s how tiny our country is. Look at the map and see what is left once Judea and Samaria area is subtracted – a narrow strip of land along the shore, vulnerable and impossible to defend.

Many people, in Israel as well as around the world, labor under the delusion that if we just retreat to the ’48 borders as defined by the UN, all will be peachy and the Hamas and Hezbollah will drop their guns and rockets and we’ll all sing Kumbaya together around a campfire. Sorry, folks, not gonna happen. Those who hate us and want to kill us in Maale Adumim hate us and want to kill us in Tel Aviv. By the way, don’t you find it funny how Jerusalem, where Jews have lived thousands of years ago and which had never been without a Jewish presence, is so strongly disputed, while Tel Aviv, which is a historically recent creation, is not?

Quoting the Bible as the document that gives us the right to this land might not be accepted by all, but without it, what are we actually doing here?

But I digress.

Many settlements are like small towns with no clear political affiliation. People there mostly just go about their business and live like in any other part of the country. Where we lived it was different. The place had all sorts of legal obstacles to its development. There were often problems with electricity and running water. There were no shops, post office, bank, doctors, etc, within walking distance.

This lack of accessibility, even more than the clannish segregated social structure, was what I found most frustrating about my life on that area. Without a car or reliable transportation means, I was utterly dependent on DH for every little thing. If we had run out of milk and he didn’t feel like driving to the grocery store, too bad, we’d just have to do without milk. Every trivial errand turned into a huge logistic challenge.

The decision to leave did not come about in one day. Besides being attached to the area, we couldn’t afford to move anywhere else (forget that we could barely afford to maintain our own house, as it was).

I suppose the overwhelming feeling I had experienced in those days was simply exhaustion. I was tired of never feeling quite safe, of not being able to count on having simple necessities like running water, of everything being such a logistical nightmare, from checking emails to running to the grocery store, of being utterly dependent on my husband for every trivial little thing.

I feel extremely lucky that my mom had a home to offer us. Things are so much easier for me today that I sometimes feel like I cheated. I was certainly a lot more fortunate than others in my situation. Not everyone has generous family ready to help them out of lousy circumstances.

My heart is still with the courageous souls braving a thousand risks and inconveniences each day of living where I used to. I will always feel a strong emotional bond to that part of the country. However, there’s no denying I’m a lot happier and mentally healthier here.

8 thoughts on “A decade in the West Bank: a recap

  1. SO well written!! It is indeed a very mind changing thing to even visit Israel…we made it twice. We never thought differently than you have expressed here…there are so many things here in USA that are NOT like portrayed in the media either…liars abound on the earth!! But I don’t see how anyone with an open mind, going to visit there, could possibly believe what media says in general anymore!! You and your family were very brave!! We have some friends now in Arod…they used to live in the Shomron and he wrote a book to hopefully help inform English speakers of how it is there. Here is a podcast of him telling of his life: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/215402 …they are the nicest people!!

    You know, there seems to be time frames in our life where we are someplace for reasons we may not understand!! But you are no doubt where you are now, because you are supposed to be…for now anyway. And perhaps you can do much simply with your writing too!!

    We were finishing up our conversion when the awful events of Itamar happened. I chose that as part of my new Hebrew name as a way to never forget, as well as it is one name for Ray, which was my beloved Grandpa’s name which I wanted to use. (One thing nice about converting is you get to choose your own name!!)

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    • Thank you for pointing me to that podcast! I look forward to listening to it. I didn’t know you were a convert. Some of my dearest friends are converts and the huge leap of faith they took always amazes me. ♥

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      • Thank you, dear…kind remark!! I sent you an email as it is quite long…this journey is pretty incredible to us too…so many things were part of the huge puzzle from getting us to where we are now, from where we were.

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  2. It seems to me that your ““Should be” vs. “Is”” article, and those that follow in its path, aren’t so much about your lack of basic wisdom, after all. They seem to be more about your level of expectations of what is “standard” where you lived.

    It would seem that you (the general “you”) must take a lot more into account in Yehuda/Shomron than most places, especially if you are a family of Jews.

    My ulpan teacher, over a decade ago, told us that every day that we wake up and Israel is still intact is nothing short of a miracle. I say: All the more so for those on the frontiers. They deserve all the support we can give them.

    And, yes, it is “funny” that Tel Aviv isn’t disputed while Jerusalem is. Openly, that is. The “monsters in human skin” want TA too. They just aren’t ready to declare it yet. Although, since our Prime Minister gave up the mandate to make a coalition, his rival may indeed get his chance. TA will likely be the cost of the 13-seat-strong Arab group of parties. If Gen. Gantz can stomach that. If he can, I hope G-d will send Mashiah, with a whole new-to-us system of government, and spare us what will lead us to a fate worse than death.

    If you thought life under the Christians in Europe was worse than life under the Muslims in the Middle East, you’re in for a big surprise, should this occur, G-d forbid!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hava, I certainly don’t fancy living under Muslim rule. Ever. I’m not so sure Bibi is really so much better than Gantz. To me they are two evils (not as men, but as leaders) between whom I am hard pressed to choose.

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  3. As you well know, here in USA, for a long time we have been left with trying to choose the lesser of 2 evils!! But bad leadership abounds everywhere here too…at work for my daughters…seems the biggest liars, cheats and thieves are put in charge of the rest…so sad!! We DO need for Mashiah to come!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It makes sense, when you think about it… Humility, integrity, and aversion to elbow-pushing – all qualities necessary to good leadership – unfortunately do not often occur in people determined to climb the ladder up to the top.

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