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.

Sunny days

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It hardly seems fair that the weather should be so enticing when all we seem to do lately is dig into kitchen drawers, refrigerators and closet shelves, and clean, clean, clean.

My husband suggested that we all take a break and make a little day trip to the Kinneret. We now live relatively close to this largest lake of Israel.

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With the latest rains, the Kinneret has reached far beyond its usual borders, almost covering these reeds that grew along what used to be the bank.

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Though the water was too chilly to our liking to dip in, Israel enjoyed a refreshing splash. I think he looks a little like Tarzan in this photo!

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Hadassah, in the meantime, was occupied by some interesting-looking pebbles.

It was such a lovely afternoon that I wish I could have taken about a thousand more pictures to preserve its beauty, but I know it would still not have been enough.

In the meantime, we’re working extra hard in preparation for the Pesach holiday, which takes place next week, and also, in between, trying to subdue the enormous jungle of weeds that sprang up in our garden.

This is the first crop of my husband’s container potatoes – digging for them was a real treasure hunt for the kids:

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Cheering up with chickens

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Wherever we are, it seems like it’s only a matter of time until we find some chickens. It turns out we have a neighbor who has a whole yard full of poultry (we found him through the crowing of his roosters), including all my favorite chicken breeds such as Silkies, Brahmas, Polish, Wyandotte, Sussex… And it turns out we have some poultry aficionados as common acquaintance. So now hopefully, once I am able to nudge my husband (*smile*) in the direction of building a coop and giving the incubator a test run, we can get fresh eggs for hatching. Really, in moving here, there is nothing I miss like my chickens. For the time being, we go to visit and feed our neighbor’s birds whenever we can.

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Speaking of going somewhere… There hasn’t been much of that lately because the rains have been SO intense for the season. We even missed our regular afternoon in the library today! I’m surprised at the strength of my craving for sunshine, warmth and all that comes with it – hammocks, picnics, wading pools, bare feet, and working in the garden.

In the meantime, we have been trying to make the best of these days of being cooped up inside (as you can judge by Shira’s modeling clay art), drawing, reading, and taking out all our favorite board games. We have actually finished the fifth Harry Potter book, which has been our ongoing read for months.

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I have also been putting the closets in order and discovered another stash of yarn scraps that will be just perfect for a doll-making project. Once, of course, I put Pesach (and all the cleaning it entails) behind me.

I hope spring is on its way to all my friends in the northern hemisphere!

When winter refuses to give up

Last night, we were awake multiple times due to one of the most epic thunderstorms I have witnessed this year. In the morning, we got up to a quiet, moisture-filled world, with water dropping down from the tree branches and puddles everywhere.

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There’s even a little stream of sorts that flows after heavy rains, and guess who loves to put on his rubber boots and wade through it?

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The spring flowers, however, won’t take no for an answer. They know it’s their time to bloom.

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I, too, am gearing up for warm weather projects and making a little dress for Hadassah. I hope to finish it soon and post the tutorial as well.

Have a wonderful early spring, everyone!

Spring flowers

Have I mentioned that I’m not a winter person? I’m sure I have, a time or twenty. Yeah, yeah, I know what you’re all thinking – that we have no real winter here. However, short days, lack of sunshine, and rain make me want to crawl under a blanket and sleep until it’s spring again.

So you can imagine how happy I am when it’s sunny and warm and all my favorite flowers are out.

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Beautiful white cyclamens – we need to decide where to plant them so that they can bloom again next year.

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More cyclamens, of a smaller, wild variety. They smell delightful.

Forget-me-nots.

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Pink geranium, growing by the day and quite happy in its new home.

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Look at that big stalk growing out of our aloe plant. You can also see a tomato bush or two in the background. And yes, the weeds are winning the race against us, because they, unlike us, didn’t mind being out in the rain these past few days!

I’m wishing happy spring to you all. My mind already transports me to the season beyond Pesach cleaning, to the joys of long afternoons, iced lemonade, hammocks and crickets.

Between the drops

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We’ve had so much rain here lately that I’m seriously considering to go into hibernation mode until it’s all over. I know, I know. It’s unfair to complain about a bit of rain and mud when the country needs water so badly, and when my friends in the northern states and Canada are snowed in, but I do love sunshine with a passion and absolutely need lots of it to feel happy.

In the meantime, we are going on with our indoor diversions of baking, reading and crafts. In the photo above, you can see the cute little throw-on vest I had just completed (the loose ends still need to be tucked in!). It’s made from alpaca wool blend and was a joy to work on. I imagine it would also work great with pure alpaca yarn, such as this lovely yarn from LoveCrochet.

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On a rare sunshiny afternoon, we went for a walk to take some photos of these beauties – almond trees in bloom, the typical local herald of spring.

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And this last one is my favorite – this old stump looked quite dead until new green shoot began to pop up all over it. Now it’s teeming with life. So hopeful!

I hope you are all staying safe and warm and successfully battling cabin fever. Soon enough, it will be time for working in the garden, gathering wild edibles and, perhaps my most dreaded feature of the season, spring cleaning.

Spring delights

I thought I’d post a couple of photos of the nice things we’ve been enjoying lately – plenty of sunshine, green grass for our birds to browse on, and flowers.

As you can see, our baby peafowl have grown quite a bit, but as peafowl generally don’t breed until two years of age (to the best of my knowledge), we don’t expect any egg-laying or breeding this season, though the male is becoming more colorful with each day.

The plant in the bottom right corner is actually a wild herb that sprang up in my garden quite unexpectedly. It smells wonderful, but I have no idea what it is. A guess, anyone?

In the upper right you can see a gorgeous desert view from a day trip we took. It lacks the lush greenery that can be seen in other parts of the country at this season, but I still find it majestically beautiful.