In mid-November, the organizers of Otzma planned a weekend seminar for my group entitled “Politics and Society.” The seminar was a chance for us to explore the issues at the forefront of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. We visited the Knesset, participated in workshops, and heard from speakers representing diverse interests. Perhaps most significant was the opportunity to spend a Shabbat in Tacoa, a settlement town in the
In Tacoa, each pair of Otzma participants was hosted by a local family. Tacoa is over the Green Line, about 15 minutes from downtown Jerusalem and home to 1500 Jewish Israeli citizens. My partner and I had the (good) luck to be left in the custody of a host who, by no fault of his own, had no idea that he was supposed to be our entertainment for the weekend. Nobody had told him that the whole point of the visit was for us to interact meaningfully with our hosts, so he farmed us out to different local families for every meal and even the in-between times. Over the two days, we had the opportunity to meet many different families, which I think was the best thing that could have happened to us. Also during our visit, the whole group came together to hear from community leaders, including a session with a founding member of the town who gave us background on the settlement and told the story of its inception and growth from ten families in the 1970’s to over 300 today.
The town was nothing like what I expected going into the territories. To be honest, part of me expected a run-down place with a bunch of crazies ranting about how it was our land and we would never give it up. In reality, nearly everyone I met was well-adjusted and reasonable. The houses were quite nice, the streets were paved, and the view of the desert was beautiful. If nobody told you (and you couldn’t hear gunfire in the distance), you would have no idea that you were surrounded by people who would probably be willing to kill you for control of the territory on which these homes sit. I had great conversations with everyone I met and each person had a different point of view and was willing to share it. My temporary hosts ranged from a beautiful young couple with a new baby in a three room apartment to a wonderfully riotous household with three generations of family and what must have been at least ten kids under age 20. All things said and done, the place and the people were what all of us would consider normal. What sets Tacoans apart is the political implications of their choice of residence, regardless of why they chose to live there. Some of them moved to the territories because you can rent a big house for $500 a month, and others are there to support the religious statement that God gave this land to the Jews.
It was a rare opportunity to actually go to one of the towns in the territories and see what it is like. Now, whenever I talk about the issue of Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories, I'll have faces and memories to put with the lines on the maps. It adds a very human element to the discussion of whether or not to give up the
As promised, I will leave you with some ideas to consider:
With regards to the Knesset(Israeli Parliament): Would you rather have a government where you voted for party rather than a candidate, and have the party elect your representatives based on voting results? This way, you get politicians who may have less charisma, but who are selected as leaders from among their politically knowledgeable peers. The downside of such a system is that there isn’t someone you can hold directly accountable, like your local congressman, and services to less populated area tend to be neglected.
With regards to Hebrew as a modern language: Consider that Hebrew been dead for the better part of 2 millennia. Today, it’s a thoroughly modern language, but it has had to be made that way. Words like car, bus, and computer had to be invented. Some that they've also recently added to the Hebrew dictionary are “accountability”, “integrity”, and “pluralism”. Now, consider a society without such words – as
With regards to the situation in the West Bank: Many would argue that under