Settling in

I’m not sure what compelled me to do this. But when I saw the title “We were evicted from Gaza – we’ll never leave Gush Etzion” I just had to. Had to. Whether from sadistic urge to read something I knew ahead of time would make me really really angry and upset, or because these five minutes of my life I felt should be dedicated to listening to “the (an) other side”, I’m now that much more sure that the people who choose to live in settlements are the people with whom I can discard hope right now of engaging in rational discussion of these problems.

So ever since our marriage, we’ve been searching for a bit of land that would be ours … on which to build a house, a life and a family. …There were many options. But we naturally wanted to move to a small, close-knit community, and we wanted a place where we could help reinforce the Israeli people’s hold on its land. In other words, we looked for a settlement. … Tekoa’s hometown prophet is Amos, who, according to the Bible, “was among the herdsmen of Tekoa.” His prophecy of consolation, which comes at the end of his book, so precisely describes our situation that when we read it, we realized we were in the right place. … His words were uttered from these hills, from this land. And Amos said: ‘And I will return my people Israel from captivity, and they shall build the abandoned cities and inhabit them, and they shall plant vineyards and drink the wine thereof, and make gardens and eat the fruit thereof. And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be uprooted from their land which I have given them, said the Lord thy God.’ … We have indeed returned to the abandoned cities where Amos once walked, and they are no longer desolate.

She makes a lot of assumptions in these passages. First, that the land on which she is living is considered to be the land of Israel or of the Israeli people. Secondly, that the land was abandoned before she and her husband got there. Thirdly, that all Jews are part of the “Israeli people” and as such have a divine mandate to do exactly what the Torah says – or at least the sections of the Torah that are convenient to her/them/us. Fourthly, that Israel’s stranglehold on the Territories should (morally, politically, ethically…) be increased. She is threatened by something perceived as dangerous to the Jewish presence on land which legally isn’t part of Israel, let alone “Jewish land”. Maybe Soloman and David lived there thousands of years ago (if they were even real people), but you know what, my great great great grandparents lived in a shtetl in Lithuania, and you don’t see me going and trying to build a house on the property of whoever lives there now. And my tangible connection to them is a lot closer than the connection of this woman to the ancient lands of Judea and Samaria, fondly known these days as the Occupied Palestinian Territory in the West Bank.

Maybe when the apocalypse comes (as all those preachers in the States are always fire-and-brimstone-ing about) she can return to her unfairly-obtained land, but for now, she should remember how she felt when she had to leave her home in Gaza and in Jerusalem and everywhere else, and realize she is forcing the same fate on another woman who just wants a life, a family, a sense of peace. Just because we are Jewish does not make us more worthy.


2 thoughts on “Settling in

  1. You might enjoy reading, if you haven’t already:
    I had a retired business executive in Maine almost snow me (I concluded afterwards) by describing the impossibility of talking with an ultra-orthodox Jew about anything. I’ll put that canard on a par with the one about “it’s the occupation, stupid!” There’s a term in rhetoric for it, I’ll bet. Some nice Greek term connoting paradox in one of its sixty-four thousand varieties. I accept your main premise, but an ancillary premise invalidates your main premise at the moment. This is a canard in that, if an ancillary point outranks a main premise, the ancillary point is the real main premise. (Like Senator Collins sending me a hand-crafted letter, after four requests, saying that a one-state solution was reasonable and preferable, but there had been too much water under the bridge–too much resentment built up–I realize, five years later, the logical problem there–so we should keep on building up the resentment?) Rhetoric (if you’re thinking about law school) is one of two things: words that accompany the showing of evidence (“Look!”), or words that urge one to disregard evidence. “Throwing mud in people’s eyes” was how one seasoned real estate lawyer described the law to me regretfully.
    So assuming you don’t want to be evil, and would prefer to talk to these people (you know who I mean) (oh, you mean those people), then the question is, What are they actually saying? Read the Shulman piece and wonder what the fat settler was shouting at him–what the actual message was, the testable hypothesis–what was the settler presenting as evidence that he wanted someone to look at?
    It might be that he was not shouting at Shulman but at his own wife and family there behind him. He was maybe saying to them, I can exorcize these demons from our Palestinian field by shouting at them. See, I can protect you, even though it seems absurd that cursing people in 2010 like it was Arabia in 620 may seem strange to you, making me a dubious provider, itself a dubious concept these days.
    So the proper response to this guy’s performance would be, Well, family, does this guy convince you he is the good provider, the walls around the courtyard in which you, ma’am, are the olive tree and you, kids, are the green sprouts–or does he sound like an abusive blowhard who uses profanity because he has no argument to present, no evidence to show except his own blowhardness? Something like that.
    It’s not that we don’t understand. It’s that we don’t want to be bothered.

    1. My sentence went awry–it may seem absurd to be cursing people like it was 620 in Arabia, it may even seem strange to imagine such a thing as a “family provider”. What am I, crushed rock?

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