Despite the recent termination of the freeze against Jewish construction in Judea and Samaria, it is clear that the future of Jewish settlement is still at risk. For even if the current round of peace talks fizzles away and with it yet another “window of opportunity” is missed, no one should assume for a moment that those working endlessly for the implementation of the two-state solution will cease in their indefatigable efforts.
Although the larger settlement enterprise may have received a short respite, the “illegal outposts,” a term pregnant with meaning and one that conveys a clear political leaning, don’t have such a luxury. It is a safe bet that in order to calm the international winds as a result of the renewed Jewish construction, all focus will be on the removal of these "thorny" outposts.
With these thoughts on my mind, I recently decided to participate in an organized tour of various outposts in the Samaria region. Although a staunch supporter of Jewish settlement anywhere in the Land of Israel, the truth is that like many people in Israel I’ve had very little first-hand contact with most places in Judea and Samaria and none at all with the outposts.
After hearing so much in the media about the outposts and the type of anti-establishment Jews “manning these forts,” I was certainly not prepared for the first place we visited, the HaYovel neighborhood of Eli. With 38 homes, many of which were large and beautiful, this certainly was nothing like the image depicted in the media. The people living there were also different than expected - an engineer working at Ben Gurion Airport, an IDF major, the head of Israel’s Fuel Authority - these were “normal” looking Israelis in every respect. Nonetheless, there is a pending court case for the status of 12 of these homes, which include the widows and orphaned children of both Roi Klein and Eliraz Peretz, heroic soldiers killed in Lebanon and Gaza respectively.
From there we visited various sites in Yitzhar, a community that includes a large yeshiva building slated for destruction. Although Yitzhar had more of that rugged feeling that is frequently portrayed in the media, perhaps most notably exemplified by its refusal to turn itself into a closed ghetto with the erection of a security fence, the people we met with were quite friendly and warm. Moreover, they appeared quite resourceful and industrious, producing, amongst other things, organic wines and flour.
From Yitzhar we went to nearby Itamar and visited a few of the outposts that were beyond the main area of settlement. In addition to the breathtaking views from the high hilltops, we saw an outpost, if one can call it that, which housed an enormous and beautiful goat farm, one that produces all sorts of organic wonders.
Israel itself a ‘Jewish outpost’
Overall, it was quite an interesting and educational day, something that I would strongly recommend to anyone. More importantly, given the fact that any withdrawals from the outposts or from any areas in Judea and Samaria will have ramifications for the rest of us, I think it is imperative for every Jew living in Israel to visit these places, meet the people, and have a first-hand experience. In the event of a referendum, assuming such a thing actually takes place and is non-biased, it is important to be informed and knowledgeable.
What's more, by lacking this knowledge it becomes easy to sit comfortably in one’s home in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv thinking “why do these people continue to build and risk their lives, living close to or in the midst of large Arab populations?” while forgetting the truth that it is these people who are keeping the danger far from our homes. Is our collective memory really that short that we’ve already forgotten the missiles that rained down in Haifa after the troops left Lebanon and the ones that fell in Beersheva after all Jewish presence was blotted out in Gaza? Do we really think that something will be different if we remove Jews from their homes in Judea and Samaria?
Although the security aspect is indeed important, ultimately our presence in all or part of the land comes down to a question of faith. If we really believe that the land is ours, that God gave the Land of Israel to the Jewish people and therefore it is our right to settle all of it, then the world will follow suit. However, if we harbor doubts about our right to the land and the fact that it was given to us by God, or if we have feelings of guilt that perhaps we did something wrong, then the world will act accordingly.
Finally, one should not be lured into thinking, “let’s uproot the outposts or the more hardcore settlements but leave the nicer, more established settlements,” as if this will appease the Arabs. The truth is that the whole State of Israel, regardless of its size, is really an outpost in the midst of more than 20 Arab countries and several non-Arab ones like Iran. Hence, quite understandably, they will never accept what they consider the “illegal Jewish outpost” called the State of Israel. We need to quickly internalize this and stop kidding ourselves.
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