Settlements take in newcomers as peace talks resume
Israel is about to resume negotiations with Palestinians, but construction in West Bank continues unabated as demand for housing rises. Yaacov and Rachel Cohen are about to move to settlement of Bat Ayin: future evacuation, they say, is not a consideration
Aviva and Jeremy Stern, along with their three children, relocated last week straight from New York to the West Bank. The decision to move was made in the backdrop of efforts to restart peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, the result of which may well be the forced evacuation of settlements such as their new home - Efrat.
But the Sterns are not alone: While Washington, Ramallah and Jerusalem are gearing to resume peace talks after a three-year stalemate, a rise in demand for housing in the territories has been reported as well as the and arrival of new settlers.
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Aviva Stern is not worried about the possibility of disengagement from the territories: "It's not something we took under consideration when we decided to move here, and it's not a concern for us at the moment," she said.
"Not worried about a disengagement." The Stern family (Photo: courtesy of the Stern family)
"We always knew we'd live in Israel, and after seeing Efrat and the kind of community here, we decided that this is home." Asked if the family had any general concerns about the move, Stern said, "Maybe a few years ago there were people who were worried about the situation in Israel, which seems much more turbulent when you look at it from America. But here it's peaceful, and everyone is calm."
'Don't believe the rumors'
Yaacov, 47, and Rachel, 43, Cohen are planning to move from the community of Nof Ayalon in centeral Israel to Bat-Ayin, a settlement in Gush Etzion. "When we came here from America we believed and still do that Israel is our home," the couple explains. "There were always painful sacrifices and doubts, but we really trust that we are moving to a place that is ours, and that we will stay here for good."
Moving to Alei Zahav. The Greenbaums (Photo: courtesy of the Greenbaum family)
The Cohens were drawn to Bat-Ayin's open spaces, quiet, and tight knit community, all at an affordable cost. "There's nowhere else in Israel that could provide us with this quality of life at this price," they say. "The possibility of a future disengagement never crossed our minds. We believe it won't happen."
Another couple, Hai and Meirav Greenbaum, are preparing to move to the village of Alei Zahav in the West Bank - an even more volatile location, having been deemed by the Palestinians as outside the settlement blocks Israel wishes to retain. The Greenbaums are concerned with the possibility of a future forced evacuation and the loss of any funds they invest in their new home, but are resolute in their decision to move: "We are people of faith, and the issue is not personal but one that concerns the entire Jewish people," Meirav states. "As far as we are concerned, Alei Zahav is a place that should be settled. And we're going to settle there."
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