A Settler’s Blog – Why I live in the “Settlements”

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First published on Times of Israel – reprinted with the permission of the author (me).

I had a choice when I moved to Israel – the whole country was open to me. It wasn’t like I had family living in a place they expected me to move to or any other compelling reason to choose one place over another. I knew what I didn’t want; I knew what I did. So let me explain.

There are two major reasons why people choose to live in the areas known as Yehuda and Shomron, Judea and Samaria, the West Bank. The first was/is economics. It’s usually cheaper (not always) to live in a settlement. When we moved to Israel, I could buy a small apartment in an Israeli city, or I could buy a beautiful house located on a nice-sized plot of land. Economics.

Nope, I didn’t make my choice based on where it was cheaper – I went for the house in the yishuv (settlement) not because of the house, but because of the yishuv. I had a garden that I loved – I planned it out myself. My husband kept asking me what the plan was…and I would look at him and say – an orange tree here, please. Oh, a lemon tree there. I want a mango tree on this side. Flowers, I want flowers. And grass, let it swirl this way around these rocks. I loved my garden. There wasn’t a room without at least one curved or angled wall. I was enchanted.

The house was perched on the side of the hill – the view was stunning. There were more houses down below me, an open park that meandered between those lower houses and the houses that were built going up the next hill. The air was amazing – breezes when there were none in Israel’s hot coastal cities; open space and more. Even the Arab village just on the other side of my hill was a novelty. I loved hearing their call to prayer and truly thought that peace was possible.

We would shop in the nearby Arab towns – my husband would sit and talk to the Arab owner of a pet store for hours and when the man broke his arm, my husband sometimes went and helped him. We bought plants for our garden and house, furniture, even the handles to our kitchen cabinets from the Arabs – until the Second Intifada when it was no longer safe for us to go there.

We sold that house and moved to Maale Adumim a bit over 11 years ago. I love Maale Adumim because it is the perfect combination of yishuv and city. The best of all worlds. There are many reasons for our choosing where we live. Economics wasn’t and isn’t one of them.

But above all was the strong feeling that this was the place I wanted my children to grow up. My kids love to hike the land; they respect it. We can see almost clear down to the Dead Sea from Maale Adumim and the hills of Jordan sparkle in the evening sunlight. I can see Jerusalem – one mountain away and without traffic, it’s less than 10 minutes from my front door to Jerusalem’s eastern border.

I love the weather – just a touch warmer than Jerusalem. Cool, breezy nights, warm and dry during the day.

I love the people – they are kind, generous, helpful. I know one family that lived in Maale Adumim for four or five months before they ever cooked their own Shabbat meal because they were invited out every time. There are several groups (email, Facebook, etc.) where people ask for (and get) all sorts of help.

I love the beauty of the city – the convenience of having so many stores (malls, restaurant, bowling, several medical centers, an ambulance, an emergency medical center for late hours, expensive (and cheap) clothing stores, major supermarkets, three banks…no, wait, four) and more. Maale Adumim has won several environmental awards – the city on the edge of the Judean Desert is filled with trees and flowers – oh, and we have a lake! And, on the edge of the lake, is a new cafe. I just have to get there one day soon.

And yes, there are the political aspects, so let me state them here. I believe in peace. I crave peace. I have five children. Two have been soldiers in combat units. My youngest son is 16 and a half and just got his Tzav Rishon (first call up where they begin the process towards his entering the army). I don’t know if there is anyone in the world who wants peace more than a soldier’s mother. Having said that, I do not believe peace will come – not in my life time, probably not in the lives of my children.

Maale Adumim – and the settlements all over Yehuda and Shomron serve as the protecting border of most of Israel. Where we lived previously, I could see the waters of the Mediterranean sparkling – miles and miles from my yishuv. Ariel Sharon once came there and as he looked to the west, he said, “You don’t surrender the heights.”

Where I lived before was the first line of mountains – Israel’s main population centers – Tel Aviv and Gush Dan were below us. Where I live now is the eastern border of Jerusalem. Strategically, it would be insane to withdraw or evacuate these areas.

And here we come to another issue. Evacuate for what? For who? For peace? Certainly not. The Arabs aren’t offering peace – at best, they have offered a Hudna, a temporary cease-fire agreement that they believe they can break at any time because it is made with infidels. Yup, that’s us – you, me, your country and mine – we are infidels.

So I live here for political and strategic reasons, for the beauty of the land and the beauty of the city we have built. I live here for religious reasons as well. Yes, I am Orthodox and I believe God promised this land to my people.

And I live here for historical reasons – when Maale Adumim – and in fact 99% of all “settlements” were built – there were no Arab villages destroyed. Tel Aviv, Kfar Sava and other places can’t say the same. Maale Adumim is perched on the top of several hilltops – surrounded by uncounted barren hills. To the west, between us and Jerusalem on one side are two Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem – but across from us, to the north and to the east, there is nothing.

There are more reasons, but this has already gotten very long – so I’ll continue in another post. What I want you to get out of this post is a deeper understanding of the richness of life in a yishuv. We do not live behind military walls and guns – we and our children live in sunshine, brighter and more free, in many ways, than anywhere else in Israel.

Link to Paula Says: here

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6 comments

  1. Leon Poddebsky

    Westerners, particularly that sector that calls itself “left-wing,” discounts what this admirable woman says because, to borrow and modify the incisive observation of an Israeli psychoanalyst, ” The West will never forgive the Jews for the Holocaust.”
    What he means, of course, is that the entire West (save for exceptional individuals) tacitly or actively collaborated with the Europeans in their genocidal frenzy, so that there is a huge collective burden on the conscience of the West, which thinks that by slandering the Jews they can rid themselves of that burden. The “left”, in particular, labouring under the delusion that it constitutes the moral elite, cannot tolerate the thought that its co-ideologues collaborated in committing the Shoah.
    The British, in particular, having already breached their statutory undertakings under international law to foster close settlement of Jews on the Land, added egregious, monstrous cruelty upon cruelty by interdicting Jewish sanctuary in the Jewish Land.
    And, of course, we recall that it was none other than a British “socialist” government that committed this crime against humanity, and they were never brought to justice.

    Just the other day we saw fresh evidence of this European disease when the German representative of the EU, speaking in German in the Knesset, hurled yet another blood libel against the Jewish People regarding alleged water deprivation of Arabs by Israel.

      • Leon Poddebsky

        He should.
        In these misguided (euphemism) circles, however, it has become “left-wing chique” to believe everything that Arabs claim, and to disbelieve and censor out almost anything that Jews claim. That’s partly because we, the Jews, are the indigenous people of the Land ( in the absence of Canaanites), and the Arabs are imperialist colonisers of that Land, who, in any case, virtually abandoned it for many centuries and turned it into a malarious wasteland.
        And, as every decent ABC and “The Australian” employee knows, colonialism is evil. ( No apologies for my sarcasm.)

        Recent local examples of this chique are “4 Corners”, and John Lyons and mates.

        Even the Coalition, which castigates the Australian Balderdash Corporation for its bias, seemed to give credence to recent Arab claims even though they were ventilated in the fetid ABC environment.

  2. Fabulous piece, Paula.

    It makes me want to get back there very badly.

  3. I wonder if you are aware that when you say the building of settlements didnt displace Arab villages you understand that the building of all settlements is on Palestinian land that Palestinians rely on for their livelihoods. Settlements are against international law for a reason, you are complacent in the stealing of land.

    • Please spare me. Arabs never worked the land around Jerusalem, is was dry and very arid land and sustained no life.

      As for stealing land, I wonder who stole the land my grandfather bought in Samaria in the 1920s? Who has built on that?

      Arabs, or the invented Palestinians have NEVER claimed any land. uite the contrary.

      In 1948 the Arabs choose to go to war rather than accept the UN’s decision to partition Palestine between its Jewish and Arab populations.

      In 1967 Israel offered to relinquish the land it had acquired in exchange for peace with its neighbours, the Arab world’s response issued at a summit in Khartoum, was not one no, but three:

      “No peace with Israel, no negotiations with Israel, no recognition of Israel.’’

      2000 Camp David offered Arabs a sovereign state with shared control of Jerusalem and billions of dollars in compensation for Palestinian refugees. Yasser Arafat refused the offer, and returned to launch the deadly terror war known as the Second Intifada.

      In 2008 Ehud Olmert offered Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas a peace agreement that would have guaranteed a Palestinian state in virtually all the West Bank, Gaza, and part of Jerusalem. Once again, the Palestinians turned down the offer.

      In 2014 Abbas again has refused a peace deal. No doubt becsue it ill be the end of stealin ght moeny form his own people, exactly the same as Arafat did.

      Settlements are not illegal.

      According to the governing Mandatory authority, which was in force until 1948, Jews were not only permitted to build in the entire area designated as the “Jewish national home,” they were entitled to do so by the Mandate itself. Zionism, the political expression of Jewish self-determination and sovereignty in the Land of Israel, was (except for Arabs) generally undisputed.

      Sovereignty was implicit when the State of Israel was declared, and then, having survived a genocidal invasion by five Arab countries in 1948, Israel was accepted into the United Nations, albeit without recognized borders.

      Following an armistice, Egypt occupied the Gaza Strip and Jordan occupied Judea, Samaria, and east Jerusalem; their occupations were not recognized as legitimate (except by the UK and Pakistan).

      In 1967, when Egypt, Jordan, and Syria initiated hostilities, Israel struck back in self-defense, taking control of Judea, Samaria, eastern Jerusalem, the Golan Heights and the Gaza Strip.

      A few months later the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) passed Resolution 242, which affirmed Israel’s right to retain at least some of the territories it had acquired in any anticipated “land for peace” agreement, and its right to “secure and recognized boundaries.” The resolution was deliberately not specific and avoided the question of sovereignty, a gap that remains the source of confusion and contention.

      To whom does this territory legally belong? Jordan claimed it as its “West Bank” until 1988; Israel was willing to exchange it for peace, but the Arabs refused.
      In 1971, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the official “guardians” of GC IV, arbitrarily declared that Israel’s presence in “occupied territories” violated GC IV and was therefore illegal.

      Since the ICRC, a private Swiss organization, does not allow access to its protocols, there is no way of knowing who made these decisions and how they arrived at their conclusions, yet, they are widely accepted as law. Many question whether GC IV can be applied to these disputed areas and if prohibiting Israelis from living there is consistent with existing law.

      The core legal issue, according to Michael Newton — professor of law at Vanderbilt University and a leading expert in the field — is which nation-state had full sovereignty in this territory when Israel took military and political control.

      Logically, since Jordan renounced its claim to Judea and Samaria in 1988, and signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1994, recognizing its current border, the only other possible valid legal claim, defined in the Mandate, is that of Israel; Palestinians have no claim because the area was never a Palestinian state.

      According to Professor Newton, “Occupation itself does not change sovereignty, but temporarily displaces it until full sovereignty is either restored or reasserted.” By extension, Israel’s presence in Judea and Samaria is legal and legitimate because it did not acquire territory belonging to another state or legal entity.