Protest in Itamar after Fogel family massacre 390.
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
There is no better time than the first anniversary of the Itamar massacre to
call for a halt to the demonization of “the settlers,” the thousands of Jews who
live beyond the “Green Line” and their reduction to second-class citizenship.
They are Jews who live in constant uncertainty, having no idea whether they will
keep the homes for which they have worked hard and risked much. The manner in
which these Israeli citizens are being portrayed is disconcerting.
will be remembered as a seminal case in the history of blood
These citizens have been called “leeches,” “snakes,” “vicious,”
“primitives,” “medieval,” “obscurantists,” “corrupt” and “parasites.” They are
the target for the arrows of Israel haters, both domestic and
The media paint them as being separate from Klal Yisrael. Their
villages are branded “illegal” and in the end they find that they themselves
have become “illegal beings.” Pariahs. Vilified as a needless burdens on the
defense budget. They have been chosen as Israel’s scapegoats, the ever-guilty,
the Jewish state’s Jews.
Their houses have been demolished, their
children traumatized, their businesses ruined. They have been portrayed as those
who take advantage of all those benefits the government threw at them: low taxes
and subsidized housing. Their human and democratic rights are often trampled
underfoot and disregarded. Their lives have been condemned to be reversible. A
sinister equivalence has been created between their caravans in the wilderness
and suicide bombers and has turned their houses into something even more urgent
to dismantle than the Iranian bomb.
THEY ARE the Israelis who choose
their place of residence by what’s best for the country, rather than where it’s
more comfortable or stylish to live.
They are normal people, just
persevering and tough, who see themselves as part of a work in progress: Israel.
Their lives are a living statement: this is home and for this land we are ready
to fight and lay down our lives.
Whether in agriculture or industry,
education or social services, their commitment is not just to themselves but to
the land and people of Israel.
They have lovely faces, glowing with
solidarity and community spirit, and make the most daring soldiers in the army,
just like the left-wing youth from the kibbutzim used to. The memory of friends
and relatives who paid with their lives is almost everywhere around their towns.
The hilltop teenagers, with their long hair flying in the wind, their yarmulkes
askew, and their fringes peeking out from under faded T-shirts, are instilled
with ideals that their government ministers can only envy.
People in the
West ignore the amount of blood spilled in their
Overwhelmingly, the Western media and intellectuals ignored
and downplayed the terrorist atrocities suffered by the “settlers.” They are
like the early pioneers who drained the swamps and fought malaria as they built
the foundations of Israel’s land. They are the builders.
Shalom Lapid, who literally gave their lives to build Kiryat Arba and Elon
Moreh, are like the four families who in 1891 made their way from Russia to take
home in Hadera.
Their bodies served as Israel’s frontline, like in 1948,
when the heroic resistance of isolated settlements – Mishmar Ha’emek, Ramat
Yohanan, Negba and Yad Mordechai – held back the invading Arab armies from
attacking the heartland of the newly formed and beleaguered Jewish
They achieved agricultural breakthroughs by planting tomatoes in
the sands of Gush Katif. They endanger their lives traveling to work or going to
the dentist. On the Golan, they keep the roads open and the children of the
Jordan Valley out of bomb shelters.
What other word is there for people
who have lived where most Israelis even fear to tread, not only with little
recognition, but increasing vilification from part of their own society? They
arouse hostility for the same reasons Jews throughout history have been reviled
– an unwillingness to compromise on issues of Jewish principle.
I know a
settler woman who lives in Hebron’s Tel Rumeida neighborhood, which became a
round-the-clock target of shooting and sniper fire. She and her husband have six
He is studying to become a rabbi and he is a caretaker of the
historic graves of Ruth and Yishai which lie next to his home. His wife is
studying about children with disabilities. This stubborn woman, like Ruth Fogel
of Itamar, is a living, wonderful reminder to the world of what a Jew
is.The writer is the author of
The Untold Story of Israel’s Victims of