Gush Etzion area 224.88.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
After moving with my family from Jerusalem to the Gush Etzion “settlement” of Elazar several weeks ago, it makes perfect sense to me how the democratic government of the State of Israel was able to implement a draconian 10- month freeze on Jewish construction and get away with it with very little opposition. True, those directly affected by the freeze protested the move, but the majority of the country remained silent as people’s lives were so abruptly disrupted.
Think about it. Israelis who were sent by their leadership to live in these areas, both by governments on the Left and on the Right, were deprived of their basic right to expand homes to accommodate growth, or to build homes on new plots, while those Israelis who make a living in the construction industry had to seek alternative sources of income or scrape by.
So what has my brief experience as a “settler” taught me? I have learned
that Jews who live in lands acquired by Israel in 1967 during a
defensive war of survival – whether they are religious or secular,
Ashkenazi or Sephardi, new olim or sabras – are viewed and treated as
second-class citizens by the establishment. I would go so far as to say
that it would seem as if residents of even so-called ‘consensus’
communities such as Gush Etzion are living in an entirely different
Here are some examples: Why is it that living just 15
minutes from our capital city of Jerusalem I don’t have access to cable
television? Yes, satellite is an option, but shouldn’t I at least have
the choice? Also, why is it that while Jordan’s top-40 pop music station
comes in crystal clear, I can’t seem to tune in to Army Radio’s
Galgalatz music station? In addition, there are many areas throughout
the Gush in which my cellphone provider Orange does not offer reception,
thus leaving me without a phone for business calls, personal calls or
in case of emergency. In fact, Arutz 7 reported that the couple who
miraculously survived a drive-by shooting by Arab terrorists near
Rimonim several weeks ago were lucky they recently changed from Orange
to another cellphone provider. If they hadn’t, who knows if they would
have been able to contact the emergency crews that saved their lives?
And just the other day a shipping company dropped off some newly
purchased appliances and the delivery man wanted to charge an outrageous
fee in addition to the normal one just because, in his words, “we were
living over the Green Line.” We refused to pay the fee and after some
heated bickering, he decided to release the merchandise.
thought it was only the European Union that instituted such draconian
measures! Despite the fact that I now feel like a second-class citizen
at times, I have absolutely no regrets about making the move. While
Jerusalem was a wonderful place to live, life in a yishuv is
unparalleled. We were welcomed into the community by our neighbors and
new friends with open arms and such a sense of warmth.
the fact that our kids are enjoying their newfound suburb-style freedom
and are spending much more time outdoors exploring, and we knew we had
made the right decision.
But the question remains, how can
residents of post-1967 Israel explain to our fellow countrymen living in
‘Israel proper’ that we deserve to be treated as equals? I think the
first step is to invite the typical center-of -the-country “Tel Avivi”
to see what life is like in a community here. I know that the Council of
Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip and some of the
local municipalities have recently launched an initiative inviting
highprofile journalists, businessmen and community leaders on tours to
show them that we are not a bunch of gun-toting messianic crazies, but
just regular people trying to make a living and raise our families in a
I think these tours, which focus on community
instead of security, are a step in the right direction and should be
regularly available to all Israelis who want to explore outside their
comfort zone. At the end of the day, these trips can provide crucial
hands-on education, which is key to combating some of the misinformation
campaigns currently being promoted by some extremist peripheral groups.
that happens and people are given what promises to be an eye-opening
experience, hopefully there will be a paradigm shift shortly down the
Maybe then I’ll be able to sing along with Galgalatz like the rest of the country.The writer is president and founder of the Bar-Am PR firm working with nonprofits and NGOs.