HOUSES IN the Jewish community of Efrat.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Jewish settlement in hills of what is today known as Gush Etzion between Hebron and Jerusalem began with Abraham some 4,000 years ago and has continued since without interruption. Tens of thousands of Jews, if not more, had lived in the area before even one Palestinian ever set foot in Gush Etzion, among them the famous Bar Kokhba who fought the Roman Empire from the city of Beitar. Gush Etzion abounds with archaeological sites which give testament to the rich Jewish life that flourished here for literally thousands of years.
Thus, any claim that the current Jewish residents of Gush Etzion have seized lands here is false, even defamatory.
The return of the Jews to Gush Etzion in the past century began with the purchase of lands for cash and arose in an atmosphere of neighborliness and peace. The Arab leadership in the 1940s did not view the Jewish presence in what were the stone-clad wastes of Gush Etzion favorably and after the UN General Assembly recommended dividing Palestine into separate Jewish and Arab states began attacking the Jewish kibbutzim in the Gush until every last one was destroyed and their defenders murdered or sent into captivity.
WITH THE grace of God, the sons and daughters of the fallen and the captive returned to the lands purchased by their forbears and renewed Jewish life in Gush Etzion. Through great toil and dedication to the pioneering spirit that built the Jewish state, tens of thousands of Jews planted a foothold in the wastelands, cleared away the stones, built their homes, planted their fields and established their enterprises, making possible the continuation of Jewish life now for three extraordinary generations, without in any way harming the homes or lands of the Palestinian residents. In all of the Gush Etzion Regional Council there is not a single Jewish resident knowingly in possession of lands belonging to an Arab.
Today’s residents of Gush Etzion will continue to rebuild their mountain home while joining in the call for good relations and cooperation with all the residents of this region, Jew and Palestinian alike.The author is the mayor of the Gush Etzion Regional Council.