Uncommon ground

Jews and Arabs have been in a 'land-grabbing' contest for years - so why do only Jews get expelled?

By LAURA BEN-DAVID
January 14, 2006 21:55
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Neveh Daniel is an incredible place to live. Situated 1,000 meters above sea level in the beautiful Judean Hills, it has lovely red-tile-roofed homes with panoramic views of Jordan to the east, Hebron to the south, the Mediterranean to the west and Jerusalem to the north. Its sunrises and sunsets are almost as unparalleled as the fog it is famous for, which often blocks them. It is populated by amazing people whose first concern is for "the next guy." Thus it was with shock to learn of our neighbors' plight, and our utter inability to do anything about it. On Wednesday, less than 24 hours after the order to evacuate was received by residents of Neveh Daniel North, known as Sdeh Boaz, more than 100 soldiers and police officers, with bulldozers, converged on the community with the intent of destroying a new home, the foundation for another home and a stable to hold this gentle community's horses and donkeys. The crime? Why, being there, of course. Though the land was bought and paid for by Jews even before 1948, ownership and legality apparently have no bearing on these decisions. Jews and Arabs have been in a land-grabbing competition in Israel for years. This is nothing new, and we are all guilty of it. But, for some reason, only Jews keep on being expelled. I LEFT work in a rush after a distraught Lexi, my 14-year-old, called to tell me what had occurred at Sdeh Boaz, she having witnessed it all. As I approached Neveh Daniel I saw a convoy of police and army vehicles at the road leading up to the neighborhood. Tears welled up in my eyes as I realized why they were there. I unconsciously flashed back to events we had enjoyed at Sdeh Boaz since our aliya three years ago: from our first Tu B'Shevat, when we joined our community in planting trees, to this past Rosh Hashana, when I brought several families to a natural spring at Sdeh Boaz for the tashlich ceremony. I arrived home and did all I could to comfort my distraught children. Lexi not only saw what had happened but was knocked down and slightly injured in the violence that ensued. She reported that she had been trying to get into Sdeh Boaz, and found the way blocked by several policemen. She was traumatized when she watched an Israeli bulldozer raze an Israeli home and stable. This gentle, eco-friendly neighborhood of secular and religious Jews living in harmony in the beautiful Judean hills is just a 10-minute walk from my house and a 10-minute drive from Jerusalem. My 16-year-old, Shira, had been there earlier. Both girls went in the true spirit of Neveh Daniel - to do what they could to prevent a bad thing happening. But what could teenage girls do against an army? What could 250 neighbors and supporters do against their own soldiers and police? Unfortunately, the soldiers and police had no such reservations. A violent day ensued, with youths being lifted into the air and thrown to the rocky ground; one boy was thrown against a wall so hard that he began bleeding heavily from his head. Another was so violently handled that it is likely his leg was broken. In fact, tear gas was used on non-violent kids who were in a house trying to prevent its demolition. In all, 12 youths were injured and 11 were arrested. I am embarrassed to report all this. It should never have happened. Around this time hail started raining down, pelting people. Girls burst into tears as one despondently remarked that it was the heavens crying. I would not be surprised. For me, the saddest moment of the day was when my sons, 11-year-old Eitan and nine-year-old Ezra, both extremely anxious, wanted to know if the soldiers might one day destroy our home. What could I say? I hope it will never happen. I don't think it will happen. But after the terrible evictions this summer I cannot be certain of anything. The best I could do was hug them and tell them that God only gives people what they can handle. Life is challenging enough without imposing greater difficulties upon ourselves. Why would we do this to ourselves as a nation? Do we need to have people bombing us in order to remain united? Isn't it possible for us to look out for each other instead of tearing out our souls to appease others? Perhaps the rest of our precious country could look to places like Neveh Daniel and Sdeh Boaz as examples, both of caring one for another and of Jews of diverse backgrounds living in harmony together. Israel, please don't make an example of Sdeh Boaz; let Sdeh Boaz set an example for you. The writer immigrated with her family three years ago from Boca Raton, Florida, to Neveh Daniel.

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