A Rotten Apple In The Garden of Eden

Amona; Oranit; Amona; Oranit;

I remember the death of two Jewish communities. Aberdeen lingered slowly; one day it died. Overnight a community succumbed; the last member of the religious quorum passed away. Two families immediately left for Glasgow. Left behind were a deserted synagogue and widows cut off as the tide raced out, leaving them marooned, beached on a foreign shore.

Praszka died within minutes. On August, the 31st, 1939, at four-thirty in the morning Hitler’s Panzer divisions smashed through the German -Polish border. Within minutes my petrified relatives were the first drops in the Tsunami of Jewish blood to drench Europe’s soil. By midday, it was an oppressive 31 degrees, and there was nothing left— simple, stunning, Teutonic efficiency and barbarism forged against two thousand Jews. They were the first. They were not the last.
I witnessed Aberdeen first hand. I witnessed Praszka by proxy. I heard of my Grandfathers love and pain for his village. I stood on the bridge of evil over which the Nazis streamed; I was and still am, shaken to the core.
My granddad, my Zeideh from Praszka, fled twenty years before to the sanctuary of fortress Leeds. Today the then vibrant Leeds Jewish community of 25,000 Jews has all but gone. It is now so weak it cannot maintain its graveyard. The Leeds Jewish cemetery is desperately sad. It is broken down; it is run down. The names of the proud,
wealthy and famous people washed away by the cruel Yorkshire climate. Grave tombs crack and crumble; the graveyard is overrun, paths are broken and weed infested. Even the ghosts disappear. In twenty years, nothing will be left.
I know the exhilaration felt at the birth of a new community. I know intimately two new communities, two new settlements two new villages in the land of Israel. For one I was the midwife, for the other a needed administrator at a time of threat.
I remember Oranit as it was. Beyond the woods of Horshim, under the eye of the swelling Samarian hills.
Oranit is paradise against the backdrop of the Land of Israel. Her ever-present blue skies and her dun pastel rocks. We started from nothing-- in a slow-motion memory I see and hear anew: the repetitive banging of pile drivers, the imperious parade of earth-graders, the creative smell of dust and the fussy bustling tractors. Slowly houses grow, gardens bloom, the lights turn on, and trees grow to the sky, in them birds twitter. Schools, the commercial centre and other community buildings open for the first time. Children run and play, mothers drink coffee and fathers return home. Growing slowly from nothing, we built a vibrant society. Oranit has over 2000 families — half the size of the Leeds Jewish community at its zenith.
I was the secretary of another settlement called
Zofim. In Zofim too, we had the thrill and joy of building from nothing. Again, I witnessed the clanking bulldozers clearing away boulders, the smell of the dust in the air.
In Oranit, then Zofim I saw something wonderful. Memories of: the smile on the children's faces as they go into their first class in their brand-new school;
the innocent babes enter the first kindergarten. We built them and the post office. We remember the day it opened for the first time. We recall the first film shows, the first football games, the day the phones arrived; when they hooked us to the national electricity grid. Everything we take for granted greeted then with a smile of satisfaction.  Buildings and utilities in their places, they weren't there before. Of course, it is glorious. Nothing is more emotional than to see a settlement grow into a village and prosper. There can be no deeper attachment or sense of identification.

Twice a year the birds of Europe flock to and fro. They fly over Oranit and close by Zofim. Oranit and Zofim are as permanent as the flocking bird. A permanence Jews once felt in Praszka, Aberdeen and Leeds.

I know what happened in the Jewish settlement, Amona. The High Court ordered the destruction of forty families’ homes. I know what happens first hand. In Oranit and Zofim we identify with their pain.
Something ugly occurred in
Amona. Let me tell you what happened in Amona. Good people went there with good intentions. They were not trying to steal land from anybody. That was never their intention. It is not the intention of any settler. We go because we love the land. We hate no one. We want to live together in harmony with our neighbours.
Israel is a bureaucracy. The
Army is a bureaucracy— the Military government, who rule over us, is more so. You cannot build, move a boulder, dig a ditch or construct an electric pylon without a collection of authorizations. Nothing is simple. Everything is agonising, tortuously and ponderously slow. Amona was the government’s mistake. One fundamental mistake with regards to land registration was the seed from which the error of Amona grew. People make mistakes. Bureaucrats make mistakes, and they made a mistake. We should live with that.
sceptics may nod, and the cynics ruefully smile. Nevertheless, registration is more than cumbersome. It is a labyrinth of lies and deceit. Registration of Arab land by the Arabs is verging on fiction. The records are scant, the versions vary. Clans dispute who owns the property and worse still, who represents the clans. Before approval is given to Jews, the Arabs have rights to claim their claim and challenge, repeatedly in court. My novel, Oranit Crossed Lines, gives you a full insight. I am sure the settlers of Amona proceeded in good faith. I am far from certain the Arab claims were genuine, nor would I be surprised if they were shown to be spurious. We do use Aerial reconnaissance photos going back to 1948. We seek signs of cultivation. A stripling Olive tree stops any Jewish claim in its tracks.
Maybe the people who settled should have checked on their own. I certainly did. But they
didn't, and they had to pay an awful price. But let's face it, they were living in caravans. Nothing dramatic—merely caravans. They weren't asked to move a hundred miles. They have been invited to move a hundred yards. There is no tragedy.
The tragedy was
what followed. The politicians, the weak-willed soothsayers, jumped aboard. The same old faces the same old suspects. We know them well. The people that come whenever there is a tragedy; whenever something is going wrong; wherever we are in the West Bank they pop out of the woodwork, and then they bang the same drums.
Nobody helped the people of Amona. Many hindered. People came to further their ends; to promote their political agenda. There was no way they could have sorted out the land disputes they said they could. They were either naïve or just
lying; I believe they were lying. But it didn't matter. They were building up an impetus; they were building up a narrative. There were building up to something hideous, and something gruesome happened.
The politicians lied at Amona; they promised to save
Amona; they did not because they could not. They lied.
I refuse to lie. We may claim that we are the sole owners of the land of Israel. We are the only one to do so. We are living in a community of nations. The nations once admitted their guilt after the Holocaust. The reason we got the state of Israel, and the vote we got in 1947, was based entirely on the guilt of the nations. They lived in horror at what they did. Let's not avoid it; the Holocaust was the direct catalyst creating the state of Israel. It did not answer to our longings for the land of Israel; nor was it meant to. We received an answer for our needs for a
state- the state of Israel. Nothing more and nothing less. The only biblical aspirations the nations of the world may have is but one— and it is not the redemption of the land.
The swarms of lying politicians brought with them the kosher collection of riffraff, flotsam and jetsam well known to Israeli society. The people they brought there are hoodlums and violent, arrogant animals. They had the audacity to try to blind our soldiers and police officers who were representing our state. They threw acid in their faces. The soldiers and police officers acted at the request of the government at the behest of the High Court and were met by signs of the swastika. I repeat that Jews daubed the swastika on their synagogues. I am ashamed to write the sentences: ‘Jews daubed a swastika in their Synagogue.’
The scum
were not charged — it is not politically expedient. No, no one charged the thugs; one Likud Knesset member, who vigorously denies questionable activities encouraged the mob and their immoral behaviour. Our mainstream religious party egged them on. They compounded the lie in Amona by setting their false messianic sights on abrogating the UN Declaration of our Independence. They want the land at any price. The Minister of Education leads; a Knesset Member, claiming non-segregated labour wards are offensive, vehemently gives his moral support. In the background, shepherding discriminatory legislation is a suspected serial philanderer. Religious zealots and broken-backed morality ape and mock sanctity.

The religious movement does not realise it is completely and utterly repugnant. The fanatics are devoid of any sense of right and wrong. The faux-religious have lost the right to talk in the name of religion and the name of the Jewish state.

Any member of Parliament who decides his wife cannot give birth in the same labour ward as an Arab lady should never be allowed in public office. He should be in prison. It is an absolute disgrace to daub swastikas in Synagogues. You cannot take people's land because you unilaterally and retroactively declare your right to commandeer it. You have no right whatsoever to throw acid in policeman's eyes. To do any of these things is pure fascism. It is to descend to the level of the thugs of wartime Germany.

Is all we have learned from the Holocaust is to imitate it? If so we have lost all our legitimacy. We are illegitimate if we continue to behave this way. We are illegitimate if we do not bring to immediate justice those who acted in this offensive manner. We are illegitimate. We must turn our backs on the religious raving and ranting lunatics who instigated this opprobrium.

Amona started as something good, became something mistaken and ended up being something disgusting. It must never happen again.
As permanent as are Oranit’s flocking birds, so are anti-Semitism and the one universal biblical aspiration. The aspiration is ‘we are the light unto the Nations.’ I hear this repeatedly—’ we expect more from you.’
It is entirely unacceptable the only lesson we learned from the Holocaust is what happened in Amona. Something disgusting happened there. It extinguished the light unto the Nations.
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