Judean resident feels left out and fenced in

Rising anti-realignment talk has dashed Itai Noah's hope that one day he could afford to leave his Tene Omarim home, which is located on the Palestinian side of the security fence. While politicians argue about the wisdom of withdrawing from isolated areas of Judea and Samaria in the wake of violent Palestinian attacks from Gaza, Noah watches with trepidation as work moves forward on the barrier that separates him from the rest of the country. "We feel that everything [connected to realignment] has stopped and is stuck. But they are continuing to build the fence," he told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday. Unlike his right-wing neighbors, the 46-year-old secular businessman who voted for Kadima is among a minority of people living in the territories who would leave now if offered compensation funds. Until the last weeks, when public opinion began to swing against realignment, he believed that the election of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert meant that he could escape from a home which, as a result of the security fence, he no longer feels is within Israel's borders. He is among the more skeptical members of the One House movement created last year to help people like Noah, who want to go in advance of any unilateral or bilateral moves by the government. It has filed a bill in the Knesset asking for early compensation to help such people move. Although the list of settlements that would be included in the realignment plan has not been finalized, it is assumed that the more than 55 settlements outside the security fence are at risk. A poll done by One House in November showed that 35 percent of the more than 70,000 people living in those areas supported the bill, and 25% would be willing to leave if such a bill passed. Not all of them share Noah's skepticism about the future in the wake of the recent events. Benny Raz of Karnei Shomron told the Post that the possible failure of Olmert's realignment plan makes it more likely that an early compensation bill would pass the Knesset. Olmert lacks international support for the plan, and he "doesn't want a war now in Judea and Samaria," said Raz. But what Olmert can do to show some progress on the issue of withdrawing from Judea and Samaria is to make funds available for those who want to go, said Raz. Gishra Schwarz of the small settlement of Shima told the Post that this it was too early to judge the impact of the outbreak of violence between Israel and the Palestinians living in Gaza. At worst, she said, it could create a temporary setback. But Noah said that if he lets the situation slide, people would think that staying is an option for those who live outside the fence. It's easy for politicians to talk about the necessity of staying in the territories when they live within the comforts of Tel Aviv and Ra'anana, said Noah. "Who are they to talk for me?" he asked. "If they think we should stay here, why don't they come here and live with us? They shouldn't be patriots at our expense," he said. "The fence has made living here impossible," said Noah, who feels trapped within a community that he helped build. His extended family has already informed him that they would no longer visit once the security fence is completed. Noah himself fears it would be unsafe to travel on the road outside his community of more than 100 families located in the south Hebron Hills. Although he has lived there with a sense of security for 15 years, Noah said he has recently thought of purchasing a gun for protection. When he first moved to Tene Omarim, Noah said he did not consider himself a settler. Even now he refused to refer to himself as such and refrained from calling Tene Omarim a "settlement." It's on the Green Line, Noah said. Until it was placed outside the fence, he never considered that its future was imperiled, he said. Two years ago, Noah thought to relocated to the center of the country due to the travel demands of his paper goods business. He put his home on the market and found a buyer. The deal fell through when news broke that Tene Omarim was not included within the security fence's boundaries. Although Noah's home remains listed, no buyer has called since. "If I left now [without compensation], I would lose everything," said Noah.