'Provocateur' carries Bible wherever he goes

Among the settlers, Dror Etkes may be the most loathed man in Israel. The director of Peace Now's Settlement Watch Project has dedicated himself to dismantling illegal outposts. In Amona, he clashed with settlers months before the violent encounters last week which left hundreds in the hospital. More than half a dozen other outposts have "banned" him from entering. Etkes, who spends endless hours touring Israel's skies in a light plane, charting, tracking and photographing secret infrastructure projects, was born to a national religious family in Jerusalem 37 years ago. He attended the prestigious Himmelfarb High School, but before the end of his last year there removed his skullcap. "I still carry a Bible with me everywhere I go," he said during a recent tour he gave of Judea and Samaria to foreign reporters. It was Etkes who personally petitioned the High Court against Amona, using his own data as proof that nine buildings had been built on privately owned Palestinian land. "The settlers have decided to give me a name, they call me a provocateur," said Etkes. "It's a name they give to someone who says things that they don't want him to say, but my job is to tell the truth." Etkes can instantly recall particulars of individual outposts, and his detailed reports are rumored to be the basis of dialogue between Israel and Washington. He jokes that for his trouble he has been awarded dozens of nicknames by the settlers, including the "settlers' spy" and "outpost hunter."