Grumpy old man: A matter of priorities

If you’re a settler and something’s not the way you want it, remember: No one sent you there.

THE LONGED-FOR Triumph TR3, in British Racing Green (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
THE LONGED-FOR Triumph TR3, in British Racing Green
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
When I was a kid, my dad coveted a Triumph TR3 (better yet, in British Racing Green). A curtain salesman, he drove a boxy sedan with a large trunk for his sample cases. It wasn’t something you could double-clutch and downshift going into a curve before accelerating out the other side, so when he spotted a TR3, you could literally see the wistfulness in his gaze.
I asked why, if he wanted that car so much, he didn’t simply buy one. I mean, he had a job, so surely he could afford it.
He agreed. But other things were more important. A college education for my sister and me. Braces. A new furnace. Repaving the driveway.
“Maybe when I retire,” he’d say, ending the conversation.
Dad died before he could retire, but I’m willing to bet he would not have splurged on a British Racing Green TR3 or any sports car of any color – there would always be priorities.
It’s the same with a lot in life. We have our priorities, whether it’s holding on to the West Bank or relinquishing some or all of it, including settlements. I get it if people believe that the settlement enterprise is important. They have their priorities. They are entitled to them and are entitled to act on them if it’s allowed.
But once they do and something’s not to their liking, I don’t ever want to hear that someone “sent” them there.
I HEARD IT last week, and not for the first time.
Yossi Dagan, head of the Samaria Regional Council and leading a hunger strike outside the Prime Minister’s Residence to protest the lack of bypass roads around trouble areas in the West Bank, spoke with Channel 2 News correspondent Yigal Mosko. They were standing on a busy byway in the West Bank village of Huwara, along which settlers in the Nablus region – including Dagan and his family – need to drive to reach their homes.
Dagan: “According to any standard in the State of Israel, this should not be a main road. This is a road from the Turkish period. It goes through a village that is in part in Area B [not under the full control of Israeli security forces]…. [There are] Molotov cocktails, rocks, shooting incidents. My wife was in a traffic accident here a few years ago. The car was a total loss. She found herself in the middle of Huwara! [He makes a face and raises his hands in a sign of helplessness.] This is something that shouldn’t happen anywhere.”
Mosko: “But listen, people go to live between Nablus and Huwara, and one day they say, ‘Hey! It’s awfully dangerous here! We want bypass roads that cost NIS 800 million!’” Dagan: “No, no. For 50 years, half a million people are living in an area where the State of Israel settled them….”
Boom! Splat! Like always, it made my head explode.
With all due respect for the security and safety that our government owes all Israelis, including Mr. Dagan and his fellow settlers, no one “settled” them there. That’s a lot of hooey.
With a policy that, in retrospect, has been very misguided, the state gave them the option to settle there and they took it. They grabbed it. They sent themselves there. They went of their own free will.
The last time the government sent anyone anywhere was in the early 1950s. There was a new state with very porous frontiers.
There was land to populate and cease-fire lines to justify, so the government sent people to places like Sderot and Kiryat Shmona.
The people it sent were immigrants who had come in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Many had arrived in the young, threadbare state with little more than the clothes on their back. They were living in transit camps made up mostly of tents and corrugated-tin shacks that did little to protect them from the summer’s scorching sun and the winter’s driving rains.
And, oh yes: Many of them had limited Hebrew skills and were pretty much helpless when going up against a bureaucracy overflowing with elite Mapainiks who thought they knew better than everyone else – especially these poor wretches. So who better to put on buses and send to where warm bodies were needed?
This was the last time the state sent anyone anywhere. It never happened again, not even after the Six Day War, the three noes of Khartoum and the relentless lobbying by deeply religious Land of Israel adherents who beleaguered the government on behalf of young, idealistic people who had gone to – and then refused to leave – places like Sebastia
Once the gates were open to the idealists, later governments knew that only widespread settlement might mean anything, so to swell the numbers, they offered land and houses on the cheap to other Israelis, too. They literally opened the gates and held out enticements. But they put no one on buses and forced them to go there. (I certainly didn’t go, and it was damn attractive.)
THE SETTLERS and I see things differently. We have different priorities. I get it. I really do. But all of this was their choice, something that arose from their priorities.
Had Dad ended up with a TR3 – a notorious prima donna in the mechanical department – and it died on him in the middle of nowhere, he would have only himself to blame. He would not have been able to say it had been forced on him – that someone had sent him to the Triumph dealership to buy the car. It had been of his own volition, just as settlers chose to live where they do.
There’s very little in the way of right and wrong. It’s mostly priorities. But don’t blame others when your priorities lead you to things that don’t go the way you want. It will just make my head explode.