The aggressors are free, the defender is locked up

Eitan and Leah Ze'ev establish farms on government land and hand them over to someone else to work.

Hineni Farm in Kiryat Gat supported by Jewish National Fund-USA (photo credit: JNF)
Hineni Farm in Kiryat Gat supported by Jewish National Fund-USA
(photo credit: JNF)
Francesca Johnson, the farmer’s wife from Iowa in The Bridges of Madison County, chose to go back to her mundane existence. There was nothing particularly wrong with it, and she might have lived her whole life without ever knowing that things could be different. As the Hungarians say, the worm in the horseradish thinks it’s the sweetest thing in the world.
Hungarians tend to be overdramatic, but they’ve got the right idea. If you don’t know there’s anything else, anything better, you’re happy with whatever you have. But Francesca got a glimpse of the light, she got a chance to taste something sweeter, and still she stayed. Hers is the tragic story of a dream never fulfilled, a love never realized.
Yet life doesn’t really go back to the way it was. In the words of the song, “You learn to return to your old routine / But your face, my boy, has changed.” The sense of having missed out on something, of what might have been, never goes away. For the rest of your life, you never stop thinking wistfully of “the road not taken.”
However, some people don’t make the same choice Francesca did. They leave their familiar world and go out to conquer their dream. One of them is Eitan Ze’ev, a sheep farmer from the Binyamin area. I met him by a stream that flows to the Ali Wadi. He was herding his sheep. We sat down together by the rocks on the bank of the stream. Eitan was living with his wife, Leah, and their five children in a small tent nearby. We drank coffee and ate the cheese and yogurt Leah makes from sheep’s milk, with the children running barefoot around us.
Eitan and Leah found their mission in life. They establish farms on government land and hand them over to someone else to work. Then they move on, set up another farm from scratch, and hand that one over too. They’re constantly on the move, living rough, their blazing faith keeping them warm in the cold winter in the mountains, although there is no escape from the blistering heat of summer. Eitan and Leah are pioneers whose sacrifice is no less impressive than that of the early pioneers who staked their claim to our land 100 years ago and more.
Two months ago, Eitan and several of his friends were attacked by a Palestinian lynch mob while they were working private land legally purchased by Jews. This is what it said in Eitan’s indictment: “While the group [Eitan and six others, including three minors] were having lunch on the site, dozens of Palestinians (“the mob”) arrived and blocked the access road to the site with their vehicles. The accused approached members of the mob and asked them to clear the access road so the group could leave. At this point, an altercation broke out between the group and the mob. The accused tried to make the mob leave the site, holding a gun in his hand.”
And this is what the military commander in the region wrote: “Among the reports coming in from the area we received a report... regarding calls being issued from the mosques in Bidya to come and confront the settlers.”
End of story, Eitan fired his gun to frighten the mob away, one of the Palestinians was injured, and Eitan was arrested. Only one rocky mountain road leads to the site, and that is the road that was blocked by a mob intent on doing harm to four adults and three youngsters.
What were so many hate-filled people doing there if they hadn’t come to launch an assault on the Jews? And what was Eitan expected to do? Let them slaughter him and his friends? If he hadn’t done what he did, the incensed lynch mob would have pounced on the small group of Jews. Is that a better alternative?
Bottom line, the aggressors went home and a farmer working his land and defending his life is in jail. Has the world gone crazy?
Translated by Sara Kitai.