Photo Credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90
Hareidi men inside the tomb of Shimon Hatzadik in Jerusalem. (Archive: October 2, 2013)

My job offers me such a wonderful variety of experiences. Well, not always wonderful, but usually interesting.

Two weeks ago, I was asked to guide a group of US International law students from Valpariso university. They were on a study tour to learn about the “conflict” in classrooms and on the ground.


I assumed, correctly that their staff, both their hosts here and their accompanying teachers, were pretty much what one finds on Liberal campuses these days. They probably did not know what they were getting into when I was asked to provide some balance to their very PC experience in Israel.

I knew what I was getting into and I relished the opportunity.

I was allotted one and a half hours of their ten day program to present the “Jewish nationalist side”.

They were doing a field trip in the controversial”Shimon Hatzadik” neighborhood, or as most of the world calls it, “Sheik Jarrah” neighborhood. It is one of those areas that was a robust Jewish neighborhood for generations before the Jordanian army chased the residents from their homes in the Arab assault on Jerusalem of 1948.

This famous Jewish  area (famous due the the presence of the 2,300 year old tomb of the great Shimon Hatzadik) was one of four contiguous neighborhoods that were made “Judenrein” by the Arab onslaught in the Independence war. This particular neighborhood has grabbed headlines in the past and does still from time to time because Jews are slowly but determinedly returning to the confiscated Jewish properties.

There have been a number of well publicized demonstrations launched by Arabs and Israel Leftists, protesting the “Jewish settler take over” of “Palestinian areas.” Similar to all such cases, the Arab/Left, may and do, present their claims to the courts. Arab trespassers are challenged in the courts by Jewish individuals or properties are bought by non-profit organizations whose mandate is to redeem Jewish land.

When I met my group, it was this background information that I presented.

I am used to guiding groups that are not always fully informed and though these were international law students, I expected that their teachers did not offer this background to the political struggle between the “religious settlers” and the “Palestinians.” I also suspected that though they had to provide some balance to their ten day program, they were not going to be thrilled to have their students exposed to this new material.

Indeed, as I spoke I could see, on one hand, the surprise and curiosity on the part of the students as the new information reached their ears, and the uncomfortable body language of their teachers.

When I finished my introductory remarks there was a stunned silence.

It was broken by one student who asked quite incredulously, “If these settlers move to the “Palestinian” areas then  how can there be a two state solution?” I answered, “They do not believe in that “solution.” When she absorbed this iconoclastic idea she asked me, “Then what is the solution? What is your solution?”

I said, “I do believe in a two state solution.” Now she and the rest were really confused.

“Yes,” I said, “One Jewish state here and one (‘Palestinian’ if you will) across the river in Jordan which  has a 75% ‘Palestinian’ population. They share the same language, religion, culture and lots of blood relations. It is the king’s family who are foreigners, brought to the throne from Arabia by the British after the First World War.”

The flow of new info caused a real buzz among the students and lots  of squirming in their seats by their staff.

The same student did not relent. She asked, “Why do Jews want to live in this Palestinian area?”

After a silence, I answered, “Why not?”

I don’t think they expected that response. I explained that Jews live anywhere they choose to all over the world, why should they be restricted in Jerusalem? Arabs live in Jewish areas all over Israel and no one challenges their right to do so?

I finally explained that legally, the issue is one of real estate law. Properties are bought legally or trespassers are evicted. There is no question about the rule of law. When one student suggested that there might indeed be, a teacher had no choice but agree that the courts are OK.

The issue, I explained, is really a political/religious one, not a legal/real estate one at all. Either you identify with, and love the idea of Jews living in a Jewish state of their own and expanding their presence there — or you do not.

If you are a Jewish nationalist, you think its great, even divine.

If you are an Arab or identify with the Arab narrative and their antagonism to the Jewish narrative and dreams, then you probably hate it. There are few neutral views on the subject.

I was satisfied that I was able to educate this next generation that may have some influence on my people in the future.

I knew that by not being PC but rather actually teaching the facts, I might pay a price; it would not be the first time. And it was not.

And so it was. The Israeli  company that brought the students over and hired me for the short tour, want to please their paying clients and expects repeat business. The staff were not enamored with me. I dared to rip off the blinders from their student’s eyes. And so I was told that I will not be hired again. It wasn’t the first time and probably will not be the last.

Despite the price I have payed to tell the truth in defense of my people and our land over the years, I have not missed even one meal… thank God.


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Shalom Pollack, a veteran Israeli tour guide, served in the Israeli Navy and lectures on the Mideast.