Photo Credit: courtesy
Efrat Top of Halamed Hey Street

Stephanie Treger is determined to keep her family safe by keeping Arabs without Israeli citizenship out of Efrat where she lives. Here in Efrat, in the heart of Judea, we know what happened on October 7th. Regular Gazans stampeded that fence, alongside Hamas, and joined right in with the slaughter.

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From Treger’s point of view then, there is no choice. We have to stop letting them in to clean our schools; build our homes; and fill our prescriptions at the pharmacy. To be clear, “them” means non-Israeli Arabs.

As such, Stephanie Treger has sparked a modest grassroots effort to explore the exclusive use of Jewish and foreign labor in her town. She began by gathering the opinions and ideas of lots and lots of women. A petition was carefully composed in language hopefully inoffensive to all, and circulated in both Hebrew and English.

Will Treger succeed in her mission? Where are things going, and how will it all play out? Will the residents of Efrat be forced to allow the entry and use of non-Israeli Arab labor?

Stephanie Treger

A busy mother of eight, Stephanie gave graciously of her time to answer my many questions about this initiative. As I always do with interview subjects, I asked her for a few lines of biographical data from which I would cobble together my intro. What she wrote was so cool, I’m quoting it here verbatim:

My name is Stephanie Treger, I am 36 years old. I live in Efrat, Gush Etzion, Israel, with my husband Brandon and our eight children. We made aliyah seven years ago from South Africa, Cape Town. We own Power Coffeeworks, a coffee roastery in Shuk Machane Yehuda in Jerusalem. We made aliyah based on our Zionism and belief in the Jewish people, our past, present, and future.

Varda Epstein: You’re one of the women at the forefront of the effort to bar non-Israeli workers from Efrat. The petition has been up since December 7th, a full two months after the October attacks. Why now? Were the attacks the impetus for this effort or had you already been working on this?

Stephanie Treger: Correct, I am. It did take some time to get the ball rolling to start this initiative. I believe the women who have started this organisation together with me were in survival mode for some time after 7/10. Most of our husbands and partners are serving, which left us alone, and once the true magnitude of the devastation became apparent, we got right on it.

It also took time to go public; even with a simple petition it had to be done slowly, the wording of our letter needed to be politically correct. We took opinions from many women at the start. This is a very large issue, politically and emotionally. There are over 3 million Arabs living in Judea and Samaria who need jobs, and who also fulfill jobs that keep our cities running. Before the attacks on 7/10, this was a background issue for us all, but we just carried on as normal, it was just too big to deal with.

Varda Epstein: Efrat is a very modern town with many professionals among the residents. Are you meeting any resistance to your campaign? Can you talk about that? What percentage of Efrat residents would you say support allowing in only Jewish and foreign workers?

Stephanie Treger: In all honesty, I am shocked at the lack of support to date. At the same time, though we have not yet opened the tables for discussion, we are at least not in argument with or meeting resistance from non-supporters. Still, nearly two weeks after launching a simple petition, we have only retrieved 650 odd signatures in a city of over 14,000 residents.

After the 7/10 massacre by thousands of non-Israeli Arabs, I am surprised that this community, made up of extremely intelligent professionals, would want to resume “the norm” and continue bringing in non-Israeli Arab workers. At two months after 7/10, our eyes have been truly opened, watching the videos and testimonies of the survivors as they are released. We know how horrific this infiltration was and how it was planned. The intelligence collected to launch such an attack took a certain kind of evil genius. This was planned meticulously and we have proof of that from a variety of sources.

How can we possibly stand by and say “Never again”? More like “again” every few years, if we continue on in this way.

Varda Epstein: Some would say the idea of barring entry to your town of a specific ethnic demographic is racism. What would you say to them?

Stephanie Treger: I am a non-racist South African. I was raised in a racist country, and this is not racism. This is not an issue of color or ethnicity. This is an issue of protecting our families from a cult of terrorists whose sole intention is to murder us. If that were not the case, we would be living in peace. Simple.

We Jews cherish life. We want peace, we do not want war and we do not want poverty, but sadly, until Hamas and the other terrorist cells seize to exist, we have to protect our people.

Varda Epstein: Arab workers can only enter and work in Efrat accompanied by a security guard. Why is this measure not enough to keep the residents of Efrat safe?

Stephanie Treger: Since this rumor was brought to the fore, I have documented many occasions where Israeli Arabs were not accompanied by armed guards. So no, the measure is not enough to keep us safe.

The problem here is manpower and I don’t personally blame the municipality or the mayor as some do. We have a huge problem on our hands. Our resources are low, we have zero manpower and I have no doubt that our local government is trying to find solutions. But we also need to take responsibility as a community.

We have to mobilize and work within the system to find solutions. There are many residents in this community who do not work. These residents could pull together and assist in cleaning the schools or work at local cafes. There are ways to create solutions but we need all hands on deck.

Varda Epstein: What types of work have Arab workers performed in Efrat, up until now?

Stephanie Treger: This exact question is what prompts my concerns for our safety. The Arab workers who have previously worked in Efrat have been able to cover every corner of our city possible. From cleaners in homes, to cleaners in schools and emergency departments; from workers in our cafes and restaurants to garbage disposal to street cleaners; and from handymen to construction workers.

There is an endless untold amount of intelligence that might have been and probably was collected by Arab workers, endless over the passing years. The workers are often unaccompanied by security, and safety checks are lax, in my opinion.

Varda Epstein: Why would a mostly right-wing populace hire Arabs to begin with? Why not Jews—their own people?

Stephanie Treger: This seems to be the crux of our struggle. We are not hiring Jews because Jews are more expensive. Jews need to shell out for taxes, arnona, and pensions. At the same time, the incomes of prospective Jewish employees are low because they must pay the same taxes as their prospective (Jewish) employees.

Arabs, conversely, can charge below half-price; be paid in cash; they have no amenity payments; and do not contribute to our society. This is something that needs to be dealt with at government level. Government now has this issue on its table. Cabinets are approving “no entry”. Now they need to find the solutions to manage it.

Varda Epstein: The petition appears to distinguish between Israeli and non-Israeli Arabs. Why? Are only non-Israeli Arabs dangerous? You don’t want to keep out the others?

Stephanie Treger: Personally, I see no difference at present. Even if Israeli Arab X doesn’t want to be a terrorist, Hamas is holding guns to the heads of X’s children. Should he refuse to comply with the cult of Hamas, his entire family will be annihilated. I too, would surrender if my children’s lives were at risk.

I may want to keep them out, but it’s illegal to keep them out. Israeli Arabs with ID cards cannot legally be held back from entering any part of Israel.

Varda Epstein: This campaign was started by women. Why do you think that is? Are men less concerned with this issue?

Stephanie Treger: Men are at the forefront on the borders; we women are at the forefront of our homes. It’s pointless having the men protect our borders if we are not doing the same in our communities. I live in a 35-year-old home. My doors are not secure, and my window frames are old. I do not have a safe room. I am home alone, with 8 children under 13.

Gd forbid there was an infiltration of Efrat. I, as a woman, armed or not, would not be able to protect my family. We women want to serve and protect and it begins every time we wake up alive.

Varda Epstein: Is there some kind of precedent that led to this effort? Are non-Israeli workers known to attack their Jewish employers?

Stephanie Treger: My sister sat in her safe room for 23 hours with her baby and husband in Kibbutz Kfar Azza on 7/10, while her sister-in-law, cousins, and friends were raped, beheaded, burnt alive, and brutally murdered next door. Some taken hostage. My passion for this initiative is personal. I also have a love for my people. Never again is NOW.

Varda Epstein: There are Arab businesses that have cropped up right on Efrat’s doorstep, just outside the northern gate, and many Efrat residents appear happy to frequent them. But recently, a video was released showing one of these new business owners calling for settlers to die. How do feel about that?

Stephanie Treger: When you see videos of neighboring Arabs promote the death of “settlers” we naturally get concerned. Videos such as those directed by Corey Gil-Shuster are eye-openers to us all. The specific video I have in mind is of a man who lives adjacent to Efrat. His property borders that of our beautiful coffee shop that we and our children love to enjoy during the day and in the evenings.

In this man’s driveway is a car wash and a laundromat which until 7/10 were used by the Jews of Efrat. He was earning his living from the Jews of Efrat. Since 7/10 he has closed his gate and is not earning a salary to support his family. So to what extent do we believe that at some point the consequences of poverty will kick in?

When will he get angry enough with the Jews of Efrat that eventually he will fall in with a terrorist organisation to have revenge on the people he hated before we even shut him down.

This new reality is sad but true. We Jews who live in Judea are at risk for terror and we must not take risks in protecting our families and our people.

Varda Epstein: Do you think that there is a reluctance among the residents of Efrat, even after the events of October 7, to adopt a general attitude of distrust toward non-Israeli Arabs, especially those with whom they’ve formed casual relationships? Is there a feeling of, “Oh, he’d never do something like that. He’s always polite and friendly, and gives me good service.”

How would you illustrate the dangers of this outlook, from your perspective?

Stephanie Treger: I would point them to the words of Professor Arye Eldad, who headed the plastic surgery and burns unit at Hadassah Medical Center, and is also a former member of Knesset:

I was instrumental in establishing the Israeli National Skin Bank, which is the largest in the world. The National Skin Bank stores skin for every day needs as well as for war time or mass casualty situations. This skin bank is hosted at the Hadassah Ein Kerem University hospital in Jerusalem where I was the chairman of plastic surgery. This is how I was asked to supply skin for an Arab woman from Gaza, who was hospitalized in Soroka Hospital in Beersheba after her family burned her. Usually, such atrocities happen among Arab families when the women are suspected of having an affair. We supplied all the needed Homografts for her treatment. She was successfully treated by my friend and colleague Prof. Lior Rosenberg, and discharged to return to Gaza. She was invited for regular follow up visits to the outpatient clinic in Beersheba. One day she was caught at a border crossing wearing a suicide belt. She meant to explode herself in the outpatient clinic of the hospital where they saved her life. It seems that her family promised her that if she did that, they would forgive her.

This is only one example of the war between Jews and Muslims in the Land of Israel. It is not a territorial conflict. This is a civilizational conflict.

Varda Epstein: Is this campaign going to continue to be a local, Efrat phenomenon, or do you have bigger plans for this—perhaps to take this national?

Stephanie Treger: We will see; we can’t manage alone. We all need to hold hands. We were lucky to see that it went to government last week. We will take it day by day and do our best to succeed. It’s all we can do really.

NOTE: Go to PETITION to see, sign, and share. 

{Reposted from EoZ}

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Blogger and mother of 12, Varda Meyers Epstein is a third-generation Pittsburgher who made aliyah at age 18 and never looked back. A proud settler who lives in the biblical Judean heartland, Varda serves as the communications writer for the nonprofit car donation program Kars4Kids, a Guidestar Gold medal charity. The author's political opinions are her own and not endorsed by her employer.