After eight wonderful years living in Jerusalem, my wife and I recently picked up the keys to our new house in a community located within the Gush Etzion “settlement” bloc.
Now, before someone rats us out and notifies Peace Now that we’re moving over the so-called green line, let me reassure you that the house we bought was built years ago, so we are not in violation of the government’s current building freeze throughout Judea and Samaria.
While we might have considered building a backyard pergola, we’re scrapping those plans so that we don’t draw the attention of the authorities who might accuse our new shade-providing structure as being an obstacle to peace in the Middle East.
We made our decision to move to a yishuv for various reasons including the desire to be part of a close-knit community and the opportunity to have a little more space and live a small-town lifestyle where children can still roam freely while leaving their bikes unlocked.
Another plus of living in a yishuv, specifically a religious yishuv, is the fact that on Shabbat there is no need to worry about kids crossing the street and getting hit by a car (as vehicular traffic is non-existent).
In all honestly, though, the main reason we are moving to a yishuv has everything to do with our ideology. While the history of the entire Land of Israel goes back to biblical times, there is no doubt that the heart of Israel in the time of our ancestors was found in places throughout Judea and Samaria.
Whether we’re talking about Hebron, Shechem, or Bethlehem, these ancient cities, still here today, are ready to come to life for Jews seeking a connection with their past. Unfortunately, due to the current political situation, it is difficult or even impossible to reach many of our holy sites in these areas.
Please don’t misunderstand. Our desire to move to the Judean Hills, while originating in and inspired by biblical sources, is in reality based on modern history. While I do wear an oversized knitted kippah, it’s more to cover my big bald head and less because I’m a “messianic settler,” the term often used to demonize residents of Judea and Samaria in the international – and, at times, the local – media.
The fact of the matter is I’m convinced the pioneering spirit, which experienced a rebirth as a result of Israel’s victory in the 1967 Six-Day War, should be accepted and applauded on the same level as we celebrate the spirit and fortitude of those who settled in Israel from the beginning of the 20th century through the establishment of the state.
I would bet that those who risked their lives to drain the swamps in the North and make the desert bloom in the South would be proud of these new pioneers building and planting, growing and thriving, and raising their families throughout these sprawling and (in reality) mostly uninhabited areas.
And make no mistake – these Yesha pioneers have had it pretty rough. In the decades since the Six-Day War – particularly during the two misnamed Palestinian “uprisings” between 1987 and 1993 and between 2000 and the present (personally, I refer to these as terror wars rather than uprisings), they have overwhelmingly born the brunt of anti-Israel terror attacks.
While cities within pre-1967 Israel have had higher casualty rates as a result of the scores of suicide bus attacks, café bombings and shootings, the vast majority of attempted attacks (as high as 90 percent) have taken place within Yesha.
Hurled rocks, firebombs, stabbings, shootings – the residents of Yesha face these threats on a daily basis despite the fact that the majority of these incidents are not covered in the press.
In short, while the world may unfairly view the “settlers” as land-grabbing obstacles to peace, my wife and I have chosen to align our fate with these new pioneers who are determined to hold on to land designated by God – and the international community way back in the 1920s – as being an integral part of the Jewish homeland.
As I grasped the keys to our new home in my hand, I waited and wondered when the metamorphosis would begin. If one day I was considered an “Israeli” by the world at large and the next a dreaded “settler,” surely something would drastically change.