Jan. 11, Neve Daniel, Israel
Situated 1,000 meters above sea level, in the beautiful and historic Judean Hills, Neve Daniel has lovely red tile-roofed homes with panoramic views of Jordan to the east, Hebron to the south, the Mediterranean coast to the west, and Jerusalem to the north. Its sunsets and sunrises are almost as unparalleled as the fog for which it is famous – and which often blocks those sunrises and sunsets. It’s populated by some truly amazing people whose first concern is always “the next guy.”
In Neve Daniel, even life’s challenges are made that much more bearable by the kindness of others and a true willingness to help those in need.
It came as a great shock, therefore, to learn of our neighbors’ plight and the utter inability of all the wonderful Neve Daniel people to do anything about it. Today, less than 24 hours after orders were received by residents of Neve Daniel North – known as Sde Boaz – more than 100 soldiers and police officers, complete with bulldozers and heavy equipment, converged upon the community with the intent to destroy a new home, a foundation for another new home, and a stable to hold this gentle community’s horses and donkeys.
The crime? Why, just being there, of course. Though the land was bought and paid for by Jews even before 1948, apparently ownership and legality have no bearing on these decisions. The Jews and Arabs have been in a land-grabbing competition in Israel for years. This is nothing new and we are all guilty of it. But for some reason it’s Jews who keep getting expelled. Perhaps we are accustomed to it after so many centuries that we do it to ourselves out of habit.
I left work today in a rush after my distraught 14-year-old daughter Lexi called to tell me all that had occurred at Sde Boaz. She had been an eyewitness. As I approached Neve Daniel, I saw a convoy of police and army vehicles at the road leading up to the neighborhood. My eyes welled up in tears as I realized why they were there. I flashed back to all the events we’d enjoyed at Sde Boaz since our aliyah three years ago – from our first Tu b’Shvat planting trees there with our own hands to this past Rosh Hashanah when I brought several families to a natural spring at Sde Boaz for tashlich.
I arrived home and did all I could to comfort my children. Lexi not only saw what happened, but was slightly injured in the violence that ensued. She reported that she’d been trying to get into Sde Boaz and found the way blocked by several policemen who were standing there laughing. This was too much for Lexi, who said to one of them, “Imagine if this was happening to you!”
To which the policeman replied, “It isn’t me; It isn’t you either! What do you care?”
What can one say to that? Of course she did care, and found another way in.
Lexi was traumatized as she watched an Israeli bulldozer driven by an Israeli soldier raze an Israeli home and stable. This gentle, eco-friendly neighborhood of secular and religious Jews who live in harmony in the beautiful Judean hills is just a 10-minute walk from my house and a 10-minute drive from Jerusalem.
My 16-year old, Shira, was there earlier. Both she and Lexi went in the true spirit of Neve Daniel – to do what they could to prevent a bad thing from happening. But what can teenage girls do against an army? What could 250 neighbors, friends and supporters – men, women and children – do against their own soldiers and police?