Wednesday, May 26, 2010

West Bank Settlements

West Bank Settlements Become Havens of Israeli Suburbanites - CSMonitor.com
I don't typically read The Christian Science Monitor but recently received a free copy in the mail. This article by Yasmine Soiffer is a worthwhile read, even though it was written September 2009. It explores the motivations of those moving to communities outside the Green Line. What the world calls settlements most living there see as suburbs. A few excerpts:
Ideology was what brought the first waves of settlers into the land Israel captured on the west bank of the Jordan River in the 1967 war, some of them keen to return to earlier settlements they'd lost in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war that led to Israel's establishment. In the early 1970s, a socioreligious movement called Gush Emunim, or bloc of the faithful, drew to settlements people motivated by the concept that Israel's success in 1967 was divinely inspired, that the Jewish people's return to their biblical homeland signaled the coming of the messianic age. While that worldview continues to attract some, the majority of today's new arrivals come primarily for practical considerations. A Kiryat Netafim resident says, "I had three priorities in choosing where to live. The first was finding a good place to bring up kids. The second was financial. Third comes ideology. It's in that order. To think of only one of these is not the right approach to life. It's a mixed salad."

One of the fastest-growing settlements in the West Bank is Tekoa, which in 2008 grew by 11.6 percent. That's even more rapid growth than in the ultra-Orthodox settlements of Modiin Illit and Beitar Illit. Tekoa, which appears in the Bible, is southeast of Bethlehem and has natural attractions: It sits atop a hill that provides breathtaking views of the desert mountains and, on a clear day, of Jordan. It also has man-made draws: a public swimming pool and an intentional progressive mix of religious and secular families – Israel's main social divide. Its official Orthodox rabbi has an unconventional habit of meeting with local Islamic figures, including members of Hamas. A Tekoa resident reflects, "I came here for more space and a good community, but I had to realize that I was doing something politically that many people don't agree with. I'm not one that says we should get rid of the Arabs; I so completely disagree with that attitude. I've always supported a two-state solution. But I don't think it's really going to happen.... [I]t became clear to me [after the Gaza rocket attacks] that giving away land and cutting back our borders is not the answer."
I have often argued that characterizing all "settlements" as the same, and as ideologically motivated is mistaken and unhelpful. This article helps to shed light on the true character of these communities. The vast majority of Israelis moving to these communities are motivated not by ideology but by the same things that motivate people to move to any city's suburbs, the issues of quality of life: the price of homes, good schools, nature...

1 comment:

YMedad said...

Can I "sensitize" a bit your perception? Out of 320,000 Jews residing in the communities in Judea and Samaria, those sections of the historic Jewish national home wherein, by international law, Jews could closely settle according to the League of Nations Mandate, - that is, outside Jerusalem's municipal borders wherein reside another 200,000 Jews considered by Arabs and some Jews to be "settlers" - the majority are not daily observant but secular with a strong "traditional" element. As such, while ideological motivation may be secondary, after a few years, suffering Arab terror, media bias, animosity from Israel's progressive peace camp, they become quite ideological. In fact, during the Intifada, it was the "non-ideological secular" communities that usually were among the most ill-disciplined and even violent against Arabs when attacked.

But the in all socieites, that's how they develop: first the pioneers and then the rest. Quite normal.