Wednesday, February 24, 2016


The settlement of Beitar Illit (R) creeps ever closer to Wadi Fukin (L)
I just returned from another trip to Palestine/Israel – my fifth in as many years, including my three-month stint with EAPPI.  This time, I was accompanying a group of United Methodists – many of whom are delegates to the upcoming General Conference (international convention) to be held here in Portland in May.  The purpose of the trip was to educate them about the issues around the Occupation, so they would be better informed about legislation that will come up at the Conference.

The sights we visited were familiar ones – indeed, evoking a nostalgia for the time I spent in Tulkarm in the spring of 2013.  The flowers and trees were the same, as were the animals grazing in the fields alongside the road, and the produce in the markets.  The difference was – there was less scenery and more settlements that had either appeared or grown in just three years.

Several of the speakers that we heard talked about settlers and the “settlement mentality” that is Israel today.  An Israeli Jew, Yahav Zohar, who took us on a “settlement tour” of Jerusalem, explained that settlements are, at least in part, an answer to the Israeli government’s problem: “What can we do with a land that we want and people we don’t want?”
Settlers in Hebron

Basically, we learned, there are two types of settlers – “economic” and “religious.”  The former move into the settlements (with the generous financial assistance of the Israeli government) because they are attractive communities that offer a good life at far less cost than in developed Israeli cities like Tel Aviv or Jerusalem.  Some “settlers,” we learned, are from other countries – like the United States – who buy a settlement home to use part time, hoping for a financial windfall if a resolution to the conflict involves land swaps with the Palestinians.  On the average, we learned, settlements are only about 60% occupied – yet they continue to be built!

Religious settlers, on the other hand, are zealots – the most violent, and adamant that all of the land from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River is the exclusive domain of Israel.  God gave it all to them (who knew that God was in the real estate business!?) and they will accept nothing less.  These are the settlers who are most likely to cause violence, assaulting farmers (see “Settler Violence” – April 12, 2013), burning crops (see “A(nother) Sad Story from Sabastiya – June 30, 2013), and making life generally miserable for the Palestinian communities near their settlements.

Settlers in Hebron throw trash into the souk below
A day trip to Hebron gave our group a good look at fanatical settlers.  We heard of the 1,500 soldiers who “protect” 500 settlers, who live in enclaves on top of the 200,000 Palestinian residents of Hebron, saw the nets in the old souk that collect garbage thrown down by settlers, and were verbally harassed by settlers who wanted to tell us the “real” story of why they were there to stay.  But when one older man began his diatribe by stating “Homosexuality began in Germany in 1919,” we knew we’d fallen down a rabbit hole from which there was no exit!

1 comment:

  1. You write "On the average, we learned, settlements are only about 60% occupied – yet they continue to be built!" - what does that mean. Are there settlements that are not built on occupied Palestinian land.