Shabbat in the Gush

24 Oct

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This blog comes from an anonymous contributor who spent Shabbat in a Judaean community/West Bank settlement, closer to Hebron than Jerusalem, but which is still considered part of the Gush Etzion settlement bloc.

It is difficult to describe my Shabbat experience inside the settlement. Although part of Gush Etzion, this particular settlement is “deep within the West Bank”, and is surrounded by Arab villages on several sides. We even had to pass through two Arab villages to get there (a more than worrying five minutes of the journey). The settlement is linked to a ma’achaz (an illegal outpost), which although part of the “master plan” of the original settlement, has been built without explicit governmental approval. I prayed Kabbalat Shabbat in a caravan in the ma’achaz, and I felt as though my tefilah was cancelled out by virtue of where it was said. But perhaps the strangest part of the Shabbat was when my friends talked about the new penthouse they were building (in the regular settlement, not in the outpost) and I wished them a hearty mazal tov on their new purchase. A guest at the Shabbat table asked me (after hearing my rather left-wing liberal political positions earlier during the meal) whether I was congratulating my friend now, but ultimately wanted to see him evacuated from his home. I replied, “Certainly; and I will embrace him warmly when this happens.”

On the other hand, I also said during the Shabbat that in exchange for Israel withdrawing from the major Palestinian population centers in 1995-6 under Oslo II, the Palestinians should have been asked to sign off on the right of return for particular cities within Israel proper. For example, Israel would withdraw from Bethlehem, in exchange for the Palestinians forgoing the right of return to Jaffa. This would have been important not only in order to avert a crisis over the right of return at a later date, but to make the point (both to the Palestinians and, as importantly, to the Israeli population) that by withdrawing from these cities Israel was also giving up its dream; that Israelis are not delighted in leaving Judaea and Samaria, but that they recognize it as a necessity in order to achieve peace. Perhaps I was influenced by a story I heard about Rav Yehuda Amital z”l. During Simchat Torah of 1995, the Rabbi (who was affiliated with the left-of-centre Meimad political party, which ran on a joint ticket with the Labour Party) of Yeshivat Har Etzion was seen forlorn and not dancing. One of his talmidim asked him why this was the case. He responded by saying that he was sad because Israel had withdrawn from a West Bank city earlier in the week. His student was confused, for behold, davka his Rav supported the Oslo peace process. The Rabbi responded that although he recognized that it was a necessary thing to do, in order to try and achieve peace, this did not mean that he was happy to evacuate parts of Biblical Israel.

So, at the same time as wishing my friend all the best for his new home, I also support his evacuation from it, but certainly not with delight.

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One Response to “Shabbat in the Gush”

  1. Fred Schlomka November 15, 2010 at 8:17 am #

    Maybe your friend would not have to leave his home. After all Yasser Araffat, Abu Mazen and other Palestinian leaders have said many times that Jews will be welcome to live in the Palestinian state, either as residents (retaining Israeli citizenship), or as Palestinian citizens. Would it really be so awful to live in Eretz Israel within a democratic Palestinian state in the West Bank? The mandate to live in the land will be fulfilled, without the Occupation and second class rights for Palestinian Arabs.

    Let the nations of Eretz Israel and Palestine be fulfilled. We can learn to share.

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