My friend Valerie was stoned the other night in Eastern Gush Etzion near her town of Tekoa. She was injured pretty badly and is in the hospital now recovering from an operation. Why on earth would anyone stone Valerie’s car? She’s one of the nicest people I know.
Then yesterday a woman from Neve Daniel was stoned in Eastern Gush Etzion. B"H, she wasn't injured, so she didn't make the news. But do we need someone to be injured or worse, chas v'shalom, until we do something to save lives!!??
I had a very few minutes and decided to explore Eastern Gush Etzion. With time being so short Erev Shabbat, I didn’t get far.
I think everyone should drive around Eastern Gush Etzion. First of all, it’s interesting looking - green and gorgeous on one side and arid and sandy on the other. Secondly, more Jewish cars must drive through Eastern Gush Etzion, because our presence is important to our brethren and their towns. Thirdly, there’s great stuff to visit too – Herodion National Park, the pool and restaurant in Tekoa, Sde Bar goat and dairy farm, Shdema and nice folks in every Eastern Gush Etzion town.
Gush Etzion is a magnificent central area of Israel, and usually it is pastoral and idyllic. Unfortunately political turmoil throughout the rest of the country even affects the usually quiet region too.
(A perfect point to mention the demonstration against increased violence – Motzei Shabbat, 8:30 PM at intersections throughout the country. More here: http://voices-magazine.blogspot.com/2010/03/me-thinks-lady-doth-protest-too-much.html.)
I thought I’d find out more about the Arab villages around Eastern Gush Etzion. One of the closest ones is the village between Efrat and the T-Junction. It might be overlooked by someone driving along the road. It’s got some big aluminum sheds for stone production, but the village is actually behind the sheds, and more or less hidden from view. It’s called Al Masara. If you are driving toward the T-Junction, Al Masara is to the left, and there’s a decent sized friendly sign, “Welcome to Al Masara” hanging on a pole.
Internet sites say that for a few months, residents of Al Masara have faced off against Jewish soldiers as they demonstrated every Friday against the Wall. Why they’re demonstrating now, years after the Wall began, I don’t know, but…whatever.
After googling the town, I found an interview on the palsolidarity.com site with Mahmoud Zwahre, the Mayor of Ma’sara, member of the al-Ma’sara Popular Committee, and director of the joint council of nine villages South of Bethlehem. Zwahre said that the folks in Al Masara are not really affected by the Wall, but because they’re the educated town in the area, they thought they should be the ones demonstrating. Many Arabs who learn in Israel’s universities learn about social justice and freedom. Unfortunately, instead of applying these ideas to women’s rights or creating a better life for their people, they use their knowledge to demonstrate against Israel. I remember clearly almost 30 years ago, when Shimon Peres said something like, “We will educate the Arabs and then we will have peace.” Beautiful utopian thought. Well, Israel has indeed educated them, and now the educated ones are leading the actions against our soldiers and our country.
I found a two-month old video of an Al Masara demonstration - January 2010. The whole village came out – adults and children. They carried the Palestinian flag, plus a flag with a map of “Palestine” – no Israel – that was cut in half by a rifle and surrounded with PA flags. Peaceful image. They carried photos of their sons/brothers who were arrested for terror activities, and one mother even lamented that her son, serving a 99 year sentence, hasn’t seen much of his six year old son. I’m sorry this man hasn’t seen his child, but what did he think that might happen before he went out on a terror attack?
Rooted to the Land
An English speaking Arab said, “We are Palestinians. We are rooted to the land, like our trees…”
For years, I have advocated giving youth in every community throughout Israel - on both sides of the green line - pieces of land to farm and plant, so they could feel “rooted” to the land, but it seems that we Jews just do not understand this concept.
We build cities, we build giant apartment houses, we build 250, 400, 500 meter homes of stone and steel, but we do not connect to the land. A house can easily be plowed away, just as the foundation of the Western Dekel synagogue was just broken into pieces only a few weeks ago. (See: http://voices-magazine.blogspot.com/2010/03/like-thieves-in-night.html ) But a tree digs its roots into the ground and won’t let go.
The Jewish people should learn from the Arab of Al Masara to become “rooted to the land, like our trees.” If we really do that, and teach our children to feel a deep rooted connection to Eretz Yisrael – and not just Judea and Samaria – everywhere north, south, east and west – they will finally understand why we are here, why this land is our blessed chosen land, and why we choose to live sometimes harder lives here than "the good life" in the fleshpots of Egypt and the rest of the Diaspora.