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The Human Side of the Settlements: The Forest and the Trees

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Posted on March 3 2011 8:00 am
WestBankMama.wordpress.com

Yesterday the police moved in and razed a tent and some buildings in Chavat Gilad, what is called by some an “outpost” – what I like to think of as a baby yishuv. The police were particularly violent, and shot people in the back with what they claim to be paintballs, and others claim to be rubber bullets. You can see some of the injuries here at the Muqata blog. The violence of the police caused an uproar in the dati-leumi community (national religious) and many decided to protest. Some went to places in Yehuda and Shomron (Judea and Samaria) and some went to block streets in Jerusalem, and many clashed again with police.

The forest in this situation is the politics. For those of you unfamiliar with the territory, let me give you a basic rundown. An “outpost” is a place where Jews have decided to build homes somewhere in Yehuda and Shomron, but is now considered illegal. Some of these outposts can be as small as a few tents, some are much bigger and consist of caravans and even permanent housing. Most (not all) yishuvim in Yehuda and Shomron were started in this way, and as they grew they accrued the necessary permits and eventually became legal. This process is a long one, and ends with the signature of the Defense Minister. (Yes, the only difference between a legal and illegal yishuv is sometimes this one signature.) That is why there is such a difference between one outpost and another. The older ones cannot be distinguished from a regular yishuv. The newer ones are usually small and very temporary.

The politicians like to distinguish between legal yishuvim and illegal outposts. They can say on one hand that legal yishuvim should be able to grow, but outposts cannot. They can also say, if it helps them, that these outposts have to be destroyed. Although they too sometimes distinguish between one outpost or another. The outpost near Shiloh (sorry, can’t remember the name now) was supposed to be destroyed a long time ago – but it hasn’t, since two widows of IDF heroes are living there in permanent housing, and the politicians are wary of the public outcry if they throw these women out (and rightly so).

When the government goes in and destroys these outposts, they get “credit”. For someone like Barak, he gets credit with his future left wing voters. For Bibi, he gets credit with both the United States government (see, I’m doing what you want…) and with the more central of his future voters. For the right wing Likud voters (I am one) he can say that he only went after the illegal outposts, and the small ones at that (and we all know that they will be rebuilt in about two days. It doesn’t take long to set up a tent or a shack after all….)

To add to the cynicism, there are those who claim that the powers-that-be in the “settler movement” encourage the establishment of these outposts so that the politicians can make these false distinctions. How better to protect a yishuv than to divert attention to a small outpost? (To be perfectly honest, I think it is a brilliant move, politically. I just feel sorry for the young people who live there who may not see it that way).

So this is the forest. The trees, on the other hand, are our children, and there the story is much more complicated.

You cannot fault the young and idealistic for not distinguishing between a yishuv and an outpost, since these two entities are in most ways the same, except in some cases by one signature on one piece of paper.  A lot of the young people who live in these outposts have grown up in yishuvim themselves, and believe that they are not only building the land that G-d gave us but also helping to keep Israel safe by building their homes in these places. They grew up hearing the stories of the first Zionest pioneers. This is added to their own experience growing up in Yehuda and Shomron, and makes them want to make their contribution too. The fact that the police and/or the army can come in and destroy what they build on a whim does not deter many of them.

On the other hand they cannot help but feel betrayed by this destruction.

Added to the mix is the decision by the young men about what to do in terms of IDF service. Whereas the men in the dati leumi community in the past did not have to choose between the ideology of settling the land and the ideology of serving in the IDF, many of our young men do now. Some choose to take the path of learning in yeshiva and living in an outpost. Some choose to take the path of serving in the IDF, sometimes competing for the best combat unit that will accept them. Most at this point do not try to do both – although this young man did, and the events of yesterday are causing him great conflict.

Sometimes boys as young as 16 have to make these kind of decisions. My youngest son went to his yeshiva yesterday (Karnei Shomron) and said that some of the 11th and 12 graders were going out to protest (risking getting beaten up by the police). Some decided that they couldn’t do this, since they wanted to get into a top combat unit in the army, and they knew that tangling with the police would ruin their future chances at getting into these units.

These are the “hilltop youth” that some in Israel despise (after believing everything they see in the media, of course). Every country should be blessed with young people like these.

 

Cross-posted from West Bank Mama’s site, here.

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