Five years a settler. Since 2008, I have lived in Mitzpe Yericho, a sleepy village east of Jerusalem and straight on till morning. One of my neighbors referred to our community as “shtachim lite” because (Thank G-d) nothing major ever happens there. It’s a great place to earn your badge as an obstacle to peace without having to do any heavy lifting… but I suppose even the settlement army needs jobniks to handle paperwork. And this past week we packed up our house and moved to the other side of Israel.
We first heard of Mitzpe Yericho while working with the now defunct pilot trip group Tehilla to set up private meetings with representatives from several communities. Due to schedule conflicts, we were unable to speak with Tehilla on a one-on-one basis, so they asked one of our friends for more information about us, to get a sense of which areas would be a good fit. I will never be sure exactly what our friend told them, but we got to see a whole lot of the West Bank during that trip.
The pilot trip started off slow, with a visit to Maale Adumim. The city certainly tries hard to present itself well, with an aliyah co-ordinator giving a tour, and pretty much every amenity that someone coming from America could hope for. Of course, every time I go to the mall, I remember that during our tour my husband was “sick” (think the British meaning, not the sniffles) in front of the escalator. That put a bit of a damper on making plans to move to Maale Adumim.
“Oh, hi! Welcome to Maale Adumim. Oh… THOSE Littkys…”
It was during the middle of the week when we were given instructions to meet with a local from Mitzpe Yericho. The day began with the bus ride from Jerusalem’s Central Bus Station which became progressively more exurban.
Me: “Um, those are people living in tents…”
My husband: “Yeah, I didn’t even know the Greatful Dead was this big out here…”
I still have a picture somewhere of my husband pointing to a huge plant in front of Mitzpe’s front gate with a grin that says “I came to find a place to live in Israel and all I got was a @!%& cactus!”
We were given a wonderful tour of the village by our guide, who, as luck would have it, was an actual tour guide. Still, it took some time before we felt we could handle traveling past bedouins and camels on the way to work. When we finally made aliyah, we initially decided to be conventional, and moved to Modiin. It took us approximately two weeks of suburbia to figure out that maybe there was a reason we had been steered towards villages during our pilot trip. We moved to Mitzpe Yericho as soon as our lease in Modiin ended.
So, with so much perfection, why did I leave? Well, I just decided that the key to peace in the Middle East rested on whether or not a bunch of Jews were living on five percent of the land that the Palestinians wanted for a new country.
Wait, it’s not April 1st yet.
On a serious note, I recently managed to get a great job opportunity near Tel Aviv, and my husband was having a hard time finding work in Jerusalem. So, we decided to move to Hadera, on the other side of the country. Because, according to Yair Lapid, it just doesn’t get more middle class than Hadera!
I lived in the West Bank mostly because it was cheap and convenient to my previous job in Jerusalem, not out of a desire to strike a blow for Jewish land rights. And while I love Jerusalem, for the last few years, it seemed like every time I went there for an impromptu fun day, I managed to wander into a protest, a wedding, or a funeral which had left traffic snarled and killed any sense of enjoyment from my visit.
I do think that one day Israel will end up giving land to a Palestinian state. Mitzpe Yericho is likely to be one of the places on the chopping block. But whether my family or other families like ours are there isn’t the problem right now. And until there is a reasonable expectation that the newly created country would care more about helping its own citizenry than destroying Israel, I can’t support a unilateral withdrawal from the area. But with a heavy heart, I have said my personal goodbyes, and I’ll be watching the outcome from the sidelines.
Dear West Bank, it’s not you. It’s me.