Driving home from Jerusalem to Gush Etzion after work on Monday, I noticed a larger than usual gathering of IDF soldiers near the Beit-Shemesh turn-off, also known as the El-Hadar junction.
Seeing soldiers on the roads or at checkpoints in the Gush is commonplace, but this group of young defenders of Israel, seemed especially focused and intense. Soldiers sitting in one jeep appeared to be barking out orders towards several others who were making their way from one side of the highway to the other.
While at the same time another soldier, who gave off an aura indicating that he was probably the commander of the group, was busy on the phone, either reporting or receiving further instructions from those higher up on the army food chain back at base.
It turns out there was a reason for the commotion, whose details I only learned about after arriving safely at home and checking my Facebook newsfeed.
According to a status update by local photojournalist and Gush resident Natan Epstein, I realized that I had narrowly missed an incident in which Arabs threw two firebombs or Molotov Cocktails at cars on the Tunnel Road (route 60) and a third at cars on the Husan bypass road in the vicinity of Beitar Illit. Luckily there were no injuries.
But these days while traveling on the roads throughout Judea and Samaria – the hurling of rocks, firebombs, and yes shootings by Arabs directed towards Israeli motorists has become commonplace.
While most incidents, including the one above, receive little to no coverage by main-stream media sources, both local and surely not international, this is our reality.
And let me be clear, this is the reality for ALL of the residents of Judea and Samaria, whether you live on the West side of the security barrier in the so-called ‘consensus’ communities of Gush Etizion, the Ariel Bloc, Ma’ale Adumim, etc. or if you live further East, in places like Yitzhar, Itamar, or Elon Moreh.
My point is that I believe that in Israel – thanks to the delusional Oslo mentality expressed both by government leaders, top university academics, and of course the majority of journalists over the past 20 years, while us ‘settlers’ are unfairly treated as 2nd class citizens and labeled obstacles to peace, or extremist messianics, there has unfortunately developed an even greater division of who or what type of a ‘settler’ you are, based on which side of the security barrier you call home.
(For the record, of course I’m aware that the term ‘settler’ is a derogatory term used by the media and others to dehumanize Israelis living in Judea and Samaria. However, I predict that one day in the future the term will become one of admiration instead of scorn).
Those of us on the Western side, tend to be considered ‘settler lite,’ in many eyes since according to news reports, under any peace deal with the Palestinian Authority, it will be our communities which will remain part of “Israel.”
However those on the Eastern side of the barrier, well their fate according to the experts is undetermined, with many hinting towards the dismantling of those communities, and the areas on which they sit turned over to Mahmoud Abbas in order to establish a Palestinian State.
And of course even if former President Jimmy Carter says that the Gush will always be part of Israel “I never imagined that Gush Etzion would be transferred to Palestinian hands,” based on his track record when it comes to Israel I surely don’t sleep better at night.
So let’s make no mistake about it. East side or West side, we are ALL at-risk. Not only are we all at-risk for injury or worse as a result of the daily attacks described above, which are happening throughout ALL of our areas, but we are ALL at risk of losing our communities.
Think it can’t happen? In 2002, then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon stated publically that “the fate of Netzarim will be the fate of Tel Aviv.” And just three years later, the unimaginable occurred with the dismantlement of Jewish life in Gaza. And while time and time again we hear about the communities to the West being “consensus,” when has the Palestinian Authority EVER accepted one inch of Judea and Samaria as being included in Israel.
When the Fatah Central committee recently claimed to have accepted the Arab League’s latest idea authorizing land swaps with Israel, the committee was very clear as what it really meant.
They said that accepting the idea (of the Arab League) does not mean “legitimizing settlement blocs” in the West Bank… “Settlements in all the Palestinian lands are illegal. There can be no land swaps without an Israeli recognition of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state on the 1967 borders.”
There you have it, black and white. Our “peace partners” do not view any of the ‘settlement’ blocs as being part of Israel.
So it’s time to stop with the differentiations, it’s time to stop pretending that there are ‘settlers’ and that there are ‘SETTLERS.’ We’re all in this together. Once that is recognized, perhaps one day the Israelis living in pre-1967 Israel, especially after having their share of rockets fired from Gaza fall on their cities just several months ago, will also finally realize or admit that those who seek our destruction disguised as ‘partners for peace,’ view them as ‘settlers’ as well.