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Ilana Sober Elzufon

A few thoughts on settlements

View of the Jewish settlement of Eli, in the West Bank on January 17, 2021. (Sraya Diamant/Flash90), Times of Israel

Once upon a time, before I got married and settled down, I frequently visited yishuvim (settlements) in Yehuda v’Shomron (the West Bank). In particular, I spent many wonderful Shabbatot in Eli and in Shilo.

Even today, when I have occasion to visit yishuvim–many of which have grown immeasurably in the past 30 years, so that I scarcely recognize them–I am often impressed. I see settlers who combine love of Torah with remarkable creativity and innovation. Some of the centers of advanced women’s Torah learning, and many of the most brilliant women Torah scholars, are in settlements. Of course, the West Bank is also home to numerous important yeshivot for men, as well as leading rabbinic scholars and halachic authorities.

There are even settlers (a minority) actively working for coexistence with Palestinians, for example with Roots-Shorashim-Judur.

I see settlers with a deep love of the Land of Israel that stems both from ancient Biblical sources and from modern Zionism. Often–for Israelis on both sides of the Green Line–this love of the land erases and ignores the very real connection of Palestinians to this same land and much of recent history, especially the Nakba, which is deliberately not taught in Israeli schools and deliberately erased from the public consciousness. But these Israelis are, for the most part, good decent people who have not (yet?) looked beyond the Zionist narrative imposed upon us from every direction from earliest childhood.

So the recent attack in Eli hurts. I didn’t personally know the four victims, but I am sure I am only one degree of separation from all of them.

And the subsequent settler rampage through Turmus Ayya, a town I have never visited but often seen from afar, hurts. Dozens of cars and houses were torched. A Palestinian electrician, father of two young children, was killed. There are conflicting reports as to whether he was involved in attacking Israeli police. Twelve Palestinians were injured. Violent rampages have continued in other Palestinian towns, including Urif. Do I know any of the perpetrators? I’m sure I am only one degree of separation from some of them.

I do not think that Zionism or Israel, in their present form, can last forever. We can try to maintain the “status quo” for a while longer. But ultimately, we will either need to think in new directions that prioritize equality, justice, and peace, for example on the model of A Land for All ארץ לכולם بلاد للجميع, or we will face, again and again, escalations of violence like the one we’re in the midst of, leading inexorably, Heaven forfend, to destruction.

May God have mercy on all of us.

About the Author
Ilana Sober Elzufon is a Yoetzet Halacha in Yerushalayim, and a writer and editor for Nishmat's Yoatzot Halacha websites (yoatzot.org) and for Deracheha (deracheha.org).
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