Looking to get out of your rut? Visit the “settlements”

Ok, I’ll admit it. Lately I’ve been in a rut. Down in the dumps. Depressed. Blah.

Call it what you want.

But as someone who has been active in standing up for Israel for over 15 years, the events, which have unfolded over the last several weeks in this country, left me completely and utterly unmotivated. Perhaps I would even dare say indifferent.

My mood started to fade with the cabinet decision at the end of July, agreeing to release 104 convicted pure evil-doers back into society.

Why are they being turned loose? For what purpose?  For the privilege just to be in the same room as the Palestinian Authority brass, while daily incitement and Anti-Semitism remain rampant in their official media, educational system, and summer camps?

The futile demonstration I attended – led by the family members of the victims who were murdered by these Arab butchers, which was held outside the Prime Minister’s office as the vote took place Sunday morning July 28, was like a blow to the gut.

The obscene verdict was a fait accompli.

I can sympathize with the families, but surely can’t empathize, nor would I wish anyone in this country to have to go through the re-hashing of a hellish nightmare, which these families are once again experiencing thanks to our own leadership.

Then came another round of “peace talks” in our capital no less, between a Tzipi Livni led government delegation, and a PA group led by the propagandist Saeb Erekat. This is the same Erekat who falsely accused Israel on CNN of “massacring” 500 Arab civilians in Jenin during Israel’s Operation Defense Shield in 2002.

To add insult to injury, the talks were held under complete media silence. Perhaps so there wouldn’t be unrest amongst the general public, particularly the Zionist camp who would be up in arms over yet another round of land concessions, which have proven only lead to more split Jewish blood?

I didn’t realize that we lived in North Korea or under another communist or totalitarian regime where decisions are made quietly, without the feedback or knowledge of general public.

So yes, the blah set in. And as they say, “I had fallen, and I couldn’t get up.”

But that’s when an opportunity to heal presented itself.

At the 11th hour (literally at around 11PM this past Monday night), I decided to take the following day off from work and sign up for the One Israel Fund organization’s Annual “Premium Wining & Dining in the Heartland Daytrip” led by professional tour guide and longtime Israel activist, Eve Harow.

The tour, which I had participated on last year, is a day of fun throughout Samaria featuring wine tastings in several of the areas’ award winning boutique wineries.

In addition to the wine, there were stops at the home-based production facilities of a local boutique chocolatier in Barkan, a delectable mom and pop bakery, and a professional honey producer/distributor (perfect for the upcoming high holidays) – both in Ginot Shomron.

Chocolate in Barkan
Chocolate in Barkan

Along the way, there were also samplings of fine cheeses, olive oils, and other delicacies.  The tour concluded with a sunset gourmet barbeque at a winery in Ofra.

By now you’re probably thinking that surely it was easy to get out of my rut.

What better cure for the blues than a day of hedonism – gluttonous eating and mind altering ‘all you can drink’ consumption of some of the country’s finest intoxicating beverages.

While no doubt a highly pleasurable experience it wasn’t the food or drink that raised my spirits – but rather the residents who I encountered along the way, some of whom are proud to be called “settlers” – a term they view as positive or complimentary, and in no way derogatory.

These are people whom despite being scorned by the international community and worst of all by many of their own countrymen, despite the odds, and the obstacles in their path, including decades of terror attacks which have claimed the lives of neighbors and loved ones, nevertheless remain committed day in and day out towards fulfilling the Zionist dream of pioneering and SETTLING the Land of Israel.

What can be more Zionistic than:

Dwelling in the ancient heartland of Israel and growing vineyards upon vineyards of grapes and turning them into wine?

Grapes the size of ping-pong balls
Grapes the size of ping-pong balls

Processing wheat into flour for bread, or raising and cultivating bees for honey?

Or in a non-agricultural setting, providing housing and quality schooling for Ethiopian young immigrants amongst over 1,000 other Israeli teens in an award-winning girls high school in the community of Kedumim?

Despite the politics, and the terror, and the prisoner releases, or even the deadly car accidents, and drownings, and polio threat, and all the other negativity, which I perhaps have let get to me over the past several weeks, it is these people who are so connected to the Land of Israel, to the Zionist dream, which helped ease my mood.

Now I’m sure there are other similar communities in the Galilee, in the Negev, near Jerusalem, or even in the Tel-Aviv area where I could have also visited to receive a spoonful of medicinal hope – I have no doubt.

But on this day, it was those who proudly call themselves the “settlers,” and all of their accomplishments while forced to serve as the underdog, which gave me the strength to help pick myself back up and carry on.


The view
The view




About the Author
Joshua Hasten is the International Spokesperson for Gush Etzion. He is host of the weekly “Israel Uncensored” radio broadcast on The Land of Israel Network, as well as an international Middle East Correspondent in print and on television. Joshua is also a sought-after speaker around the world. His workshops and lectures on pro-Israel advocacy have impacted thousands. Joshua was the CAMERA organization’s 2009 Letter Writer of the Year, and is a member of the Judea and Samaria Speaker’s Bureau. Originally from Indianapolis, Indiana, he resides in Gush Etzion, Israel.