The Neo-Settler

I’d like to introduce a new Jewish “prototype.” Of course, referring to human beings as “prototypes” is denigrating, but with the press and pundits trafficking in labels, particularly when it comes to the Jews living in Judea and Samaria, it seems only fitting to simply embrace the phenomenon and challenge it with a new label.

Once “settlers” used to be uniformly represented as Jewish “religious fanatics.” You know the type: men wearing large knitted kippahs, tendrils reaching down to the guns on their hips. Women wearing headscarves, babies in their arms, kids tugging at their long skirts, as bare feet tread on the rocks of the hills – rocks they’re getting ready throw at an Arab. The media and anti-Israel activists make every effort to perpetuate this image of the “obstacle to peace,” to make Jews feel ashamed of their co-religionists and to expedite Jewish population transfer.

Today, “settlers” make up about ten percent of the Israeli population, and this stereotype no longer applies. In recent years, the population of Judea and Samaria has grown to include Israelis and Jews of all religious and political stripes, from the secular comfort “settlers” of Alfei Menashe who vote for “Yesh Atid,” to the enterprising winemakers of Samaria and the Hebron Hills, to the diverse university student body of Ariel, to the ecological farmers and hippy artists of the Jordan Valley. Yep, there’s a new “settler” in town. The Neo-Settler.

Ecological housing set up in Gush Etzion hills to protect the forests from marauders.

The Neo-Settler is among the most forward-thinking of Israelis. They are creative, open-minded, idealistic, and individualistic. They are the thinkers, the “troublemakers” goaded by moral conscience, the people who are poised to move this nation past hackneyed paradigms that have failed. Here is a brief profile of the Neo-Settler:

1. Pioneers of co-existence and hence of real peace. While centrists and left-wingers talk about building fences to separate people by race and religion, the Neo-Settler talks about breaking walls down, sharing the land with the Palestinians and working together peacefully, whenever possible, to make all of our lives better. They are those who interact with Palestinians, on the roads, in shops, and in the workplace, sometimes working to mediate disputes amicably and peacefully, despite the drive of leaders on both sides for them to hate each other.

2. Environmentalists. Neo-Settlers work to ensure that the air and land of Judea and Samaria remain clean and pure. They set up parks and trails, take care of wildlife, and ensure that industry and construction don’t pollute the environment. The Neo-Settler would be the first to work with Palestinians to ensure they use natural resources in the most efficient, safe manner, cooperating with Palestinian villages in using the best of modern technology for trash collection, energy production, sewage, and land development.

3. Leaders in interfaith and freedom of worship. Neo-Settlers embrace religious differences while remaining intolerant of religiously-motivated violence and use of force. Rather than run away in fear from Islamists, they live alongside them. While vigilant of political Islam for its human rights abuses, Neo-Settlers are the first to interact and conduct dialouge with Muslims living in the region while not giving up on their own religious freedom as Jews to live according to their conscience and traditions.

4. Creative policymakers. Given they do not view population transfer of either Jews or Arabs as a humanitarian solution, they work to find new, practical and humane models for peace. They are the most creative thinkers when it comes to foreign policy, which they believe must be informed by real-life engagement with Palestinians as well as a deep knowledge of the ins-and-outs of the territory under conflict.

5. Advocates of classic democracy that upholds civil law. Deeply respectful of democracy, Neo-Settlers support democracy but not dictatorial mob rule, which is why they are the sharpest critics of the Palestinian Authority and Palestinian agents that trample upon the human rights of their own people to further the Palestinian “cause.” Neo-Settlers seek equal rule of law that promotes civil liberties for Arabs and Jews alike.

6. Independence – Contrary to settler stereotype, much of the Neo-Settlers’ labor and property – homes, businesses, and even security – are the fruits of private funding and not government handouts or resources. They would reject using Israeli tax-payer money inequitably.

7. Religious pluralists – Since the Jews of Judea and Samaria are victims of religious discrimination and bigotry, Neo-Settlers value a pluralistic society and judge people based on their character and how they treat others. Neo-Settlers do not put others down for their religious and political differences. They value independent thought, the quality required to visit Judea and Samaria and to understand the region firsthand, to meet the growing population of the Neo-Settler.

I believe the transformation has begun. No longer are “settlers” the pariahs of Israel. The mainstream media can no longer maintain credibility if they continue to throw out the word “settlers” to describe a monolithic, fanatic group. Soon enough, these Neo-Settlers will be recognized as Israel’s future leaders, with Judea and Samaria as the seat of bold, creative, and interesting action and thought in politics, economics, industry, Judaism, literature, entertainment, and so much more.

The author and the security fence.


About the Author
Orit Arfa is a journalist and author of "The Settler," a novel following the journey of a young woman into Tel Aviv nightlife following her eviction from her home in Gaza in 2005. Like her heroine, Orit is a good girl gone better.