Paula R. Stern

Why Do I Live in the “Settlements”?

In a lot of ways, writing the introduction to this blog was easy. This is who I am; accept me as I accept you. That’s simple. The next question someone might ask is why do you live there?

I had a choice when I moved to Israel – the whole country was open to me. It wasn’t like I had family living in a place they expected me to move to or any other compelling reason to choose one place over another. I knew what I didn’t want; I knew what I did. So let me explain.

There are two major reasons why people choose to live in the areas known as Yehuda and Shomron, Judea and Samaria, the West Bank. The first was/is economics. It’s usually cheaper (not always) to live in a settlement. When we moved to Israel, I could buy a small apartment in an Israeli city, or I could buy a beautiful house located on a nice-sized plot of land. Economics.

Nope, I didn’t make my choice based on where it was cheaper – I went for the house in the yishuv (settlement) not because of the house, but because of the yishuv. I had a garden that I loved – I planned it out myself. My husband kept asking me what the plan was…and I would look at him and say – an orange tree here, please. Oh, a lemon tree there. I want a mango tree on this side. Flowers, I want flowers. And grass, let it swirl this way around these rocks. I loved my garden. There wasn’t a room without at least one curved or angled wall. I was enchanted.

The house was perched on the side of the hill – the view was stunning. There were more houses down below me, an open park that meandered between those lower houses and the houses that were built going up the next hill. The air was amazing – breezes when there were none in Israel’s hot coastal cities; open space and more. Even the Arab village just on the other side of my hill was a novelty. I loved hearing their call to prayer and truly thought that peace was possible.

We would shop in the nearby Arab towns – my husband would sit and talk to the Arab owner of a pet store for hours and when the man broke his arm, my husband sometimes went and helped him. We bought plants for our garden and house, furniture, even the handles to our kitchen cabinets from the Arabs – until the Second Intifada when it was no longer safe for us to go there.

We sold that house and moved to Maale Adumim a bit over 11 years ago. I love Maale Adumim because it is the perfect combination of yishuv and city. The best of all worlds. There are many reasons for our choosing where we live. Economics wasn’t and isn’t one of them.

But above all was the strong feeling that this was the place I wanted my children to grow up. My kids love to hike the land; they respect it. We can see almost clear down to the Dead Sea from Maale Adumim and the hills of Jordan sparkle in the evening sunlight. I can see Jerusalem – one mountain away and without traffic, it’s less than 10 minutes from my front door to Jerusalem’s eastern border.

I love the weather – just a touch warmer than Jerusalem. Cool, breezy nights, warm and dry during the day.

I love the people – they are kind, generous, helpful. I know one family that lived in Maale Adumim for four or five months before they ever cooked their own Shabbat meal because they were invited out every time. There are several groups (email, Facebook, etc.) where people ask for (and get) all sorts of help.

I love the beauty of the city – the convenience of having so many stores (malls, restaurant, bowling, several medical centers, an ambulance, an emergency medical center for late hours, expensive (and cheap) clothing stores, major supermarkets, three banks…no, wait, four) and more. Maale Adumim has won several environmental awards – the city on the edge of the Judean Desert is filled with trees and flowers – oh, and we have a lake! And, on the edge of the lake, is a new cafe. I just have to get there one day soon.

And yes, there are the political aspects, so let me state them here. I believe in peace. I crave peace. I have five children. Two have been soldiers in combat units. My youngest son is 16 and a half and just got his Tzav Rishon (first call up where they begin the process towards his entering the army). I don’t know if there is anyone in the world who wants peace more than a soldier’s mother. Having said that, I do not believe peace will come – not in my life time, probably not in the lives of my children.

Maale Adumim – and the settlements all over Yehuda and Shomron serve as the protecting border of most of Israel. Where we lived previously, I could see the waters of the Mediterranean sparkling – miles and miles from my yishuv. Ariel Sharon once came there and as he looked to the west, he said, “You don’t surrender the heights.”

Where I lived before was the first line of mountains – Israel’s main population centers – Tel Aviv and Gush Dan were below us. Where I live now is the eastern border of Jerusalem. Strategically, it would be insane to withdraw or evacuate these areas.

And here we come to another issue. Evacuate for what? For who? For peace? Certainly not. The Arabs aren’t offering peace – at best, they have offered a Hudna, a temporary cease-fire agreement that they believe they can break at any time because it is made with infidels. Yup, that’s us – you, me, your country and mine – we are infidels.

So I live here for political and strategic reasons, for the beauty of the land and the beauty of the city we have built. I live here for religious reasons as well. Yes, I am Orthodox and I believe God promised this land to my people.

And I live here for historical reasons – when Maale Adumim – and in fact 99% of all “settlements” were built – there were no Arab villages destroyed. Tel Aviv, Kfar Sava and other places can’t say the same. Maale Adumim is perched on the top of several hilltops – surrounded by uncounted barren hills. To the west, between us and Jerusalem on one side are two Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem – but across from us, to the north and to the east, there is nothing.

There are more reasons, but this has already gotten very long – so I’ll continue in another post. What I want you to get out of this post is a deeper understanding of the richness of life in a yishuv. We do not live behind military walls and guns – we and our children live in sunshine, brighter and more free, in many ways, than anywhere else in Israel.

To be continued…


About the Author
Paula R. Stern is CEO of WritePoint Ltd., a leading technical writing company in Israel. Her personal blog, A Soldier's Mother, has been running for more than 5 years. She lives in Maale Adumim with her husband and children, a dog, too many birds, and a desire to write her thoughts and dream of a trip to Italy, Scotland, and beyond.