Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Hitnatkut III / Kochav Yaakov

Continued from Part II (below)

But in the settlements, there’s still an optimistic sense of forward momentum.
“Do you worry that what happened to Gush Katif will happen to Kochav Ya’akov?” I ask Rabbi Feld.
“I’ve been here through five governments. Each one of them wanted to destroy this place at some point. They’re gone, we’re here.”
It’s a similar sentiment I heard expressed five years ago. Headlines tell us that all of these communities could be uprooted at any time, but the willingness to take the risk of building here required that such logic be set aside. It forces the settlers to focus their eyes on the future only. But then he adds something I haven’t heard before.
“It could happen. But all you can do is pray and build.”
The aura of unstoppable destiny is gone, but the goals and the means are still intact. He passes around the table a photograph of a lonely one-room house in sea of dead, rocky fields.
"This is was taken in 1929. It's Rechavia."
I take a second look at what stood, and more noticeably what was absent, in what is now one of Jerusalem's wealthiest established neighborhoods packed with high rise apartment complexes and swanky housing. Eighty years ago, where the Prime Minister's house stands today, was just a tuft of weeds.
"Today, if a thousand Jews move to or from Rechaviah today, it won't make a difference. It's permanently Jewish land. But if a thousand Jews moved out here, the land becomes ours. God willing we will bring so many Jews out here that there can never be another Hitnatkut. Imagine if there had been one hundred thousand Jews in Gaza instead of seven thousand. There wouldn't have been any way they could get us out of there."
So the building continues. Standing at the peak of Kochav Yaakov the next morning, the driving wind kicks up a dusty haze in the valleys, but it’s still possible to see the fifteen miles or so to Jordan. The hilltop is sprinkled with trailers, makeshift goat pens, and corrugated tin shacks.
“This is a good place for a couple to make a start,” Rabbi Feld says, “rent is only a couple hundred shekels a month. You’d pay at least six or seven hundred dollars for the same apartment in Jerusalem. They come out here and live for a few years to save money. Once they’re ready to get started, some move into the city, but some decide to stay in the community and build their homes here. But if you really want to live for nothing, you can go out there,” he says, pointing about a mile and a half east, to the uniform white trailers gripping the wind worn limestone summit.
Remembering the terminology of Elon Moreh, I ask, “Is that Kochav Yaakov B?”
“It was. Now it’s called Migron. We built it a few years ago. It’s outside of our fence, but inside the settlement’s municipal boundary. Last year, Sharon got it in his head to destroy the place.” Sharon. The bulldozer. Israel’s now incapacitated but then powerful Prime Minister. “It was ridiculous. We had gotten all the proper permits, everything was above board. It was so legitimate that even the banks were loaning out money to start construction. But it was politics.”
“So why is it still there?”
“We called in people from all the surrounding settlements. Thousands and thousands sat on that hilltop and waited. Only a couple hundred police showed up, so there was nothing they could do. They went home to come back another day. Pretty soon everybody forgot about it and moved on.”

To be continued...

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