Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Building in Beit El

"How did this place get started?" Chaim, my fellow student and Shabbat (Sabbath) guest asks Yehuda. Both are immigrants from South Africa, Yehuda having arrived over twenty years ago, Chaim two weeks ago, so there's already a natural rappor.
"In 1977. It was originally two settlements, Beit El Aleph and Beit El Bet. In 1997 they merged and we officcially became a town."
"How many people live here now?"
"About 5,000. On religious settlements, people don't usually talk about numbers of people because it's going up too fast. Everyone's having babies all the time, so we prefer to count families. Right now we're at 1,000 families and growing."
Workshops and Trailers in an industrial area.

"Is there a process to become a resident?"
"We used to have a committe to screen people who wanted to move here. But since Gush Katif, we've been taking pretty much anyone who wants to move in, to boost our numbers. We're a strong National Religious community, so it's assumed that anyone who moves here will probably be National Religious too."
A street in Beit El
"But I don't see any building. There are houses, and there are trailers, but nobody is building anything."
"It depends on which side of the bed [Prime Minister] Olmert wakes up on. We've lived through left wing and right wing governments from day one, and it doesn't matter what their ideology is. Everyone is afraid of the Americans, that if we build a house here the Americans might sneeze. But every now and then, we get permission to build. So we build when we can. Sometimes we wait for authorization, which can take years. Sometimes we just build and wait for retroactive authorization."
"Are you afraid of the danger?"

A Trailer Neighborhood
"We've all had incidents. I remember during the first intifada I was driving the family home through Ramallah. I heard a ping on the glass and noticed a nick. Then I saw that the passenger in the next car us was pointing a pistol at us. He had shot us! Because of the oblique angle it had hit us, the bullet had ricocheted off our windsheild. It was a miracle we weren't hurt. We also took a rock through the windsheild. I'll tell you, the rock is much more terrifying than the bullet.
"When our next door neighbor moved to Israel, is mother told him to promise her not to move to the West Bank. Anywhere but the West Bank. So he told her, 'No mum, I'm moving to Beit El. It's fine here.' Of course, she had no idea where we are. So then his mother comes to Israel to visit the family, and he brings her out to the settlement. She was very impressed. There were no locks on the doors! Four year old children walked to school by themselves! It wasn't until four days later that he let her in on the secret, 'Uh, mum, you know you're in the middle of the West Bank.'"

No comments: