Monday, January 29, 2007

The Orange Revolution

Beginning my hike through the streets of Beit El, the first thing that stands out are the orange ribbons dangling from every mirror.

It began with the destruction of Gush Katif (the Jewish community of Gaza) in 2005. Just a few months before, the world had watched the "Orange Revolution," where the people of Ukraine rose up and peacefully overthrew a government which had been accused of corruption, voter intimidation, and electoral fraud. Dubbed the "Orange Revolution" due to the 0range garb of the protestors, the idea spread to Israel. The Sharon government, which had been elected on a platform of preserving the Gaza settlements at all costs, and had now reversed course without consulting the electorate, might be overthrown or at least stopped by a popular grass-roots oppostion movement. Naturally, the government outlawed the color orange, which led to some humorous instances of foreign dignitaries being hauled out of the Knesset building for having unwittingly dressed in the forbidden color.
Of course, the movement failed, and the rest is history. But today, the "official" color of the National Religious movement is orange. Hearing an explanation of the origins of the color leads to some uncomfortable explanations. After all, the Ukranians have a long record as history's more vicious antisemites. Back during the Second World War, when the Nazis arrived in some Ukranian cities, they found that the local Ukranians had taken initiative and had already exterminated the local Jewish population before the Germans had the chance. So there are now other explanations. "Well," Sasha tells me, "the Tanach describes King David's hair color as orange."
Whatever the explanation, orange ribbons now cling to every backpack, stroller, and bicycle.

A chicken in every pot, a car in every garage, and an orange ribbon on every car.

Walking through the settlement, one feels the Shabbat (sabbath) vibe welling up from the ground, coupled with the wholesome atmosphere of a religious community.

The mens' mikveh (ritual bath)

Kids play basketball in the park.

Future Beit El basketball stars

The town has a much "looser" feel than some other settlements.

The main synagogue

Between clumps of houses, ramshakle goat pens and orchards spring up.

The place has a more open country feeling, rather than the regimented city life. If you want a manicured garden, or a productive orchard on your land, you can have that. Or if you want a burned out station wagon in your front yard that you're really planning on fixing some day when you have the time, you can have that too. Nobody is going to say anything either way. Some settlers work in the city and others work the land. Numerous cottage industries have sprung up, and some telecommute from home.

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