IDF Bulldozer Demolishing a House in Amona (Image credit: Avi Ohayon/Government Press Office of Israel)
I revisited an outpost today, and saw the future of the country.
What is an “outpost”?
In the current Israeli context, it is usually a remote hilltop surrounded by mostly bare rolling hills as far as the eye can see. If one is an Arab or a leftist, you vehemently oppose it. If you are a proud nationalist Jew, you love it. Sometimes there is an Arab village to be seen in the distance -- or a Jewish one (the “mother ship” if you will).
They are found on government land that has not been walked upon for centuries. (This, in contrast to much of the land settled by Israelis in "pre-1967" Israel which was conquered from enemy Arabs in 1948 and from which Arabs fled).
Who lives in these places?
Young idealistic Jews whose very identity and life purpose is tightly wrapped up with the Land of Israel, its people, and its Torah -- similar to Jewish pioneers in Israel 100 years ago (perhaps minus the Torah). The big difference between today's idealists and those of a century ago? The earlier ones knew that they were adored by the Jewish masses for whom they were willing to sacrifice. The pioneers of today, however, are all too aware that they are considered public enemy number one by most of the opinion making class in Israel.
The treatment they receive from the authorities attests to that regularly. To add to their very stark living conditions, the danger of Arab violence and theft, there is also the uncertainty of their very future in the face of the Israeli establishment that can swoop down any night and flatten it all. Anything can be expected. Police have dressed as Arabs and provoked Jews - when Jews respond, they identify as police and arrest them.
Israel’s “reward” for the pioneers
Alongside the road as we continue to our destination I see dozens of Bedouin dwellings on public government land. These will probably become “thousand-year-old Palestinian villages” in a few years as part of the attempt to erase Israel. The government has a very poor record when it comes to enforcing the law with these trespassers.
Just before we drove into the grounds of Malachei Hashalom (named after two young Jews murdered by terrorists not far from the site), we passed piles of wrecked homes. These former army barracks housed the first families when I visited two years ago. To my horror, I saw the results of how Israel treats public enemy number one today.
We drive on and come to a remarkable site.The two families and at times single yeshiva men who live here are creating an oasis. Green lawns, trees, and planted flowers give this bare hilltop a beauty and sense of blessing. What green can do! In addition, there is a flock of sheep and horses.
Evacuation of Amona; Young Boy Praying at Sunrise (Image credit: Avi Ohayon/Government Press Office of Israel)
Major C. S. Jarvis, the British governor of the Sinai, said in 1923, "They say that the Arabs are the sons of the desert. I beg to differ. I have observed that they are the parents of the desert. Wherever they settle they create a desert." Things have not changed except for the palpable other side of the coin: "Wherever the Jews settle, they banish the desert.”
When we arrived, only two souls greeted us: a young mother and her infant. She is one of two families with (so far) a combined 11 children. The men work at jobs away from their home and the older children are carpooled to an established Jewish village almost an hour away.
“This is who I am”
Our hostess comes from a family of “settlers.” She had been ordered to leave a hilltop last year when leftists and Arabs demonstrated and made threats. The Israeli authorities wanted quiet so they ordered the Jews to pack up. She moved here. She feels that it is the leftist organizations, well-funded by Europe and America, that have the greatest impact on the authorities, and that the Arabs are often tools in their hands. The authorities only want quiet, she says with disappointed resignation.
"Why are you here?," I ask her. I knew the answer, I just wanted to bask in the warmth of her energy and love for the Land.
"I do it for Am Yisrael (the People of Israel) of course. But,” she said upon further reflection, "I could not do otherwise. I do it for me and my children. I could not have it any other way. This is who I am."
I knew it. I love it. That is why they are my heroes. No doubt they will lead this country soon.
What of the future? "G-d willing, it will be good. So far we have no indication of any expulsions. We are optimistic."
As we parted, I looked forward to a normal comfortable Shabbat in my secure bourgeoise community, while the two families will have to divide the night shifts for guard duty against Arab sheep thieves.
They will have one amazing story to tell their grandchildren.
Shalom Pollack, veteran licensed tour guide, is the director of Shalom Pollack Tours: Personalized Tours in Israel.