Donnerstag, 31. Januar 2013

Distant castles

Kafr Malik, January 26, 2013

Before I went on my trip I had written a few expectations and assumptions here in this blog. I already than had been thinking that they might not survive the end of my journey. And so it happened. My crude comparison of Israelis with immigrant Americans facing the local Indians / Palestinians is wrong. In Palestine there is no young and superior culture fighting against a pre-industrial tribe of hunter-gatherers. But still - I fear that nevertheless in the western world, particularly in the U.S., an old romantic imagination is still alive thtat leeds to a missing sense ofutter injustice on behalf of the "settlements". I put them deliberately into quotation marks, because the image is wrong that sees the Israeli settler as a spiritual relative of the emigrating European of the 18th and 19 century who went out by horse and wagon to bring the potato to Idaho and the wheat to Dakota, and along with that the will to fight for his civil and religious liberties.

None of that applies to the Israelis who live in distant castles high up in the mountains knowing the country to which they came only from afar. None of them tills the land, no one brings the optimism of the Israeli kibbutznik that came after 1945 and dry-laid swamps and turned the deserts into fertile land. A part of nowadays "settlers" lives on welfare, trapped in a vicious circle of orthodox piety, exemption from military service, and non-admission to the labor market.
This type of inhabitant of a foreign country cultivates his piousness. That is laudable and the American colonists have done likewise. But other than the orthodox Jews the Christian settlers had finished a day's portion of prairie field to plow and only then opened their Bible.
Another group uses the short distance to the commercial hub of Tel Aviv to commute in the morning, and is glad not to be forced to fight with the other colleagues for the rental of expensive apartments in the Tel Aviv area.
These people are as far away from being settlers as the people in the German border town of Aachen that have moved into the nearby Belgium (a traditionally German speaking area) and find better living conditions and favorable taxes there. Compared with the Israelis these people from Aachen do not live in Belgium with the claim that under their feet the country is transformed into a part of the Federal Republic of Germany.

Why don't this pseudo-settler move a few kilometers to the south and colonize the desert around Be'er Sheva? They would make an old dream come true that the founder Ben Gurion dreamt and tried to attract all progressive Israelis towards the South, through his demonstrative move to a desert kibbutz. The reason for the unwillingness to find a living in the South is profane: the hilly country north of Jerusalem through which we have hiked in the last few days and its up to 1,000 m high mountains is the only place between the Mediterranean coast and the Kingdom of Jordan in which life in the summer is pleasant.
The sun baked Be'er Sheva is in contrast raher like the Mexican desert across the Rio Grande. Who wants to go there?

My friend Avi Deul in Tel Aviv who thinks rather liberal as a secular Jew believes that most "settlers" live in the awareness that their existence in a foreign country is only timely and limited. Eventually Israel will include their properties into a greater political bargain and return it to the Palestinians. Perhaps some of them will stay - and lead a simple and unremarked life like the people from Aachen in Belgium.

Until then, there is still a long way to go. But the path that has now been taken has no real meaning in it and will lead to nowhere. It is based on a lie, the lie that these here are "settlers".

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