Among the settlers : 2 Parts article on Mondoweiss

“Religious-nationalism is to Religion what Nazional-Sozialism is to Socialism”

-Israel Prize Laureate, Pr Yeshayahu Leibowtitz.



Part 1 – Among the settlers


“This is the first half of a piece about my tour of four Israeli settlements in mid-January. The second half is here.

On my first night in an Israeli settlement, David served chicken soup left over from Sabbath and told me an unsettling story about the birth of Israel. His great uncle had escaped Europe to come to a Jewish kibbutz called Ein Harod. On the next hill was a Palestinian village. When hostilities broke out between Jews and Palestinians in 1948, the Jews went up to the village and announced that the next day they were bringing bulldozers to level the place, the people should leave. The next day they went back and were surprised to find that the Palestinians had all fled– fearing a massacre like the one that took place in Deir Yassin. The Jews then leveled the village and used the stones to build a stadium in their kibbutz. David said his uncle had told this story “with a twinkle in his eye.”

David was not the only settler to tell me stories of the Nakba. And the meaning was clear: A previous generation of Zionists had done terrible things to Palestinians in order to build the state of Israel. Now David and the other settlers were taking that same project– Zionism, the renewal of the Jewish people in their land—to the next part of the land of Israel. And they were doing so without destroying Palestinian villages, as their socialist predecessors had done.

The settlers told me that the great political development of the last year or two is that the Tel Aviv elite now concede that the settlers are never leaving. The elites give lip service to a Palestinian state because the world wants to hear that. But few in Jewish Israeli society even want that to happen; it would tear the country apart.


– See more at: Among the settlers – Mondoweiss.


Part 2 – The World Settlers Made


“This is the second half of a piece about my tour of four Israeli settlements in mid-January. The first half is here.


The first order of business in my third settlement is to get a bottle of wine. Avi drives me down the hill to visit the wine presses of a fellow American immigrant. We pass a group of Palestinian workers leaving a building site with a Jewish security guard and Avi shakes his head over the practice.

From the window of my room in Shiloh settlement, I took this photo of Palestinian workers at the unfinished house across the way, awaiting their ride back to settlement gates at end of day. January 15, 2016 (Photo: Philip Weiss)

“The policy here is you can’t employ Palestinians from neighboring villages because they will get to know Shiloh too well and if they ever pop off, they will know the community’s vulnerabilities,” he explains. “Though why you would want to hire people who want to kill you– I don’t understand it.”

The winemaker has a substantial workshop with a pergola, a studio, and a lordly view. He beats me for $20 for his Merlot. “No sulfides,” Avi says. “And the yeast isn’t added. It’s the yeast that God put on the grapes.”

Avi’s religiosity mixes with the lithe boyish movements of a former dancer. He grew up outside Chicago and wears jeans and a rough cotton shirt and a skullcap. In the U.S. he would read bohemian/outdoorsy. You’d never think he has seven children.

We sit in the kitchen with two of his grand-daughters, then when the sun goes down he pours shot glasses of bourbon that he and a neighbor distilled, and tells me his story. It is utterly plausible, though formed by strong currents: Avi’s objections to American materialism, assimilation and anti-semitism. When Avi was young, a neighboring boy told him he wanted to be president. “President Feigenbaum? Really?” Later his dance company wouldn’t let him take off for the Sabbath, and he understood that Americans didn’t tolerate Jewish culture. And the American treatment of women seemed disrespectful to him. His New Jersey-born wife Rachel covers her hair, because the hair is something only a husband should see. Avi was fervently against the Vietnam War and the whole idea of guns, but when he came over here he didn’t feel that way at all, and joined the army for the sake of the Jewish people.


See more at: The world the settlers made – Mondoweiss.


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