On Tuesday, June 30th, Peace Now volunteers and activists visited the West Bank to document settlement construction.
The following report was written by Peace Now interns Adie Angrist and Noam Angrist.
It was the muggiest day of the week in Tel-Aviv and Noa’s car was a sauna. But we had an important mission to accomplish and thank goodness for that.
After a fifteen minute drive we arrived in Modi’in Illit, a settlement inhabited by 40,000 ultra-orthodox settlers, knitted kippa clipped in place and all. During our orientation, Sagi, who was helping to direct the Peace Now operation, explained that Modi’in Illit was what many Israelis called: “settlement light,” the moral equivalent of 1% milk or “camel light.” A sign surrounded by flowers greeted us on our way in. A town moving to the beat of its ongoing construction, Modi’in Ilit appears an intrinsic part of Eretz Yisrael. Ignored by the settlers, we documented the obvious expansion of the town: apartment buildings, schools, security structures and even a playground.
I was most impressed by the transportation system built for the settlements. Unlike with the obscene amounts of traffic typical of most Israeli highways, driving to and through the settlements was a pleasant experience. The beautifully paved roads marked with fresh paint and nestled in between two rocky mountain slopes made the ride both comfortable and scenic. But some roads led to the middle of nowhere. The buses in Modi’in Illit had routes taking residents to areas of the settlement that hadn’t even been completed. Some of these roads led to a meager population of 250; and most of these roads, which the country has invested millions of dollars building, experienced the wear and tear of five cars a day, max.
Driving into Nili we passed a billboard: “Living on the Hill is Living Well”, it read. A picture of a cottage overlooking an expanse of land complemented the slogan. In Nili, we saw more construction but, more notably, the appeal of living in such a community was obvious. In many ways the settlement contains the qualities of a kibbutz except with larger houses and without the communal dining room. The community seems small and tightly knit. There is something ironically comforting about this place: the houses are big, the gardens groomed the neighborhood safe and furthermore, perpetually protected by the Israeli Defense Forces. The sense that living here is illegal by international law is overshadowed by the perks of living in such a clean, well-kept place.
Seeing how appealing these neighborhoods are raises the question of what the continued expansion of these settlements means for Israel’s interest in a peaceful, two-state solution. The more these communities grow, the more embedded the society living within them will become and the harder it will be for Israel’s leaders to dismantle these blocs of ‘illegal paradise’.
It is important to note that some volunteers were met with hostility by the settlers. For the full Channel 2 story visit: http://peacenow.org.il/site/en/peace.asp?pi=585&docid=3727
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