It’s no joke.
Shaul David Judelman is an Israeli rabbi who moved from Seattle to Bat Ayin, a religious community in the occupied West Bank.
Ziad Abed Sabateen is a Palestinian farmer who endured imprisonment during the first intifada against the Israelis more than 20 years ago and whose family was dispossessed of most of its land to accommodate Jewish settlers.
The two men are good neighbors, friends, and business partners – not enemies.
Mr. Judelman and Mr. Sabateen are committed to “peaceful coexistence” between Israelis and Palestinians, whether they live together in one state or two separate states.
The majority of those in both their camps may find it hard to understand the two men’s close relationship. But neither side repudiates them as traitors or collaborators.
“A few months ago, a Molotov cocktail was thrown at a Palestinian taxi; the client was burned very badly,” Judelman recalls, one hand clasping the zizit (knotted fringes) of his tallit (prayer shawl), the other curling his peyots (sidelocks), all symbols of his status as an ultra-Orthodox Hasidic Jew.
“Afterwards, I went with my wife to visit them. It’s like God’s design that there would be a news camera while we were there. They’ve shown a clip of me praying with the brother, one of the kids. When people in Bat Ayin saw that, they’re like, ‘What are you doing? You’re claiming the guilt….’
“But at the same time a lot of people also came forward and said, ‘Shaul, right on that you went there. It was such a good thing to do.’ Some said they also wanted to go to the hospital. So, even within the [Israeli] settlement, you have lots of different voices.”
A similar episode happened with Sabateen, who lives in the Palestinian village of Husan. “Once a kid stabbed a [Jewish] settler, and I offered to be a mediator between the families of the attacker and of the victim,” he says, his Hebrew translated into English by Judelman. “It was possible to reestablish the harmony without calling [in] the [Israeli] army, which would make matters worse. This is a method of solving problems that we are now testing.”
Recently Judelman went to meet Sabateen to trade a big empty container for two filled with Sabateen’s olive oil. They shared wide smiles and a brotherly embrace.
Afterward, they went off to inspect the soil and water of the green fields teeming with trees, flowers, herbs – and scenic hidden springs. The terrain they walked is difficult but of stunning beauty, almost like a metaphor of their comradeship.
It is here, on a mountaintop with a view of the Mediterranean Sea, that Judelman and Sabateen plan to create the Heavens Field Farm, which will put “emphasis on belonging to the land, not ownership of it,” according to their joint manifesto.
Their idea is to run an organic farm that will sell vegetables in local markets, support families in need, and attract volunteers and tourists. Among their partners are a joint Israeli Palestinian journal, called Maktub, and other nonpolitical groups such as Eretz Shalom (Land of Peace).
It will not be easy to surmount the bureaucratic and security obstacles enforced by both Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The latter discourages so-called normalization of relations before a political settlement is reached.
So “teacher-ecologist-musician” Judelman and Sabateen are trying to present their dream as a “spiritual,” not a business, endeavor.
And Sabateen is comfortable with the idea of Jews living in a Palestinian state, just as there are Arabs that live in Israel. “Yeah, sure, I accept them in Palestine, and I don’t call them ‘settlers,’ but neighbors, people like us,” Sabateen says with a laugh, putting an arm around Judelman’s shoulder. “We are Arabs, and we work in Israel; maybe Jews will serve our state, too.”
Read the whole thing.
While I feel there are some gross simplifications in this article, I do like the idea of such grassroots relationships between Israelis and palestinians.
And I am sincerely glad these men can be a model for coexistence.
Because for every story like this, I have heard way more like this.