Latest posts by Varda Epstein (see all)
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I have lived in Israel for 34 years and in Judea for the past 24 years. When I first moved out to a hilltop settlement in Judea, I was a political infant. I had no idea I was doing something controversial.
Living on that hilltop there was not much to do but raise my many children, keep my house clean, and read. I read a lot. I read the history of the place where I now lived.
The more I read, the more confused I felt. Why would anyone call me an “occupier?” I could not find any justification for the application of the term. There was no legal, moral, or historic reason for using this term. According to Judeo-Christian tenets, there was also no religious justification for the claim that I occupied land not my own.
The Islamic Argument
The only argument in favor of labeling me “occupier” was the Islamic argument. That was the argument that land once in the hands of Muslims must be conquered by them once more. That was the argument that the entire world must be one Islamic Umma, a Muslim Caliphate under Sharia law.
Any other rationale for calling Jews, the indigenous people of the land, occupiers, was spurious, on shaky ground, and represented conscious deceit or ignorance (which is what “spurious” means, after all). At a certain point, my confusion cleared and I felt strong and filled with purpose. It was clear to me that Judea belonged to me and my people from the beginning of time until the end.
Living where I live is a beautiful, amazing thing. I am blessed. I am chosen.
Other People Want Them
And so it is that I feel my insides twist when I read about Jewish homes razed by government officials in the areas some call “disputed territories.” The territories are only in dispute because other people want them.
They can want.
It won’t change anything. No matter whom they kill.
And so it was that I felt that familiar gut twist as I read about the Lazar home in Yitzhar, in Samaria. Today Israeli security forces demolished a brand new home worth $140,000. The family, a set of parents and five children, had been slated to move into their dream home on Sunday.
I imagine the idea was that they would be in their new home for the Passover holiday, which arrives one week later. Passover is the holiday of freedom. Of newness and spring. A kind of new year. But for Avi and Shoshana Lazar, as well as their children, it will henceforth remain a time of shattered visions and demolished hope.
I do not understand why the government waited UNTIL the building was finished, to come and render it rubble.
And again, I cannot figure out why building a home seems to anyone, least of all the Israeli government, a provocation, a war-like act. I don’t understand how it is that anyone can say that Jews have no right to build homes here or there. Isn’t this a form of prejudice? If you told a black person that he couldn’t live on Nob Hill, would it be different somehow?
It would be different. It would be different because Nob Hill is not that person’s indigenous territory. So it would only be a matter of bigotry.
In the case of denying Jews the right to build homes in and live in Judea and Samaria, you have bigotry plus other stuff. You’re denying them their indigenous rights. And you’re saying they can’t live somewhere because of their religion.
The Original Heartland
You don’t have to be a believer to know that Judea and Samaria were the original Jewish heartland. If it is science that turns you on, go to the museum and see the archaeological evidence that Jews lived in these parts thousands of years ago. If it is history that turns you on, read history books about the ancient Jewish imprimatur of the area.
Once you satisfy yourself, as I satisfied my own desire to know the truth about the “disputed territories” then know it in your bones: the occupation is a false and bigoted narrative. Don’t support it with your money. Don’t believe what you read and hear but ask questions and use your critical thinking skills.
It’s time to stop believing the lies and get behind the rights of the Jews to live in their own territory—all of it. It’s time to support the notion with or without your wallet and your votes as the case may be. If the government of Israel supports the destruction of Jewish homes on Jewish land, then we must, at the very least, protest.
Peace Is Submission
As for the idea that building homes or living in Judea and Samaria prevents peace, it is only the Islamic form of peace that is prevented. The Islamic form of peace is submission to Allah by conversion or death. So if Jews remain Jews and remain alive there will be no Islamic peace. Therefore the Arabs will continue to kill them until they are either all Muslim or all dead.
That is how they roll.
Building homes in Judea and Samaria, Jews living there, is a slap in the face to Islam from this Muslim point of view. That Jews have the sheer audacity to thrive while remaining Jews, to carve out comfortable living spaces for themselves cannot be countenanced. To the Muslim mind, Jews must all be killed. They must not be allowed to live, let alone in comfort and in freedom on land that Muslims covet.
Peace Is Death
So the fact that we build homes in Judea and Samaria and live there, means they have to keep killing us. Because that’s the only way to bring about the Islamic peace in which all submit by hook or by crook to Allah. Those settler homes are proof that Jews have not thrown in the towel and submitted to Allah. And this is seen by Arabs as the absence of peace. Peace only comes through expelling and killing Jews and other infidels.
That is peace to them.
Peace for me, on the other hand, is when all people can live wherever they can afford to build homes or rent apartments. Peace for me is when the government doesn’t raze homes that were built legally by Israeli citizens, unannounced, on a whim, because someone wants to impress John Kerry or placate an Arab official.
Peace for me is the knowledge that no one wants to kill me or anyone I know. Peace is not looking under my seat on a bus to make sure there’s no suspicious bomb-like package beneath. Peace is not looking at the other passengers to make sure no one looks out of place. Peace means not having to pack a gun when my family piles in the car to attend a wedding or go to the mall.
Peace means no need to stop Arab ambulances to make sure there are no bombs under sick people on stretchers. Peace means no Upworthy clips about imaginary scenarios in which Arabs can’t get treatment because of the security wall and the checkpoints Arab violence against Jews necessitates. Peace means not sending my 8 sons to wear uniforms or go to war.
Peace is the freedom to breathe free in my own land without fear.
The Arabs? They have Gaza. They have Jordan which is over 80% “Palestinian.” There are 21 other Arab states besides.
But us Jews have just this one tiny sliver of land the size of New Jersey. And even if it means I will never be free to live in peace, I will still live here, stiff-necked, in love with my land, in gratitude.