Nadia Matar: Proclaiming Sovereignty With Might, Genius, And Not A Little Sechel

Nadia Matar is badass and cultured, refined and tough, and burning hot with Zionist fervor. So it was par for the course that when the rest of Israel wept and cursed by turns at the anti-Semitic murder of our boys, Gilad, Eyal, and Naftali, May Hashem avenge their blood, she got busy in a more positive direction. It came as no surprise to me to see her announcement in the efrat-chat Yahoo group:

As a Zionist answer to the despicable murder of our three boys, a pioneering group of Jews headed by Women in Green went up in the night to Givat Oz – a hilltop overlooking Tzomet HaGush – in order to create a new Jewish presence in the area. As since the beginning of Zionism, the land of Israel is sometimes built with blood and tears. The hill is adjacent to the historical community of Migdal Eder, which was dismantled in 1927, in a forest near to Bet Fajjar, on approved State land. The pioneers cleaned out an abandoned structure on the site and settled it, calling upon the government to immediately apply sovereignty, starting with Hevron and Gush Etzion. This call was made by the Women and Green, together with the Professors for a Strong Israel, headed by Aryeh Eldad and Matot Arim.

I had attended the rally at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv so filled with life and hope and then so shortly after stood in the hot son for hours, body to body with my brothers and sisters at the funeral of our dear martyrs. It was only fitting then, that I capped off my week with a visit to Givat Oz V’Gaon, a hilltop outpost, its name containing an acronym for Gilad, Eyal, and Naftali (HY”D).

Oz is “might” and Gaon is “excellence,” perfectly descriptive of the Jewish nation that has outlived every last one of its enemies and has achieved accomplishments in every sphere, in distinct disproportion to its minority status.

I wanted to write about something positive now and Leora “probably my best friend” Hyman, offered to drive me to the fledgling settlement, a short distance away from my home. We parked just outside the outpost, in the rocky dust, baked dry by the sun, and a few steps later stepped into another world, a sylvan setting teeming with energy and life.

Leora and Daisy

Leora “probably my best friend” Hyman and her dog Daisy.

I breathed in the pine-scented air and stole a minute to take in and appreciate the beauty of this place.

As always, there’s something extra. I could visit a forest anywhere else in the world and it would not feel like this. Nowhere else is this added dimension of knowing: This is mine. This is God-given. This is holy.

Nowhere else does my heart swell with love to see a tree, a rock, or the earth itself.

There were babies and parents, siblings and moms. We had arrived during a scheduled arts and crafts session for the little ones. People were eating pizza and all sorts of random donated food.

Jews and food. They go together. There was nonstop traffic, with locals bringing in crates and cartons and boxes of food and drink for the new residents of the new neighborhood. Everyone wants to be a part of this. It’s beautiful.

“This!” I thought, “This instead of the cries for revenge that are just angry steam venting into the air and dissipating into nothingness.”

Nadia was busy, always busy. Talking to security people, taking phone calls, greeting dignitaries, and calling out to a young boy to come down off the side of the building he was scaling (the lone permanent structure at Givat Oz V’Gaon, an old British blockhouse), right now.

Leora and I waited patiently, chatting with the locals. I was snapping photos with my phone and the children asked me why. I told them I was a writer and their eyes went round. “Will this be in a newspaper? Which one?” they asked.

Not wanting to confuse them with the specifics of blogging, I told them, “Kol minei,” (all kinds). After that, kids kept coming up to me, asking me to take their photos, and striking unnatural poses. It made me laugh. It made me think that in the U.S., parents would be warning me off. But here, the entire point is to be out there, loud and proud of a nation-building endeavor. Everyone was happy that I would be giving them positive exposure.

Nadia and I spoke at length, and as we talked, she would politely excuse herself to greet the continuous stream of newcomers bearing food, support, and love. Rabbi Israel Rozen, director of the Zomet Institute arrived, and I was honored to be introduced to him. Nadia listed all the dignitaries that had visited thus far.  Mayors, chiefs of police, top army officials, members of Knesset, and Rabbi Nachman Kahana (who came bearing a ceiling fan for the comfort of the residents and their visitors).

There were tents, porta-potties, a generator, jerry cans of water, a loudspeaker, prayer books, a Torah scroll, and a vast tarpaulin awning to provide shade from the summer sun, all items purchased with donations to Women in Green over the years.

Nadia gave me a rundown of how the organization she heads in tandem with Yehudit Katsover, Women in Green, morphed from a protest organization in the Oslo years to one dedicated to saving Judea and Samaria by reinforcing the Jewish presence in this area. While she shoots out the details, which I hurriedly jot down, she takes a call from her husband and then tells me to make sure I write in my piece that without the support of their husbands, she and Yehudit could not possibly do this work. It’s hard on the husbands, but they know this work is for the sake of Israel and they never complain.

Next Nadia describes for me the history of the area which was the site of a Yemenite Jewish community, Migdal Eder, from 1927-1929, and which was subsequently destroyed during the Arab pogroms. The territory is designated as state land and consists of two hills, the other one in view from where we sit. It is that hill in the distance that is referenced in Micah as the site from whence the Messiah will come and the reason those Yemenite Jews desired strongly to settle here.  Coincidentally, the site overlooks the locus of the kidnapping and subsequent murder of the three youths for which this outpost is named.

I mention to Nadia my confusion about the cries for the annexation of Judea and Samaria. “When Jordan captured the area, only two nations regarded the Jordanian presence as a legal occupation: Great Britain and Pakistan. Why then do we need to annex these areas? They’re already ours! Why not simply apply civil law?”

“Ah,” said Nadia. “You bring up an important point. You’re right. There’s no need to annex these territories, we only need to apply the law. We only need to declare our sovereignty over Judea and Samaria.

“Annexation would just be giving the impression we’re taking something that doesn’t belong to us and that’s not the case here,” and with that Nadia handed me a newspaper produced by Women in Green, pointing out the name of this publication, “Sovereignty.”

We talk about the word “settler.” Nadia prefers the word “inheritor.” I raise my eyebrows, quizzical. She explaines, “The root of the Hebrew word for ‘settler,’ ‘mitnachel,’ comes from the word, ‘nachala’ which means, ‘inheritance.’ This land is our inheritance. We’re not ‘settlers!’ We’re inheritors!”

I nod. No argument here. Nadia has sechel, common sense.

A Story

Nadia said, “Let me tell you a story. I met a woman, Naomi Solomon, a photographer, during the Expulsion [from Gush Katif]. She eventually went back to California but on one visit back to Israel she said to me, ‘Nadia, take me some place special. I need to refill my Jewish kishkes with kedusha, holiness.’

“So I took her to Maale Rehavam, an outpost founded in 2001. When we arrived, Naomi said, ‘Nadia! How did you know? This place is like my spiritual mother, my beginnings as a Jew! How could you possibly have known?’

“It turns out that Naomi came to Israel for the first time in 2001, as a young secular Jew. She had this idea to do a series of photographs of a settlement. She asked around and got a list of names of suitable places to do her project and decided on Maale Rehavam, which had just been founded in memory of Rehavam Zeevi, an MK that had been assassinated by terrorists. Naomi drove up to the outpost in her heels and city clothes and snapped her photos.

Why Do This?

“As she was about to leave, she asked one of the residents, a young secular man, ‘Tell me: what made you want to be here, to settle the land?’

“In his heavily Israeli-accented English he said, ‘Come. I will show you.’

“He took a shovel and motioned to Naomi to follow him. He chose a spot and began to dig. Naomi got nervous. What was he going to do, she wondered?

“He dug and dug and at last, said to Naomi, ‘Open your hands.’

“She opened her hands and he filled them with the fresh-dug soil.

“He said, ‘Look at it.’

“She looked at it.

“’This is the land that God gave us. Breathe it.’

“Naomi leaned in and breathed in the scent. ‘At that moment,’ said Naomi, ‘I felt all our Jewish history enter me—fill me up.

“’From that moment on, I was a believer. It’s how I became religious! By way of this secular settler, not a religious man, who gave me a sense of my identity—my connection to the soil!’”

Goosebumps

I shivered, the hairs on my arms standing up for about the 7th time during my visit. “Wow,” I said, too blown away to think of anything clever to say.

I thanked Nadia for her time and Leora and I walked slowly back to her car. As we left, I had this feeling, kind of like leaving the Western Wall, a sort of regret or loss perhaps, on leaving a place of kedusha, of holiness.

“This,” I thought. “This is ‘Eretz Yisrael hayafeh,’ the beautiful Israel.”

And I felt once again, how privileged I was to live at the center of the world, where everything is important and imbued with spirit.

 

 

 

About Varda Epstein

A third-generation-born Pittsburgher on her mother’s mother’s side, Varda moved to Israel 34 years ago and is a crazy political animal who spams people with right wing political articles on Facebook in between writing about education as the communications writer at Kars for Kids, raising her 12 children, and noshing constantly on fried food

Facebook Comments

  • Jim from Iowa

    Go ahead, settle your God-given land on your own initiative without the support and sanctioning of the Israeli government. What could go wrong?

    • http://www.israellycool.com/ Brian of London

      Tell me, how right has it gone with the government sanctioned land? There’s nobody on it, the state owns it, whats wrong with living on it?

      • Inessa

        Apart from the fact that it’s squatting, the main thing wrong with it is that the IDF cannot protect them properly. Also, if deemed illegal by the government, the IDF get charged with dismantling these outposts. It’s not smart to use precious resources of an exceptionally trained army on this and it’s horrible for everyone to have Jew pitted against Jew. In theory this is beautiful – life and rebirth to commemorate the boys, but as soon as I read this, I was reminded of Netanyahu’s words after the Fogel murder “we build, they kill” or something to this effect. I’m not saying the Fogels lived in anything similar to this, but without government support, it would be an even greater risk to people’s lives.

        • http://www.kars4kids.org/blog Varda Meyers Epstein

          Inessa, sometimes principles are worth the risk, even to life and limb. We vote in a right wing government and get left wing policy. We voted against Disengagement and got it anyway. 8,500 Jews were expelled and now we have a constant barrage of rockets on Sderot.

          Before Disengagement, I might have agreed with you about resources and about taking matters into our own hands.

          I no longer do.

          • Inessa

            That’s fine, and I don’t really have much of a right to an opinion as I don’t live in Israel, but here are my two cents anyway:
            The left wing policy was a result of the right wing government trying to be centrist, which I believe it should do. Jews have a great affinity for empathy and self blame which sometimes goes to the ridiculous. What is happening in Sderot is terrible, but it is squarely the fault of Hamas and the Palestenians in Gaza, not the Israeli government. Yes the decision was made by Sharon. Yes the outcome was not what he anticipated. Yes he carries blame for not predicting the predictable, but the perpetrators of the crime are the Palestenians. The enablers of the crimes are the US and European powers who have not held the Palestenians accountable, who have not pressured them to stop the radicalisation, incitement and hate. Without this, there is no policy which will be successful. Each time I think Israel has finally demonstrated to the world that we have the moral high ground, that they do not intend to honour any peace notion, that the world should get behind Israel, I get so deflated. Sderot should have proven it. The Fogel murder. The outlandish swap of over 1000 murderers for one precious life. But there is nothing that will convince the world of our righteousness and their depravity. Facts don’t matter. It depends what risk is taken for principles, and the risk of more children’s blood spilled is not worth it. Because having more small outposts will not bring about annexation in any real way and it will expose people to more violence. I don’t think Israel has any tangible options in the short term. Unfortunately the Palestenian Arabs’ presence in Judea, Samaria and anywhere they amass is toxic to our health. I think the wisest choice at least in the short term, is to create as much of a buffer zone as possible. Better to have “no man’s land” than to pay with our children’s lives. Sure, push them back but don’t let Jews be human shields in these places.

            • Inessa

              I would also suggest the Israeli government be pushed to improve infrastructure. Improve public transport, increase taxis, whatever it takes. Keep stubbornly surviving by keeping safe. It would be easier to provide army run transport to those areas more remote, than to have an army trying to protect small outposts in areas where there is even less infrastructure.

        • mzk1_1

          May I suggest studying the mandate?

    • mzk1_1

      I’m not crazy about “illegal” settlements, but why the heck can’t somebody build a porch on his house, or people build the homes already approved, and into which they’ve sunk their life savings, because someone sneezed in Washington?

    • mzk1_1

      BTW, since you believe in a “two-state solution”, the best way I could think to achieve one would be for Israel to plan, and Washington to support, completely brand new settlements (not the usual building on existing ones – like in E1 – or in Jerusalem). That is more likely to bring Abbas running to the table than anything else I can imagine.

  • NormanF

    More to the point, waiting from the idiots and cowards in Jerusalem for permission to build isn’t the solution.

    If the Jews had to wait for permission from the British, they wouldn’t have had a state today.

    Go and build! The rest will follow.

    • http://www.kars4kids.org/blog Varda Meyers Epstein

      God willing! :-)

    • mzk1_1

      One block over from my apartment is the street where we shop. It is called Chanita. When my father saw the street, he told me the story of Chanita, where the British wanted to tear down the “illegal settlement”, and people came from all over the country to support them. The British backed down; Chanita is still up there in the Galil.

      I do not judge the decision to expel Gush Katif, but the comparison is still a bit chilling. (And try going to the museum without your eyes tearing up.)

  • monochromemonitor

    The best solution is to “inherit” Judea and Samaria and give all the “Palestinians” there permanent residence, letting them apply for citizenship. The UN would b1tch about it but their quality of life would instantly improve. That way we could end this farcial “peace process”.

    • Inessa

      In an ideal and fair world, that would work. In reality, there is physically no way to expell people when no one is willing to accept them, and when a world organisation exists for the sole purpose of having them stay refugees in perpetuity. Expelling people has only worked when those people were Jews. Having them stay but with some form of permanent residency does not change the facts on the ground from the current situation. It’s not like you would risk moving Jews in their midst. Yes, ceding more areas in the West Bank will create another Gaza, but annexation of any form will hardly change the current situation. Look at east Jerusalem – in principle we talk of a united Jerusalem, but do we really want to expand the areas where on any given day a massive stone kills your child in their secure child seat, or the whole family? In addition to the current situation, Israel would risk crippling sanctions (as unfair as that would be), and even Egypt and Jordan breaking their peace agreements. I would argue for building more walls, keeping them as far away as possible. Maybe put factories or sewerage plants there (heavily reinforced), but don’t move children closer to rabid animals.

  • sjs

    Lately, there has been a rash of articles on this site promoting the “one state solution” and the annexation of the West Bank or ,Judea and Samaria, if you prefer. I honestly question how some of the authors on this blog could be so supportive of this idea. Have they considered all the possible ramifications of such an action?

    Have you considered the demographic ramifications that millions of Palestinians would erode Israel’s Jewish majority. Also, to truly grant equal citizenship means to grant them freedom of movement within Israel proper. Just as you wish to settle and move to any part of the west bank, they too would be able to move to any part of Israel. Do you really feel comfortable with thousands of Palestinians, who don’t have warm feelings inside for Jews moving to cities like Tel-Aviv, or Ashkelon. Annexation would undoubtedly lead to more sectarian violence on par with Iraq and Syria. There is simply too much distrust between the two peoples. A good divorce is better than a failed marriage.

    We should be looking to disentangle ourselves from the Palestinians as much as possible, rather than merging the two nations into one country that would undoubtedly spiral into a disastrous civil war.

    Your lust, and I would describe it as lust, for parts of Judea and Samaria is frankly dangerous to the idea of Zionism. I care about the people of Israel, and the idea of a strong Israel where Jewish culture can thrive. Not of a zionism that is religiously motivated to gain any parcel of land once settled by Jews, only to imperil the lives of its Jewish citizens. It would be nice to see this site include authors from centrist or left-leaning political outlooks and not just religious or right-wing perspectives. After all, I remember Aussie Dave once saying that the authors on this site all have one thing in common -their love for Israel. Do individuals from the centre-left of the Israeli political spectrum (Yesh Atid, Labor, Merez..etc) not share in this love?

    • Inessa

      I can’t really speak for any of the authors, but I believe they support annexation while not necessarily giving anyone citizenship – either expulsion (no idea where) or citizenship on individual basis conditional to accepting rules that most of the Palestenian Arabs will not accept, or some form of permanent residency. It is not a lust, it is a position of “This land was inherited by us way before your people came along, and before your religion existed. We are willing to give some of it up, so that we can live in peace. But we will not forget that we are giving up our precious land and it would not be your right but a privilege. However, if we do not get peace and security in return, and especially if you demonstrate that gaining any control over what we consider our land, does not satisfy your lust for Jewish blood we will not sacrifice our land”.
      It’s not so much that left parties don’t love Israel, it’s that they seem to have limitless empathy and compassion mixed with foolish naivity and misguided faith in humanity. They foolishly assume that the other side reason as they do and ultimately want peace. They reason that a people who went through the Holocaust cannot but act humanely. They ignore the fact that the Palestenians have not provided any plans of how they envision their state beyond the outline of borders – ie that it will not be a country for all Palestenian refugees to call home. They ignore that Palestenians are not giving up their “Right of Return” to the Jewish state while demanding their own state. They close their eyes to inconvenient truths to the extent that verges on mass Stockholm Syndrome. A Two State solution for two People would seem the only reasonable option except for the fact that at least a significant part of one of those People is only interested in exterminating the other, is not willing to take any steps to co-existence or normalisation, and reasonable solutions cannot be applied to people who are not reasonable. It is heartbreaking, but it is a reality that should not be ignored.

      • http://www.kars4kids.org/blog Varda Meyers Epstein

        I do not support annexation, as my article makes clear.

        • Inessa

          Feel free to substitute “declare sovereignty” for annexation. In principle, I agree – the land is inherently Israel’s. Yes, only 2 countries didn’t view Jordan’s “occupation” as illegal, and yes, the so called borders are armistice lines and not agreed borders. However, as I see it, one problem is that while Jordan occupied the land (illegally), it can only be argued that it captured it from Israel, if one accepts that all land not accepted originally by the Arabs as part of the Partition plan should revert to Israel. The other main problem, is that most of this land currently is effectively populated by barbaric fanatics seeking to kill Jews. Wishing to give them the choice to behave or leave doesn’t make this a realistic future and placing families or even soldiers near them is a risk to all these people’s lives. The left and centre may not be as numerous as they are vocal, but there are still many who will not tolerate sending their 18 year olds to risk life to protect those who wish to stand with their principles. There needs to be a way to protect the area before letting the communities take root.

        • Inessa

          Feel free to substitute “declare sovereignty” for annexation. In principle, I agree – the land is inherently Israel’s. Yes, only 2 countries didn’t view Jordan’s “occupation” as illegal, and yes, the so called borders are armistice lines and not agreed borders. However, as I see it, one problem is that while Jordan occupied the land (illegally), it can only be argued that it captured it from Israel, if one accepts that all land not accepted originally by the Arabs as part of the Partition plan should revert to Israel. The other main problem, is that most of this land currently is effectively populated by barbaric fanatics seeking to kill Jews. Wishing to give them the choice to behave or leave doesn’t make this a realistic future and placing families or even soldiers near them is a risk to all these people’s lives. The left and centre may not be as numerous as they are vocal, but there are still many who will not tolerate sending their 18 year olds to risk life to protect those who wish to stand with their principles. There needs to be a way to protect the area before letting the communities take root.

          • http://www.kars4kids.org/blog Varda Meyers Epstein

            Here’s what you probably don’t know. The area I wrote about is walking distance from my home. There have been several night time shooting incidents here that largely went unreported. This is what the Arabs do when they see that Jews are not using approved State land for building. They take it over themselves. That is why Nadia and Yehudit chose this area to establish a Jewish presence. This outpost is adjacent to both Migdal Oz and Efrat. If we don’t take the area, the Arabs will continue to shoot at the people of Migdal Oz and Efrat. If we establish a presence in between these two communities, they won’t be able to encroach and shoot at the Jewish residents of the surrounding communities.

          • http://www.kars4kids.org/blog Varda Meyers Epstein

            Here’s what you probably don’t know. The area I wrote about is walking distance from my home. There have been several night time shooting incidents here that largely went unreported. This is what the Arabs do when they see that Jews are not using approved State land for building. They take it over themselves. That is why Nadia and Yehudit chose this area to establish a Jewish presence. This outpost is adjacent to both Migdal Oz and Efrat. If we don’t take the area, the Arabs will continue to shoot at the people of Migdal Oz and Efrat. If we establish a presence in between these two communities, they won’t be able to encroach and shoot at the Jewish residents of the surrounding communities.

    • Inessa

      This would not be a good divorce, this would be a divorce where one partner would continue to abuse the other, even trying to kill them.

    • http://www.kars4kids.org/blog Varda Meyers Epstein

      sjs, I am sorry you did not more carefully read my piece. I wrote that there is no need for annexation and my interview subject, Nadia Matar, agrees.

      My only motivation is my soul, my spirit, and my rights. I have no interest in a one-state solution or merging with Arabs.

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