Once again it’s Brian of London on Israellycool.
This post will be long, sorry! It’s part travelogue, part political observations but here are the highlights;
- the old left right political discussions just don’t work when Islam is the primary concern;
- I don’t care what people were, if they’re making a trip to see the disputed parts of Israel and talking with the people who live there, they’re doing the right thing;
- why is Geert Wilders not part of the group I traveled with;
- some parts of Europe actually understand Israel’s fight better than many Israelis.
If you follow my tweets, you’ll have seen a flurry of activity on the 6th of December as I toured the area known as the Shomron with a delegation of politicians from Europe. What was unusual was that these people came and entered what their media calls the “Occupied West Bank” without fear of the personal political repercussions of doing this.
Just crossing an imaginary line that lies 20 minutes drive from my house carries with it a huge political implication for many of these people back home. They will now be attacked and demonised even for making the trip: and doing it in the presence of the “Settlers” is as if they sat down and had lunch with devils.
The delegation drove up from their hotel in Ashkelon (they had toured the Gaza border and Sderot the day before). I met them at the entrance to the city (and it is a real city) of Ari’el. I have never driven there before but it’s only 30 minutes from my home (in optimum traffic) and it’s about 10 mins from the artificial border. And I live only 10 mins from the sea and can see the sea from my home.
I joined the bus and immediately noted the armored glass. Nice. [Location]
We had a guide who’d joined us on the bus, only later did I find out his interesting background. He told us of how we were following the ancient path that Abraham followed when he first entered the land of Israel. All the places along this road are mentioned in the bible. The ties of Judaism to the land just get stronger and stronger with every bend in the road.
Our first stop was the community of Elon Moreh where we were joined by Sarah. She pointed out the community center in the little town, tragically named after a family of four, all of whom were shot to death in their home by a muslim terrorist in 2002. What a contrast: the Palestinian Authority name town squares after the terrorists who murder, the Israelis name them after the victims.
The group included some people I’d met before like Filip Dewinter and Kent Ekeroth from Sweden and some I hadn’t. Arutz 7 (who accompanied the group) wrote the following:
The group included Heinz-Christian Strache, head of the German Freedom Party, who is seen as a likely candidate to become the next chancellor of Austria; Filip Dewinter of Belgium’s Vlaams Belang party; MP Frank Creyelman, who heads the Belgian Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee; René Stadtkewitz, Chairman of Germany’s Freedom Party; and Claus Pandi, editor-in-chief of Krone Zeitung, the biggest newspaper in Austria. The visit coincides with that of Dutch Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders in Israel.
Off the bus [location] we stopped and listened to the story of archeological find of Joshua’s Alter as told by our guide, Sarah. This was simultaneously translated into German by Elisabeth Sabaditch-Wolf. There’s a good version of the story she told online but one of the key points is that when excavated the only animal bones found were from kosher animals and specifically the sort described in Leviticus as being suitable for sacrifice. That would be an odd co-incidence if this land had not been inhabited by Jews.
It’s hard to explain to people who don’t make this journey that when they read about “Settlements” and “Occupied West Bank”, there is such a stunning amount of history that binds Jews to this land and this land to the Jews.
On any one trip you’ll only hear about an infinitesimal part of this!
Contrast that with the modern Palestinians who have even taken their false name from the Romans and graced it with a starting letter “P” that doesn’t exist in Arabic! Most can’t even say Palestinian: it comes out as Faleshtina!
Another important point that was made to us and was obvious standing on those hills. This is the very thin line that separates Israel’s population from death at the hands of it’s enemies. From these hills one can see all the way down to Tel Aviv and the sea. Artillery on these hills regularly shelled Tel Aviv and other parts of Israel when the land was occupied by Jordan. This land is a very precarious buffer. It’s been said before, you’ve read it before, but I want to convey to you the reality that strikes one when standing there. This is the reality that these politicians from Europe will have felt, they all “got it”.
In addition something else is clear when driving through these lands. All the Arab villages are built on the valley floors. All the Israeli towns are on the tops of the hills. This makes for some bleak and rather tricky building conditions, but obviously this is a military imperative. But it also puts to bed the lie that land or property is taken from Arabs and given to Jewish settlements. Its also abundantly clear that the land is very sparsely occupied with or without Jews.
The previous day I’d met up with the group in Ashkelon in the morning. That afternoon they toured the Gaza border and visited Sderot while I took a train back to Tel Aviv to hear Geert Wilders speak along with Aryeh Eldad. I’d sat with Filip Dewinter and his colleagues from Vlaams Belang and enjoyed a particularly fine piece of fish (good enough for Jehova I dare say!). We talked about the benefits to Israel of immigration and how amazing Israel has been at absorbing its Jewish immigrants. From the survivors of the death camps, through the refugees who fled Arab countries after 1948 and to the massive 1 million Russian Jews who joined the country in roughly 10 years. 20% population absorption in 10 years is unprecedented and barely mentioned. It’s nonsense to talk about anti-immigration. It’s the unspoken truth that some immigrants into some countries are better than others. The right sort of immigrants can always be taken.
But it does make Geert Wilder’s self imposed separation from this new wave of European counter Jihadi politicians quite odd and incongruous. I can’t blame him, the power of the press to demonise by association. Somewhere along the line, however, it’s going to be time to call them out: Filip Dewinter does not secretly harbour plans to expel all of Belgium’s Jews. It’s just plain obvious to anyone who takes the time to have a piece of fish and a good beer with him.
We moved on for a lunch held in the Yeshiva (torah study school) in Har Bracha [location] and a meeting with Rabbi Eliezer Melamed. It was here that the media conducted quite a few interviews some of which made it into a piece by Arutz Sheva: European ‘New Right’ MPs in Samaria: ‘This is Jewish Land!’.
On our drive back to Ari’el we passed the entrance to Nablus which is the ancient biblical town of Schem, site of Joseph’s tomb. Well there is a big red sign at the entrance. The sign prohibits Jews from entering the city because it is under the control of the Palestinian Authority. The explanation of this sign was, as ever, translated into German leaving Elisabeth hunting for the right word in German: could it really be “Judenrhein” written on a sign in Israel?
We returned to Ari’el where we visited the 12,000 student University. This is not a small University and it’s not temporary. Get used to it being there. It also has at least 500 Arab students and, unlike Bersheva University for example, these are not mostly Beduin. These are Arabs from Judea and Samaria: they’re not enforcing a boycott on the “settlement” of Ari’el.
While there we looked out on a massive blot on the face of Israel. It is the temporary homes that house some of the Jews evicted from their homes in Gaza. These people are still living in temporary structures: they’d been all set to begin building new homes when Obama’s crazy building freeze came into force. One can only hope that their horrendous treatment by the Israeli government will get better soon with proper compensation for the beautiful homes they were dragged from by the Jewish army. For a pointless dream of a peace that never came from a fanatically religious foe that knows not how to say thank you.
The last part of the day was a much delayed meeting with the Mayor of Ari’el. More than anyone else he is responsible for founding this amazing city which is the hub of the Shomron. He is an avowed right winger and a firm fixture in Likud. He is also fighting cancer and he pulled himself out to come and visit this group. I live tweeted the meeting and you can find a great summary on Tundra Tabloids.
The next day the party visited Yad Vashem (the Holocaust Museum) and the Knesset and I was unable to join them: sometimes your kids come ahead of saving the world! Paul Weston also wrote about this trip: Land for Peace — Or Land for a Terror State? and gave a short speech in Jerusalem: The West Needs to Wake Up.
All in all some 300,000 Israelis now live in Judea and Samaria. They don’t live in tents. It is time to come to terms with the need for Israel to be able to defend itself and the ties of the Jewish people to this land. I must admit I didn’t fully understand all this and, as usual, there is no substitute for getting boots on the ground and eyes on the. And if the experienced changed me, perhaps it helps to bring people here: no matter what your preconceptions about them.