Making Aliyah to the West Bank: Touchdown!

August 20, 2009 by

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Driving through our new neighborhood and surrounding areas – we are about 20 minutes east of Jerusalem – one is surrounded by the beauty and quiet of the Judean hills. When you watch the steady stream of cars and buses in each direction, it is hard to imagine that anyone would think of this area as anything other than just another part of Israel – and yet there are clear signs that we are in a separate place. The West Bank.

I still think about the signs, posters and graffiti that I saw in our first few days here. There is graffiti stating ‘Kahane was right’, ‘Gush Katif – we won’t forget and we won’t forgive’ and other notations indicating the right-wing leanings of the residents here. Bumper stickers tell a similar tale. There were also printed posters telling America to mind its own business and some hardline statements toward Obama and his recent demands on Israel. Seeing these posters as a brand new olah from America gave me mixed feelings – or perhaps just a weird feeling. Even though I agreed with many of these sentiments and left much of my life behind in America to become Israeli, and want to feel like an Israeli, I still feel like an American.

The streets of our yishuv [settlement] are closed to traffic on Shabbat, and the only car that is seen then is the security vehichle that drives around 24/7. When we travel into Jerusalem, we pass through a checkpoint that looks like a tollbooth. When we order furniture or a refrigerator to be delivered, stores charge 250 – 300 shekels more for delivery because we are over the green line. It’s not like they bring our stuff in a different truck, or bring a security guard with them, and it’s not like we are hundreds of kilometers away. They charge an extra fee because they can.

We are still settling in. As much as our new home and yishuv feel very much like home, we have only been here two weeks and I feel like we are all still in a bit of ‘vacation’ mode. I think real life will start to set in around September 1st with the start of the school year. And with the start of school, I feel like my kids – even thought they’re still young – will be talking to their peers about things they hear about – things that are part of the reality here.

And so I wonder how I will deal with the big picture questions my kids will ask about bombs, rockets and what the green line is all about. I wonder how I will explain to them why some people use the term “Occupied Territory.” I wonder how I will explain to my kids what a “Palestinian” is.

I feel strongly that this land is ours, that we have every right to live here and that we must do everything possible to hold on to this land. I want my kids to feel the same way I do, and to ascribe to the same beliefs as I do – doesn’t every parent? But I also feel that it’s important to teach all sides of the story so that people learn to look at an issue from all angles.

And sitting here now, I wonder if that is always possible.

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