Those in power know that without the presence of Jews in Judea, Samaria and Gaza the situation would be worse.
I was still a teenager when in 1966 I first visited Amatzia, a moshav on Israel's border facing the Hebron Hills. A few months later I would spend a full half-year there, working its fields and riding its herd of beef cattle. The security situation then was dangerous. Infiltrations were rampant. Our fields were occasionally damaged and our livestock stolen. On Independence Day Eve the community was penetrated. An empty house was partially destroyed by explosives laid by Arab terrorists.
The Arabs were violently opposed to a Jewish presence in the Jewish homeland. But I and the permanent residents were Zionist pioneers. We accepted the reality. As pioneers we deserved and received public support. That was the fact of our lives. We were settling the land, developing its potential and protecting other communities, those located in the "middle" of the country.
We were following in the paths of many thousands before us from both sides of the political spectrum who had asserted a Jewish presence in the Jewish homeland during previous generations.The army cooperated fully with us and our needs. We devoted many hours each month to guard duty. The return trip from Kiryat Gat at night was hazardous. Social and cultural activities were rare and our relative isolation was yet another burden.
But we were Zionist pioneers and that was something to be proud of. Thirty years later my 15-year-old son Nedavya watched me attempting to dislodge trespassers out to destroy Jewish agriculture and irrigation equipment while he extinguished blazing fields set afire by enemies of a Jewish presence in the Jewish homeland. He saw many dozens of Arabs storm the area under cultivation. They tore down two fences, lit fires, uprooted olive saplings and broke others. They threw rocks and brandished sticks.
Nedavya witnessed, as I did a generation ago and as did others in earlier generations, Arab violence against so-called "settlements." And so the cycle continues. That "settlements" are an obstacle is nothing new in the Zionist lexicon. In 1920 the Jewish "settlement" in Jerusalem was attacked by Arab rioters; a year later the Jewish "settlement" in Jaffa was attacked. Kibbutzim and cities were "settlements." And "settlers" were haredim slaughtered in Hebron and ideological secularists in the Jezreel Valley. Yet there will always be a future to the concept of settling the Land.
FOREIGN observers and Jewish opponents to a Jewish presence throughout the Jewish homeland are quite interested these days in whether the communities of Judea, Samaria and Gaza are to expand. Of course they will. Former government edicts will be invalidated. Projects will be unfrozen. Certain essentials that only government can provide will be made available and private investors and entrepreneurs will be invited to help.
An attitude of empathy and admiration will be forthcoming from Binyamin Netanyahu's coalition. That's what he promised; that's what we expect. Unlike some pronouncements made recently regarding a major population growth, most of the residents of Judea, Samaria and Gaza are aware that the heady days of the mid-1980s cannot be repeated.
The Oslo accords hang, albatross-like, around the prime minister's neck. President Clinton's peace team keeps up the pressure. Arabs, like those in Shilo last week, will seek to create provocations. Nevertheless, those in power know that without the presence of Jews in Judea, Samaria and Gaza the situation would be worse. In the first instance, if the communities are at all an "obstacle," they are an obstacle to an independent PLO state, the creation of which would be existentially inimical to Israel.
Secondly, Israel cannot continue simply on the basis of a "New Middle East" vision combined with the thrust of academic "post-Zionism." The linking of these two ideals is a destructive force. The return to basics, to the fundamental imperatives of Zionism as exemplified by some 150,000 Judea, Samaria and Gaza residents in over 140 communities is not only inspiring.
It is the soul of what this country is.
I have full confidence that my son will overcome the scene he witnessed. I do not believe that his psyche was damaged or that the humanist values we instilled in him will be injured. I am not elated that he is replaying elements of the Arab-Jewish conflict. But I have faith that he and his generation will persevere in guarding and taking care of the land. For my son is a Zionist and a vital aspect of Zionism is the physical presence in the Jewish homeland. Without the vistas of our 3,500-year history here, its successes and failures, the exile and destruction as well as the heroic return and reconstruction, we have no future. And we intend there to be no doubt about the future. We in Judea, Samaria and Gaza have settled that. (c) Jerusalem Post 1996
Yisrael Medad represents the Shilo community in the Binyamin Regional Council.