Eretz Yisrael Time

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Friday, June 01, 2007
I originally considered calling this post “Strength in Numbers”.

The family took a trip today to look at some other settlements – specifically settlements we never visited before in the Judea region.

There was one that surprised us and I don’t yet know what conclusions to draw from my visit, but there is definitely a lot to think about.

We settlers have a public image or stereotype that most of us don’t fit into. But after today, I’d even go so far as to say that most settlers don’t even come close to the stereotype.

Today we visited the settlement of Beitar Elite – home to 35,000 people (5200 families), of which 14,500 are school-aged children – and growing rapidly (10% annually).

What makes Beitar, as a settlement, different is that Beitar is an ultra-orthodox community.

To begin with, I don’t think the residents see themselves as “settlers”. I think they see themselves simply as Jews living in Eretz Yisrael. (By the way, I was also surprised to learn that Kiryat Sefer is also a settlement – known also as Modiin Elite – again an ultra-orthodox community).

There is no doubt there is strength in numbers, but also in philosophy.

As chareidim, due to both necessity and desire, I would describe Beitar as a high density, but inexpensively built city (though it has it expensive housing sections too).

What makes it unlike other settlements is that these residents know what they want from their community and municipality and they demand it and get it.

This is not a community that overly relies on private transportation, so there are shops and stores everywhere within walking distance, public transportation appears to be excellent, which chopperim filling in the holes left by Egged. And there are an abundance of shuls and shopping malls (yes, that’s right – shopping malls - plural).

Perhaps some settlers like having to rely on their cars to go everywhere. I know I don’t, and while I wouldn’t want to live in such a high density city (and it is a city) I don’t understand why the rest of us settlements (or even groups of settlements) don’t have any malls or shopping strips that come close to what I saw today (except for the city of Ariel and Ma’aleh Adumim).

Driving around I did not get the feeling I was in a settlement. I could have been in Har Shlomo, Elad, Pisgat Ze’ev, or Rechesh Shuafat.

True the city had a decent fence around it, and an outside security company at the gates (and an army base next door) as well as the neighboring requisite Arab villages, but it is the atmosphere that was different.

It felt and looked like any of the typical new chareidi neighborhoods in Israel (and that's how the residents appeared to see themselves).

And that brings me to my next point.

I cannot imagine that if we settlers had more communities like Beitar scattered around in key positions that anyone could even begin to think about another expulsion.

To begin with, Beitar, all by itself, has 4 time the population that Gush Katif had. A goal that is shared by Tel Zion – a similar community in the Binyamin region, next to the settlement of Kochav Yaacov.

But more than that, can you imagine the uproar the Chareidim would have if one of their own communities were to be uprooted? They would tear the country apart with no mercy.

Gush Katif did not have the active support of the Chareidi community because there were no (to my knowledge) Chareidi communities in Gush Katif. Gush Etzion has Beitar at the edge. Binyamin has Tel Zion.

Shas and Aguda would actually fight before thousands of their own (voters) would be thrown to the dogs.

Unfortunately, like everyone, each community seems to worry first and foremost about their own.

Chareidim know what they want from their community and community services and they get it. Standard issue settlers are happy to get anything at all.

This trip presented a lot of food for thought, and I am still digesting it.


Anonymous said...

Astute observations.

Kol hakavod for going around to visit other communities.

Where else did you go?

Anonymous said...

And I thought we all were settlers.

Anonymous said...

Some kibbutz called Migdal Oz. My wife heard they have a nice clothing store there, so we had to check it out.

They have a nice woman's clothing store there.

Neshama said...

Thank you, that was informative.

I wonder if this was included in the original plans when the govt. created these communities? And, if the smaller so-called settlements, didn't want this type of community - or - it was purposely omitted in their establishment?

Wasn't Gush Katif large enough for such 'social planning'? Again, maybe the govt. didn't deem it worthwhile to do so there.

Could it be that they forsaw that one day they would have to 'bargain' for their lives and land, so when they created the smaller 'settlements' this was factored in (i.e. bargaining chips)?

P.S. It's good to know that you are REALLY A SETTLER.

Ben Bayit said...

there is a political theory that says that separation breeds strength. Malcolm X is reported to have told Martin Luther King that it was his idea to secede from the USA that gave King the ability to carry out his non-violent civil disobedience - the authorities are then always worried about what the "crazier" people might do.

Unfortunatley the settlers and/or the religious zionists and/or the modern orthdox never learnt this. That's why we have our Elazar Stern's - great success stories of religious Jews in the army (sic)

Anonymous said...

"Some kibbutz..." - lol.

Then again, perhaps I've heard of it more due to the fact that some acquaintances of mine have friends at the girls' seminary there.

B"H, there are still plenty of Jewish communities for you to visit, if the desire ever strikes you again.

JoeSettler said...

neshama: It has to do with what each community is looking for.

Chareidim are looking for cheap housing for large families that usually reliant on public transportation or just walking.

"Settlers" are looking for a more suburban lifestyle.

It results in 2 different kinds of neighborhoods. But still the Chareidi community appears to be far more organized and demanding of their local government for their infrastructure requirements.

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