Raphaella Segal, Assistant Mayor of Kedumim, gave a talk at the Toronto Zionist Centre, October 19, 2010. Kedumim is an Israeli settlement located in the so called West Bank.
Meir Weinstein from JDL-Canada introduced the speaker. In his short introduction he mentioned that the people like Raphaella have worked under unbelievably harsh conditions to build modern communities, schools, agriculture and industry. He stated that the word “settlement” is not a good term, it implies that Israel is moving to other people’s territory and that land actually belongs to Israel (you can get much better idea about the legal status of Israel from Salomon Benzimra’s research on the topic).
There is no doubt that the problem with the settlements has been distorted for many years. If you believe the Arabs and the “progressives”, the average Israeli settler is a huge man with a long beard and a big black hat. He lives in a large house stolen from the Arabs and probably keeps Palestinian children caged in the basement. He doesn’t work because he receives an unlimited supply of money secretly provided by the Illuminati. His only job is to roam the hills armed with his Uzi machine gun and kill defenceless Palestinians.
As usual, the truth is different. The settler we saw was a petite woman with a charming smile (and without a gun). She is ordinary in almost every way, except for her passion about her country, which came out of almost every word she spoke. Raphaella Segal was born in South Africa, her parents brought her to Israel as a child. One of the founding members of Kedumim, she has 9 children, 7 of which are married, and over 30 grandchildren (despite that, she still looks young).
In the very beginning she stated that the settlement issue is highly publicized all over the world in an extremely negative way. Many want those settlements closed. Why is this issue raised again? The Arabs have a problem because the settlements present the historical connection; they provide the link between the Jews and their old lands. However, in her opinion, although that sounds like a paradox, the settlements or rather communities are the recipe for real peace.
There are two major issues to be discussed when talking about the settlements. The first is what has been achieved and the second is where we should go from here.
Kedumim is located north of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, on hilltops, not even that far from the sea. Distances in Israel are really small.
She had a successful career in Tel Aviv, so what made her leave the city and move into that wilderness? The reason was the Six Day War with its profound influence on the shaping of the Israeli people’s character. The initial shock and uncertainty, gave the way to a careful preparation. After the victory came the feelings joy and pride that the country was saved. It gave people faith in their ability to overcome incredible challenges, which could be applied in peaceful times as well. Raphaella joined a group that initially visited the new lands. They found barren hilltops and later that they settled there forever (there were no Arab houses or beautiful gardens to steal).
From 1973 to 1975 many people moved to the area from different parts of the country. The government, led by Rabin at the time, reluctantly allowed them to settle there. On Chanukah, 1975, Kedumim was established. The families lived initially in small mobile homes and few years later they were able to build permanent houses. In the beginning there were difficulties with electricity, water and heating. They had to cultivate the land to grow fruits and vegetables, but the people were happy.
There are hundreds of settlements now, with over 600,000 people, which have developed greatly. The communities have achieved an impressive progress.
To illustrate that, she showed a short movie about the everyday life in the settlements: we saw modern buildings, many children playing in schools and kindergartens; developed agriculture (especially organic), buses and transportation and light industrial buildings.
In Kedumim there are about 900 families living in 12 neighbourhoods on the hills around. There are several schools, one of them musical. Everything they have now was achieved with hard work completely from scratch.
The myth of the Jewish religious fanatic doesn’t apply here, there are no fanatics. There are all kinds of people among the residents – religious, non-religious, professionals, workers, etc. The issue people are concerned with is not just the settling, but also the development.
A great achievement in Kedumim is the Bnei Chayil Yeshiva, which deals exclusively with boys with Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and with learning disabilities. The patient work of teachers, social workers and the community at large has transformed their lives. Another great school is for Ethiopian girls from poor and broken families. They are also transformed under the new humane and compassionate conditions. On top of that, many of the residents have adopted children from problem families.
Despite the well-organized everyday life, the problem of terrorism is real. It was aggravated after the Oslo agreements were signed. The local residents see it as a part of the life and try to deal with it without whining and complaining. There are many examples: a man was recently killed by a Palestinian military officer; a couple with two small children picked up a hitchhiker, who turned out to be a suicide bomber, he detonated the bomb in the car killing everybody.
The youth doesn’t take the situation passively; the young people demonstrate every year in the Arab areas to show that their will will not be broken. Those young people most of the time stay in their communities, combining careers with idealism.
One of the most important roles of the settlements is that they serve as a buffer. For example, when Israel left Lebanon and Gaza, the borders there became more dangerous. Hamas and Hezbollah have accumulated more dangerous weapons. That’s what you get for compromising with them. The settlements provide the first line of defence for the country.
Since the new talks between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority began, there have been more attempts to kill Jews. The army still guards the settlements.
The most important thing is that the Jewish life itself is the security, the presence of many people who live together and guard and take care of each other. If the Jews were not there, the situation would have been more dangerous. If Israel leaves Judea and Samaria, there will be more rockets to the large cities. And that is the main danger of a Palestinian state.
So what do the Arabs want? According to Raphaella Segal, they don’t want a state, they want to use the talks to extort from Israel more concessions. They want to weaken Israel and demonize it, so the country could be blamed for the talks’ failure. They want to declare a Palestinian state without reaching an agreement and use the world to force Israel to accept it.
The freezing of the settlements is one of the worst mistakes committed by the Israeli government – the expansion of the settlements is a matter of principle, because any hesitation will indirectly create the impression that Israel is there illegally.
Recently the building resumed – in Kedumim they are building 100 new units that were stopped before. However, Ehud Barak doesn’t provide permits for new buildings, which is really bad. The times now are difficult and the security of Israel depends on the settlements. The government must rethink their policy.
The Palestinians live well and in peace in Judea and Samaria, on personal level most of them have good relationships with the Jews. However, the Palestinian Authority wants to destroy everything that makes the life better, like trade and cooperation, and provoke confrontation. The ordinary Arabs are afraid that once the Jews are gone, the area could turn into a new Gaza.
The situation is getting more complex with the administration of Obama, who is a supporter of that Palestinian arrogance. The Israelis are afraid of the USA, they don’t perceive that country as a friend. The leftists in the country are the other danger – they are weakening and destroying the country from the inside. Israeli politicians are reluctant to speak the truth and suffer from paralysis of the will.
In the end Raphaella called everybody to spread the truth about the settlements.
The perspective of a total Palestinian control is frightening. Their leaders want to send the 1940’s Arab “refugees” and their descendants (over 5.5 million people) back to Israel. At the same time, they want to purge the future Palestinian state from all Jews. On July 28, 2010, Abbas stated to the Egyptian media: “I’m willing to agree to a third party that would supervise the agreement, such as NATO forces, but I would not agree to having Jews among the NATO forces, or that there will live among us even a single Israeli on Palestinian land”.
Palestinians will bring nothing but a new fascism to the area, whose poorly veiled purpose would be to destroy or expel all Jews. From that point of view, Raphaella Segal’s concerns deserve the full attention of all governments and thinking people before it’s too late.