Posted by Orit Arfa
The European Union has proven it is lost with its directive to member states not to offer grants, prizes, or funding to Israeli/Jewish projects operating in East Jerusalem, Judea & Samaria, and the Golan Heights. Ariel University in the heart of Samaria will provide some direction. Just follow the sign on Route 5, which has gone up just in time for the EU's call for help.
7.18.13 at 3:59 am | The sign for Ariel University has gone up on. . .
7.15.13 at 1:12 pm | For the community of Netzarim in Ariel, Tisha. . .
7.14.13 at 9:31 am | Eight years since the Expulsion of Jews from. . .
7.11.13 at 8:43 am | A leading military leader of the "disengagement". . .
7.10.13 at 11:08 am | My life's work, The Settler: A Novel, is now free. . .
6.28.13 at 3:16 am | This week's Torah portion is Pinchas, a man who. . .
6.28.13 at 3:16 am | This week's Torah portion is Pinchas, a man who. . . (4)
3.4.13 at 2:42 pm | The real reason Israel is losing the PR war (3)
3.8.13 at 7:13 pm | More suggestions for an "eviction notice" counter. . . (3)
July 15, 2013 | 1:12 pm
Posted by Orit Arfa
I couldn’t see his face through the mechitza (the wall separating the men and women), but I heard him, the tears in his voice, the deep sorrow, as the cantor read Jeremiah’s Book of Lamentations poetically remembering the horrific tragedies the Jewish people have suffered.
His voice choked before the sobs as he literally cried: “Remember, Hashem, what has befallen us, and see our shame. Our inheritance has been overturned to strangers; our homes, to foreigners.”
This was in the temporary synagogue of the Netzarim community in City of Ariel. The cantor wasn’t crying over ancient Jewish history, as Jews do on Tisha B’av, but recent Jewish history, over the loss of his own home. Netzarim was a Jewish community in Gush Katif uprooted from the Gaza sands. His community has been overturned by the likes of Hamas; his home has become a base for rocket launchers.
Without any place to go, the City of Ariel welcomed the Netzarim community to the vacant Ariel University dorms that summer of 2005, when the Israeli government, to quote Lamentations, “dealt treacherously with her.” Moved by the warm welcome, they decided to rebuild their lives in Ariel, where I too have made my home. From what has become a Jewish trailer park, one can see the permanent dwellings they are currently constructing on a southern Ariel hill.
These were people who literally cried every Tisha B’av because they felt the destruction of the Holy Temple in their souls. Motivated by a deep desire to protect the Jewish people from harm, they had settled in Gaza, with the blessing of the Israeli government, to serve as buffer zones against terrorism in Gaza. They absorbed rockets so that Sderot wouldn’t have to. They grew herbs and lettuce out of sand from their sheer will and love, almost like a miracle, so that they could support themselves, honorably.
Some might argue that the destruction of the Gush Katif settlement bloc doesn’t belong to the tragedies that a Jew should commemorate on the saddest Jewish holiday. But I was there when it happened. I was dragged out of the Neve Dekalim synagogue with singing, crying girls. There was no bloodshed, but there was carnage—the carnage of souls, the carnage of the spirits of people who risked their lives for their country, only to get misery in return, to see their synagogues torched, their homes hacked by bulldozers, with no one to comfort them, no one to care.
I document the carnage of one such soul in my novel, The Settler, to let us connect to their pain--and the pain of all the Jewish people.
July 14, 2013 | 9:31 am
Posted by Orit Arfa
The majority of American Jews, if one can judge by presidential voting records and policy statements by AIPAC and other major Jewish organizations, believe that the solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict involves evacuating Israeli Jews from Judea and Samaria (aka the "West Bank") to pave the way for two states: Israel and "Palestine."
Here are some basic premises guiding this view:
Sure, most American Jewish organizations state that their position is to support policies of the Israeli government, lest they be perceived as interfering with Israel's democratic process. In practice, that is not the case. Most major organizations don't send their missions beyond the green line, even as the Israeli government supports building there. In fact, most members of PM Binyamin Netanyahu's coalition do not support the creation of a Palestinian state. Netanyahu actually goes against Likud constituency when he pays lip service to the two-state "solution," which makes one wonder: who is he answering to?
What's so ironic is that American Jews who push hard for the expulsion of Jews by Jews are advocating the composition of a state they do not choose for themselves. Referring to the premises above:
This analysis leads to several interesting conclusions. If American Jews truly seek to live according to their values—and if one of their ultimate values is a state with a Jewish majority—then they should move to Israel, not just own a summer apartment that jacks up the rental prices for actual residents.
If they truly want to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict out of demographic concerns, they should advocate a more Zionist humanitarian solution: mass aliyah of Jews, particularly into Judea and Samaria, the historical Jewish heartland. About 1 out of the 7 million of Jews in the Diaspora should do the trick. If the multi-millions that Jewish organizations raise to defend Israel—and better yet— if the expenses of removing Jews ($2.6 billion per 9,000 Jews, if judging from Gaza) are diverted to support this new wave of aliyah, the problem is SOLVED.
Speaking from experience, it's difficult yet very rewarding to make aliyah. It's much easier for Diaspora Jews to impose their vision of a state with a Jewish majority, living alongside a new Arab state, when they don't suffer the direct consequences. Instead of aliyah, they push for destroying the lives of hundreds of thousands of Jews who live across the "green line," a place the "settlers" chose, often at great sacrifice and personal risk, so that Jews everywhere are free.
American Jews by and large don't want to be inconvenienced or to downgrade their lifestyle, but they'd dare push the Israeli government to cause more than just inconvenience to "settlers." A two-state "solution" would involve an army turning on its people, the uprooting of families from their hometowns, their livelihoods, their spirits. And would American Jewry pick up the bill for rebuilding lives that, if Gush Katif serves as an example, could never truly be rebuilt?
Any solution to the Israeli-Arab conflict must ensure that expelling Jews from their homes is not an option. This might actually involve—and what a concept—Jews living peacefully among non-Jews, particularly Palestinian Arabs, in the "West Bank." Such a solution demands the pain of creative thought, true tolerance, hard work, and above all, integrity. After all, American Jews have shown that their ultimate value is not a state with a Jewish majority; otherwise, they'd live here.
So the real, humanitarian solution is simple. American Jews: Expel yourselves.
Orit is author of The Settler, a novel following the rebellious journey of a young woman into Tel Aviv nightlife following her traumatic eviction from her home in Gaza during the 2005 withdrawal.
July 11, 2013 | 8:43 am
Posted by Orit Arfa
We're coming upon eight years since the "disengagement" from Gush Katif, Gaza, and the time is ripe for introspection about an event that drastically altered the Middle East and that most people don't talk about anymore, even as people cavalierly call for evacuating more Jews from the West Bank.
According to an article in Ynet, one of the military leaders of the evacuation expressed remorse over his participation, although I'm pretty sure that he would do it all over again if asked.
Eight years after the Disengagement from the Gaza Strip and West Bank, deputy chief of the operation's police forces Brigadier General (res.) Meir Ben-Ishay expressed sorrow for his part in uprooting settlements, and revealed that he and hundreds of policemen and soldiers were struggling to overcome the trauma behind the pullout to this day.
Ben-Ishay, who coined the expression "sensitive determination" in the summer of 2005, paid an exceptionally long visit to the Gush Katif Museum in Jerusalem last week, and signed the guestbook: "For me, the wound is still open; I apologize if I hurt; "God forgive me."
I question whether most soldiers who participated feel the same remorse, as Ben-Ishay asserts. In chilling interviews I conducted with "disengagers" as research for my novel about the withdrawal, The Settler, the feelings they expressed ranged from nonchalance to "scars you cannot fathom." Most said they'd do it again regardless of how lousy they feel about it. Soldiers were taught that they didn't have to take personal responsibility. For Ben-Ishay, or any soldier for that matter, a complete apology would have to include a direct apology to the expellees, not merely an announcement in the guestbook of the Gush Katif Museum.
I predicted that some soldiers would experience remorse in The Settler. In the novel, a "disengager" wrote the following letter to the protagonist (don't worry, it's not a spoiler). I don't know if any soldiers went this far, but that reunion would be interesting...the stuff of fiction.
“I never felt good about what I did....I knew in my heart it was wrong, but it was so hard to go against the army. There was a lot of training and pressure to do it. We were taught we didn’t have to take personal responsibility....I don’t think anything I can say or do can make up for the pain I caused you and your family, or the pain I caused myself. Still, if it’s not too late, I ask that you and your family forgive me.”
July 10, 2013 | 11:08 am
Posted by Orit Arfa
This is a hugely emotional moment for me. This is the moment I let my baby run free into the world. By "baby," I mean my debut novel, The Settler.
Those who have followed my musings about Israel throughout the years might know that I have been obsessed with the aftermath of Israel's withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 and the novel I've written about it. I cried for this book, my heart bled for this book, and, of course, I drank lots of alcohol for this book. I spent countless of dollars and hours investing in a novel to challenge the way people think about Israel, the Middle East, and the world--through their hearts as much as minds.
That is why I called it The Settler, after the "settlers" of Israel, one of the most misunderstood and maligned populations in Israel, the people living in the West Bank/Judea & Samaria. And how fitting that I moved to Ariel - the City of Samaria two months ago and became a "settler" just in time for the launch of my novel.
The Settler has enabled me to develop my worldview and clear up my confusion about Israel following the breakdown I had with Zionism when I was forcefully evacuated by my own army from the main Gush Katif synagogue almost eight years ago. It is not auto-biographical but draws from some of my experiences.
It follows Sarah Dakar, a college freshman dragged out of her home by the Israel Defense Forces in that fateful summer of 2005. She escapes the pain of her evacuation and the values she held dear through the sizzling nightlife world of Tel Aviv. It is sure to enlighten and upset people across the religious and political spectrum.
It is the story about one of Israel's most historic, painful events, but one that has hardly been told...until now. Purchase the eBook here.
June 28, 2013 | 3:16 am
Posted by Orit Arfa
The fantastic story of Pinchas takes place in the book of Bamidbar, on the heels of the Moabite King Balak’s attempt to eradicate the budding Israelite nation by hiring the gentile prophet Bila’am to curse Israel to destruction. God foils Bila’ams plan, and Bila’am finally declares: “They are a people that shall dwell alone and that shall not be reckoned among the nations.” Bilaam seems to have sensed that Israel’s pride as a lone nation, with a unique ethical vision and destiny, protected them.
Thus, how would the Moabites be successful in their persistent mission to destroy them? They had to break their pride, their sacredness, their unity. They would have to create destruction from within. The Moabites understood human nature and human desires. What better way to break Israel fraternity than to send alluring prostitutes to seduce the men into idol worship? And this is exactly what they did.
And many Isralite men gave into temptation; they had sexual feasts and rituals on the altar of Ba’al Peor, the Moabite god. As a result, a plague struck Israel, wiping out thousands. But the men continued to be seduced, and some even flaunted their apathy and self-hatred. A prominent Israelite named Zimri paraded his Moabite mate, Cosbi, in front of all the Israelites, while his brothers and sisters cried – knowing too well of the destruction it entailed. Pinchas, heeding Moses command to kill the men who caused the plague, follows Zimri into the fornication tent, and thrusts his spear into both their bodies. The devastating plague ends, and God awards Pinchas with a covenant of peace.
One of my goals in painting biblical portraits, including the graphic portrait of Pinchas, is to tell biblical legends through a modern context, where a major difference is not human nature, but the technologies and contexts that express human nature. The story of Pinchas is not without contemporary analogy.
Today, Israel still suffers from a great plague – the terror plague – once suicide bombers, and now rockets and random stabbings and stonings. Death is at Israel's doorsteps daily, not because modern Israelites are committing sexual harlotry, but because they are committing moral harlotry – and they are not unrelated. Harlotry, unlike friendship or love, suggests a relationship based on passions. Just as life-sustaining sex consists of a partnership where two people are connected through the mind as well as the body, life-sustaining national partnerships consist of two nations making rational exchanges.
The cessation of violence is not a commodity for rational exchange, for the threat of terror plays on the passions of the people – fear and hope. But the “peace process” which world powers are yet again trying to push is based on the passions: the hope of the victim (Israel) that the terror will end, and the fear that they might die if they don’t give in. Today, factor in the fear of world disapproval.
Just as Moab wanted to destroy the Israelite nation 2500 years ago, Israel’s neighbors want to destroy Israel in the 21th century. And they have blatantly attempted genocide in the past, not through a Bilaamic curse, but through outright war. Seeing that they could not obliterate Israel military, they chose a more sly option: seducing Israel into becoming a country of “moral” pacifists, where she would disarm and willingly give-up crucial borders. At the same time, the Israeli casualties resulting from the economic, diplomatic, and propaganda war waged against Israel are dubbed inevitable “sacrifices for the sake of peace.” A plague has been caused from within.
The modern day Ba’al Peor is the “god” of the Palestinians. In worshipping this god, children are raised as pawns and weapons; individual rights are subordinated to the god's dream of genocide. By consorting with the PA and appeasing a political entity founded on terror, Israel too worships their god. Even worse, she breaks the moral fiber and pride that was meant to characterize and unite the people of Israel. And while Prime Minister Netanyahu parades his desire to sacrifice parts of Israel to the ritual prostitute Mahmoud Abbas, and feasts with him on the altar of American diplomacy, the people of Israel are continually faced with the terror of rockets, guns, and stones.
Pinchas was not a religious zealot, but a moral zealot. He went against the grain, taking bold action to end the cause of all this death. He represents decisiveness, certainty, and moral passion. He recognized that there is good and evil – and that good cannot "sleep" with evil. His seemingly brutal killing of Zimri and Cosbi in the act represents the killing of moral compromise.
The temptation for a hostage to give in to the demands of its terrorist is just as strong, and even as understandable, as the temptation to sleep with an alluring slut. And sometimes, once aroused, there’s no turning back. Ultimately, Israel must act upon her own self-reliance and political relationships based on reason, for the Israelites are a people that dwell alone, that are not reckoned among the nations. Only then shall we, like Pinchas, achieve the true covenant of peace.
Orit is a author and painter living in Ariel, Israel. Visit her website at www.oritarfa.net.
June 7, 2013 | 7:36 am
Posted by Orit Arfa
The mission of the lobby J Street is “a two state resolution to the conflict with the Palestinian people.” Decried as an anti-Israel lobby by staunch Israel supporters who view the two-state solution as the Arabs' "Final Solution," J Street focuses much of its efforts on reviving the defunct peace talks between the Palestinian Authority and Israel. This relentless focus, combined with J Street's support for US lawmakers with poor records on Israel, have often alienated J Street from mainstream pro-Israel organizations. The obsession with solving supposed Arab grievances has sidelined on-the-ground humanitarian concerns of those living in Israel and particularly in Judea & Samaria, Arabs and Jews alike.
But with the recent visit of J Street to the City of Ariel in Samaria, perhaps a new "peace process" has begun, one that should be a prerequisite to any resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict: the peace process between Jews and Jews. Any resolution with the Arabs that requires or precipitates a diplomatic, intellectual and physical assault on Jews, particularly those living in Judea and Samaria, will simply open up a more dangerous front: Jews battling Jews, Jews uprooting Jews from their homes, Jews hating one another even more.
My colleague at Ariel Development Fund, Avi Zimmerman, has documented what may be the start of this Jewish-Jewish peace process through his blog on Times of Israel about the visit of J Street's campus arm to Ariel. He wonders if J Street U is taking a U turn, writing:
By engaging with the City of Ariel through an unadulterated, boots-on-the-ground, personal encounter, J Street U has taken a giant leap forward on behalf of an organization that may soon need to grapple with the waning prospects that its godfather, Peace Now, has had to face. The more the academic and journalistic communities increasingly concur that the long awaited “two state solution” is doomed to failure, the more J Street will be in need of a new approach. Now, perhaps more than ever, the only way to be “Pro-Israel and Pro-Peace” (their slogan) is to be thoroughly circumspect and sincerely committed to analyzing all angles of our current reality in order to reach a viable conclusion.
J Street U is the future of J Street – not only in terms of its target audience age demographic, but more importantly, due to its recently demonstrated onsite openness to multiple narratives. It’s safe to assume that one visit to Ariel will not cause the organization, nor any of its participants, to take an about face U-turn with regards to what they think and believe about settlements, Judea and Samaria, democracy and demography. But that should not be the objective. The goal is to raise an informed and engaged generation of young adults who truly care about the future of Israel and truly care about the prospects for peace. CLICK HERE TO READ THE ENTIRE BLOG.
June 5, 2013 | 11:30 am
Posted by Orit Arfa
Please forgive my hiatus in blogging. I was busy making aliyah and starting my new position as Director of Communications and Visitor Services at Ariel Development Fund, getting settled into a new apartment, buying furniture, etc. Baruch Hashem, Israel's newest "settler" is settling in....
It is incredible to live here, in the magical and maliciously maligned Judea & Samaria, especially in the City of Samaria, Ariel, a place that is constantly growing, building, thriving, thinking, a place where creative Zionism is in full swing. There have been ups and downs, as with any big move, with notoriously lax Israeli customer service not helping.
Sometimes I think...yeah, I could have lived a more materially comfortable life in the United States, advocating for Israel to Americans. We know how profitable that endeavor could be if one is to judge by the top ranking salaries of Jewish professionals.
But now, my ultimate "donation" to Israel is...my life, my being, everything I am. Every emotion. Every heartbreak. Every victory. My Zionist contributions include getting a (well-deserved!) manicure from the Russian immigrant down the street, eating Arab-made hummus at the neighborhood joint, trying to impress upon Home Center the meaning of "the customer is always right."
The donation is not really to Israel--it's to a better world, to the safety of individuals everywhere, especially Jews, and to the pursuit of ultimate Jewish self-actualization.
Israelis appreciate and sometimes rely on American support, but, in all honesty, it's easier to be a Zionist in the US. Sometimes I think it's much easier to fight on campus for Israel than it is to buy a car here. (Forget living surrounded by enemies. I hardly think about that lately.) It's easier to donate to Zionist charity than budgeting for that overtaxed car and Israel's exorbitantly expensive gas. It's easy to rave about Israel's economy when you don't have to live through its confused capitalistic-socialist system. Living here is Zionism without ever uttering the word "Israel" or "Arab."
But for every difficulty, there's a benefit, such as the constant invitations to Shabbat meals by "strangers"; being a headline rather than reading one; an abiding sense that I'm an obstacle to...war. But one of my happiest moments recently came from just walking through the cool night air to Ariel's Sports & Recreation Center ("The Country Club" for locals), thinking: I'm walking through a great Zionist dream, a city built out of a will of stone, where just the gym (a very nice one by the way) is a line of defense for the good, the holy, the true.
So if you want to make the biggest contribution to Israel, find a way to join me.