Here is a link
to an article about the small village of Khirbet Zakariya
, our "next door neighbors". I remember when this article came out a couple of years ago..it hurt me..deeply.
Many of the residents of the village work in the settlements, the area gas station, public insitutions, etc and relations always seemed so good. I heard stories about the good relations that existed between the village, particularly the village leader, Ibrahim, and the Jewish settlers of Gush Etzion
prior to 1948- and i heard about how, recently the regional council made sure the these Palestinian employees would get permits to travel to Israel to to join the Jewish workers on company outings or for various meetings.
As we stop at their roadside stands to buy fruit we can very easily think that "all is well on the West Bank"..at least in our neighborhood.
But of course, we know nothing about what life in the village really is like. What kind of infrastructure they have or what building rights, if any, they have?
Stories, such as one about a settler who, during the height of the intifada arranged an ambulance and quick passage through a checkpoint to Hadassah hospital for a Palestinian from Zakariya make it so easy to blind ourselves to the trials and hardships of everyday life.
Over the years, as i was trying to do my bit offering rides to Palestinians on the road etc, i did not take the necessary leap of crossing the road to enter the village and really get to know what life is like there.
Over the past couple of years i did find opportunities to learn and finally "found the excuse" to visit the village when touring the area with Mohammed Abu Ayash, a Palestinian from the large nearby village of Beit Umar. I told my friends on the kibbutz about my experience. One of them, Eliaz, works at the regional council, began talking eyeball to eyeball with Ibrahim, the grandson of the old mukhtar, who is employed by the regional council. Eliaz realized that the good intentions of the Settler Regional Council chairman were no longer enough and decided to get active. Recently he visited the village and saw close up the situation of the mosque, the school and the housing.
Eliaz became another voice on the kibbutz. He approached senior members with the challenge: "We settlers believe we should develop this area as part of Israel? This means we must open our eyes to the people living here and address their problems!"
Other contacts were made with settlers from the Gush Etzion region who wanted to develop more personal ties with Palestinians in our region.Last week, in the small school building (with a tin roof...since it would not be "legal" to build it with a concrete roof about 50 people, Jews and Arabs spoke about the basic human desires we all share and together thanked G~d for the blessing of rain that also "joined us" as the meeting started.
After very pleasant and positive conversation I asked Mohammad, the old mukhtar's son, about the school we were sitting in, He calmly but firmly, laid out the problems of the village that can not expand to meets its most basic needs.
Rabbi Froman, who spoke so eloquently before said he could only respond with his admission of shame for such a situation.
The following words summarize the thoughts of Rabbi Froman and others at this meeting:
"We can become closer to each other with words..and these words can open the hearts. But goodness will only come if actions will grow out of our hearts. Our arms and hands, like branches that grow out of the heart must work to fulfill our good intentions. I can not promise success..but i can promise action"
Postscript: Since that meeting a horrendous act of arson was perpetrated at a mosque at Kfar Yasuf, far north of our region. Rabbi Froman, Eliaz and others from our group traveled to Kfar Yasuf today to meet the villagers, to give them new copies of the Quran to replace the burnt copies..and most importantly to actively show their desire for Peace and their disdain for acts of violence.