Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Think again

For many in the media Dafna Meir with her headscarf and West Bank address was obviously a far right wing nationalist fundamentalist extremist. How could it be other way? They would say the same about Mikhal Fruman, and certainly her late father-in-law Rabbi Menahem Fruman, what else could a religious West Bank settler with a long white beard be?

And yet the point missed by much of the media, local and foreign, is that this stereoptype is just that, a stereotype. Jews living over the Green Line are nuanced just as much as Jews living within the Green Line.

Dafna Meir was not the only religious Israeli living in the Hebron hills who had decided to learn Arabic to better interact with the local Arab population. Her husband isn't the only religious settler to have friends from among his Palestinian neighbours.

The late Rabbi Fruman from Tekoa was absolutely a fundamentalist. He believed that religious was the fundamental root of this region and that interfaith dialogue and understanding was fundamental to building a new Middle East. To that end he was prepared to pray with people of all faiths, including sworn enemies of Israel like Hamas, in order to create a bridge between the local religious communities in the hope of bringing peace. In nearby Efrat, community leader Rabbi Riskin has also made a point of reaching out to his Palestinian neighbours and setting an example for regional coexistance.

Despite the wild-eyed stereotypes, despite the media playing up the crazed religious nutter settler image, you'll find Jews all over this region who precisely because they are living in the West Bank have taken the trouble to meet their Palestinian neighbours, whether through co-existance initiatives, or simply from living close to each other, shopping in the same Rami Levi supermarkets or working in local businesses.

They may have widely differing political and religious visions for the region, or not, but on a day to day basis many people do find a way to live together and interact. This is despite the horrific anti-Semitic and anti-Israel incitement coming from the Palestinian Authority and many local mosque preachers, Hamas and European activists.