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Jewish Journal

Getting Stoned

Israel: The People


by David Margolis

January 4, 1998 | 7:00 pm

I got stoned onmy way to Jerusalem yesterday. I am neither reporting use of acontrolled substance while driving nor quoting a T-shirt maxim butrather identifying a minor episode in the Jews' Hundred Years Warwith the Arabs of Palestine.

There were three of us in the car at 8 a.m.,driving up from Beit Yattir, a village about 40 miles south ofJerusalem, about as far as Woodland Hills is from Westwood. It was abeautiful early spring day; the winter rains and the beginnings ofwarm weather had turned the drab yellow hillsides green, and farmershad plowed their fields dark brown in preparation for planting. Theview reminded me of the fertile, fleshy landscapes of Americanpainter Grant Wood.

We had just passed El Arub, an Arab town thatsprawls along one side of the road a few minutes south of theJerusalem suburb of Ephrat. I was in the back seat looking in theother direction, so I did not actually see the young Palestinian who,from an elevation at the side of the road, lofted a block of concreteabout 10 inches in diameter in our direction. He made an almostperfect hit, near midpoint on the front windshield. Thunk!

Because the window was made of plastic -- aprotection advisable for those who live or travel often beyond theGreen Line -- it did not shatter into lethal shards. It merely saggedinward at the point of impact, dropping small fragments of plasticonto the young mother in the passenger seat, while metamorphosinginto a dense network of spidery fault-lines that partially blockedthe driver's vision. Had the windshield been glass, the concretewould have crashed through and injured one of the riders in the frontseat. (In a similar incident north of Jerusalem a few days ago, thedriver suffered a fractured skull.)

The three of us drove on virtually withoutspeaking, except to ascertain that the others were "all right." Theincident made us quietly thoughtful, as brushes with death do,reminding us that our stone-throwing Palestinian cousins are notmerely exercising their right to protected symbolic speech but wantto kill us.

And yet this attempted murder was a kind ofnon-event. We reported the incident at the police station near Ephratand learned that several vehicles, including a police car, had beenstoned that morning at the same spot. In general, the police do nottreat car stonings as important acts of violence; they are toofrequent, and the perpetrators are virtually impossible to apprehend.The driver of our car received a voucher to have his windshieldreplaced, and we continued on to Jerusalem.

So nothing much had happened, and no one would bepunished, and the damage would be fixed at government expense. Driveon.

But the personal question did, of course, occur:What am I doing renting a house with-option-to-buy in a "settlement"?From the beginning, while many people have been merelycongratulatory, others have asked me that same question. Some of themare concerned for my family's safety; others have a political agenda.One whole family spent an evening trying to convince us that livingbeyond the Green Line was a provocation to the Palestinians and ahindrance to the peace process -- an absolute mistake. A few peopleregret that their own ideological commitments will prevent them fromvisiting us beyond the Green Line. Others get a look on their facesthat is hard to describe; politely disturbed or politely hostile,they make no comment, but I think I can read their minds.

Nonetheless, we are making an increasingcommitment to our house in the "shtachim," the Territories.

Ideology plays only a small part. I have somepride in living at Beit Yattir, a community of 55 religious Zionistfamilies just over the Green Line, roughly equidistant from Hebronand Arad. I feel that I am making a small statement of my personalbelief that all the land from the River Jordan to the MediterraneanSea ultimately belongs to the Jewish people, as a gift of God.

At the same time, like many others, including someof the "settlers" at Yattir, I remain in favor of territorialcompromise, of surrendering land in return for real peace. If thegovernment insisted on giving away Beit Yattir to the Arabs as partof a peace agreement, I would pack up and go.

But it is unlikely that any government will giveaway Beit Yattir, not only because true peace seems increasinglyimprobable, but because Beit Yattir occupies the high ground in theregion. When the area was captured in 1967, the only building onthese hillsides was a Jordanian police fort. The settlement'slocation protects the Green Line, and the government would be, in myhumble opinion, nuts to give that military advantage away.

But am I being naive or blind about the risksinvolved in living beyond the Green Line? I don't think so. Althoughin its 18 years, Beit Yattir has never suffered any hostileincursion, there have been a couple of incidents at Susseya, onlyfour kilometers down the road. One involved a terrorist, who waskilled; the other invader, probably a thief, was captured in theregional school building very early one morning. And the road toJerusalem is, though generally fine, clearly not totallysecure.

But what is the greater risk, to live at Yattir orto have an innocent cup of coffee on Jerusalem's downtown mall, thesite of a suicide bombing last year? To drive the road through GushEtzion or to go downtown on a Jerusalem city bus, the arena for twosuicide bombings that helped lose the last election for Shimon Peres.Is the quiet country road that, after bypassing Hebron, meanders backto the Green Line more dangerous than the crowded highway to TelAviv, where Israelis drive like crazy people? Is it more dangerousthan the "safe" road near Bet Shemesh where two motorists were shotin a terrorist drive-by shooting? Or, for that matter, more dangerousthan living in Pico-Robertson, where going out on foot after dark isa questionable adventure? In almost every neighborhood in Jerusalem,little memorials mark the spot where innocent Jews were murdered onthe street by Arab terrorists.

One picks one's risks; one picks one's rewards.For the sake of an affordable house in the country, with a half-dunamplot of land and an elevated view of hillsides and villages (bothJewish and Arab) all the way to the horizon, one goes beyond theGreen Line. One adjusts to the knowledge that at least some of one'sneighbors are filled with murderous hatred and that even a hike intonearby Yattir Forest, on the "Israel" side of the Green Line, is besttaken in a group, with a gun.

As for the politics -- well, my sympathy for thePalestinians is at low ebb. The peace they mean seems simply acontinuation of the war. Why should I feel forced to scurry backbehind the Green Line, to a dubious safety, when the land is ours?


David Margolis writes for The Jewish Journalfrom Jerusalem.

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