In his First Person column published June 7 ("When Jay Became Yaakov), Bob Andrews wrote about his best friend from childhood, Jay, who had changed his name to Yaakov and had become a spokesman for the settlement movement in the West Bank and Gaza. "I can't help wondering what contributions he could have made in a more peaceful time," Andrews wrote. The Journal received this letter from Yaakov Hayman (which has been edited):
I must admit I was truly surprised to open my e-mail yesterday and find a copy of an article you wrote about me in The Jewish Journal. As you mention, we haven't been in touch for well over 20 years, and we have indeed traveled different paths, having started out at the same elementary school near Disneyland some 40 years ago. I guess I went on to "Adventureland," and you stayed in "Fantasyland."
Bob, all kidding aside, I am sorry that after all these years you chose to get updated from such unlikely (and unfriendly) sources such as the Al-Ahram Weekly and the Christian Science Monitor. I'm sure you didn't mean any harm by it, but it highlighted for me just how badly informed so many otherwise well-meaning Jews, such as yourself, are.
Bob, you said you always considered me to be one of the "best and brightest." Well, that's a pretty high standard to live up to, but at least give me some credit for the way I see things, and let me respond to some of the misinformation in your article.
I write this after over 20 months of brutal Arab terrorism that has claimed hundreds of Jewish lives, including six members of our community. Three high school boys were murdered last week while playing basketball 300 meters from our home.
I live in a town called Itamar, near Sh'chem. (Sh'chem, Bob, not Nablus, is the original name of this ancient Jewish city mentioned in the Bible. "Nablus" is the Arab version of the Latin "Napolis," the name given to the city by the Romans following their transient occupation of our land some 2,000 years ago.) Our town's name derives from the fact that Itamar and Elazar, two of the sons of Aaron, the high priest, were buried some 3,400 years ago just one hill over from our town. We have visited their burial sites often.
We are not considered a "controversial Israeli outpost" except by those who want no Jewish presence in our ancient homeland. Itamar, like hundreds of other towns in the heartland of Israel, was founded on a barren, rocky, uninhabited hilltop. Only people who truly love the land would be willing to establish towns on such difficult topography. These places were not "inhabited by Palestinian Arabs until just a few years ago"; they were never inhabited by Arabs, from time immemorial. The Arabs, since 1967, were allowed to spread out unrestricted (unfortunately) over all the arable, easily developed flat land.
Israel didn't "acquire" the lands of Judea and Samaria in the 1967 war. The land of Israel (including the Judea and Samaria heartland) was given to the Jewish people by God nearly 4,000 years ago.
Regarding the "pistol strapped to my hip," I did not come to Israel with a pistol, nor did I have one when I first moved into Judea. It was only after witnessing brutal, bloodthirsty Arab terror that I decided I should be prepared to defend myself. My guess is, Bob, that you would have reacted the same.
Regarding the term "hard-line settlement," I don't really know what that means. If it means I believe the land belongs to us beyond any shadow of a doubt, I expect you are no less "hard-line" about your beautiful SoCal suburban home. For that matter, I don't recall hearing of any Americans volunteering to give up their homes in order to defuse the crisis with the Taliban.
"Most of the world, and even much of Israel is critical of the settlements," you wrote. Well, Bob, not quite. Most Israelis are now solidly behind the settlers, and a vast majority is now against the establishment of a "Palestinian" state. The rest of the world? Sixty years after they sat back and watched as over six million of our brothers and sisters were gassed and burned? No, I don't invest much energy worrying about what they think of the settlements. As Ben Gurion once said, it's more important what the Jews do than what the non-Jews say!
Finally, Bob, you wished I would be part of the solution instead part of the problem. I guess it depends on how you define the problem. As I see it, the problem is bringing light and redemption to a spiritually dark world. The solution is getting the Jewish people back to their Jewish roots and back to their homeland in order to become a beacon of light for the entire world. In that sense, I'm doing the best I know how to be part of the solution. The real problem is getting you and your family and millions of other Jews just like you from around the world to come here and help. My e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Be happy to hear from you any time!
And Bob, thanks again for sharing your Oreo cookies with me in the fourth grade.
Yaacov (Jay) Hayman, Itamar-Sh'chem, Israel