The People and the Land
As noted in the first part of this story, Celebration of the “Occupation”: part one, I like to tell stories. A journey to the Shomron, Israel, is one of those stories that I like to tell. Stories like this are also a witness to how the Israelis – the Jews, took G-D’s promise to their Forefathers most seriously. They knew that the land is in the process of being a land of ‘Milk and Honey.’
A long time ago, I saw a movie in which the actor claims that life is a narrator. He said you never know what will come your way, and when you fall or your knee buckles, you must get up; and stay strong; and you move on to make life even greater. Israelis in the Shomron, AKA Samaria have taken that thought to heart. It is what they do.
The Shomron is a land that has known many struggles but despite and in spite of those struggles, the end goal is to make the land a witness to G-D’s promise. It has all the components and potential to bring the promise to a full circle and beyond.
Barkan – Ofertex
Israel is known for its many recycling processes. It recycles its water – approximately 85% of its waste water – and it recycles textiles, among many other things it recycles.
In the first story, I was introduced to Boaz Haetzni, of the Shomron Regional Council. Boaz took me to Ofertex, a private enterprise owned by Zvi Meir, CEO, whose family was originally from Łódź, Poland. Zvi is 4th generation. The vertical plant, operating around the clock, markets its products in 40 countries, and growing. It has annual sales of approximately $80 million US dollars (300 million Shekel) and employs 120 workers, among them Arab men and women.
The plant recycles textile materials of all sorts and makes out of it all types and all sizes of wipe-cloths, under carpet surfaces, shower mats, to name a few of its products. These are made for export and local use, with not one shred wasted; what is not used goes back to be recycled.
Danny, originally from New York, in charge of the North America market took me on a tour of the factory. I wanted to see and absorb the essence of this recycling plant, the [Jewish] trick to make a selling product out of nothing. The other reason, which is more important, what is called “economic cooperation and economic interests: the Arabs do not have work in the PA, which the Jews provide for them and the Jews do not have enough workers, so they hire Arab workers.”
This wipes out the “occupation and suppression” terminology constantly used by Israel’s enemies and foes in order to undermine the Jewish state.
It is important to mention here that the Arab worker who works in Israel earns 5,300 New Israeli Shekel (NIS), the minimum wage in Israel, including all social security and all the social benefits. If this same person held a job under the Palestinian Authority’s rule, he or she will earn 1,500 New Israeli Shekel minimum wage with no benefits. The Arab employees, working for an Israeli enterprise, earn three times the salary had they worked in the Palestinian Authority (PA).
The Appropriate Zionist Response to the Murder of Jews
We proceeded on our journey to a place named Rachelim, from the name Hebrew name Rachel, named after Rachel Wiess and her 3 children and Rachela Druk who were murdered by Arab terrorists.
Out of life conditions and necessity, Israelis are creative and come up with innovation but with many challenges attached. And without the challenges, Israel may be rather lost.
In Rachelim the challenge was the government; it approved and disapproved the community’s establishment. To overcome this challenge, created by the government for its own people, the place was established as a learning academy, just like the learning academy of then Prime Minister David Ben Gurion established in his Kibbutz – Midreshet Sde Boker, meaning Sde Boker Academy. That move closed the door on the uncalled-for bureaucratic objection.
Wine and Wineries
Since the Romans occupied the land there were no Jews in Shomron. With Israel regaining the land, an historical event took place. The Jews have returned to their ancient land, after 2000 years in exile. The bible hints to this event when the Prophet Jeremiah prophesized: “You will plant vineyards in the Shomoron … “ (Jeremiah 31:4).
Today, there are 26 boutique wineries in the Shomron and Israel is competing with her wines in the global wine market. The results are noticeable and well awarded.
What the prophet Jeremiah predicted and described has become reality, word by word, and it is a good lesson in Judaism as the Bible does not tell a lie.
When, in 1967, Israel regained the Shomron region there was no sign of ancient wineries and that created an enigma because the Shomron’s climate and its mountains’ height are ideal conditions to grow vines. After few successful cracks at the trade, all that changed.
We visited the Boutique Winery TURA, a 15-year-old enterprise, established in 2003, with first vineyards planted in 1967, that is working on the principle of ‘Patience & Inspiration.’
Today TURA grows its vines on 560 Dunam, equal to 138 acres. They are mostly grown on Har (Haris mountain in Hebrew) Grizim, 850 meters above sea level, meaning having optimal conditions for a vineyard. Nowadays, the Tura winery is selling 100,000 bottles of wine annually. The wine is made of 14 types of grapes to produce 12 types of wines, 40% for export and 60% sold locally.
Har Grizim is one of the two mountains in the immediate vicinity of the city of Nablus, the biblical name Shechem. Har Grizim forms the southern side of the valley in which Nablus is situated, while the northern side being formed by Mount Ebal.
I met Vered (Vered is Rose in Hebrew, originally named Rosa) Ben Sa’adon, born in Holland to a Jewish father and non-Jewish mother, married to Erez, born in Israel, who is a mother of 5 and a grandmother to one, and the TURA Winery owner.
Here is Vered’s interesting family anecdote. The family moved to Israel where her mother went through conversion to Judaism. Her father’s mother survived the Holocaust and wrote a diary, a similar story to Anne Frank only that the ending is different, her grandmother survived. As for her non-Jewish mother’s mother – Vered’s grandmother – during the Holocaust she informed the Nazis on the whereabouts of Jews. That gave Vered more reason to be more Jewish.
Vered proudly told me the wine specialist Spectator Magazine, gave TURA’s Mountain Peak wine, an unusual blend of 4 type of grapes flagship wine, a 90% grade. Their Shiraz, medium to full body, of vanilla and plum blend aroma, kept for 22 months in French oak barrels also won prizes and awards.
But the beginning of the dream of the Ben Sa’adons’ to come true was very tough, a true-to-life challenge. At first the government did not approve establishing a permanent community there, so they lived in tents which they covered with insulating material, made from Styrofoam, to protect them from the harsh weather conditions. Some of those makeshift tents, originally made into dwellings, were later on turned into a wine storage facility and even visitors’ reception area.
For 7 years Erez and Vered invested in the vineyards that required patience and offered despair and disappointments before the business started to move forward and the road to success began to be visible. “There were days with no food to eat and I cleaned houses while I was pregnant,” Vered told me, smiling. “But we went on, day by day, along the slogan to praise the land with faith and through the products it produces,” she added. Today even their olive oil exquisite brand of the finest quality is their new pride.
My meeting with Vered and tasting her winery’s TURA wines ended with her profound statement: “What we do here is the best answer to the Holocaust. We love the land and the land loves us. We built an enterprise against all odds and each morning is nothing but a new wonder.”
Arab Villages in the Shomron
Most of these villages carry biblical names with an Arabic pronunciation twist. But if you dig deeper, these villages were built on ancient Jewish community locations or in the close vicinity of those ancient Jewish communities.
We passed through the large Arab village of Huwwara, which is the ancient biblical name Horon, mentioned in the Book of Joshua. The Arabs learned that it is either terror or economy and they are slowly choosing economy not terror. What fascinated me was the signs on the main street, written in Arabic and Hebrew, meaning the Arabs are inviting the Jews to come shop in their village where prices could be less.
Avri Ran, Givot Olam [Meaning Eternal Hills] Farm
We traveled high to Avri Ran’s vast organic egg and sheep farm. Avri was not home but his modern farm reminded me of the American wild west, spread over several hilltops where the nature is kept intact. The delicious homemade cheese, scrambled egg dish and fruity yogurts could make any dairy product manufacturer most envious.
I was told that Avri is a valiant man who fought tooth and nail, with much Zionistic bravery with the Israeli authorities to appropriate the land and work it and he won each and every battle round. But not without challenges. Today his farm is the supplier of a large percentage of the country’s organic egg market.
The Three Seas Observatory
It is named ‘Three Seas’ because at the 866-meter (2841 feet) height, one can see the 3 seas: the Mediterranean Sea, the Dead Sea and the Sea of Galilee. The local joke that there are only three days in the year when the visibility is clear. From this vista the Jordan valley, 100 meters below sea level, is approximately 1200-meters below, in a sharp drop. This is nature’s strategic phenomenon of the Shomron.
The Community, Elon Moreh
Elon Moreh is an Orthodox Jewish-Israeli community in the Shomron, under the jurisdiction of the Shomron Regional Council, located northeast of Nablus-Shchem, on the slopes of the Mount Kabir ridge.
It was an extremely windy day so our ability to enjoy the magnificent Mount Kabir vista was meagre. I got to briefly see the fertile and strategic land of Emek Tirtza, below the mountain peak, which the government of Israel so foolishly, with its policy of the war against the Jews and its continuous appeasement of the Arabs, gave away to the Palestinian Authority to govern.
The biblical town Tirtza was one of the capitals of ancient Israel. But because there were no Jewish settlements there when the Oslo Accords were signed, the valley fell under Area ‘A’ and gained the name, by Israel’s security apparatus, as Fatah and Jihad land. Where there are no Jews living there is much Arab terror and hate of Jews.
Elon Moreh is the symbol of the struggle to settle the Shomron of the Israelis against their government’s policy of the late then Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin. It was evacuated and moved three times before it was finally and permanently established where it is located and thrives today.
Elon Moreh is what has become a derogative name ‘settlement’ and its residents carry the derogative name ‘settlers.’
Tour of Shomron – About Settlers
It was the Israelis who first called these people Zionist pioneer-settlers, just as their fathers, who started to settle the land in the later 19th century, were also called settlers. The struggle for the land, that started after the 1967 Six Day War and continues till today, between the hesitant Israeli governments and the proud and optimistic, but realistic pioneer-Israelis, as well as the split among the inland people themselves, whether to make land concessions for peace or not, gave an open door to Israel’s foes, within and without. They turned the words ‘settlement’ and ‘settler’ into almost a curse and a weapon to attack Israel.
Elon Moreh members’ core got together a few days after the Six Day War of 1967 and there and then the struggle began.
Mount Ebal – the Curse – and Mount Grizim – the Blessing and Shchem Aka Nablus
In ancient time, the Israelite tribe of Western Half of Menashe resided in this area. At the time when the Israelites entered Canaan, AKA the Promised Land, after the Exodus from Egypt, there were 7 Canaanite settlements in the land. Within a short period of some 50 years, there were 300 Jewish settlement in the land.
One can find similarity in these biblical facts. Within 50 years after the 1967 Six Day War, there are 250 Jewish communities in the Judea-Samaria (Yehuda & Shomron) regions in which 480,000 Jews reside and growing. What is more dramatic is the story of almost 4000 years ago, is now unfolding once again in the very same ancient land of Judea-Samaria (Yehuda & Shomron), the creation of the 3rd Jewish Commonwealth on the same very land, in the State of Israel.
When the Israelites entered the promised land, the entire nation stood at the foot of Mount Ebal, where the Israelites received the “curse,” that would fall upon them if they disobeyed the Ten Commandments. Consequentially, the blessing for obedience was similarly localized on Mount Gerizim.
Similarly to the event at Mount Sinai, at the foot of Mount Eival the Nation of Israel was told, “today you were made a nation,” and that is the Basic Charter of the Jewish People. As the bible tells us, the Israelites built 2 buildings and an altar for that event. To everyone’s surprise and to the glee of those who think this event never took place, there was no remnant left from such an earth-shattering event for the archaeologists to dig into and learn the history that is connected to this event.
In 1980, archaeologist Prof. Adam Zertal of the University of Haifa discovered an unusual archeological site, in the northeastern side of Mount Eival, which is the Biblical “Mount of the Curse,” located above the city of Nablus, opposite Mount Gerizim, which is the “mountain of blessing.” Professor Zertal dated the site to the last quarter of the 13th century BCE and identified it as an unusual ritual site, suitable for the description of the Biblical “altar of Joshua.”
What was found was a heap of unaltered stones, those used then to build a sacred altar, many broken ceramics, ash and bones of animals that witness the sacrifice made at that event, all are from the time of Joshua Bin Nun, the Israelite leader, approximately 3200 years ago. According to the laboratory where all the artifacts and evidence were processed, it was officially proven that this event, at Mount Eival, indeed took place. Once again, the bible proves itself to be accurate, not a figment of someone’s imagination.
The Tapuah Junction
From this junction it is approximately one hour to cross Israel
The Tapuah Junction, an intersection built as a circle of motion, is one of the main junctions in the Shomron. The intersection connects Route 60, the long road linking Jerusalem to Nablus-Shchen, to Route 505, a wide road linking Rosh Ha’ayin to Fassal, and runs northward to the Arab village Huwwara and to the communities of Gav Ha’Hahar and Shchem-Nablus, to the south to the Shilo region communities, Ofra Beit El and Jerusalem, to the west to the Dan region and to the east to the Jordan Valley and Alon highway.
The Jewish Nation’s Forefather Abraham arrived in Shchem on his travels and the area is full of ancient Jewish history content.
Land: the Shomron, AKA Samaria, extends over an area of 1,000 square mile and makes up 12% of the land of Israel.
Demography: From 1979 a Jewish home counts for 5.5 children per home and an Arab home 2.75 children.
Cost of homes: it is expensive to purchase an apartment in Israel. With country crossing net of roads, the Shomron is a close drive to Tel Aviv, and Jerusalem and that is why the population is rapidly expanding. Realistically, the region is the future of the state of Israel and the solution to the high cost of housing. As they say, location, location, location.
The Israeli standard of living: with education, whereby in Israel, the percentage of university graduates is high, and constant development, the standard of living in Israel is on the ascend and is getting better and better each year.
Security: It is the byproduct of Arab hostility.
The Palestinian Authority (PA) that shares the land: The PA is no peace partner. It constantly tries to ruin what the Jews build and its order of priorities is to harm and undermine Israel, at all cost. To the PA’s aid come the anti-Israel-anti-Semitic Europeans, who suffer from a genetic disease, named Antisemitism, and their NGOs’, as well as the BDS movement, all financed by people who have one thing in mind, which is to cause damage to the Jews and their homeland. This is one other aspect added to Israel’s struggles.
A third of the PA’s income comes from donations. Instead of using this money skillfully, this kleptocrat ‘management’ steals some and some of this essential money they give to Israel’s haters to do what they do best, ongoing attempts to subvert Israel. Therefore, the PA never made any serious strides toward economic independence. If an Arab living in the area under the PA control has the opportunity to leave, he or she does so willingly and fast.
The Struggle and the People With the State
Due to the long and way overdue fixing, the indecisiveness of the government of Israel as to what to do with the land it regained fair and square, as it belonged to Israel since 1948, from 1967 till 1973 there were no Jews living in the Shomron-Samaria, while in Yehuda-Judea there were 4 communities already.
In 1973 the members’ core of Elon Moreh made presence on the land and there and then the struggle for the sovereignty of a greater Israel, which includes the Shomron, began and continues till today. But with the first pioneers making presence the buildup of Shomron began to manifest.
According to Jordanian law, there were one million dunam (247,000 acres) of land that legally could be settled by Jews. And Jews began putting their feet down and settling in the land. From 1000 residents in Judea in 1973, to 480,000 residents in Judea and Samaria today, living in 250 communities. There are many more Israelis waiting in the wings to make their home in these regions. That is not including the learning institutes and premilitary preparatory academies that opened their doors in the Judea-Samaria (Yehuda & Shomron) regions.
The objection of the government of Israel to approve building communities in the Shomron – even in Jerusalem mistakenly named ‘East Jerusalem’ – only caused a resistance movement. Elon Moreh was evacuated three times and only in 1980, after the Supreme Court went against the state, the people built their permanent homes in the present location. With this, a wave of 12 more core groups were formed all with the intent to move and live in the Shomron.
The pioneers were not about to give up their intention to live in the vicinity of Shchem, the place where the nation of Israel formally began.
Israel is small. You can cross it from north to south in one day. One wrong move, one wrong land concession and the Jews may find themselves in the sea. Besides, who dares to think of giving up or away such beautiful land as the Shomron region is? And this I learned on this one-day journey through the marvel of Jewish ancient land and the buildup of Jewish communities. Each one is named after a name mentioned in the bible.
The government of Israel had taken a stand against itself and the people find themselves in a constant Jews-against-Jews struggle.
Galut Mentality That Must End
The Hebrew term galut expresses the Jewish conception of the condition and feelings of a nation uprooted from its homeland and subject to alien rule. The term is essentially applied to the history and the historical consciousness of the Jewish people from the destruction of the Second Temple to the creation of the State of Israel.
Sadly, Israelis also suffer from having galut mentality genes, meaning you feel disenfranchised; the way they felt in foreign lands where they lived. In many ways they remained behaving this way.
Since 1967 the government of Israel has been weak to fight for her rights to the land and the land Israel is the victim.
Benjamin Netanyahu, the current prime minister had gone a step further; for years he had not allowed a flowing buildup of the land of Yehuda-Judea and Shomron-Samaria by Jews. He is therefore discriminating against Jews, his own people, in favor of the Arabs who are building indiscriminately.
In Spite of All
In spite of the wars and the high security demands, the daily battle with the government and terror, the Yehuda-Judea and Shomron-Samaria regions are developing at a pace like no other region in Israel.
Israel is tiny; there is no room to give away one inch of its land, unless the Israelis want to commit suicide.
Israel is beautiful. The Shomron is spectacular. You do not give away one iota of a beautiful or spectacular thing.
Change the mindset, it will only enhance the reality that takes place on the ground no matter what. This was a wonderful tour of Shomron, combining history, beauty, entrepreneurial spirits and resilience.