Wednesday, June 20, 2012

True peace and security

True peace and security

Haim Shine

At the beginning of the week I stood atop Mount Kabir in Samaria, and I was in awe. The mountain rises to 800 meters above sea level. To the east I saw the Yabuk Stream (Nahal Yabuk) and the Path of the Sun, mentioned in the Bible as the path taken by our ancestor Abraham into the Land of Israel. This was the path of the Israelites into the Promised Land.

Looking southward, I saw Mount Ebal and in its shadow, the remnants of the stone altar built by Joshua. It was beside this altar that the covenant between the people of Israel and their God was made. Looking at the valley below, I saw two silver warplanes of the Israel Air Force practicing a dogfight over the remnants of Tirzah, one of the capitals of ancient Israel.

Underneath, in Nablus, a plume of smoke rose above Joseph's Tomb, a holy place that has been abandoned, deserted. The plume wafted slowly towards the Askar and Balata refugee camps, in which thousands of refugees live in crammed conditions, waiting to return to Tel Aviv and Jaffa. A moment on top of a mountain that encompasses two thousand years of Jewish history, a nation of freed slaves who wander the desert, receive the Torah and enter the land promised to their forefathers. A nation sent to exile from its homeland for more than two thousand years, but against all the odds, returns home and re-establishes anew its sovereignty and its army. Today, the descendants of King David's fighters now pilot, with great skill, the best fighter jets in the world.

The warm winds of a heat wave make their way between the vineyards of Elon Moreh and Har Bracha. The winds of summer blast the plentiful, sweet grapes on the vines. The vineyards herald the fulfillment of Jeremiah's prophecy (Jeremiah 31:5): “Again you will plant vineyards on the hills of Samaria; the farmers will plant them and enjoy their fruit.” The red rooftops of the houses flicker like flames in the sun's rays, as if saying, " I will build you up again and you will be rebuilt ... Again you will take up your tambourines and go out to dance with the joyful" (Jeremiah 31:4).

At the crossroads of Har Bracha and Yitzhar stand proud Hebrew mothers, their heads covered, waiting for their ride back home. Wonderful women, pioneers, who because of their dedication to the vision of returning to Zion, are returning Samaria to its former glory.

In 50 years, or perhaps 100, history books about the nation of Israel will talk about a group of incredible men, women and children, who with the strength of their determination and their faith, returned to the people of Israel, for all eternity, the lands of their birthright, from which they were exiled. We are talking about families who have more than once paid the highest price for their hold on the Land of Israel. Memorials to their loved ones are strewn all throughout the roads of Samaria.

In the industrial areas of Samaria I saw, with my own eyes, peaceful coexistence between Jews and Arabs. I saw factories that successfully combine the advantages of Jewish innovation and Arab diligence; a winning combination that could transform the entire region into a new Garden of Eden. The workers in these industrial zones earn a fair wage, and in each and every Arab village one can see a large amount of new construction, including the construction of multi-storeyed homes and luxurious palaces. The standard of life there is rising, the birth rate is decreasing.

As long as life is good, so the tendency to terror is reduced. At the Ariel University Center, Arabs and Jews study together. Far away from politics, an understanding between human beings is being forged. Only reconciliation between people can lead to real peace.

It is a pity that the Palestinian leadership denies this reality, and works to thwart progress to negotiations about how to manage a shared life in this piece of land, so pregnant with meaning and longing. No one can deny the Jewish people their legitimate right to live in freedom in their new-ancient homeland, just as there is no reasonable Israeli who wants to forcibly banish those who live on the land. Given these positive circumstances, we are left with no other choice but to learn to live together, for the good of all.