Israel, Politics

On Settlers, Empathy and Confusion

I have this red notebook. I bought it when I was at Pardes during the summer of 2005. It’s red, and thick, and I never managed to use all of it for class things, so now, it’s full of clippings and photos and testimonials and articles on the disengagement from Gaza. I left the country a few weeks before the disengagement actually happened, and when I came home, I became completely obsessed. Not with the political implications, not immediately, but with the settlers-the young girls sobbing, the folks in the synagogue the night before demolition,  in sleeping bags on lawns, standing on roofs, holding signs, wearing orange.
The same thing happened last summer after my tour of Hebron with Breaking the Silence. I remember seeing the settler kids near the Tapuz Gross checkpoint and thinking what a hateful thing it was to bring children into a place like this for ideological reasons. When I got back to Jerusalem, I looked for everything I could find on Shalhevet Pas.
Currently, I cannot stop thinking about Tamar Fogel, who came home to find all but two of her family members dead in Itamar on Friday night. Who is taking care of her and her two younger siblings? What will her life be like? Will she become (further) radicalized? Will we hear her advocating for peace and co existence? What right does anyone have to ask anything of her? (I’m going with none.)
I don’t think I’m unique here. I know I’m not the only one who has this predilection, whose imagination is engaged by the religious settler community (as opposed to those who are in the Territories for economic reasons, which is an important distinction), in spite of/because of the politics I hold about ending the Occupation and the settlements as a barrier to doing so. My obsession, or fetishization or whatever it is, stupefies me. On one hand, it creates an empathy that I’m not sure what to do with, and on the other, thank Gd for empathy. This world could use a little more of it.

3 thoughts on “On Settlers, Empathy and Confusion

    At 01:00 on Saturday morning, the Israeli police requested that the ‘exceptions committee’ of the social workers’ union — whose strike is now entering its second week — allow social workers to come to the aid the family and community which have been the latest victims of terrorism.
    According to this report in Ha’aretz, “Social workers from the Samaria Regional Council were given permission to render aid, with no restrictions as to their numbers, the social workers union said on Saturday. All of the regional government’s 20-plus social workers were involved in helping the family of the victims and other residents of Itamar, beginning with placing the surviving children in the family with grandparents in the settlement of Neveh Tzuf. The social workers remained with the children and additional relatives for the rest of the Sabbath.”
    One social worker was quoted as saying “The children were in serious straits. They had witnessed severe, indescribable trauma. Strike or no strike, we’ll stay with them throughout.”

  2. I feel very similarly, and I have no idea why. Some of it is that we share some similar religious practices, some of it is that I have relationships with some settlers (mostly of the economic type, but those lines are not always firm), some of it is that there are things about the lifestye (small communities, etc.) that appeal . . . I’m not really sure.

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