The New York Times has an interesting article today about the cities of Beitar Ilit and Modiin Ilit. It seems that the talk of natural growth among the settler population has them focussing on some of the places in Judea and Samaria where this is most prominent – namely these two Charedi (Ultra-Orthodox) cities.
I find the article fascinating for a number of reasons. It is obvious that Peace Now and other left-wing organizations have provided the author with statistics (just look at the graph provided of population numbers), and a bit of spin. The spin is the attempt to “water down” the impact of the overall number of 300,000 Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria by dividing the population into “Ultra-Orthodox” in these two cities, and the “Jewish nationalists” everywhere else.
I also think the apparent hypocrisy of the left-wing is very intersting. An official of Yesh Din, in justifying a possible compromise where the border will be redrawn to include these two cities, claims that “From a purely geographic point of view, construction there [areas very near to the pre-67 border] is not as destructive as elsewhere”. Which means what exactly? That it is ok for Jews to build in Judea and Samaria if it is “near” the pre-67 border? How near is near? 5 kilometers away? 10 kilometers away? That it is ok to build houses for Ultra-Orthodox Jews because they are not necessarily right-wing Zionists, or to use their euphemism, “Jewish nationalists”?
The overall premise of the article, that in these two areas there is a “surprising potential for compromise” made me laugh out loud! Yes, the author is correct in assuming that most of the Charedim who live in these cities moved to them because the housing was cheaper. But it is a tremendous leap from this fact to the idea that all of them would move somewhere else, and it shows a lack of both information and perspective by the part of the author. There is a huge lack of affordable housing for everyone in Israel, and the problem is acute for Charedim, who have more children on average than other Israelis. The idea that somehow there would spring up a cheap place for these 100,000 Charedim to move to is a laugh. And the idea of them leaving their homes, without somewhere else to go (like the Jews from Gush Katif) is mind-boggling. Anyone who has read the news for the past few weeks and heard about the riots in Jerusalem over opening a parking lot on Shabbat would see that.
The biggest lesson for me from this article, is the very practical fact that NUMBERS COUNT. Places in Judea and Samaria that would theoretically become approved, or, as the Israelis say “in the consensus” are judged by one criteria only. THE SIZE OF THE POPULATION. Whereas those of us who are “Jewish nationalists” see Judea and Samaria as part of Israel because it is G-d’s gift to us, those who don’t hold that view use different ways to explain what parts are “ok and not ok”. East Jersualem is ok now because of the Kotel (Western Wall). And certain places in Judea and Samaria are ok because they are cities.
Every Jewish family that moves to a yishuv makes a difference.