About once a month, my wife and I spend the Sabbath at her family's  home.

We're both atheists while they're very religious - settlers living  in the west bank town of Efrat near Bethlehem. Even so, for seven years  we've managed to put aside politics and religion, and get along for the  sake of family.  


That is, I keep quiet for family's sake. While there are no discussion  "taboos", it is quite clear to me, that if my interest is keeping good  relations with my wife's family, it would be better to fight my battles  elsewhere.

So I sit, and shut up. When the racism starts spilling about  arabs, about obama being a "dumb arab nigger" whose out to destroy  Judaism, about the secular liberals who in their blindness help the  arabs, about the "light of Judaism in front of the darkness of the  gentiles" – I turn into a fish.

I take solace in knowing that as long as  the conversation doesn’t steer towards politics or religion, visits  there are actually quite pleasant.  I should note that on the personal level they've never tried to push  religion down my throat, never ask me to come to prayer, never question  me about my beliefs. They have come to accept their daughter as an  atheist, and I as her husband get the same treatment.

This Saturday was no different. Playing with the kids, reading to them,  regular family conversation with the occasional racist comment that I'v  learned to swallow. It seems to me sometimes like they've completely  forgotten what my views are.  

Religious jews are forbidden to turn the TV or radio until Saturady  evening, so right upon ending the Sabbath, they turned on the radio and  heard the news.

 It turns out that this Friday evening, a Palestinian managed to  infiltrate into the Jewish west bank settlement of Itamar near Nablus.

 He found a house with an unlocked door, entered, and slaughtered a  family of five in their sleep with a knife. Among the murdered were two  infants- their throats slit. The bodies were discovered at midnight by  the family's 12 year old daughter who came home late and found her whole  family dead.  The murdered family was my wife's sister's neighbors.

The sister began  crying, naturally, her children began crying. I stood there, and could  not feel anything.  Eight years ago the exact same thing happened in her settlement- a  Palestinian jumped the fence and gunned down a family – her neighbors...  He set the house on fire and the local municipality decided to leave it  as it is so people will remember.

Every day my wife's sister's kids  wake up in front of a burnt home across the street - so they'll remember  what the arabs just outside the fence did to them. She moved there  after the event. She moved there on purpose, to one of the more violent  and dangerous settlements in the west bank- in order to take part in the  struggle for the land of Israel.

And now she was crying for her  neighbor in horror as if she never expected this to happen.  My wife's mother lost it completely, she screamed with a hate I never  heard before. "Those secular Jewish Nazis! This is all because of them!  Because of them we haven't deported the arabs and allow them to murder  us! The government tears down our homes (illegally built caravans) while  letting these animals murder us!"  

Like I said, they've completely forgotten who their daughter is, who I am. It was insane. I told my wife we need to get out of there immediately. My wife's dad  and brother came and apologized, they were very embarrassed. The truth  is indeed embarrassing sometimes.

The murder in Itamar is horrible, but I can't help but feel that this is  the price Israel will continue paying for its insistence to occupy the  west bank. Driving to Itamar on family visits, it is impossible to  ignore the roadblocks, army posts, jeeps, patrols, guard towers – a huge  prison set up so that my wife's sister can keep living her pastoral  life in her beautiful little hillside settlement, scarred only by burnt  home across the street.  

Talking to the settlers is futile. They think of themselves as the most  moral people on the face of the earth. The ultimate victims, bearing the  burden of being god's chosen people, fulfilling his commandments by  living in the land he gave them in the bible, and having to pay the  terrible price for it.

 They are blind to all interests other than their own, they simply don't  see the suffering of others- the prison they have created for the  Palestinians.

And when the Palestinians fight back- they are labeled  animals, murderers.

Suddenly all the holier than thou theists jump up  and say- "see?! We can't make peace with them... we have to keep the land  in order to stop terrorism". Bullshit.

We've had almost ten years of  quiet in the west bank, and no one here even began thinking of  withdrawal. The absurd thing is that the only time the common Israeli  thinks about ending the occupation is after a terror attack- in that  sense, terrorism pays. It seems to be the only way to get our attention.  

Every year things here get worse. The occupation isn't just turning  Palestinians against jews, but mostly the Israelis against each other.

 It's becoming more and more common among theists to label atheists and  people voicing their opinions against the occupation as traitors  deserving prosecution and even death. Some rabbis aren't afraid of  saying it anymore. Settlers have begun escalating their struggle with  the government, attacking arabs in retaliation to jewish outposts  destroyed by the army. There's even talk of killing soldiers who come to  destroy outposts.

 The occupation awoke the insanity of nationalist Judaism from its 2000  year old slumber. Last time, it ended with the country splitting in two,  and I have no doubt it will happen again.

Views: 52

Comment by Arcus on March 14, 2011 at 1:29pm

Not a lot of innocence on either side in this conflict.

Israel has strong rights to the occupied territories due to winning them in defensive wars. It's important to remember how Israel ended up occupying the West Bank (from Transjordan) and Gaza (from Egypt), and how other losing aggressors (Germany, Italy, Japan) also lost national territory in peace settlements. 

That Israel is not following the plan of establishing a Palestinian state is inexcusable, but understandable when the people they want to hand it back to think Israel should be annihalated. Jordan and Egypt does not want these territories back and the stalemate is complete.

Very simplified, but the imporant thing is trying to consider that there are two sides to this story. Israel often overreacts, but are overreacting to terrorism. Terrorism is caused by an unjust situation, which is caused by unjust demands from both sides. Comparing which side is "worst" based on the number of casualties is not only of little enlightenment, but directly counterproductive as it removes focus from the actual problems.

Comment by Kasey Rae Boyce on March 14, 2011 at 8:43pm
This makes my heart hurt and opens my eyes a little more.  Thank you for taking the time to post this.


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