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.