Rod Valentine shares from his personal experience

Rod Valentine
Rod Valentine

These are the Jewish folk living in communities in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank - an area that was from 1948 until 1967 annexed and ruled over by Jordan); and until recently in Gaza, which likewise was annexed and ruled over by the Egyptians before the Six Day War in 1967.

In the main the media would have us believe that the majority of Settlers are ultra right wing, ultra orthodox Jews who are determined to destroy other people's lives to further their own beliefs and desires. Well, as with all people groups, there are some like that, but the majority are as far from the stereotype as you can get.

Many years ago these settlers were initially welcomed by their Arab neighbours, who asked, "Why do you come here? This ground is cursed, nothing grows here!" Nevertheless the horticulture established in Gaza by Israelis, employing Arab labour, was some of the best in the world, with produce growing in sand. Now Gaza is what they call "Juden Rein" completely without Jews.

We saw the evictions on television. The settlers left behind their homes and their greenhouses. The homes were destroyed at the request of the Palestinians, but the greenhouses were bought by the international Jewish community and handed over to the Palestinian Authority to enable business to continue. Sadly, they were looted and destroyed by the people they were meant to help.

On a recent visit to Israel, I had the opportunity to join with colleagues from the Jerusalem office of CFI and visit some of the families who were evicted from Gaza. Christians had provided finance to buy nursery school equipment to help these people who were living in temporary accommodation. On this visit we met Yossi who was the administrator of this small community of 10 families. I have to say that meeting Yossi was very challenging, if not a life changing experience. Why? It was his incredible assurance of the future. This combined with a total lack of anger or bitterness at the position he, his friends and their young families found themselves in. WOW! Uprooted, thrown out, home destroyed, moved 4 times so far, no work, no money, no compensation and still having hope. How would we cope under these circumstances?

He took us to the proposed site of their new community at Maskiot at the northern end of the Jordan valley. It was basically a barren hill with a scar through it where the road would be, but Yossi's vision saw way past this to beautiful trees lining the road, flower beds and the farm in the valley below, with animals and crops. What a beautiful vision; a far cry from our media image of the Jewish Settlers.

It was a great day, but I have to confess that the 2 hour journey back to Jerusalem left a lot of time to think. These guys we met were just like us, there was no fanaticism, no anti Palestinian rhetoric, just a desire to get on with their own lives. The one difference of course is that they are Jewish which unfortunately in some conjures up a negative view.

So it is good to have our stereotypes challenged and hopefully, our opinions changed! Sadly most folk these days take what they see and hear without questioning the truth of it.  CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.