Who are the settlers? This is a question that I am constantly asking myself, even as I sit here in this restaurant and look out the window at the huge settlement within view of everywhere in Bethlehem. Is there a profile that would match up well for the average settler? Is this person a religious person, a zealot, a secular Jew, what?
I asked this as I heard stories from At-Twani, about the settlers beating internationals, poisoning land, carrying guns, etc. Are these the thousands and thousands of people who are living on Palestinian land?
The settlements that are in East Jerusalem were not advertised even as settlements in the beginning. They were advertised as nice, gated communities, just within a short commute from Jerusalem, with parks and pools and tax-breaks and cheap living conditions, and a nice highway to and from their new living community. Many people moved into them in ignorance of what exactly was happening, of whose homes were being demolished for the settlements…
The CPT folks I spoke with said that they find it hard to believe that there would still be many Israelis/Jews who would be ignorant of where they are moving now. So, there are the settlements very close to big cities, that maybe some families simply moved to because of the financial benefits.
But you really have to wonder about the settlements like those close to At-Twani. There is nothing around – there are living out in the middle of nothing. What is their purpose there? Those who we have talked to tell us that those settlers are primarily the extremist religious Jews, the Rabbis who carry guns, the settlers (who we saw in the Old City of Jerusalem) who are constantly armed, who carry their machine guns with them into the city.
As I look at these settlements, I imagine the homes, the families, the evenings at home watching movies, the laughing, the love that exists, and I wonder, “How can we just assume that everyone in these settlements hates Palestinians…?” That is the impression that we’ve received. But I don’t know what to do with that. I would love to meet settlers who are pro-Palestinian, but…that does seem like it would be a pretty huge paradox.
Has anyone ever met a settler?