Page 7  -  Efrat

Here is a map of some of the area we have been talking about.  You can see Jerusalem, going south is Bethlehem, on its south edge is the "Daheisheh" refugee camp. 

Map of area south of Jerusalem 

Let's go a bit further south, to the settlement of Efrat.

      Efrat  is within the bounds of the 1948 to 1967 "West Bank",  and is regarded by its Jewish residents as a suburb of Jerusalem.  The "security boundary" includes it on the Israeli side.  From the point of view of an American developer or city planner, working without regard to politics, it is a very logical place to have a suburban development, and it is a very attractive modern suburban city, with shops, synagogues, and attractive plantings.  It is on the top of a string of small hills, with pretty views of the surrounding agricultural land.  There are convenient road connections for those commuting to jobs in Jerusalem or even Tel Aviv.   The population of immigrants from the US is large enough to make it attractive to Americans, and I am told and believe that most residents have come because they find it an attractive and convenient suburb and a good place to raise children.

Rows of houses on hillsidetraffioc circle on hilltop, with plantings

       The founders of Efrat, we were told by the local spokesman, arrived at a time when it was still expected  that there could be peaceful coexistence, cooperation, and friendship between the Israelis and Palestinians.  I recall that feeling well; it was very prevalent when I was first in Jerusalem, in 1971, and the economy was booming. The first land was purchased peacefully   and Palestinians from the surrounding villages often worked in Efrat. 

       Later, of course, the Intifadas came. The expansion of Efrat became controversial (now, even the central Israeli government discourages Efrat from expanding onto a neighboring hillside) and there was a real fear of attacks from radical Palestinians.
     The Palestinian view of these settlements  is, of course, different.  Many object to any settlement of Jews in areas Israel conquered in 1967.   Israelis point out in reply that the border of 1948 to 1967 were never recognized by any of the surrounding countries; why is Israel supposed to be bound by them now? 

        Land titles are often obscure: between 1918 and 1948 the British never developed a system for recording the old Turkish land titles, and deeds may well be disputed.  And as in the US, decisions by governments to annex land or change its use are not always welcomed by the landowners. For example, Israel prefers to expand Jerusalem suburbs onto land not being actively farmed. They can show you photographs showing that "this field was abandoned, not being farmed, when we rezoned it."  The locals retort: "Hey, grape vines can get a disease. When they do, you cut them down and leave the field fallow for a year or two before replanting.  We can show you photographs showing the grape vines here two years earlier."

soldiers guarding pumping station
       Everyone agrees that Efrat sits on a major aquifer, and controls a major source of water for the area. Was this coincidence? Was it because a builder found it easier to build a new town where there was readily available water? Was it because a nationalist Israeli saw a chance to impede Palestinian access to water?  I don't find it useful to answer such questions.  My wife Eunice has been  a mediator in the Memphis court system: she can tell us that in many disputes, trying to agree on past facts is neither easy nor even necessary.  It is necessary for both sides to be heard; for both sides to feel the other has heard their story.  And then it is often possible to figure out  and even agree on what should happen in the future.

       What should happen in the future, in Efrat?  That's a hard one.  It, and other settlements like it, tend to "break up" Palestine.  It is very hard to imagine a system of roads that allow Jewish areas and Palestinian areas both to be connected, even using bridges and tunnels.  In a truly peaceful solution, it might be possible to have scattered pockets of Jews living among the Palestinians,  fair sharing of water, cooperating police forces that served two different populations, with appropriate solutions for people who have lost homes and fields to war, security barriers, and urban development.  But that sort of peace may be a great many years in the future. 

       One possible way of hoping for a nearer-term solution, but possibly equally far-fetched, is the following thought:  Israel has shown it has the money and the technological ability to build new communities, and large quantities of housing, remarkably quickly. The recent absorption of about a million arrivals from the former Soviet Union was remarkable. It would be possible to provide new housing for the Palestinians in refugee camps. It would be possible to have a working economy in the West Bank and Gaza, so that people could have jobs and schools to go to instead of bomb factories and protest meetings.  Some Palestinians will not get their original homes and land back, but homes and water and agricultural land can be found for those that want them. And if some Jewish settlements have to be relocated, new ones can be built and those people also may have to live in places that are not their first choice. 

        Peace will require sacrifices from a lot of people, including American Jews like me - because it will cost a lot of money, and a lot of that money will have to come from people like me. But I'd rather spend it on houses and desalinization and irrigation and building schools than on guns and bombs and wars, and compared to the cost of the guns and bombs and wars, it is really not prohibitively expensive.

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Page 2:  Kfar Shalem
Page 3: Duheisha Refugee Camp
Page 4:  Universities
Page 5: The Wall / Security Barrier
Page 6:  Bethlehem
Page 7:  Efrat
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