This Bank is Prozac for the soul
But soon the quietness of the yishuv — bereft of thunderous traffic — and the breathtaking views quickly wove their spell.
What’s more, and hearby hangs the irony, I loved the fact that my children could enjoy so much freedom within the settlement where my brother lived.
Surrounded by a security fence and with little traffic on the roads, they could wander off to play parks with their cousins, enjoying a freedom which would have been unthinkable back in the UK. Even now, after a long, hot day, I think nothing of taking a midnight walk there — hardly something I can do in north Manchester.
That’s not to say that one can remain blind to the tensions asso- Quiet: A typical residential street in the Jewish settlement of Efrat in Gush Etzion on the West Bank ciated with this gorgeous area of Israel. There’s the army check-point at the ‘‘tunnel’’ into the Gush. The signs near some Arab villages that warn Israelis not to venture down these roads as it may ‘‘endanger life’’. (Though rather bizarrely, these are in Arabic, as well as English and Hebrew).
Meanwhile, I often pass the now infamous bus stop, a five-minute drive from my brother’s home, where, back in June 2014, three teenage boys were kidnapped and murdered. It’s hard not to stop and freeze in horror at the small, memorial statue which recalls this savage event. Or the fact that, a young woman was attacked and murdered at the same spot only five months later
But this is Israel, where every bitter experience is sweetened by hope, creativity, life. On a recent trip at Succot, we visited a little settlement within the Gush that scratches a living making its own cheeses. On another day, we called into an art gallery in the basement of a house in Tekoa. Enterprise and activity which articulate Jewish defiance.
Even though I have relatives living in Gush I really don’t need to go as often or for as long as I do. Friends who have family in a nearby settlements literally rush in and rush out for Shabbat. Others, too nervous to make the trip, insist on meeting in Jerusalem
There have been times when, as a family, we have made concessions to travelling there. After a spate of shooting on the main road to Gush Etzion, rather than pick up a hire care at the airport, my husband secured the services of a bullet proof taxi van. Inside, there were benches and no seat belts. The combination of kamikaze driving and no safety restraints was a far greater threat to our lives.
I always leave Gush with a heavy heart — the quiet, the beauty, the cool air. As soon as I hit Netanya or Tel Aviv I feel like I have arrived in another world. One of noise, bustle and heat.
Will I ever stop going there? This is not a settler’s defiance. This is simply the testimony of someone who has found a beautiful place to visit and simply wants to go back. Again and again.
Where is the madness in that?