This Bank is Prozac for the soul

The Jewish Chronicle - - LIFE -

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?

PHOTO:FLASH 90

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