Settler leaders are engaged in a large public relations effort to sell the northern West Bank as a beautiful and safe tourist destination. They have a lot to show, but also to hide.
Nati Yisraeli...is the tourism coordinator of the Samaria Regional Council...
"Our strategy has changed during this period," he said. "Once we would organize demonstrations. Today it's the exact opposite. We simply want people to come and get to know us; to like us. That's why we've invited you."
"Look," he said, spreading his arms to indicate the view. "This is Tuscany, and it's 10 minutes away from your house in Petah Tikva...A large public relations effort is underway to sell both Israeli citizens and tourists around the world on the idea of Samaria as a beautiful and safe tourist destination.
...The first stop on the tour was the veranda in Havat Yair - an unauthorized outpost...The spacious veranda is part of Tamari's Shack, a cafe and bed-and-breakfast owned by Doron and Tamar Nir-Zvi, who live next door. The Nir-Zvi family started their business three years ago, and it is the first B&B in Samaria. The views are breathtaking.
...From Havat Yair we traveled to the city of Ariel to visit the Eshel Hashomron Hotel - the only hotel in the vicinity. Hotel manager Tuvia Gelbard explained that most of the 100-room hotel's guests are Christian pilgrims from Europe. Israelis turn up on weekends.
...On the way to Sebastia, we passed through the Palestinian village of al-Punduk and continued via Jatt in the direction of Kedumim. At every junction stood Jewish hitchhikers...We traveled in his jeep to the disused railway station near Sebastia, where in 1975, the Gush Emunim settlement organization established its first settlement in Samaria...The station is deserted, and Elmakayes told me of plans to convert it into a museum documenting Jewish settlement in the area.
Then we continued to the ancient site of Sebastia, and Elmakayes took me on a guided tour, with interesting explanations about the site's history...
...We traveled to Rachelim, a settlement established in 1991 but recognized only a year ago as an independent settlement, to visit the Tura boutique winery...
...The last view of the day, from the peak of Mount Kabir, awakened no end of questions: Does anyone, for all the endless talk about establishing two states for two nations, have a fair solution to the Palestinian problem? Is evacuating the settlements in Samaria viable? Don't the thousands of homes I saw on the hilltops render such a solution unrealistic and disconnected from reality?
All the people I met were welcoming and hospitable. But the reality is different - disconnected, insoluble and discouraging.
I left out his propagandizing. After all, Haaretz doesn't hide its antagonism.
Better just to sip the wine and enjoy the views.