Wednesday, June 24, 2009

He Took The High Road

The View from a West Bank Hilltop

“The water is out again,” Batsie Zar shouts to her husband, Itai, from the kitchen.

He quickly gets on his cell phone, trying to get one of the other young men in this isolated hilltop—one of about 100 illegal settlement outposts across the West Bank—to turn it back on.

If it’s not the water, it’s the creaky generator for electricity that fails, Itai Zar cheerfully complains as a pitched wind whistles against the window panes of his compact home in Havat Gilad. In the winter, a fire crackles in the wood stove Zar welded together himself to cook meals for the family.

...During a quieter period, Zar walks through the outpost, past chicken coops, grazing horses and young men driving a tractor through a wheat field. He points out the new houses built here in the six years since he and his wife first came, setting up a home in a shipping container.

The army evacuated them once; they promptly returned. The outpost was built as an act of revenge, Zar said, for the shooting death of his brother, Gilad, on a nearby road in May 2001. His brother had been the head of security for Karnei Shomron, a West Bank settlement where the brothers grew up.

There is a rustic, almost Old West feeling to the outpost. Overlooking a Palestinian village, Havat Gilad is accessible only by a dirt path off the main road. At the entrance, a wooden Star of David built into a pair of wooden posts welcomes visitors. One of the posts bears a faded orange ribbon left over from the campaign in 2005 against Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.

Some of the outpost’s scattering of homes are made of wooden siding. One even boasts a front porch. Another has a bright red roof.

The settlers here say they are proud they used Jewish labor to build their homes; most Jewish houses in the West Bank are built by Palestinian laborers. Private donations paid for their generators and water tanks.

Zar says an American Jewish donor provided $30,000 for initial infrastructure costs in Havat Gilad...

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