To Rachel’s Tomb in a bulletproof bus 

By Akiva Eldar

Last Monday, 18-year-old Elad Wallenstein and 19-year-old Amit
Zanna were shot and killed near Ofra while traveling on a minibus on
the way back from guard duty. Six other soldiers on the bus, which
was not bulletproof, were injured. It was reported that due to
budgetary restraints, the Israel Defense Forces does not have enough
bulletproof vehicles for the soldiers exposed to shooting while
traveling in the territories.
On the very same day, according to the Women in Green
organization, the IDF began operating a bulletproof bus service to
Rachel’s Tomb. Last Wednesday, Nadia Matar sent an e-mail
message to encourage visits there. “As of Nov. 13, the army is
providing daily bulletproof buses to Kever Rachel,” the message said.
The buses leave from the Gilo-Bethlehem intersection at 9 A.M., 10
A.M. and 11 A.M. “They let 25 people on the bus each time. But if
you come with 40 people, they will shuttle the first 25 and then come
right back to pick up the others. (At least, that is what they promised
me today),” wrote the Woman in Green.
Matar is encouraging friends and acquaintances to spread the
important message to ensure that the bulletproof buses the army is
providing for visiting the tomb will not be empty. She complains that
no one knew about the new service; the only people on the 10 A.M.
bus were four women from Efrat. She found only one person on the
11 A.M. bus. “I have a bad feeling that it has not been publicized on
purpose, so that at the end of the week the government will say: ‘You
see, what are you asking to open Rachel’s Tomb for? Only 45 people
showed up in a week!’” The Woman in Green reassures her readers
that Rachel’s Tomb is the safest place in Israel today: “You get there
with a bulletproof bus, with an escort of two army jeeps and tons of
army around you.”
A Jerusalem resident yesterday called the number appearing on the
e-mail in order to find out if the service is still operating. Michael
Matar, Nadia’s father-in-law, promised that the buses were leaving
on time. He repeated that after their demonstration, the IDF was
instructed by the government to rent bulletproof buses for them. There
are places, for example on the Ofra road, where a bulletproof bus
shuttling visitors to Rachel’s ancient tomb might have spared the need
for some new tombs.
The IDF Spokesman said that “the army participates together with
local councils in Judea, Samaria and Gaza to cover the cost of vital
transportation, primarily for students in bulletproof buses.” The
spokesman did not comment on the use of buses (at a cost of NIS
1,000 per day) to transport worshipers to Rachel’s Tomb, at a time
when the chief of staff blames the shortage of bulletproof buses for
soldiers on budgetary difficulties.

taying power

Michal (Tinkerbell), the daughter of Rabbi Tzvi (Assi Dayan) in the
new Israeli film, “The Arrangement,” got fed up with the ancient
landscape of the Judean desert and the crowded cooped-up feeling in
the settlements. She informs the company commander, Menachem
(Aki Avni) that tomorrow she is packing her bags and heading for the
city. Afterward, Michal reports to the Shin Bet security service about
the plans of an outstanding student at the hesder yeshiva (combining
religious studies with military service) to blow up the mosques on the
Temple Mount. After the premiere screening of this riveting film,
director and screenwriter Yossi Sider came up on the stage of the
Jerusalem Cinematheque. For Sider, a young man wearing a skullcap,
it was important that the audience know that Michal can be found in
many settlements.
Several weeks ago, the daughter of an important rabbi was killed in a
terrorist attack in Jerusalem. This young woman had also left a
settlement. It turns out that there is up-to-date information about the
frame of mind of the next generation of settlement residents. A few
days before the Palestinians starting firing live weapons to remind the
Israelis that “Judea and Samaria” are occupied territories, the College
of Judea and Samaria in Ariel released a new study. The heading was:
“The next generation in Samaria and Benjamin and its attachment to
the area.”
Dr. Miriam Billig, who conducted the study together with Prof. Dan
Soen and Shelly Sorkraut, told Hatzofeh that the two areas chosen
(not including two large urban settlements, Ariel and Emmanuel) are
models for all of Yesha (acronym for Judea, Samaria and Gaza). “In
the current situation of political instability and uncertainty about the
future of the settlements,” the researcher said, “we decided to see
how this situation affects the decisions of the younger generation – to
stay or not to stay in the place where they grew up.”
Hatzofeh’s article, titled “Staying in Yesha,” focuses on the most
dramatic fact that emerges from a sample of 439 out of the 1,536
young married people in the second generation of settlers: Out of this
sample, almost 60 percent continue to live in the Samaria and
Benjamin regions. Another 7.7 percent live in other areas of the West
Bank and in the Golan. In other words, two-thirds of the young
settlers wish to follow in their parents’ footsteps. Billig said this is a
very high percentage for an age group that is mobile and faces
political uncertainty. That is one way of presenting the data. There is
also another: Every third couple in the settlements wants to leave their
childhood home, for a number of reasons: first, the desire to be closer
to a job or place of study; second, the spouse’s wish to leave. Other
reasons include a desire to live in the city, transportation problems
and political ideology. Security reasons appeared at the bottom of the
chart. It would be interesting to see what findings would emerge
today, when the West Bank has turned into the wild West.
The study has other findings that can be placed either in the
half-empty or half-full portion of the glass, depending on the reader’s
philosophy: 71.5 percent said they are continuing to live in the area, in
other words, that their hope for the future is to remain in Judea,
Samaria or Gaza; 6.5 percent are not continuing to live there, and 22
percent are still undecided. One way of putting it is that most of the
young people are connected to the place; or that a third are debating
whether to stay or are hesitant about staying in the disputed territory.
Most of those wishing to remain attributed some special significance
to their desire to strengthen the settlements. The second motive was
“a good education for the children,” the third was “quality of life,” the
fourth was “a desire to live in a communal settlement,” and the fifth
was “a pioneering spirit.” Eleven percent said they see themselves as
more idealistic than their parents. Most of them (65 percent) said
there was no difference between them and their parents.

ne will have to go

Even if the war the Palestinians have declared on the settlers
encourages a Jewish exodus to within the Green Line, quite a few
chicks will remain in the nest. The researchers found that the average
family in the medium and small settlements has 6.47 members. That is
an average of 4.47 offspring per family. If only two-thirds want to
raise their children near the grandparents, it would be necessary over
the next few years to triple the amount of housing in these
communities. In other words, it would be necessary to build
thousands of new homes on the disputed lands. The settlers like their
homes with exposure in four directions and a large garden. But even
in quiet times, it is hard to rely on the Palestinians’ generosity,
especially the Gaza residents. Their natural growth rate is even higher
than that of their neighbors in Kfar Darom; 5,000 settlers spread over
approximately 50 square kilometers. That means approximately 100
people per square kilometer. About 1.2 million Palestinians are
crowded into 300 square kilometers, which means 4,000 people per
square kilometer. Every day they pass the vast lettuce fields of Gush
Katif – they used to work there – and return to the crowded
conditions of the refugee camps in the Gaza Strip.
The study prepared by the College of Judea and Samaria has hidden
within it a wealth of demographic figures about the hard core of
settlements: 81 percent of the residents define themselves as religious,
11.5 percent as secular, 4.45 percent as traditional and 3.2 percent
as ultra-Orthodox. Sixty-nine percent are Ashkenazim, only 20
percent are Sephardim, 11.1 percent are native Israelis. The average
education of a father living in Judea, Samaria and Gaza is 16 years; a
mother has 15 years of schooling. Fifty-two percent of the children
have an academic degree and another 20 percent are in the process
of getting a degree. The general profile of the young people was
characterized by the researchers as “ten levels above the national
average.” Undoubtedly, Israel hasn’t had a better source for potential
aliyah since the massive waves of immigration from the Soviet Union.
Shimon Peres says it is not in the government’s power to uproot the
settlers who want to remain inside the borders of a Palestinian state.
He suggests that the IDF, or a civil guard, be sent for several years to
protect the Jewish enclaves. Yossi Beilin agreed five years ago with
Abu Mazen that a settler who agreed to live under Palestinian
sovereignty could remain in his home. Beilin thought at the time that
Yitzhak Rabin would be concerned about public reaction to a massive
evacuation of Jews from their homes. The recent violence has
convinced Beilin that one of the neighbors has to leave. It isn’t hard to
guess who he’s referring to.
Ehud Barak at first supported the Beilin-Abu Mazen proposal and
then changed his mind. At the Camp David summit, he suggested
concentrating smaller settlements in blocs. The debate, if we have the
privilege of going back to it, is likely to be over how much land Israel
will retain for the two out of three young couples that insist on
following in their parents’ footsteps.

elicopter compromise

It isn’t everyday that a foreign minister who is also a professor and a
humanist votes in favor of the aerial bombing of a densely populated
city like Gaza. When all is said and done, even the U.S. Air Force
aimed at Milosevic’s headquarters and bombed the Chinese embassy
in Belgrade. The Israeli Air Force also didn’t intend during Operation
Grapes of Wrath to massacre 100 residents of Kafr Kana. How is it
that Shlomo Ben-Ami this week was the swing vote in the cabinet in
favor of the helicopter assault on the Gaza headquarters?
After the cabinet heard from military intelligence officials that
Fatah-Tanzim was behind the attack on the children’s school bus in
Kfar Darom, all six cabinet members, including Yossi Beilin – who
was the only one to vote against the operation – supported some sort
of retaliatory operation. However, without the foreign minister’s
support, Ehud Barak would have been in the minority together with
Finance Minister Avraham Shochat, and Shaul Mofaz would have
returned to the General Staff empty-handed.
Shimon Peres and Amnon Lipkin-Shahak decided to switch from
opposition to abstention only after signs of a tie between the two
camps appeared. Apparently, assault helicopters were not the IDF’s
first choice. The military proposed to the cabinet an attack on the
chosen targets with fighter planes. The military experts said that the
planes’ equipment had proven itself in Lebanon as precise and more
effective. The foreign minister thought about the international reaction
to an attack by fighter planes on helpless citizens. Nevertheless, all of
the ministers agreed that the Israeli public was waiting for a reaction.
The helicopter attack was a compromise between foreign and
domestic policy. It’s hard to know how it will effect peace policy.
The European emissary, Miguel Moratinos, came to Gaza between
the first and second bombings. Arafat’s aides led him with the help of
a flashlight to a dark basement, which was reminiscent of the leader’s
last days in Beirut. Between rounds of shooting, Arafat told his visitor
that at the time the settlers’ bus was attacked, preparations for
resuming the negotiations were well underway and everyone was
praying for a cease-fire.