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Mixed emotions

The Purim edition of HaMizrachi, the organ of the Religious Zionist movement, included a fascinating feature about a group of Anglo women in Efrat who in 1995 occupied Dagan, an undeveloped hill that was part of the largely Anglo settlement. This was shortly after the Oslo Israeli-Palestinian peace accords, and the women were concerned that the hill, even though part of Efrat, could be requisitioned and fall out of the settlement’s purview.

I had such mixed emotions reading the story, especially in light of the recent spate of tragic killings of Jewish settlers. In my teen years I had been caught up in the pioneering spirit of it, the fervor of settling the Jewish ancestral homeland, transported to people I knew and admired who were pursuing this path. Visiting their homes in outposts I vicariously experienced a sense of the chalutzim, the pre-State Zionist settlers.

But my view evolved over the years, and unequivocally changed after a visit to Hebron about a decade ago. Not having been there since before the 1995 Goldstein massacre, I was shocked at the city’s — and the Cave of the Patriarchs’ — segregation. I also became particularly disturbed by the extreme ideology some adult residents were instilling in their children.

More than that, it was the existential risk these Hebron parents were taking on behalf of their children. For them, it is worth it, as they believe their mission is divine. While I had already become more skeptical, in part because I had started to consider the toll settlements were taking on the possibility of a two-state solution, I recognized the enormous privilege afforded me of being able to pray at the Cave of the Patriarchs, secured really only because of the settlers’ presence. But I was left wondering if the price is too high. Was it worth Jewish people being able to pray in Hebron if it meant families living a bunker life?

These past weeks, as we see innocents brutally murdered and families forever altered, those mixed emotions are stronger than ever. I am inspired by the deep commitment families like the Lees have to the Jewish people, but my inspiration is coupled with unease — for their personal security, as well as Israel’s.

Amid this emotional turbulence is one thing of which I am certain:The loss of these beautiful young lives is a tragedy for Am Yisrael. My fervent prayer is for the safety and security of all Jews.

Shana Goldberg may be reached at [email protected]

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