David Ha'ivri: When did “settlers” become a negative appellation?
"Although many people picture Jewish settlers in the West Bank as religious fanatics (like me), most Ariel residents are secular" © -
David Ha'ivri: When did “settlers” become a negative appellation?
Last updated: May 6, 2013
David Ha'ivri: When did “settlers” become a negative appellation?

"Although many people picture Jewish settlers in the West Bank as religious fanatics (like me), most Ariel residents are secular"

This article is a reaction to Your Middle East's feature on the Ariel settlement. It also tackles some of the discussion in the comment field of a previous op-ed on "anti-Israeli propaganda".

In American culture, isn’t Thanksgiving a celebration of the historical success of the settlers who built their land? In the book of Joshua, in the Bible, we first learn of the children of Israel who settled the land under his leadership. Wasn’t the city of Fort Worth, Texas founded as a monument in honor of the first American settlers in that territory? The Fort Lauderdale area was known as the "New River Settlement" before the 20th century. In the 1830s, there had been approximately 70 settlers living along the New River. 

Throughout history, people have migrated from one land and settled in another. Never in history has the migration of a people and their settlement in another land been met with opposition like that raised against the Jews returning to Israel. How ironic that the Jews’ return to our own homeland is branded as an injustice. Judea and Samaria are the heartland of Israel; some call them “the West Bank.” This very area is the home of the Jews. 

There is no people in the world who have a stronger claim to their homeland than the Jews do to Judea and Samaria. All of Israel is significant to the Jewish people, but Judea and Samaria are at the core of our national heritage. 

35 years ago, Ron Nachman and the Tel Aviv group climbed up a barren hilltop in the Shomron and set up a tent that became Ariel. Ariel means “Lion of God,” and it was a name applied to Jerusalem and its Temple in the days of the Bible. 

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Over the past 35 years, that barren hilltop has developed into a thriving dynamic city in Israel – but some still call it a “settlement.” Today, Ariel has a population of 22,000 residents in addition to a university with 16,000 students and faculty. A four-lane highway connects Tel Aviv to Ariel via a 30-minute drive, yet some still call that a “settlement.” Ariel has its own kindergartens, schools, high school, libraries, swimming pools, supermarkets, and medical clinics. In the mornings, there are traffic jams coming into Ariel as thousands commute to its university from around the country. 

Two weeks ago, Ariel's founder, Ron Nachman, was laid to rest on a hill overlooking the city that he built. Thousands came from around the country to pay their respects to Ron Nachman, including Prime Minister Netanyahu and his government ministers. One friend from America eulogized Ron and his leadership, likening him to Joshua Bin Nun who led the nation into this land many years before. 

Although many people picture Jewish settlers in the West Bank as religious fanatics (like me), most Ariel residents are secular. Many anti-Israel propagandists will say that the Jewish settlements exist to the detriment of local Arab development. But in fact, the Jewish development of Judea and Samaria has brought great benefits to Arabs who live in this region. Thousands of local Arabs (“Palestinians,” if you like) earn high paying Israeli salaries at workplaces that the BDS movement boycotts. 

Some refer to writing like this as “hasbara,” but it is simple truth. Jewish settlements are a good thing, and they have brought blessings to the region. Ariel is a success story - as is Jewish settlement throughout Judea and Samaria. 

The time has come to change the narrative. Israel does not need to apologize for settling its own land.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those of Your Middle East.

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