|I live in Efrat, Israel|
|Friday, 20 August 2010 00:00|
|In the last issue of The Voice & Herald, Nina Tannenwald took issue with the identification of my current home, Efrat (“Efrat – and Stieglitz – are in the West Bank”). Tannenwald implies that I mislead my readers by not being more specific about my location. I do not insult my readers’ intelligence by assuming that they don’t know where Efrat is located, or their ability to find it by doing a brief Internet search. The legality of the settlements has been debated for decades and is far from settled law; defenders of aspects of the settlements’ legality include U.S. State Department legal advisors, U.S. Supreme Court justices and a former dean of Yale Law School. Efrat is housed in the Etzion Bloc. Jewish communities in the Etzion Bloc existed before the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, built on land that was legally owned and deeded to Jewish owners. Those towns were captured and razed by Arab forces in the 1948 war. |
Tannenwald implies that the capture of land by Arabs in 1948 established legitimate ownership, but its recapture by Jews in 1967 does not. This is a striking double standard.
Contrary to Tannenwald’s statement that Efrat “confiscated Palestinian lands for its expansion,” all its lands were legally purchased or allocated, and were either state land or purchased from private landowners. Not one inch of Efrat was confiscated from any Arab. The city went to great pains to ensure that adjacent Arab land rights were respected, including a city footprint that is unnaturally narrow and elongated to ensure the integrity of nearby Arab land.
When Arab farmers began to till land inside Efrat’s municipal boundaries, the Israel High Court of Justice ruled in favor of those farmers, who till the land to this day.
Efrat is also not a “religious” settlement, as Tannenwald asserts. Rather, it is an open community with no religious membership criteria, in which non-observant Israelis are free to, and do, reside.
Tannenwald’s letter incorrectly stated that Pastor John Hagee gave significant funding to Efrat. Hagee’s donation went to an interfaith project run by the Chief Rabbi of Efrat via authorized educational institutions; no money went to the Efrat municipal government. Hagee also donated to the Gush Etzion regional council, a district authority that is separate from Efrat. Why Tannenwald felt this was even relevant, I’m not sure. I’m puzzled about why Tannenwald, an associate professor at an Ivy League university, would dash off such an inaccurate and contorted missive.
Even casual readers of my Jerusalem Journal columns would know that I spend most of my waking hours working and socializing in Jerusalem, a city Tannenwald admits to being within Israel’s borders. My columns recount personal experiences I have had within what I believe Tannenwald would agree to being Israeli territory (other than trips to Providence and Poland, and some army experiences).
Nonetheless, Tannenwald indicates I live in the West Bank. Legally, the West Bank was part of the country of TransJordan, which in 1988 renounced its sovereignty – meaning the permanent status must be agreed to by negotiations and a peace treaty, not by declaration of a Brown University professor.
Urged on by the U.S., Israelis and Palestinians continue to negotiate a settlement in which, we all hope, the national aspirations of all parties will be achieved in peace and security. Current proposals have Efrat and the Etzion Bloc remaining a part of Israel proper in any such settlement. Unless both sides agree to change that reality, I will continue to report my feelings and perceptions of the State of Israel as someone who holds Israeli citizenship, works in Jerusalem, pays Israeli taxes, benefits from Israeli medical insurance, receives mail sent through the U.S. Postal Service that is addressed to me in “Efrat, Israel” and lives in Israeli territory.
In the meantime, this is Dani Stieglitz reporting from Efrat, Israel.