Beware – Convention breaking post! By Udi Goren, Israel

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A couple of weeks ago, I had the chance to have an amazing and yet provoking learning experience: it began with filming in Bethlehem with friends who are involved with the city tourist office. They arranged for me a visit on top of the Church of Nativity, which is being renovated these days after 600 years of existence (and many leaks).

An Italian company that specializes in renovating ancient buildings created a 3D model of the place using thermodynamic and laser scans. Since the whole process was conducted without removing even one piece of the roof, the company people were  very surprised to discovered that a layer of clay mixed with straw was part of the roof’s construction (unconventional for the period, I was told). Moreover, when they began to work according to the plan, they were amazed to find out that every nail or supporting beam their engineers have put in the blueprint-already existed! 600 years ago, engineers knew what they were doing.

After a few hours of learning about the church, Arabic no longer sounded foreign to my ears and I completely forgot I was in an “enemy” state where everyone was just aching to throw me into the sea… After work, we made an obligatory stop in a local restaurant, in the spectacular Solomon’s Pools and in a local Palestinian-Israeli reconciliation NGO (that may only be fictive cause as we all know- there’s no partner for peace…).

From there, I drove a short distance to a reality that feels like a thousand light years away from us, to the Ma’ale Hever settlement in Southern Mount Hebron.  I have never seen this place, and it seems so far away from me. I didn’t realize right away I had reached my destination. The access road overlooks the Dead Sea and the pink mountains of Jordan; the Ein Gedi plateau was right below me. I couldn’t take my eyes off the splendor of the vast open space in front of me. The more I think about it, the more I believe in this theory that the main reason why our government doesn’t want to give up Judea and Samaria is that there is just too much beauty out there.

My friend Moshe and I sat for a long, sincere conversation- a settler who grew up in Hebron amongst the toughest ideologists out there, and a liberal leftist who simply cannot understand how land can be more important than life. So he explained it to me… He told me about Rabbi Kook, who was a tree hugger hippy and a great lover of humankind. Somehow, during the course of history, his theory turned into the ideological foundation of the settler movement. He also told me about the major differences there are within the settlers and their internal politics. We spoke of the future and wandered if we even have one, especially considering how deep the separation is between the different ideological believers. He told me how Naftali Bennett together with Bar Ilan University, have lately been marked as the enemies of the Zionist-nationalistic movement because of the way religious people mix with seculars who have a bad influence on the former. There were a lot of funny and cautiously optimistic moments, where I felt closer to him ideologically and conceptually than to any leftist in Israel. I have already written in the past about the joint conclusion we’ve reached: ignorance is the worst enemy. Without it we wouldn’t be able to hate blindly, be racist, discriminate and demonize or dehumanize the other.

That’s it for today – now you can go and look at some pretty pictures, but not before you share with whoever needs to read this!

Udi Goren, 

YaLa Young Leaders

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