Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Is There Life Beyond the Green Line?

This is the question asked by Andrey Deveykin, upon an invitation to attend a tour of the Samaria region for Russian-speaking Israeli press and bloggers hosted by the Shomron Liason Office. Despite the tour taking place on a work day, and dreading the commute through Tel Aviv morning rush hour, Andrey made the trip to the Barkan Industrial Park, near Ariel. He was joined by fourteen other Russian-speaking Israeli bloggers, correspondents and even a crew from HTB, a ubiquitous Russian news channel.

Their first stop was Barkan Industrial Park itself, home to over 100 factories, employing an equal number of Jews and Palestinian workers from surrounding villages. This was followed by a drive to the community of Eli, complete with the scenery for which the Shomron is famous. Then on to Tel Shilo, where archeological excavations of ancient Jewish village are ongoing. Presentations by prominent individuals, visits to several communities, taste testing at a regional winery, a peek at advanced laboratories in Ariel university, and so on.

Andrey ends it all thus:
Интересно, люди спокойно живут за зелёной чертой, вместе с палестинцами. Никто не ратует за депортацию палестинцев. Работают вместе, учатся (в том же университетском центре), ходят за покупками в одни и те же супермаркеты. Живут, как и должны жить соседи. Единственная помеха мирному сосуществованию - политика.
Oh, you don't speak Russian? Well, no one's perfect. Here's a translation:
It's interesting, people live peaceably beyond the Green Line, together with Palestinians. No one is clamoring for deporting Palestinians. They work together, study at the university together, shop at the same supermarkets. They live how neighbors should live. The only obstacle to a peaceful coexistence - politics.
You can view many more of Andrey's pictures here, and all 183 of them here. I'll point out, as would a certain security coordinator for one of the Jewish communities, that the current relative state of tranquility and coexistence in the West Bank exists for one reason only: the security blanket provided by ongoing intelligence and operational activity by the IDF, supplemented and supplanted, in limited areas, by Palestinian security forces.

The media tour in which Andrey participated is one of a series, part of a fledgling and promising effort to improve the image of Jewish communities in Yehuda and Shomron by introducing them, often for the first time, to influential groups of Israelis, domestic and international media, representatives of foreign governments and celebrities. Tourism has been identified as a uniquely effective form of advocacy for the Jewish communities, cutting through the haze of politics and preconceptions, and grounding the often abstract understandings of visitors in reality.

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