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October 8, 2015 | 25th Tishrei 5776


Galilee Diary #360, October 21, 2007

Marc J. Rosenstein

Now Jericho was shut up tight because of the Israelites; no one could leave or enter…
On the seventh day, they rose at daybreak and marched around the city, in the same manner, seven times… On the seventh round, as the priests blew the horns, Joshua commanded the people, “:Shout! For the Lord has given you the city…” So... the people raised a mighty shout and the wall collapsed. The people rushed into the city, every man straight in front of him, and they captured the city.
     -Joshua 6:1, 15, 16, 20

Even though the bulk of the Jewish population here has always been urban, the agricultural settlement of the land has been an ideal, a formative myth, since the beginning of Zionism. After all, part of the purpose of Zionism was not just to return to a Jewish state, but to return to a more authentic Jewish existence, to become Jewish peasants rooted in the ancestral homeland. Therefore, the kibbutz and moshav loom large in the mental images of Israel that many people (both here and abroad) carry around. We all may prefer to live in Tel Aviv (or Los Angeles), but the “real” Zionists are out there driving tractors and herding sheep in the Galilee.

On Shorashim, a lovely, green, quiet, harmonious community of 60 families (and growing) on a mountainside in the Galilee, no one drives a tractor, and the only cows we see are those belonging to Arabs in a nearby village, when they escape and trample our flowers. We – like our neighbors in almost all the other gated Jewish communities scattered through the area – are middle class professionals, living an exurban life style that makes running out for a quart of milk (3 miles) a dilemma - with gasoline at $6 a gallon.

Nevertheless, the myth of Zionist settlement of the land remains in our consciousness. At least, that is the only explanation I can find for the response one frequently hears to recent attempts by Arab families to build homes in communities like ours: “That would be the end of Zionism!” When we first moved here, Tami and I were both strong supporters of the principle that a small community should screen members for suitability, in order to maintain the values and life style of the founders – in our case, a liberal Jewish approach based on significant involvement of members in Jewish holiday and life cycle observances, and a special atmosphere on Shabbat. We worried that a large influx of new members who only cared about finding a cheap home in a rural setting would undermine this spirit and put the founders on the defensive. And, it went without saying, non-Jews were out of the question. I don’t think I ever associated my views with the Zionist dream – just with the belief that there is some moral basis for a community preserving its values – that the right of a community to define its life style is a right that deserves consideration even though it conflicts with the right to live wherever I want to.

However, as we’ve aged/matured/mellowed, and experienced votes at which prospective [Jewish] members were rejected, and squirmed at the public rejection of Arab applicants by neighboring communities (overturned by the Supreme Court}, we have both come to feel uncomfortable with the concept of screening, and to have new respect for the right to live wherever you want to. We love it here – but sometimes we find ourselves thinking that the openness and heterogeneity and permeability-of-boundaries of a city are missing out here, leaving us in a kind of moral and cultural wilderness.

The other morning the gate jammed shut at rush hour and I sat in a line of cars waiting to get out to go to work and school, facing an equal line waiting to get in – construction workers, cleaning ladies, parents bringing kids from other communities to our day care. And I wondered if we could dream a Zionist dream with an open gate.

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