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Ynet Opinion: Ugly Mountain Air

Yehuda Litani
08.26.07, 08:41 / Israel Opinion

Kibbutz Kfar Etzion’s guest house, in the heart of Gush Etzion, is offering the public the chance to stay there over Rosh Hashana and enjoy “its magical, countryside atmosphere”.

An email sent out by Kfar Etzion’s field school says that guests will enjoy “pleasant and peaceful surroundings, large lawns, wide-ranging lessons from top rabbis, tours of Kfar Etzion, the Song of Songs garden, and mountain air as clear as wine and a spectacular view”.

And indeed, why not take up such a pastoral offer? Particularly given that the guest house is “only 12 minutes from Jerusalem and 15 minutes from Beit Shemesh”.

But what can be done about the fact that stuck within these short distances, as if to annoy, are the Arab communities, towns and villages that surround Gush Etzion? The residents of these
communities are not as lucky as those of Gush Etzion, or any other Israeli citizen, because they cannot travel to Jerusalem, a journey of 12 minutes, or to Beit Shemesh, a 15-minutes’ drive.

Most of these people are not permitted to leave the area, while those fortunate enough to receive the authorization to do so, face a far longer journey because of searches and security examinations at checkposts and crossing points.

Often, permission to travel is turned down for petty bureaucratic reasons, or just plain heartlessness, such as in the case of 18-year-old Radi al-Wachash, who was injured in a road accident in the Bethlehem area on June 29.

The Magen David Adom team asked for permission to take him to Hadassah Hospital, but was stopped at the entrance to the tunnel road and not allowed to proceed because al-Wachash is on a list of people denied entry to Israel on security grounds. The young man died in the ambulance, by the checkpost, as the first-aid personnel attempted to save his life.

Anybody who has stood by a checkpost, even for the smallest amount of time, is aware of the heart-rending scenes of elderly people seeking permission to receive medical treatment, or children looking to join their parents who have the necessary paperwork, or of husbands
wanting to be with their wives while they give birth, and not being allowed to do so.

With all due respect to security considerations, that aim to prevent mega-terror incidents, what possible threat can an 80-year-old woman pose to Israel’s security, and what can a three- or four-year-old child do to undermine the IDF?

When traveling on these roads, which to all intents and purposes are for Israelis only, one cannot help but notice the downcast look on the faces of the residents of these communities surrounding Gush Etzion, squeezed into queues at the crossing points and subject to the mercy of young soldiers and border police officers.

What has become of us that we have become so hard-hearted? Instead of feeling shame on seeing these scenes, Israelis simply continue driving on to their destinations, as if it was pre-ordained that some have no rights, and are destined to suffer discrimination.

On Rosh Hashana, dozens of Israelis will stay at Kfar Etzion’s guest house. They will enjoy the clear air of the hilltops, and take in the breathtaking view of the Judean hills, and listen in comfort to the lectures of leading rabbis. And maybe, just maybe, on their way there
and back, they will feel, as poet Yehuda Amichai once wrote: “From the place where we are right/Flowers will never grow/In the spring./ The place where we are right/Is hard and trampled/Like a yard.