Posted on 11/12/2013 10:06:00 AM
 
Not your typical trip
 
Frederica/Fraydel Aliza
 
Dear Family and Friends,

Last month I took my first trip in over ten years to Israel. Whereas I used to go quite frequently to Israel the government's decision to force all the residents of Gush Katif to leave their beautiful communities in 2005 devastated me and it was not until recently that I wanted to return.  In 2003  I had visited various thriving communities in Gush Katif and had seen the amazing agricultural accomplishments of the people who had settled there.

Some months back I received an e-mail from someone who had just taken a tour with Americans for a Safe Israel (AFSI)  and was raving about it. I checked it out and decided it was  for me. The tour this past October coincided with Parshas Chaya Sarah ( the biblical portion of the week which tells of Avraham's buying land in Hevron in order to bury Sarah).

I arrived in Israel a few days early to hopefully get over my jet lag before the actual tour started 
and visited with a good friend in the  Bayit Vegan section of Jerusalem, as well as seeing a few other special friends. During this time we attended a memorial concert for Shlomo Carlebach and I visited the Jerusalem Zoo--definitely worth a visit--for the first time.

On Monday morning a driver picked up four of us who were early arrivals and took us to the airport to rendezvous with the rest of the group that was arriving.  We boarded our private bus and headed for Modiin where we visited with David Jacobs in his home. Basically, this is a people to people trip that concentrates on Judea and Samaria--incorrectly referred to as the West Bank and occupied territories by the media. We then drove past Kiryat Sefer, a Hareidi {religious) town,  and Nachliel before arriving at Psagot where we met with the Sephardi rabbi and had a tour. That was followed by a visit to Beit El, home of Arutz Sheva---www.IsraelNationalNews.com-one of the best sources of Israeli news. I had been in these areas in 2002 and 2003 and what was most noticeable was the tremendous growth of the Arab city of Ramallah. Its expansion is phenomenal- we viewed much new construction of villas and apartment buildings. It is quite easy to note which areas are Arab and which Jewish. Besides the ever present minarets there are no fences around Arab settlements;
Jewish settlements almost always have fences for protection against terrorist attacks.  There is limited Jewish building due to the difficulty of obtaining building permits.  The Arabs don't bother with permits and the Israeli government  looks the other way. Our last stop was in Amona before heading for our hotel in Ariel, the Ashel HaShomron, which was very attractive and comfortable. Excellent food and a Biblical Garden with interesting lighting effects at night.

Tuesday's program began with a visit to Ariel University where we met with Professor Alexander Bligh, Director of the Middle East Research Center, and .learned how this institution  with its diverse student body and excellent reputation is ostracized both within Israel and internationally because it's on the wrong side of the Green Line.  In fact, when Obama addressed the Israeli university students last spring the Ariel students were specifically not extended invitations by the American Embassy. Universities in Israel and many abroad choose not to establish relationships with Ariel. We then saw new housing in Ariel into which some of the former residents of Netzarim (Gush Katif) will move  after over eight years of temporary housing. Unfortunately, a good number of the Gush Katif refugees had no means of support after the expulsion and had to use their compensation for their daily living costs leaving them without funds to build new homes and so must remain in caravillas(trailers). We next visited a plastics factory in the Barkan Industrial Zone where many Arabs are employed. What is ironic is that the groups boycotting products from Judea and Samaria are actually harming the Arabs and threatening their livelihoods. After lunch we visited Amit Oren who has had many of his goats stolen from his farm in Har Bracha; Chavat Gilad where AFSI donated a playground; and the HaCohen family flour mill at Yitzhar. We returned to our hotel in Ariel for dinner and a visit with Simon Cohen, a young cantor who was performing in Ariel.

On Wednesday Ari Briggs, Director of the International Department of Regavim, an organization that is dedicated to the return of the rule of law to all of the land. We spent a good part of the day in the Dotan area in the northern Shomron. We heard about the environmental terrorism/agricultural crime the Jewish communities are facing.  We viewed many lovely villas and apartment buildings in the Arab settlements. The landscape is a far cry from the single story/single unit dwellings that existed in 1967.  While the world is obsessed with Jewish building, the fact is that there are many more new Arab settlements and homes. As one who has visited Israel since 1968 I have witnessed this change myself.
We also visited the Nazareth Illit Hesder Yeshiva for a briefing and then headed to the upscale hotel at Kibbutz Lavi where we spent the night.

We drove south on Thursday down the Jordan Valley with our guide Aharon Pulver of the Israel Independence Fund. We visited Brosh Ha Bika where Sraya Ofer was recently murdered at his home by two Arabs from Hevron.Then we visited the sheep herders in Rotem and had a delicious lunch al fresco.We met the Shomrim (guards) for Judea and Sameria.
On to the King Solomon Hotel in Jerusalem where we had dinner before attending a memorial program for the yahrzeit of Rabbi Meir Kahane.  I had my picture taken with his daughter.

On the way to Kiryat Arba on Friday we made a stop in Shdema(Gush Etzion) and heard a moving speech by Sarah Nachson recounting her early days in Hevron. This was followed by a visit to Kever Rachel where Chaim Silberstein of Keep Jerusalem spoke to us about his work. After a quick lunch we went to Avigail near Sussia and met some of the people at this outpost of 30 families. We arrived at the Nir Yeshiva in Kiryat Arba, where we were to sleep, and then prepared for Kabbalat Shabbat (receiving the Sabbath) Chaya Sarah at the Maarat (cave) HaMachpela. The walk from the Yeshiva to the Cave was about 20 minutes.It was estimated that about 25,000 people came from all over Israel for this special Shabbat.  Those who had been there the previous year noted that there were fewer soldiers on duty. After services we returned to the Yeshiva  for dinner.

We had the choice of Saturday morning services at the Yeshiva or in Hevron and had a very abundant lunch at the Gutnick Center in Hevron. After lunch we listened to an extraordinary talk by Ken Abramowitz, President of American Friends of Likud. Ken is an accomplished speaker and will travel to speak if you can arrange a group of 100. If you're interested I can contact him. I then took a tour with David Wilder: I think it was the third time I'd been on a Hevron tour with him.  Seudah Shlishit was at the Gutnick Center and then we went to David Wilder's home before returning to the King Solomon Hotel in Jerusalem where we had yet another speaker, Jeff Daube.

On Sunday morning some members of our group went to visit the Temple Mount but were unsuccessful in gaining access.. Jews are only allowed on the Temple Mount from 7 to 10 a.m. and in groups of ten. They stand around and wait while everyone else walks in. They may not bring any religious objects and may not pray there. Second-class status or dhimmitude. All others (Arabs and Christian tourists)  can enter freely. Historically, Jerusalem and the Temple Mount are far more meaningful to the Jewish people than to Muslims .Jerusalem is mentioned hundreds of times in the Bible but only once in the Koran.  However, after the 1967 war Moshe Dayan gave the Muslims control of the Mount.  As I did not go with the group I had my first lazy morning. At 10:30 a.m. Arieh King, newly-elected member of the Jerusalem City Council, was our guide for a visit to outlying communities in eastern Jerusalem.Then we had an outdoor lunch with Dan Luria overlooking Jerusalem but from a unique vantage point. We later walked through the "Arab Quarter"  of the Old City.  Afterwards, I went to the Kotel(Western Wall) and then to Mamilla Mall. I met up with other members of my group and we went to a vegan restaurant on Jaffa Road. This was the only night that dinner was on our own. Yes, we did have a night speaker, Martin Sherman.

Our last day--Monday-was under the direction of Dror Vanunu who planned our visits to Gush Katif refugees, some already in their new homes and some still awaiting completion.The highlights were our visits with Moshe Saperstein in Lachish and in the evening with Anita Tucker. No, the Saperstein home is still far from completed. (Rachel was elsewhere that day.) We also  saw the  new synagogue in the new Netzer Hazani. I remember back in 2005 when i was active in LA's grassroot efforts to stop the expulsion,  video-meeting with the Sapersteins and Anita Tucker, and meeting Dror in LA. We had a delicious farewell luncheon in Ashkelon- the best chicken I've ever tasted!  Before heading to Ben Gurion Airport we stopped at Ofer Prison to join the demonstration and protest against the release of  26  more terrorists/murderers by the Israeli government as a "peace gesture" to get the Arabs to the table to negotiate. What gestures are the Arabs making? Continued terrorism, continued threats of destruction, and continued preaching and teaching of hatred, especially to children. The reality of their intentions is clearly shown in the emblems of every Palestinian organization we saw: a map of the entire state of Israel. It is obvious that they do not want a two-state solution: had they so wished it could have been a reality in 1948 and in 2000.

This was not your typical trip to Israel. We went to give chizuk (strength, support) to many people who are often forgotten. Our group bonded and we established a sense of camaraderie quickly.  I met  wonderful people and found this trip to be very rewarding albeit disturbing. I highly recommend AFSI and urge you to go to www.afsi.org to learn more. I'm already looking forward to the May trip!

All the best, 
Frederica/Fraydel Aliza

P.S. I realize that for some of you this may be an overload of information and commentary but I wanted to err on the side of being more comprehensive.