Forty years later, two view from the West Bank's Road 60
An Israeli and a Palestinian reflect on the impact of the Six-Day War that began 40 years ago Tuesday.
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"I go even though it's dangerous for me. But my land is more important than my life," says Shabaneh, a father of four. On many occasions, he says, he and other farmers have had their crops damaged by nearby settlers. They don't expect intervention on their behalf from the army, which remains in control of this area until further notice.Skip to next paragraph
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There was a time when most of the residents would have survived on farming. But post-1967, Palestinians here found themselves with less water for agriculture, says Khalil Shikaki, a political analyst in nearby Ramallah, and encouraged to work as laborers in Israel. But with the advent of suicide bombings in the 1990s and the start of the last intifada in 2000, Israel stopped allowing large numbers of Palestinian workers to come in from the West Bank and Gaza.
And no one here is interested in working in Shilo anymore after an Israeli settler in Shilo shot dead four Palestinian workers from Sinjil. The potential for common interests, even economic ones, has largely died. To Shabaneh, the answer is for Israel to evacuate Shilo and its other settlements, and leave them empty for the return of Palestinian refugees.
The promised land
To Yisrael Medad, who grew up in New York, was in Israel for the Six-Day War, and moved to Shilo in 1981, the shooting was an unfortunate act committed by an unstable person. But that doesn't change any of his red lines. There should be no establishment of a Palestinian state because Israel wouldn't survive it.
Some other solution, he says, should be found, in which "they don't get a flag, they don't get guns or a foreign minister."
By comparison, when he moved up here a few years after the settlement was established in 1978, his wife packed a pistol wherever she went. But they weren't deterred by not being welcome by the local population. From the moment Israel won the Six-Day War – which he spent in a foxhole near the Egyptian border – he wasn't one of those people who felt dazed and amazed at the gains, he says.
"I remember the radio reports telling us what was what, for those who didn't know their Bible. 'This is Shilo, this is Bet El.' I knew exactly where we were. I was home, basically. I wanted to move to a place where no one could tell me, Mr. Medad, you don't belong here," he says. "We're off on our own here, and we're not bothering anybody. We wouldn't even agree to have a fence around us, which the army wanted. If there are terrorists, put them behind the barbed wire, not us."
Medad, who works at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem, says that half of what Palestinians say happens to them at the hands of settlers and the army is "off the top of their heads."
There are incidents, he says – shootings, stonings – but they happen in both directions. "We're not impressed with their cries of discrimination," he says, as his wife, Beth, peels onions before the Sabbath. She wears an orange ribbon to show her opposition to leaving any territory in a land-for-peace compromise. Any time she sees a new roof rising in one of the neighboring villages, such as in Sinjil, she's convinced the Palestinians there are preparing to use the houses as bunkers, as Hizbullah did last year in the war in Lebanon.
"Yes, there are dozens of roadblocks," Medad says, "but if there weren't suicide bombers, the army wouldn't have to do that. If they're not shooting at us, then perhaps we could talk about a solution."
A chapter defined by exhaustion
Medad and Shebaneh, both religious family men with a passion for the ground beneath their feet, both gentle in manner and well-spoken, seem less inclined to shoot than to talk. But the final pages of this 40-year-long chapter seem to be defined by exhaustion and exasperation, both with the potential of making peace with their foes across the road and with their respective national leaderships.
On Thursday, however, the two embattled leaders have promised to try to restart the stalemated Israeli-Palestinian dialogue. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas are expected to meet in the West Bank city of Jericho Thursday, marking the first-ever meeting of an Israeli and a Palestinian leader on territory that was transferred to Palestinian Authority control as part of the Oslo Accords.