Israel's West Bank Settlers Dig In For Struggle to Keep Holy Land

EVE HAROW left Los Angeles seven years ago to set up her home in the conflict-ridden Israeli-occupied West Bank.

``We felt that we could make a difference in the disputed territory of Judea and Samaria,'' says Ms. Harow, using the Jewish term for the Israeli-occupied West Bank, which is home to about 140,000 settlers.

Harow, mother of five children, sees her family contributing to a Jewish continuum stretching back more than 2,000 years in the holy land.

``My desire to come to Israel was based on the realization that the future of the Jewish people is here in Judea and Samaria, and that if you want to make a difference this is where you must be,'' she says, pointing to a large map of Israel that she keeps close by.

While the West Bank settlers account for less than 3 percent of Israel's Jewish population, the settlers claim that at least half of all Israelis support their cause.

Harow has thrown herself into the settler cause, making several fund-raising trips to the United States, Australia, and other countries.

She reflects the strong sense of determination that is the hallmark of the controversial Jewish settlers who have moved across the ``green line'' separating Israel from the Arab territories it captured during the 1967 Arab-Israeli conflict.

Eve and her husband own a modern double-story home in a settlement south of Bethlehem known as Efrat, which is home to about 5,000 Jewish settlers.

Their home cost them less than half the amount a similar dwelling would cost in West Jerusalem or Tel Aviv because individual settlers do not have to pay for the land, and special Israeli government incentives reduce the cost of building and the repayment of mortgages.

The settlement is surrounded by Arab land and villages about eight miles south of Bethlehem in the West Bank, most of which is due to be returned to the Palestinians under the 1993 Israel-PLO peace accord.

Harow set her mind on emigrating to Israel when she visited the country with her parents when she was eight years old. She never wavered.

``I wouldn't even date men who were not for Israel,'' Harow says.

But she rejects the proposal by Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin that there should be total separation between Israel and the West Bank, including a 280-mile security fence if necessary. ``There is no way of separating the two peoples completely.''

She notes the irony in that it was the Israeli left that now supported separation between Arab and Jew and the right that was looking for longer-term compromises that would allow peaceful co-existence.

``The Arabs have yet to come to terms with the fact that we have a right to be here,'' Harow says.

Her conviction overshadows the concerns of many Arabs that the expansion of settlements such as Efrat invariably increases their hardship. It is the most volatile issue in Israeli-Palestinian relations.

But Harow blames Mr. Rabin's government for the deteriorating security situation through constant appeasement of the Arabs and the lack of a clear vision.

``For Rabin the peace process has taken precedence over the security of Israeli citizens,'' Harow says. ``If there is going to be a Palestinian state, we want to know that now.''

But Harow concedes that the solution is not going to be easy and that the road ahead for the settlers is going to be tough.

``We hope for the best. It's a very intense place to live. It's not for the fainthearted,'' she says.

Determination aside, Harow still hopes that a peaceful solution is possible.

``But we might have to fight over it again. The tragedy is that I may have to lose children to get back what we already have,'' she says, referring to the West Bank.

``That is very frightening for a mother,'' says Harow, who is expecting her sixth child.

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