(Not) Following the Derech Avot

The path of Route 60 is fairly direct, connecting the holy cities of Yerushalayim and Chevron, and roughly follows the ancient path of Derech Avot, the Path of the Forefathers. It is a bucolic corner of Israel known as Gush Etzion, where orchards of olive trees, grapes, figs and dedicated sons and daughters of Israel are cultivated. It makes for a wonderful daydream to think that Avraham Avinu, Yitzchak Avinu and Yaakov Avinu pastured their flocks there.  If they did so today, more than likely local Palestinian youths would throw stones at them. And they would be justified, according to journalists Jodi Rudoren, New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief, and Amira Hass, columnist for left-wing Israeli daily Haaretz.

Recently, each discussed Beit Omar where rock throwing is a daily event, a local industry and a rite of passage. Ms. Rudoren’s front-page article focusing on the stone-throwing boys of Beit Omar was certainly sympathetic to the phenomenon,  using quotes which reduced it to no more than a “hobby,” much like stamp collecting.

Her article is riddled with errors. She uses Beit Omar as a synecdoche for the entire area and its inhabitants. This is factually incorrect. The area between the Gush Etzion Junction and Chevron breaks down into at least three sections: The Al-Arrub refugee camp, whose inhabitants fled their homes in (then) Palestine during the War of Independence; unable to return to their homes afterwards, they were relocated here. They are a different clan entirely from their neighbors in Beit Omar and, accordingly, disliked. Moving south is Beit Omar, the stretch along Route 60 where most of the rock throwing takes place from vantage points referred to as the “duo,” two houses teenagers hide between; “the stage,” a raised area; “the triangle,” an open field; and “the Molotov bend.” Finally, just north of Chevron is Halhul, comprised of entirely different clans than its northern neighbors.

Innumerable, like the missiles being fired from Gaza on Israelis in the south, are the projectiles hurled from the sidelines of Route 60 that have traumatized Israelis physically and emotionally. Rudoren, echoing the sentiments of Amira Hass from her article in Haaretz last April, describes the rocks hurled from these sites as “a rite of passage and an honored act of defiance. The futility of stones bouncing off armored vehicles matters little.” Perhaps, but what of the actual case of the unprotected minivan driven by a second-grade teacher at my children’s school? Her windshield was shattered as she sped through the “Molotov Bend.” The traumatic event was captured on video and is harrowing.

Rudoren, rather than acknowledging the victims and their trauma, focuses favorably on the teenage perpetrators, portraying them as heroes. Rudoren describes the return of an incarcerated youth with admiration, without placing it in any context: “Seventeen-year-old Bilal was released in June after 16 months in prison; he was welcomed like a war hero…” By sentencing standards, serving 16 months is a very long term, indicating the teenager was a repeat offender or created significant danger or damage with his stone-throwing.

Midway through the article, Rudoren reveals the depth of her craven attitude toward the suffering of Israelis. She mentions, only in passing, one Israeli fatality due to a thrown stone. Taken from the Times article: “…a man and his one-year-old son who died when their car flipped in 2011 after being pelted with stones on Route 60.”

Let’s create a more accurate picture of what occurred: The car flipped because of the rocks pelting it, not after; the passengers were murdered, connoting intent, not merely killed, which is a broader term implying accidental homicide; and finally, and most disgustingly, Ms. Rudoren, who has named every Palestinian rock-thrower, never names the victims whose names she undoubtedly knows, Asher Palmor and his year-old son Yonatan, of blessed memory. And the New York Times deemed it “…fit to print.”

According to Rudoren, all Palestinian rock throwers are to be exculpated on the grounds that there are no positive diversions in the area, intimating that this is due to Israeli oppression. This claim is absurd according to a Palestinian friend of mine, whose plant nursery is a large roadside stop along Route 60. He and his brothers run the nursery and, adjacent to it, a carwash. I can personally recommend both the nursery and the car wash and the young men. Recently, when I was having my car cleaned, I asked Samir (not his real name) about the rock throwers. He resents them, because the main reason they throw rocks is to be arrested in order to receive financial support from the Palestinian Authority. Samir works hard at three jobs (in addition to the car wash and nursery he teaches at a local school) and resents their “welfare,” while public services under Palestinian control go unattended. In addition, they harm business by discouraging Israelis from stopping at the nursery or car wash.

Rudoren never acknowledges that being arrested is a perfectly reasonable consequence of hurling large rocks by hand or slingshot at Israeli civilians, with the intent to maim or murder them. The Palestinians are now and forevermore the victims from her vantage point as Jerusalem bureau chief in the universe of the New York Times.

Ms. Hass of Haaretz is Israeli and for a generation has been a voice of vitriolic rage against everyone to the political right of her,  which constitutes 99% of Israel. For the last 20 years she has lived, safely, amongst the Palestinians of Gaza and of Ramallah. This may be some kind of dubious record. Her other record of dubious distinction, invective and incitement against Israel, reached inglorious heights with the publication of a column last April in Haaretz. She begins her column as follows, “Throwing stones is the birthright and duty of anyone subject to foreign rule.” She is advocating and later in her article encouraging Palestinians to throw rocks at Israelis. She offers one caveat: Try to hit soldiers, not civilians. Why should anyone inspired by her exhortation to arms distinguish between soldier and civilian, or rock and rifle?

If I could plan a field trip with Ms. Rudoren and Ms. Hass I would introduce them to reality: the widow of Asher Palmor; the second-grade teacher at my children’s school; and my friend Samir, if he could take a break between his three jobs. Perhaps from these unlikely sources they would learn a little something about the Derech Avot.


 

Meir Solomon is a writer, analyst and commentator living in Alon Shvut, Israel with his wife and two children. He can be contacted at msolomon@Hamodia.com