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Girls at War

How a group of teenage believers could reshape the Israeli-Palestinian struggle

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A generation of girls in and around a small West Bank school have become active participants in the radical politics of the settlements. (Gillian Laub)

I.

“Ulpana High school, Where settler girls go to become ‘real men’ ”

That was the headline I read. You think of settler girls and you think “Little House on the Prairie” or the Jewish equivalent of the Girls Madrassas I’ve been to in Pakistan: Learn your religion, learn how to be a good wife, then have 10 children. But the girls in this story were getting all that and a little extra. Instead of afterschool sports they did afterschool fight-the-state. When civil administrators showed up to enforce a settlement building freeze, the girls blocked the road, whipped mud at them, sat on their jeeps. When 100 riot police showed up, the girls lay down on the wet road, climbed into garbage bins, and hurled trash. Only after a 5-hour battle were the administrators able to deliver their pieces of official paper—building-freeze orders.

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The article was from 2009, but I wanted to know more. I called Rav Gadi Ben Zimra, the founder of the school, and reached him. He passed me to his wife, Nurit, the co-founder. She passed me to a neighbor involved with the school who spoke better English—and who could vet me. Her name was Mina Browdy and she told me that she was thrilled that we wanted to come do a piece on their school, meet Gadi and Nurit, hang out with the girls. And of course we could stay there. Ten days? Wonderful. I booked a ticket, as did my friend, the photographer Gillian Laub.

Then two days before the flight, Mina emailed me:

Shalom Elizabeth,

We thank you for your interest to come and write an article about Ulpanat Levona but we reconsidered the idea and decided not to go along with it.

Thank you! Our beloved teacher Rut Fogel Hy”d was murdered with her husband and three children, a three month old baby that was slaughtered cruelly by the wild animals that some of you think are able to make peace.

All the best
Mina Browdy

We decided to go anyway.

***

Tapuach, red poppies in bloom, a sharp wind. The settlement sits atop a hillside above Highway 60 on the West Bank. Established by Kahanists and Yemenites, Tapuach is now home to an assortment of new Israelis—Kazakhs, Russians, Peruvians. It was the Friday before Purim and Moriya was sitting on a blue couch in the front yard of her family’s ranch house across from the town playground, painting her fingernails purple. A few years ago, Gillian had met Moriya, who of course knew of Ma’ale Levona. Her younger sister Roni was a student there. Moriya had been too homesick to stick it out—Ma’ale Levona is a boarding school—but she considers herself almost an honorary graduate. Her Facebook friends are nearly all Ma’ale Levona girls.

Moriya, who is 19, was wearing blue balloon pants, a turquoise-and-silver nose ring, and a silver Star of David around her neck emblazoned with Meir Kahane’s famous emblem—a thumb rising out of a tight fist. Roni is 14. Her nail polish was blue, and she was wearing a Snoopy T-shirt and a wooden pendant etched with the Hebrew words: “Kahane was right.” They’re fighters, these girls, each in their different way. “We called him after Benjamin Zeev Chai,” said Moriya of her 6-year-old brother. Benjamin Kahane, the son of Meir Kahane who was killed, was her father’s best friend, she said. A lot of her father’s friends were killed, she said, as she handed Benjy a candy. One of them is still in prison for killing a Palestinian.

“I was depressed all this week. I can’t smile,” she said. It had been only seven days since the murder of the Fogel family, who lived down the road. The mother, Ruthi, was Roni’s teacher. As Tamar, the Fogels’ 12-year-old daughter, told reporters, around midnight she came home from a Bnei Akiva youth meeting to find her mother Ruthi lying in a pool of blood and her home the site of a massacre—her mother, father, two younger brothers, and 3-month-old sister all slaughtered with knives. Two of her younger brothers survived.

“This week was crazy,” Moriya told me taking me inside to the living room to see her Facebook page on the family computer. “Look my friend writes: ‘Don’t be sad. Don’t give the thugs what they want.’ ”

Then Roni said that the day after the murder, everyone in Tapuach went down to the junction and threw rocks at Arabs. “We all wanted revenge. We just won’t cry and feel sorry for ourselves. We will do something about it. You know? If someone comes to kill you, then you kill them first, says the Torah.” Tapuach was notorious for “price tag” vengeance—which is nothing new in outlying settlements where Jewish vigilantes have been known to take the law into their hands. What was new to me was the vigorous and organized participation of adolescent girls.

Roni took note of details about the murder, including the fact that her teacher Ruthi had tried to fight off the killers, while her husband appeared more gentle, and died holding the baby in his arms. The murders had hit all the girls hard. The school is a tight-knit place, the faculty and students like an extended family. “My Ulpana is special,” said Roni. Another girl at the house laughed: “Every girl thinks their Ulpana is special,” she said. “Not like Ma’ale Levona,” said Roni cheekily. Her peers at Ofra—a more sober, academically rigorous Ulpana—were “geeks, nerds,” she said, and then laughed in that way only teenage girls can laugh at the Other.

Moriya proudly pulled up a photograph of Roni and the gang at a junction holding up signs against the Israeli army for dismantling an illegal outpost. Then she noticed that one of the girls had posted the Channel 2 news segment on Tamar Fogel. “Oh my god I want to see that. Look: Tamar asks Bibi to free Jonathan Pollard.” The reporter showed a clip of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visiting Tamar at her grandmother’s home, and exclaiming in his most resonant voice, “We know who the enemy is.”

In the clip, Tamar is seen alternately sobbing into her grandmother’s arms and raging back at Bibi—angry not just at her loss, but at the official hypocrisies. “What will happen if you do something?” she asked the prime minister. “Your America will be angry? America will do something to you?” When the prime minister tells her, “They murder. We build,” she challenged him. Tamar Fogel knew from experience that building can be undone. She and her family were evacuated from Gush Katif in Gaza in 2005; she told the prime minister that he is making a war between brothers. “They’re Obama’s poodle,” scoffed Moriya about her government.

At the end of the clip Moriya and Roni were frozen. They were proud of Tamar. With her resolve, poise, and tragedy, Tamar would undoubtedly become a symbol of their generation’s heroism, and another chapter in the settlers’ self-made biblical narrative.

If I’d had a movie camera, I’d just have you watch and listen to these girls for hours. You’d be fascinated, stupefied, shocked, bored—but you’d keep watching. I want you to see just what I saw, not the facts we’re used to—the ones about the Jews from Queens or Brooklyn or Minneapolis who upped and flew to the calling of Zion. We’ve heard from them enough and we think we know just what they’re going to say. But when they enacted whatever romance of pioneering, frontiering, and longing for collective meaning it was that brought them here, they created facts on the ground. Not houses and trailers; they can be bulldozed. They spawned boys and girls, 10 to each family on average.

“Aren’t they beautiful?” a psychiatrist and playwright from Jerusalem asked me, of such girls. “Pure faith mixed with youth. It’s the most erotic thing.” They are a generation of girls born on the land known as the illegal settlements who did not arrive with ideology and hope like their parents. They just sprouted there.

They say it takes one generation to found a new language. These girls are a new language, believing that they belong to the land on which they were born, and sponsored by the government they despise, which pays for their roads and electricity. I wondered how this new generation will affect the narrative of struggle not only between Israelis and Palestinians, but also among Israelis themselves.

II.

In 1996 Gadi Ben Zimra and his wife Nurit founded a sleepaway school for girls from 14 to 18 in Ma’ale Levona, a well-defended settlement on one of the highest hilltops in the West Bank. The school, steeped in the teachings of Kabbalists, would nurture a new kind of girl—smitten with God, righteous, ideological, ready to fight and procreate for the cause of restoring biblical Israel. This was the late 1990s, and teenagers were bored by the gray beards and dusty books that were standard fare at old-school rationalistic Yeshivot. They yearned for mystical teachings sewn into drama, song, ecstatic dancing, and the lure of religious climax. Ben Zimra and Nurit tapped into a wave of national religious euphoria and radicalism rising out of a widespread spiritual angst among Israeli youth and a backlash among the settlers against everything that Oslo stood for.

Ben Zimra’s beginnings give no hint of the radical to come. He was born in the Golan Heights to Italian immigrant parents, grew up in a suburb of Tel Aviv, and attended the traditional Orthodox Yeshiva Mercaz Harav when it was run by Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook, one of the inspirations behind the religious settler movement. At some point the bourgeois trappings of the old yeshivas and right-wing religion must have seemed inauthentic or too removed for Rav Gadi. He found his way to one of the most mystical and extreme yeshivas in the West Bank: Od Yosef Chai High School at Joseph’s Tomb, then located outside Nablus, and led by Rabbi Yitzhak Ginsburgh, native Missourian, mathematical genius, philosopher, Kabbalist, and Talmudic scholar whose political leanings could be described as Jewish-monarchist.

While Ginsburgh has written more than a dozen books—with titles like Awakening the Spark Within: Finding Your Soulmate; Kabbalah and Meditation, and Interpretation of Dreams and Paranormal Experiences—he is best-known for his notorious essay “Baruch Hagever,” praising Baruch Goldstein’s 1994 murder of 29 Arabs in the Cave of the Patriarch. Goldstein, he wrote, was following the five halakhic principles: sanctifying God’s name, saving life, revenge, eradication of the seed of Amalek, and war. Gadi Ben Zimra was Ginsburgh’s disciple, and over the last two decades he has—as news reports and many of the girls have attested (often with pride)—acquired a sizable rap sheet with Shin Bet. During the Second Intifada he was part of the settler vigilantes or “price tag” groups who believed in eye-for-an-eye justice and had no faith in and no patience for the law or the state. If Palestinians attacked, he and the vigilantes attacked Palestinian villages, torching wheat harvests, smashing cars, slashing tires, and shooting up water tanks and houses, some of them with children inside.

When Gush Katif was evacuated, Ben Zimra, like many radical rabbis at the time, practically severed his ties not just with the state—because “this is not a state loyal to the laws of the Torah”—but also with the Yesha Council, which represents the West Bank settlements. In an interview shortly after the evacuation, he said, “What the Yesha Council should have done, when the evacuation from Gush Katif took place, is say to all the rabbis and soldiers and officers in the army that the expulsion is against the Torah, and refuse to be a partner to this crime.”

He knew that what he was saying was revolutionary and he took it a step further. “The religious Zionist person says there is a state and I’m part of it. We say the opposite. We are the state.”

Shortly after the evacuation of Gush Katif, the IDF got orders to evacuate a small settlement of nine houses called Amona. As special police galloped on horseback into packs of settlers kicking up clouds of dust that swirled around their bodies, Rav Gadi sent girls from Ma’ale Levona to defend the Amona families. Hundreds of people were injured and some of the girls were sexually mistreated by the police, the girls told me. The violence, much of which was televised live, gave Israelis a taste of what a real civil war might look like. It also breathed new life into Gush Emunim, the messianic political movement that helped to inspire and organize the settlers’ fervent resolve to build on the lands conquered in the 1967 war.

Rav Gadi’s inspiration—what makes him an innovator, if you like—was to encourage girls to become front-line troops in the family combat between the settlers and the state. In an interview with a settler magazine, Rav Gadi says that the role of the body is “to express and reveal after contemplation the entirety of man’s internal infinite essence.” By now, the state and nation should be the macro for this private expression. That’s what his mentor Rav Kook had envisioned. But it hasn’t happened yet, and Rav Gadi is impatient to get there. “I crave the kingdom,” he writes. “Don’t wait until the Lord, blessed be he, brings us redemption. Get up and initiate.” Rav Gadi and his flock have to work harder to build a physical home for the divine presence. And who better to serve as the handmaidens of God’s kingdom on earth than a flock of adoring, fervent teenage girls?

III.

Moriya was 13 at the time of the evacuation of Gush Katif. Today she works at the Gush Katif Memorial Museum in Jerusalem as part of her National Service. Photographs and text and video tell a narrative of Jewish productivity and then expulsion and suffering. It’s the kind of narrative that drives Moriya’s father Lenny mad. And it upset Moriya that Gush Katif didn’t fight back. She and her friends took buses to Gaza to block the soldiers, and Rav Gadi helped them. They were thrown in jail, and stayed there for 40 days because they refused to give their ID cards—a symbol of the state. She keeps a newspaper article tacked on her wall with the headline: “Sharon Can Sleep Well Now, Because Enemies of the Jews Are in Jail.” The enemies are 13-year-old Moriya, and two of her schoolmates. “I got arrested six times,” she laughed, showing me her “diploma” for bravery signed by the right-wing politician Moshe Feiglin.

She pulled down her wooden “war” chest from a bookshelf filled with comics, perfume, and prayer books. Inside the chest she kept magazines, clippings, paraphernalia from her fighting life like the handcuffs the police had put around her boots. Two months earlier she’d been arrested again when she and the gang tried to sneak behind the backs of the IDF and the Palestinian police into the Tomb of Joseph to pray. During the Second Intifada, when Moriya was 10, Ariel Sharon relinquished the tomb as a gesture of peace. “The Arabs are there and ruined the place, and don’t let us get in there,” she explained to me. “For all our generation this place is very important.”

Her father, Lenny Goldberg, arrived home with his truck of inflatables that he operates for kids’ parties. “Purim is a good time for business,” he told me. It’s also, he said, a great holiday about vengeance. On cue Moriya pulled up a photograph of herself as revenge-seeking vampire—black nail polish, blood around the lips, holding a gun. She was swinging to “Hit the Road Jack” and though Lenny smiled, he said he wished she’d listen to Jewish music. “It’s a challenge to keep my kids religious,” he said, confessing that it was he who brought Bob Dylan and the New York Knicks into his house.

Lenny is a warm father, a street philosopher with a Queens and Kahanist idiom. He grew up in Whitestone, Queens, met Kahane in the ’80s and became a Ba’al Tshuva, or one who returns to the fold. His wife Yael is from Yemen and between them they have tried to create a home for their four girls and four boys of certainty and meaning. On the wall across from the dining room table are four photographs of the family’s spiritual and ideological ancestors: Meir Kahane, his son Benjamin who lived a few houses away, the religious Zionist icon Rav Kook, and the young Avraham Stern, the poet and leader of the Stern Gang, looking a lot like Kafka. Their common ideology: to restore the biblical state of Israel.

Lenny’s all about strength, fighting back, looking like nut jobs. “We shouldn’t complain if CNN and BBC make us look like crazies,” he said. “That’s our trump card. The greatest deterrent factor you have with the Arab is they think you’re crazy.” He put on the voice of a namby-pamby teacher: “We love and they hate. We build and they destroy,” he whined. “No! King David killed.” He mentioned the famous Golda Meir quote: “ ‘I can forgive the Arabs for killing our boys but I can’t forgive them for making us kill them.’ That’s this, like, Jewish form of AIDS. Jews feel guilty about everything. They feel guilty about winning. … We’re so used to losing, getting killed all the time, Auschwitz, Holocaust.”

His philosophy is simple: Violence pays. Look at Egypt, he said. That’s how you get things done. “The intifada. Self-sacrifice is how they got land. So I am proud of my kids getting arrested. If they do things for God, I’m proud.”

I followed him and his daughters Moriya and Roni outside to the backyard. The land is rocky, conducive to cactus, and sprinkled with yellow wildflowers. On the hilltop across the road there’s a warehouse and tractors, where Benjamin Kahane’s father-in-law keeps some 200 goats. Sometimes they’re stolen, said Moriya. It’s a shepherd’s war between him and the Palestinians. Moriya loves that he lives and harvests in the open fields, outside the barbed-wire fences.

“You plant a tree in Israel for roots. But goats move. The land becomes yours by using it,” said Lenny. “It’s not just Arabs who graze. We don’t have to be in a ghetto. It’s law of the jungle: Use it or lose it.”

Looking out over the windblown hills, the rugged earth, and white-stone beauty—the donkey braying, the rooster crowing, the pumpkins and watermelons across the way—it was easy to see the romanticism of Lenny’s messianic, anti-consumer, anti-technology, agrarian, grazing war. He worried that without ideology, his kids would go soft. “The Arabs have Islam. The Quran gives them motivation and that’s why they are dangerous,” he said. “You can’t be a technical robot. We need Judaism.”

And that’s what Lenny so appreciated about Rav Gadi and his wife, he told me. They were grooming his girls to be both good wives and good Jewish fighters. “And when things heat up,” he said, with a glint in his eye, “the girls, too, set up a little hilltop.” A few months earlier Roni and the gang blocked one of the roads to prevent the Israeli security forces from demolishing—for about the 10th time—illegal homes erected at Gilad Farms. Lenny was proud, but his wife was exhausted. “You have to go to police, court, lawyer. She’s burnt out. She wants a normal life,” he said. “But the Arabs won’t let us!” He threw up his hands.

***

On Purim, I went back to see Roni and Moriya. The celebration of the holiday was already in full swing, with music and drinking, and neighbors coming in and out. The families were determined to celebrate hard in the wake of the Fogel family murder: “Remember Amalek, what he did to you coming out of Egypt.” That was the Shabbat lesson at school, Roni told me.

Who was Amalek? I asked.

Any enemy of the Jews—the Amalekites, the Arabs, the Nazis, the Palestinians, even the desire to do evil, she said. What Amalek has is azut hakodesh—nerve, maddened by the holy spirit. “Even though Amalek knew that we are the chosen people, they fought against us,” said Roni. “That is why we need to destroy them.”

How? Azut hakodesh. It takes nerve to rebuild the Temple. “We learn about the Temple which you usually don’t learn at Ulpana,” said Roni giggling—after all she is still a teenager, and it is embarrassing to brag about your school. You can see YouTube videos of Ma’ale Levona girls exercising azut hakodesh, protesting down Highway 60. They’re posted in blogs with entries like: “As we drove back home to Shiloh we saw dozens of young women marching on the road. No surprise that they are students in Ulpana Ma’ale Levona, who are legendary in their love of the Land of Israel and lack of fear in the face of government persecution.”

This Sabbath they had a special party to celebrate Purim, the azut hakodesh of Esther and Mordechai—and to overcome the murder of the Fogel family, said Roni. “All the girls were drunk with happiness,” and she giggled again. They sang Hasidic songs and repeated sayings like, what’s mine is yours, and what’s yours is yours. “Meaning everything belongs to everyone. It’s like an uplifting of the spirit,” she said. She was becoming inspired by the memory of the euphoria, inspired by the friends gathering for Purim—their neighbor from Kazakhstan wearing a tall Central Asian felt hat, playing Jewish songs on his flute, the children dancing around the table, Lenny telling “Jews don’t learn from history” stories about the 1954 Bedouin ambush on a bus of Israelis in the Negev around Purim. Roni was on a roll, as she poured out her love for her school and her world.

“They really want the Temple to be rebuilt,” she told me. “You see girls who weren’t friends hugging together and crying together, girls crying for the Temple, crying over things they’d done, and they’re really drunk with happiness. And the Rabbanit was shouting, ‘Shma Yisrael,’ and other verses, and everybody repeated after her, shouting. And in Safed, they just all yell. We all yell for God to hear us. There’s a lot of happiness, Hashem hears our prayers. Girls lay on the floor and cried. Girls came up to me and said, ‘Hug me,’ because on Purim there’s a virtue and blessings come true, so the girls were blessing each other. We bring mishloach manot and there was a feast, food and drink. I was crying because of this [the Fogel family]; the rabbi’s wife said something that reminded me of what happened. She said that Hashem should keep his bad tidings in heaven, and girls were praying that Hashem brings about redemption. God punished us because we probably don’t do what he wants. I think we need to do revenge against the Arabs. And we don’t do nothing, our army. But I’m not blaming the army, I blame the government. They’re stupid.”

IV.

After visiting Moriya and Roni, I had someone from the Yesha Council call Rav Gadi to see if he’d meet with me. Still no. He said he’d had a reporter from Haaretz at the school and it’d done them no good. They’d also seen a 2002 piece I did on a Hamas suicide bomber in the New York Times Magazine and decided I might be a Hamas sympathizer. But it soon became clear that even the Yesha Council officials had disagreements with Ben Zimra. Despite the fact that a brother of his sits on the council (or perhaps for that very reason), Ben Zimra had little patience for their establishment ways. They kept asking me: Why are you focusing on him? What about the other ulpanas?

A few days after Purim I drove up Highway 60 to Elon Moreh to see one of Moriya’s best friends, Tzuriya, who’d just graduated from Ma’ale Levona. I was with Dina, a 24-year-old from the city of Ariel who was translating for me. She’d come with me to the Purim party at Roni and Moriya’s, and was a bit stunned by the extremism she’d seen—by the end of Purim, the two sisters were singing Dov Shurin’s violent hip-hop song “Down With Arafat” and Roni was telling a story about going with her mother and Moriya to one of the junctions and seeing an Arab mother there. “We spat on each other and then fought,” said Roni, before adding that this happened a lot.

Ariel, where Dina grew up, is a far less rugged place. Many people moved there for inexpensive, pleasant housing. It even has a university. But while they had Arabic lessons at Dina’s school, they were never taught the other side of the story. “So we don’t know why we are fighting,” she told me in the car. As we curved past the old minarets of Hawara, Dina remarked how pretty they were. Dina’s father has a supermarket and, until 2000 and the Second Intifada, Arabs worked there. He still worries for them, finds them jobs, and gives them money, she said. “I have Arab friends. We work together at H&M in Jerusalem. But we never talk politics.”

We drove in silence for a while. Soon there was not a car in sight. And there were no more settlements. The road snaked up through the hills and the Palestinian villages. I could sense that Dina was apprehensive. She’d never been this far north. After a while she said, “There are too many Arabs here, but if we find a way to get along and as long as they realize it’s our country.” Her thought trailed off. She seemed tongue-tied, confused, torn by different sentiments and not sure which to adhere to. Finally she said, “I’m sure what Roni is doing is good for us. It helped us. The government realizes people will do everything it takes to keep our houses.”

The car kept climbing until we came around a bend and there, perched on a mountain top, was Elon Moreh, one of the first places Gush Emunim settled in the West Bank, and today the most isolated. Fir trees and radio towers: That’s what you see from the road.

We found the house of Roni and Moriya’s friend Tzuriya, at the edge of a cliff overlooking Nablus and the Tomb of Joseph. In every direction are Palestinian towns and villages. We climbed down steep steps to get to the house. Inside felt like a Flemish renaissance painting—the simplicity, the light, the paint brushes and fresh eggs on the fridge, and the face of Corrine, Tzuriya’s mother, wearing a scarf wrapped tightly around her head. Corinne was cradling one of her younger children, and she had an uncanny radiance about her. “You don’t come here because it is just nice,” Corinne told me, looking at the mountains out the window by the dining table. “You feel. You believe it. It gives you power.” What’s it? The ancestors, the Bible, the building. Corinne’s father was Polish, hidden in Paris during the war. Her mother was Tunisian. She was born in Amsterdam, and knew little about Judaism as a child. Though I’d come to meet Corinne’s two Ma’ale Levona daughters—Tzuriya, the graduate, and Netzer, who is in Roni’s class—I was lured in by their mother.

Corinne is enamored by history, by everything she was bereft of in Amsterdam, where she remembers seeing the imprints of absent mezuzahs on once-Jewish homes. She’s moved by the persistence of her settlement’s founders, how they tried eight times for permission to build where Abraham and Jacob walked, how they lived in caravans with no electricity, 10 families. “You see,” she said pointing to the other hilltop houses, “they are all the pioneers and now they’re grandfathers. Whenever we get permission to build, we build.” She came in 1991 with 300 families. There was one shop. There was violence. It was purposeful.

“Every year people like us come who want to start again. Young couples.” In fact there was building all around her. A digger behind the house. Trucks moving earth. The workers are Asian or Jewish. No Palestinians. The money comes from the Amana Foundation, which is connected to the Yesha Council and the State of Israel. You can’t get electricity without the support of the state. “When Obama said you have two months to build, the rule was if the house has a foundation you don’t have to stop the building. So we did it so fast,” she said, and stepped outside to find her son.

I stayed talking with Tzuriya, who was sitting at the kitchen table with her knees pulled up to her chin. She’s 19 with a green-and-silver nose ring and dried-blood-colored nail polish. She was doing her National Service—Rav Gadi does not believe girls should be in the army—as a guide at a farm in the Jordan Valley for kids with drug and alcohol problems. She missed her school, she told me, particularly the monthly cleansing rituals, and sometimes she went back for them. They seemed to go like this: The lights go down. The candles are lit. Someone plays the piano and sings. Girls who feel they experienced a miracle will share it to spread the word. Others confess. They cry, repent, rejoice. The music intensifies. The girls dance, harder and harder, reviving, replenishing the spirit. It can go on all night, particularly before Rosh Hashana. By morning every girl is free of her emotional mess, rejuvenated, joined to each other, and filled with God.

Every activity, in fact, is in the service of God. Math and grades were not so important, she said. That was why she’d chosen the place—its spiritual emphasis. “Ideals are part of our daily routine. The principal is a true believer and he passes it on to us. They sponsored buses to Gush Katif so we could protest and speak our mind.” She loved that the girls at the school were known for their idealism and noise. The place also toughened her up. You feel the cold and the rain, but everyone had to survive it together, even the teachers.

Tzuriya’s younger sister Netzer said she loved the dramas and their therapeutic benefits. “We learn to express what we have inside in acting,” she said. The students write plays bringing biblical stories to bear on their lives. “Like Queen Esther isolated in the palace as a Jew. We acted her conflict going to the king and feeling she represents her whole people. How did she know God will help her?”

They did a play about Roman rule, when every young girl had to have sex with Caesar the first night. “When Yehudit got married she took off her clothes in the wedding and everyone was shocked,” said Netzer. “ ‘Now you are shocked? What about all the nights with the Emperor?’ she asks everyone. “We show how women’s courage moved the men to act.”

I began to hear a pattern from just about every girl I met—the drama, the cleansing, described with an incantatory glow, the passion for fighting. It seemed Rav Gadi had invented a vaccine for teenage doubt, angst, and despair. He’d left nothing out. Is there any age so susceptible to the eroticism of spirituality married to a political cause?

“They even prepare you for life after school,” said Tzuriya. “Half the girls in my school are already married.” She laughed. “It’s known in our Ulpana that you get married early.” When they get pregnant, the girls leave school to prepare for motherhood.

Tzuriya’s mother, Corinne, walked back in. “There’s a flock of birds in the sky,” she said, and everyone stopped to watch them fly over the valley in the gray light. We could see fireworks in the valley below from a wedding in Nablus.

I asked Tzuriya if she’d ever had any interaction with Palestinians that wasn’t hostile. Corinne answered, “We don’t feel hate. Some people are going to Hawara [the Palestinian village down the road]. They have interaction.”

“It’s wrong,” countered Tzuriya. “Why should we support them if they are our enemy and massacre us? We shouldn’t talk to them.”

Do they teach about Arabs at school?

“No. In my class one girl didn’t have a brother. One didn’t have parents because of the terrorism,” she said. “It’s not all about the hate. It’s a different reality we are born into, so the hate came with the reality.”

And there it was. A reality for this generation spawned by an ideological plan that unleashed a collective experience of murder and revenge that is now embedded in the communal DNA. A senior I met at Ofra’s high school named Shachar was eerily articulate about exactly what defined this generation of girls. “Our life has more meaning than kids brought up in America,” she said. “We are brought up not to waste our time. We can’t go on Facebook at school. We volunteer in our free time because what matters is not me, it’s the nation,” she said. Politically too they were fairly united. “Two states, two lands is not an option. This land is ours. We don’t close our eyes to the fact that Palestinians are living on the other side of the fence. But our parents come from the United States. We grew up in this situation. It’s more burning for us.”

Tzuriya was 9 when the Second Intifada began and the family was then living on the other hill by the tall cedars. One night seven years ago, at the end of Passover, her father went out to play basketball. She and her mother and siblings heard voices speaking Arabic. Then shooting. Her father slipped back into the house. The settlement defense sirens went off. “The terrorists killed the family who lived behind us. The father, grandfather, mother, big brother,” Tzuriya remembered. One daughter and one son hiding under the table survived. “Every little thing that happens here scares me,” Tzuriya told me. “Even a noise.”

But when Corinne offered the kids the option to move to the city, none of them wanted to go. Corinne and her husband, who was a Moroccan/Iraqi Jew born in Jerusalem, had created a tightly bound unit. Her husband played guitar in a band and in the evenings the family told stories and sang songs to his music. “The people living here are different,” Corinne explained. “It’s not good to say, but you learn to be strong. My little boy was in the school with the little boy who was killed. He was frustrated. He didn’t know how to deal with it. You tell what happened. And you tell that, look, we believe that they are now in hands of God. And we need to carry on.” And so the murder is domesticated into the epic biblical narrative. “We are growing a generation that knows what it wants. They are strong.” This one, she said of Tzuriya, she’s a fighter. Her second daughter is at another school studying to be a nurse. Netzer is another fighter.

There were still fireworks in Nablus and I asked her what they would do with all the people living there.

“The only way we can live together is if they are put on trucks and taken away,” said Corinne, carrying the dishes to the sink. “They have 22 other countries. Why do they want Israel?”

As Tzuriya walked us to our car she spoke to me for the first time in English. She was nervous: “You will write something bad about our Rabbi?”

V.

I had no intention to write good or bad, but I did want to meet the man. The next day around noon, Gillian and I wended our way around the hill toward Ma’ale Levona. Near the settlement, the road zigzags to make access more difficult. A Palestinian man and boy, who might have been father and son, were working in the fields below. We got to the checkpoint by a patch of forest and a soldier waved us through past the long blowing grass, a toy stroller left on the sidewalk, a scooter, an old couple walking their scruffy German shepherd along the edge of the hill.

We met Miriam and her friends in their cement caravans, each of which sleeps around six. There are rows and rows of them, like in an American trailer park, surrounded by cedars and stones, with naked light bulbs illuminating the interiors. Miriam was in her senior year, and seemed completely unaware of her beauty. In a long flowered skirt, balloon trousers tucked into desert boots, she was one of the passionate warriors, anti all falsehood—Holden Caulfield with faith. She kept Turkish coffee cups and a belt of high-caliber gun cartridges by the sink. She’d taped her watercolors above her bed, next to a black-billed, green bird that she had carved on a branch. A poster of the iconic green-eyed, red-scarfed Afghan girl from a 1980s National Geographic hung behind a door. The girls had no idea where she was from, but they loved the photograph’s intensity.

Though her generation is hooked into social media, like many of the settler youth, Miriam consciously resisted it. “It’s an illusion,” she said of Facebook. “People tell you they love you but it’s on the computer!” “The culture that surrounds you today—TV, music videos, movies—makes a distance from your character,” Miriam explained. “You are not yourself.”

For her, and her classmates, Ma’ale Levona is the anti-Facebook. Everything is embodied: Girls sleep, sing, pray, study, fight, throw rocks, love, hate—all together, in the flesh. Every activity is saturated with passion and authenticity. “The teachers feel you here,” she said bucking her chin, and clucking her tongue, a gesture to signal “you know what I mean?” Sometimes, she said, students even slept at their teachers’ homes. Miriam is fourth of nine children, thank God. “Write that,” she said. “It’s fun to live with so many boys. A lot of fun and happiness.”

Miriam could have been the spokeswoman for the school. The school dramas, she said, the whole process leading up to the performance, that was the essence of Ma’ale Levona. They are all based on biblical stories—“our roots.” Her favorite was the play they did about Michal, the daughter of a king, who chose to marry David, who was an ordinary man at the time. She was torn between the rules of her family and her feelings. One day she laughs at David as he expresses his love of God by dancing on the cupboard much the way Rav Gadi’s girls do. She is punished for her ignorance with infertility. And when she finally gives birth to a child, she dies. “You see?” said Miriam shaking her head intensely. She fell silent.

We went outside to the edge of the mountain to look down at the Palestinian village below. Miriam said that the evacuation of Gush Katif for her was such a painful slap in the face that she had trouble even holding an Israeli flag anymore. She wanted to fight the police again like she’d done four years ago when they came to demolish Hal Khivi outside Elon Moreh. Why? “Feelings,” she said, pumping her fist. “I thought building was the solution,” she said. “I still do.”

The muezzin on the hillside was calling to prayer. Soon after, Miriam got a message on her phone. Bomb attack in Jerusalem. “You see what they do?” she cried. And then over the loudspeaker, a voice called out, “Dear girls, we are going to say the psalms because of the big explosion to pray for the injured.” Within 45 minutes, a gang of girls, including Roni, was gathered at the bus stop, headed to Shiloh junction to throw stones at Palestinian cars, and shout, “Death to the Arabs.”

VI.

I still hadn’t heard from Rav Gadi, so the next day I drove to visit Tali Haas, who teaches English at the school. Tali lives in Ofra, at the end of a quiet street of white stone houses and red tiled roofs with her husband and five children—“a small family,” she said, laughing. I asked her to describe the philosophy behind the school. Working for God with a lot of joy, she said. No despair, no desperation in the world—the teachings of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov. Gadi and Nurit, she told me, deliberately accept girls who are weak in academics but are “good human beings.” “We have girls who don’t study for three years, who have ADD, ADHD,” she said. “But we almost don’t kick out girls. Gadi and Nurit believe they can help them, and that otherwise they’d end up in the streets.”

This sounded familiar. At Roni and Moriya’s I’d met a young woman who went to the school the year they opened. She’d had a terrible childhood, bounced back and forth between divorced parents neither of whom wanted her—“evil stepmother, dark fairy tale childhood” she said. She had no money and never went home on weekends like the others girls. Rav Gadi and Nurit, she told me, let her essentially live there. She’s taught herself photography and music and connects to people with the uncanny ability of a horse whisperer. The school, she told me, saved her.

Seen in this context, the school is an evangelical antidote to Jerusalem’s Ben Yehuda street, where on Thursday nights you can see what I saw: dozens of yeshiva boys and religious girls in flowing skirts and suede boots, trawling the cobblestoned street, looking like Woodstock throwbacks—pupils dilated, hair matted, guitars on their back, wobbly on their feet, reeking of alcohol. Some I met had no idea where they’d sleep that night or what they’d do the next day. They were lost. This is a regular Thursday night happening.

Ma’ale Levona costs 1,000 shekels a month, a sum that many families cannot afford. The state helps with fees but not much; Ben Zimra would lose some of his freedom if he took too much money. As for the early marriages, yes, it’s true, said Tali. In the last group of students she taught, she had around seven who got married and then stopped coming to school. “We say we don’t encourage it, but the principals were so happy when it happened. So it’s a mixed message.”

As for Tali, so what if it was a rough school and many of her students refused to learn English out of ideological principles? Tali was tough too, and tried to teach them English anyway, using the lyrics of Michael Jackson and Duran Duran, despite Rav Gadi’s disapproval. Her girls would graduate with strong personalities, loving God, and knowing how to do many things at the same time, like having 10 kids and contributing to Jewish life and the life of their communities. Gadi and Nurit themselves are full-time educators and had 10 children. The other English teacher has 10 kids, teaches at two schools, and works as an ambulance driver; they all joke about Tel Aviv mothers who have one child and a dog.

For their part, it is also no wonder that natives of Tel Aviv express the fear that it’s not Israel that occupies the West Bank but the West Bank settlers who are now annexing Israel, as they pour more concrete and have more children, who are taking key positions in the army, government, and civil administration, which controls everything here from electricity to water to schools. The settlers embody an essential conflict at the core of the state of Israel. The government acts like an erratic parent to its recalcitrant children, the settlers—sometimes berating and even beating them, other times adoring and financing them, for their messianic faith. The longer I stayed, the harder it was to determine who is using whom: the government that allows the expansion of settlements while hoping to use the radicals as a bargaining chip in future negotiations with the Palestinians, or the radicals themselves, who offer the State of Israel the choice between civil war or abandoning them and their children to life in a Palestinian state.

“Most religious people are not individuals,” Tali told me. “We don’t just want our work and money. We have a different agenda, thinking of Israel and our people.”

VII.

I’d asked the girls in their caravans what they do for entertainment. They said they read Hasidic tales, play cards, paint, hike, and go to Ramat Migron, a hilltop where teenagers hang out. You have a hilltop youth movement too? I asked. They nodded and burst out laughing. So in the afternoon we all piled in the car—Moriya, Gillian, and another girl from the school—drove past the gas station and the Shiloh vineyards, up to a scrappy little settlement of trailer homes called Migron. When we couldn’t drive anymore, we got out and began walking through the wind and weeds across the fields of poppies and wildflowers to a pasture of old olive trees overlooking a quarry, another settlement, and a Palestinian village.

Suddenly, from out of a flimsy shack, emerged a girl named Bat El. She looked like an indigenous creature of the forest, or blue lagoon—languorous thigh-length hair, languorous speech, languorous movement. She was, she told me, 14 years old and living here on her own. “God sent me to the school,” Bat El said.

Not long after, though, Gadi apparently expelled her, she said, because she was rarely showing up.

Inside the shack were a few mattresses for the other girls who slept here—some from Ma’ale Levona, some from elsewhere. There were gas canisters, dirty pots, bags of noodles and cookies, Camel cigarettes, contact-lens solution, religious calendars and books. A few hundred meters across the meadow stood a similar shack for the hilltop youth boys and further down toward the edge of the hill was a three-sided wooden structure where they kept cooking supplies and a burner. Sometimes they had a generator. Most of the time they made a fire.

“It was only going to Ma’ale Levona that I got politicized. Before I didn’t know anything.” She said the school used to be a lot more free, but that Gadi is more careful now because so many girls were getting arrested. “Before Shin Bet went after him,” she said, guilelessly, “he took girls to Hawara. Now he worries he’ll be shut down.” So the girls go on their own. Bat El told me that she’d been arrested so many times that her parents just send a fax now to the police station instead of coming to pick her up.

What was she doing living out here?

“Building.”

Is it legal?

“No. That’s what the government says, but for us what the Torah says is more important.”

What made her decide to live here?

“I love the place, the girls. It’s Israel. We should be everywhere. The Arabs build houses everywhere. It makes the land theirs. We should do it.”

A child of God, Bat El had found her own Woodstock—one made even more alluring by the imminent threat of violence. There was a swing on an old olive tree. A mangy dog with tics the size of beetles that frightened the living daylights out of her. For water the hilltop girls had to make their way back down the road to the gas station and fill up plastic bottles. They had no electricity. She pointed to the shack where the boys slept. Total separation of the sexes, she said. Pieces of wood and aluminum were flung about, remnants of the last time the police had ripped up the place.

Soon, a few other girls from Ma’ale Levona arrived. For each of them, hiking up to the hilltop outpost was a political act, but it also had the feeling of a simple teenage hang-out—someplace far away from adults. A bright articulate girl from Ramat Gan near Tel Aviv had also come along. Her name was Lea Kop, and she was a web activist and disciple of Daniella Weiss, the old Gush Emunim member who grandmothers the Bnai Akiva youth movement. She’d photographed most of the evacuations and expulsions and posted the albums on the web. “Wherever there’s an atmosphere of destruction, we need to change the intention and expand. It’s the program of the hilltops,” she told me.

Apparently the government and the Yesha Council had nearly convinced the families of Migron proper—those 15 to 20 trailers where we’d left the car—to relocate to a settlement closer to Jerusalem. This place was too close to Ramallah. When Daniella Weiss got wind of the plan, she sent out her troops. It was a humiliation tactic: A 14-year-old girl can live outside the fence but you cannot?

“We say, ‘Don’t be afraid to go beyond the fence,’ ” Lea explained, her enormous green eyes inflamed with fervor and pride. “It’s strange to say it, but you look at Arabs and they are not scared to go anywhere, to hitchhike anywhere. They go around the whole area freely without fear. Why is that?

“I think it starts with fences,” she said, answering her own question. “The moment you are in the fence you feel what’s in the fence belongs to you, and outside the fence is not yours. Now we go everywhere and Arabs are scared. Why? Because they see we are not scared.”

They have a system set up so that if anyone sees a convoy of police vehicles coming to destroy their shacks, they send out SMS to the youth. And the youth come to face down the police. I asked her what her parents think about her being here.

“They are scared,” she said. “But I explained to them I am not here for myself; I am here for the people of Israel. So I have no choice whether to be here or not. I’m obligated.” Her parents, she said derogatively, are state people. They follow the law. “I think if there are clashes between the laws of Torah and the laws of the state, I will allow myself to violate the laws of the state.”

Bat El was lying in the grass. The birds were singing. A soft wind was blowing. Another girl was inside the shack smoking and studying for an exam. This was every rebel teenager’s paradise—nature and a cause.

***

In the end, Rav Gadi refused to meet with me, and I decided not to push it by showing up at his office. After all, it was his work—the girls—that were the most interesting thing to me about Rav Gadi. He was, I was told, particularly upset that Gillian and I had visited the dorms, and that the girls had agreed to pose for photographs. When the girls heard of his wrath, they called us every day to make sure I wouldn’t say anything bad about him or say that he encouraged them to do illegal things. “I didn’t mean that someone organizes us to do civil disobedience,” one of the girls said. “It’s our decision.”

I went to see Roni once more before I left. When I asked her what her biggest wish in life was, she told me proudly: Nikama, to take revenge against the Arabs. There was going to be a March at a place near Itamar, she told me. “We’re going to build something there,” she said. “We want to show the Arabs we’re not afraid of them.”

Who will go? I asked her.

“Everybody who wants to,” she said. “All the kids in my age group, we have power. We are not married. So we can do something. When I marry I’ll have kids, I won’t have time to do things like this. So now I have to.”

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This is a chilling read. What hope for peace?

What’s your point? Sensationalism? The people described in this story represent a miniscule % of both the Israeli population and of people living over the green line.
Let’s tell the whole story; if the Palestinians had accepted the generous offers of a state these little settlements would have been dismantled long ago.

“And the Rabbinate was shouting, ‘Shma Yisrael,’ and other verses, and everybody repeated after her, shouting.” ..I’m assuming “rabbanit” (rabbi’s wife), not “rabbinate,” is what’s meant here.

Matthew Fishbane says:

Gur, you are right. Thanks for pointing it out. We’ve made the correction.

G-d help us. These kids remind me of the Manson family

If Elizabeth Rubin asks “Who was Amalek?” then there is a serious deficiency in her understanding of Jewish tradition (look it up in the Torah and in commentaries on the Book of Esther etc).

That deficiency means she can not really understand what these girls, these people, are about because she does not get their historical roots; roots that permeate traditional Judaism.

@Carl Even if they are a “miniscule %,” they together with slightly less extreme settlers have had influence far beyond their numbers, going back more than 40 years with the establishment of Kiryat Arba.

As for the last part of your comment, that’s pure myth.

shualah says:

a note for eli: i’m not sure you can assume that ms. rubin’s question stems from ignorance. it equally is likely that she wanted to see if the girls would attach contemporary communities/populations to the term “amalek.”

an endlessly fascinating article. thank you for publishing it. i wonder how the ladies would react to pinsky’s characterizations of michal in his book “the life of david,” and her scorn, ultimately, for her warrior-king.

Doug Greener says:

A good, fair article. Hold that course, Tablet. These girls are beautiful, as closely wedded to Judea and Samaria as anybody else living there. They give the lie to the contention that this land has “occupiers” and “occupied.” It has people who love it and are not going anywhere. But it still is Judea and Samaria!

Verificationist says:

photographs are astounding. never seen anything like it.

What kills me is how many of these people are American in descent. Europeans fleeing the Holocaust, Russians fleeing totalitarianism, Middle Easterners fleeing dhimmitude–those are people who had good reasons to leave their homes and move to Israel, and the conflict between them and the native Arabs is subsequently tragic.

But to leave a country with plenty of room, ample freedom, and no real history of antisemitic violence to move a densely occupied area and struggle to push the original inhabitants out off their homelands, with no justification besides a contention that an imaginary friend deeded it to their ancestors a few thousand years ago: that is criminal.

To Nil: “original inhabitants”? oh, please. Arabs arrived in 638 CE (and they aren’t the descendents of the Jebusites or whatever-ites) and ruined the country. They borrowed a non-Arab name for the country and up until 1917, it was broken up into three different administrative districts. And until 1922-23, they considered themselves Southern Syrians.

But they did ethnically cleanse Jews out of Shchem, Hebron, Gaza, Gush Etzion, etc., etc.

Limor Joseph-Raz says:

i want to say wow
i am sitting here in awe
but i don’t know what to write
because saying its fantastic – that is always the response to your work…
and how will you know how special these are
from the other creations you made?
how will you know its not an obvious response

the light, the color, and mostly, the land, that land ….its colors – I know it so well, its deep in me, those are the landscapes i drew when i was a little girl, i can smell your pictures…this backdrop together with the expression of these girls, looks like they are a new breed of human females, alien, born from this land that is in limbo, so they are in limbo, its so sad, its horrific, their juxtaposition of innocence, juvenile stupidity, self-possessed drama, mixed in a soup of evil politics in the hands of religious fanatical sorcerers that belong to my tribe.

your loving sister-in-law.

victoria cooper says:

you made these girls like a secular and regular and they are not, they are not you writer Rubin at all….take your vogue ,NYT and you know what you can do with it….horror, shame and how disgusting…your soul will never wear or witness what these souls state……not interesting in your mag. at all….

Limor Joseph-Raz says:

Apologies for not making this clear – my comments above are in response to Gillian Laub’s photographs

The Arabs aren’t native to the land they’ve lived in since the 7th century. Mere transients! You can’t make this stuff up, folks–although it still surprises me that these religious lunatics expect anyone else to take their reasoning seriously.

The monotheistic invaders of the 7th Century share nothing in common with the current Mohammedan colonizers.

The few ‘Palestinians’ who arrived before the 20th Century are Mohammed-worshipping Turkish imperialists. They came in the 1700’s. They do not belong in Israel – just look at how all they have been able to develop are crime-ridden Islamic slums.

Look around ‘East Jerusalem’ and Muslim areas of the ‘West Bank’ and ask yourself if that freakshow of moral depravity, genetic inferiority through inbreeding, and physical repulsiveness belongs in the Levant. It doesn’t.

Isn’t there a moderator? Why is Barry allowed to post this nonsense repeatedly?

Wow. Barry does a great job with the Nazi impression. The cognitive dissonance is astounding. He’d fit in well at Der Stuermer.

“Reshaping the struggle?”- what is new about another group of fanatics thinking they have a direct phone line to God? the Middle East is full of them…”Reshaping” would be when Bat El and her fellow fundamentalists (of all religious and nationalistic faiths) see the divine image in all humans…the rabbis writing about the first humans knew that there is a reason why the first humans were not Jews or Muslims or Maori but humans.. this young settler could spend a little less time with fantasies of revenge and more in reading, and accepting as a way to be, words of Biblical prophets who spoke of taking care of the poor, the widow, the land, who knew that we are all brothers and sisters.

Jason M says:

Alon: Agreed.

I don’t appreciate the Muslim-hatemongering by a couple of the Christians posting here. It’s a reminder what Israel is getting into by having so much Evangelical Dispensationalist support in America: support of fanatics that are blurring the lines between Israel and Palestine, and, in an ironic twist of fate, setting the stage for a singular, binational state.

I spent a weekend at the Kfar Tapuach Settlement in 1997 while interning with Associated Press. The reason for my stay was a photo essay of a rabbi living there at the time. As a young person I went naively expecting to meet the types of heroic Zionists I’d read about since I was a kid – before our meeting, this rabbi led me to believe he was of that ilk. Unfortunately the people I encountered during my stay held beliefs much closer in line with those of the violent radical groups of the 60’s such as the weather underground. I suppose I arrived around 40 years too late for my idealism, time and circumstance made for a much different movement than I had anticipated.

This article brought back a lot of those feelings and memories from my short time spent there. It saddens me that these young women have been taught such a narrow minded worldview by people in positions of authority and influence. One tenet I appreciate so much about Judaism is the idea students are meant to challenge their teachers, accepting nothing without due diligence. The type of indoctrination taught these young women seems the antithesis of Judaism to me. I hope someday they are afforded the opportunity to travel and form their own worldviews.

In reference to the previous comments, I must say it surprises me to see so much hatred on this site. I realize anything having to do with this subject matter brings out the worst in people, but I assumed Tablet was read by a more tolerant crowd. Most conflicts are complicated and Israel is no exception…rarely are things black and white, generally they’re shades of gray.

I am both an American and an Israeli citizen if that helps ward of some of the rage I’m bound to receive from this posting…but then again maybe I’m still a bit naive.

The goal to restore the biblical state of Israel is not quite what the prophets had in mind. A Messianic Kingdom is the desired outcome. The core pieces of the divine jigsaw puzzle are : Israel; Judea and Samaria/The West Bank; Gaza; Jordan; Lebanon; Syria; Egypt and Saudi Arabia. World Peace 2050 is a vaid mission.

I like all the following names for the 150,000 sq.m. trapezoid platform in the Old City…The Temple Mount/Noble Sanctuary/House for All Nations and Centre of Unfolding Potential.

Prayers for the Middle East.

Correction…

“World Peace 2050 is a valid mission.”

Settlers Visit Arab Town, Condemn Mosque Arson

Blessings to the good people at Eretz Shalom.

All the cynics out there must ask themselves the following question…

“What is the divinely mandated plan for the Holy Land ?”

Those groups which best approximate the vision will be blessed. Follow the wrong path and you will be led astray. False conceptions of divine will lead to poor thoughts, actions and thus consequences for the world.

The Tanach is part : Genealogy; Drama; Lawmaking and Interpretation; Jurisprudence; Romance; War Battles; Power Dynamics; Place Naming; Object Referencing; Chronology; Prophecy; Allegory; Metaphor ; VIP’s; Filler and Wise Counsel. Weighing up the relevance of the different pieces should be left to very wise souls. The shore of history is littered with the ugly flotsam and jetsam resulting from the terrible decisions made by various people who thought they understood the true meaning of the good book. The Tanach is the most important book in the world. The 79,976 words of the Pentateuch assume primacy.

Despite the author’s obvious biases – not hostile, but still obvious – these girls come across as wonderful. Thank you for that, and for reminding us that there are still people like that in Israel, even if only on a few isolated hilltops. Apparently, the further that you get from Tel Aviv…the further you get from Tel Aviv.

Palestiniansareamyth says:

Barry is telling the truth. The people who don’t want to hear the truth are the Islamofacists and anti-semites like Nil, Jason and Masy. Probably the same person. Btw Jason the vast majority of the people posting here are Jewish. I doubt you are.
Israel is the homeland of the Jews! Arabia is the homeland of the Arabs!

Yosef Blau says:

As a zionist and religious Jew I am appalled by the manipulation of teen age girls in a school which focuses on indoctrination rather than education. Protests against government policies should be done by adults not by adolescents. It is not surprising that in a black and white world a response to government forces removing settlers from a site based on court decisions and elected government policy is to destroy a Mosque and vandalize an Army base.
Unless the extremists are disavowed the result will be to discredit the complex comunities of Jews living in contested parts of biblical Israel.

While the article is beautifully written there are several major issues with it. One of my daughters is a student at the school. She interviewed only the most extreme of the girls there. Since Amona the school no longer officially allows girls to go to protests. The vast majority of the girls have never been arrested or taken part in any illegal activity. The author went out of her way not to talk to any girls who don’t fit into her notion of what the school is about. Additionally, very few girls get married while still in school, perhaps one or two a year and they have to leave the school when the get engaged.

Ariella says:

Elizabeth, why do you write that Israel “conquered” Judea and Samaria in 1967? Do you not understand that it was a defensive war, with five Arab nations descending upon Israel in order to slaughter her inhabitants and take its land? A minimum of 100,000 dead was the estimate if there were any breach of defensive lines; parks and stadiums were prepared as graveyards and morgues. Even though Israel ‘won’, thousands still died, including the parents of many of my friends.

Israel’s width at that time was all of ten miles. To return to that state of affairs would be suicide.

Batya Leidner says:

The writer barely breezed over the brutal murder of the Fogel family in Itamr . This and the unprovoked murders in cold blood of so many others have shaped the lives of these girls.

S Toren says:

Read part of the article but gave it up as what I read was terribly slanted and non representative of what I see.

My daughter went t Maale Levona as did several of her friends. The school teaches young women to be assertive, self thinking individuals proficient in math, science and English. Yes, they learn Torah, lots of it, and they learn values, responsibility to the Jewish People and the connection of the Jewish People to the Land of Israel. They are not being taught to become young mothers of a dozen children (although some will, and I hardly see that as a problem if the girls are mature and up to the task), but certainly they will not become narcistict self centered individuals after fours years with such warm and caring teachers and educators.

The authors attempts at dramatization in the end destroy her credibility.

I thought dissent was patriotic!

George Soros and his puppet – the inarticulate, affirmative-action, failed President – have made it their primary goal to establish a far-right theocratic KKKaliphate in Judea and Samaria.

I dissent from Soros’ far right policy.

Paraphrasing Reverend Wright . . . “G-d Damn Palestine!”

judith says:

Deeply troubling from a great many points of view.

Dan O. says:

This article is interesting when read in light of the Edward Luttwak interview. Luttwak dismisses the settlers’ power, saying that the settlements they can be removed in an instant give a workable two-state settlement. Of course, Luttwak is pessimistic of such a settlement by citing the cycles of Arab internal conflict (when Palestinians have internal peace they’re not interested in external peace, and vice versa). This article seems to indicate that the Israel’s interest in peace may be subject to similar cycles of Israeli internal conflict and settler gangsterism. (Let’s not beat around the bush. These women are trained gangsters.)

Where Luttwak may be wrong is his idea that the status quo is good for Israeli cohesiveness. It is certainly good for the cohesiveness of these young women. But what of Israel, in general?

Oh. Instead of learning to think for themselves, these pitiable young vapid women chant Israeli lebensraum, and form ranks for The Kahane Youth in make-believe jackboots.

Empty eyes. Al Quaeda would love them.

In the utter vapidity of their mindless violence they wonder why violence is visited upon them.

@Barry – we don’t do Tea Party here. Try idiotsRus.com.

Unfortunately, this article does not do the justice or praise that these institutions deserve. The School focused on here does not represent this wonderful and worthy line of schools and futures these young women bring to Israel. Perhaps it is time the author spend some more time in Judea and Samaria.

While my political and religious beliefs are about as far to the left from these institutions as they possibly could be, I was left considering how purpose and meaning had filled these girls lives completely. And my impression is that religion is only the supporting element; it is the fight, struggle, the purpose that gives them a level of content — even happiness– that most of us experience occasionally.

Beautiful writing, stunning photography — thank you Ms. Rubin and Ms. Laub.

Hershel (Heshy) Ginsburg says:

Rubin’s article may be beautifully written but it is deeply flawed. She is more concerned with “narratives” than facts. A few more example of flaws (or “misstatements”?) in addition to what was noted above:

a) Daniella Weiss is not the “Grandmother” of B’nai Akiva by even the wildest stretch of the imagination. Anyone who knows anything about B’nai Akiva (which Rubin obviously does not) would know instantly that B.A. is far too moderate and respectful of the state for Weiss’ tastes.

For those of you who don’t know, B.A. is the youth movement of Israel’s National-Religious sector and is now Israel’s largest youth movement having exceeded the Tzofim (scouts) around 10-15 years ago. B.A. kids IDENTIFY with the State. Active in all kinds of areas they are especially involved with “social justice” issues. The majority probably lean to the moderate right.

Daniella Weiss arguably is the “grandmother of the outpost youth”. But to conflate that with B.A. is a mark of ignorance (and I am giving Rubin the benefit of a lot of doubt).

b) Saying that the outpost youth are taking over the IDF is also a mark of supreme ignorance. Firstly, they despise the army since the destruction of Gush Katif. And increasingly the army refuses to draft them for obvious and less obvious reasons.

Yes, more and more of the members of the elite combat units and especially the officer corps are coming from the National-Religious sector, disproportionately so. 30%-40% of the cadets in officer training are kippa wearers (the IDF recently built a new, much larger synagogue at the Training Base 1 (Israel’s West Point) to accommodate the large number of religious cadets). But to conflate that with the outpost youth is manifestly ignorant.

c) The outpost youth are but a tiny fraction of the 500,000 Israelis living over the Green Line.

Rubin proves an ironclad law of nature: Factual correctness is inversely proportional to political correctness, and Rubin is very PC.

hg

Efrata / J’lem

At least at tea party rallies – unlike that psychotic ‘church’ that your president faithfully followed for 20 years – they don’t preach ‘G-d damn America’ or lead the congregation in political advocacy for Hamas.

(sadly my president too at least until he resigns to run for KKKaliph)

Hershel- Thanks for the insightful comments. You made good counters to some of the misconceptions in Rubin article. Another one would be the insinuation that some of the girl get impregnatated in high school, leaving out the fact that they are already married (and thus avoiding the bible belt teen mom culture comparison), and it is still very taboo to get married in high school, even in the far right of religious Jews.

Obviously some of the girls there are somewhat insane, and the school’s decision not to warn or expel students who leave the campus area constantly is a terrible policy. But Rubin fails to interview a psychiatrist about these girls living amongst such violence and hate, and witnessing atrocities on both sides of the fence, while in the very article that she linked to here (the one about the Hamas Suicide bomber) the psychological state of the children is noted as a key part for understanding the mental psyche of a terrorist. I fear that this (and others such points like Heshy mentioned) are what make this article (while extremely interesting and thought provoking) a little slanted.

It’s also worth noting that when these girls are led to think about revenge and other deplorable things, the children across the fence are taught many of the same things, in a way that can be argued to be much more extreme.

I just wanted to correct some things I’ve seen in the comments.

The Weather Underground was not a violent terrorist organization. At no point did their actions result in the deaths of civilians or US government workers. The group, which included Jews, was responding to the violence in Vietnam and that of the FBI and CIA against the Black Panthers.

References to Amalek in the Bible have no historical or anthropology backing. Amalek is used as a specter to fill in for the Jews’ enemies throughout time.

James philadelphia says:

The liberated land of Judea and Samaria has to be defended. Palestinian Moslem Arabs are full of hatred ,fanaticism, terrorism, violence. As history demonstrates amply the Jew is only safe when it defends itself. The stronger the Jew is the safer he will be.

lazer, you are wrong about the Weather Underground, and I speak from personal experience.

The Weather U. was definitely a violent terrorist organization.

My roommates (in NY during the 60-70’s)were deeply involved in the Weather U. and I met others involved as well. I learned (after the events) of several bombings planned in the NY area, including one that led to the destruction of a townhouse in Lower Manhattan where several deaths occurred. There were other events of a violent, terrorist nature – “terrorist” in that the targeting would include the general public. To justify the Weather U. as a “response” is ideological nonsense which relieves them of any responsibility for their actions.

Amalek has a significant place in the Torah narrative, whether Amalek can be “historically” proved or not. And, as you say, a connection with Jewish persecution, pogroms etc. through history including with Haman and the story in the Book of Esther (which shows the early provenance).

Weathermen were negaged in bombings, arson, etc.

On February 16, 1970 a nail bomb placed on a window ledge of the Park Police substation in the Upper Haight neighborhood of San Francisco exploded at 10:45 p.m. The blast killed police Sergeant Brian McDonnell.

Check sources at Google.

Fascination with fundamentalist women is common in Western narratives about war, this article included. Also common is the erotic or rather, perverse gaze, that always keeps the reader on guard, hinting that there must be some kind of a pathology, many times referred to as ‘sexual repression’. Ironically, we’ve seen these same narratives in the coverage of Palestinian women suicide bombers.
But, although the article and pictures are highly original, you didn’t get the picture at all. In reality, these young girls are perceived as a real threat to their own society, they are too independent, they are ‘borderliners’, they might experiment with sex, smoking etc. That’s why they are married so young- to restrain their real political potential as adult women and confine them to the ideological role of raising well-educated (i.e. fundamentalist) young children. This form of female subjugation has been the lot of women throughout history. Too sad you were not able to see this aspect at all. These young women deserve a chance to go out and see the world, to get university education, to choose a professional path, to explore their identity and sexuality like we, American women can. For most of them this will never happen.

Mike Jacobson says:

The solution is simple. These Jewish people, and their daughters, should be allowed to stay on their land, in the new country of Palestine. They should be given equal rights as citizens of Palestine. Problem solved.

jane doe says:

they r freaks ! and the erotic in this case is a form of repression and hate just like the nazis. the settlers are mad violent nuts.

Jane Doe’s comments Sep. 9, 2011 7:14 pm should be removed.

These girls would do well to remember what the Lord said to Moshe Rabbeinu as we were about to cross the Jordan “do not say to yourself, “The LORD has brought me here to take possession of this land because of my righteousness.” No, it is on account of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD is going to drive them out before you. 5 It is not because of your righteousness or your integrity that you are going in to take possession of their land; but on account of the wickedness of these nations, the LORD your God will drive them out before you, to accomplish what he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. 6 Understand, then, that it is not because of your righteousness that the LORD your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stiff-necked people. ”

They would also do well to remember Shemot 22:20 “Do not oppress strangers, for you were once strangers in the land of Mitzrayim”

Isabelle Berger says:

Settlers = facists nation =The theives who are stealing our country.

signed,
A Zionist

@ Jane Doe, have you ever seen what the Palestinians teach their toddlers?? The Israeli’s do NOT teach their children to kill the palestinians in fact Israel has said let’s live in peace together. But the Muslim world has voiced their desire loud and clear and that is death to all jews…no peace! That is THEIR words not mine! If these girls are angry because 2 teenege boys came in and took a knife and savagely stabbed a baby, a todddler and a young boy and the parents. These boys have said they are PROUD they slaughtered the baby AND they would have killed the other children had they seen them. Disgusting!

babawawa says:

G-d bless these girls – they are the future of all Israel. May the One On High protect and defend them, and all Klal Yisroel.

Why the snickering tone? What is so bad about having 10 children. How else can the Jewish people survive? These girls are in the front lines and of course they are highly traumatized. Who wouldn’t be after their teacher was murdered in cold blood. Don’t they deserve some compassion and respect instead of being singled out as freaks and sexualized in the slide show! This is just the sort of piece I’ve come to expect from Tablet, snarky and frankly anti-Semitic.

Wallace says:

I think it’s sad that your magazine is trying to put a positive spin on illegal settlers. It’s like you have no idea of the struggles of the Palestinians. I get it that the Jews need a homeland, but they already have one without these illegal settlements.

S Toren says:

Sad to see all the haters and maligners crawl out from their crevices, but not surprised. The auther chose the most out spoken girls and dramatized what they said and now all those self hating jews can attack what is presented.

Reality is much more complex although also much more mudane and boring.

Hold on– you are saying that these girls are protesting the settlement policies of Israel because they are not already violent enough by their standards? That they are taking a stand against the Israeli government because they do not believe Netanyahu’s campaign of racism and ethnic cleansing is moving fast enough? These girls want the settlement policies to be even more aggressive? Is that correct? I am struggling to understand this.

Jean Terry says:

These girls are so beautiful. I don’t know that I agree with everything they believe, but I admire their spirit and strength, I do believe Israel never should have left Gaza as I also believe they should not evacuate any other land to please the world. I pray for these girls to know the Lord and to work for Him. I love Israel and support her as best I can in my small way.

Nanushka says:

Almost everything that I have read in the Israeli press on this subject,in Hebrew and in English, far left, mainstream and right, was always full of the authors pre-conceived judgments.
The served mainly as a vehicle for the author’s political agenda and the verdict against the “Hilltop Youth” was sealed, before the article was written.

Rubin’s article is a breath of journalistic fresh air. She lets the girls speak for themselves, and lets us, the readers think for ourselves.
כל הכבוד!

Abrahamlied says:

Disgusting fascist shells of humans. No compassion, no soul. It’s so ironic that the only difference between these settlers and the nazis is they don’t use gas chambers to kill their victims. But they take what isn’t theirs, get rid of those they believe to be lesser based on the belief that they are superior, in the hope of creating utopia – the same ideology that drove Hitler. All based on fiction, lies and delusion. The author of this article and it’s subjects should be utterly ashamed of themselves. Vile excuses for human beings.

I absolutely agree with Matthew Bishop and Abrahamlied. These young girls aren’t beautiful, they are fighting to maintain a vicious and unfair conflict which has seen an entire people – and their children (and likely their children’s children) thrown off their land to live in tiny, under resourced, poor settlements. One would think after something so utterly horrific and beyond par as the holocaust that there would be some compassion and to only do unto others as you would have done to you. I thought the article and sentiment behind it was appalling. I am not american, I am not palestinian. I am british, but as a human being I can see injustice clearly enough.

These girls are what they are, and they are defending the only place the know as their home.

As generations are born in settlements, The Settlers as a people are created. This is something to be feared.

Let us recall that these young ladies are activist ‘settlers’ only because due to an Arab initiated policy of ethnic cleansing during the years of the British Mandate, Jews – and young Jewish ladies – were forced to leave the areas of what today are Judea and Samaria. Jews were killed, butchered, raped and maimed in Hebron, Shechem, Jenin, Gush Etzion, Gaza, Bet HaAravah, Atarot and Neveh Yaakov, as well as Jerusalem’s Old City, and their property stolen, looted and destroyed in 1920, 1921, 1929, 1936-1939 and during 1947-1949. That is why they are so special – they are returning to where Jews wer, not in Bible days but less than 100 years ago.

andrew r says:

“Arab initiated policy of ethnic cleansing” – That’s funny because during the Mandate the Jewish population of Palestine increased from ~60,000 to 650,000. Israel’s defenders usually say the Palestinians could not have been ethnically cleansed as the Palestinian population keeps increasing. Once again, Israelis are above the same logic when it doesn’t work in their favor.

It is disgusting to read this article.
By one size you feel you are reading ficcion science, by the other size it is clear that no chance of peace at all for that generation.
But I claimed that the tittle is very attractive for young people of this century, why do you portrait a young beautifull girl posing like a model? So, you confuse people, finally they will say they are right, people up there have been assesinated, so…

Giyuress says:

Very interesting!

Miriam Fox says:

Arabs have been in Israel since the 7th century-Jews have been here 1500 YEARS PRIOR to the creation of Islam! Please, read your history! Regarding these girls: they are not the one’s taught to rejoice in the murder of innocents. Remember this interview took place one week after the brutal murder of their teacher and her family in their beds.

Girls of the Settlements
What’s next? A Playboy spread?

The Girls of the Settlements
What next? A Playboy spread?

Nick Stuart says:

The obdurate fanaticism of the settlers speaks for itself. The irrational nature of a “divinely mandated” race-state experiment initiated by seething ultra right-wing National Socialists like Jabotinsky and Herzl, however, is obviously lost on the hyper-racist young ladies. And the basic glaring fact that the very term “Jewish people” is every bit as ambiguous as “people of color” is similarly ignored by these grimly determined illegal squatters. Tick…tick..tick…

The Israeli government reaps what they’ve sown. Utter contempt for international law by Israel has inspired and encouraged a generation of bigoted fanatics who now spit in the face of their benefactors. A future Israeli prime minister who genuinely desires peace with Palestine will have to deal with the enemy within: the settlers.

Tara Bratton says:

calling 15 year old girls erotic is gross and insulting, and the pictures closed the deal.

Ari Ben-Yam says:

Knowing the realities described, I very much enjoyed the article. Yes, it is somewhat biased by the writer’s liberal and secular perspective and is not very representative; nevertheless it shows an honest attempt to give a voice to these girls who are regularly and crudely marginalized by almost all of Ms. Rubin’s colleagues (and, by extension, by their more obedient readers, based on some comments here).

I’m not going to waste bitrate proving yet again the falsehood of the stale anti-settler arguments some comments here contain. However I think it is particularly important to emphasize that these girls and their likes, are closer to being truly FREE than any group of young people I ever encountered. They are independent, thinking and acting out their beliefs which they had plenty of opportunities to challenge. This is not the “freedom” (from responsibility and care) of a typical spoiled college kid in the US. Theirs is the freedom of a morality uncompromised by fear, deep connection to a Land, a Torah and a People, all transcending current fads and politics and standing as a light – yes, to the nations – for millennia. The tragedies they witness only make these young women stronger in their determination. More than Israel’s hi-tek industry, its sophisticated and amazingly enemy-civilian-casualty-aware military, and its excessive reliance on American sympathy, the will and character of these young Jews are the hope and assurance of Israel’s future.

Ami Ben Joseph says:

This was disturbing to read. Settlers are scum.

M.S.Bar-Ron says:

From the pedantic disdain in her words, it seems this author wants his readers to ignore/forget/deny that the so-called West Bank is the heartland of the Jewish People from time immemorial. That it is illegal –both by Israeli law and Torah law (halakhah) for the government to cede its territory to foreign powers (and in this case suicidal).

In her world view, brave `olim –families of a people gathered in from the 4 corners of the earth after 2,000 years or persecution and genocide– should be denigrated as “Peruvians, Khazaks and Russians.”

In her New York Times-esque reality, you can almost forget that the entire Palestine issue is one huge Muslim fraud. That the “Palestinian” people were molded into an entity for the world after 1967 by the Egyptian born Arafat and the PLO in general. A tool with which to chip away at the state of Israel and weaken it so it may again be attacked. Muslims have made no secret of their designs on every inch of Israel–and intent on making it Judenrein.

For the author, it seems the true history –that “Palestine” was already split into two nations, Jordan and Israel– has been erased. Together with the only fair solution: for a third nation to be created from land given up by Jordan, whose population is over 90% “Palestinian”.

It’s likely she sees Abbas –Arafat’s right hand man and orchestrator the Munich massacre, including the death of Americans– a moderate peace partner.

Worst, she might have you forget Israel’s experience cutting off vibrant limbs –the blossoming communities of Gush Katif and Northern Samaria– for peace, only for those areas to become bases launching terror into the heart of our cities. And the vain, pacifist strategies of our adolescent girls at the time, facing down the evicting soldiers with flowers in hand…

To her, perhaps all this makes our native daughters fighting for our land today look like delinquent, anarchist cry-babies.

It is a worldview that I, for one, do not share.

George S says:

@Jack S – 09/15 -1616hrs.
William Blake of England wrote:
“A law for the lion
and the Ox = Oppression”

……and you sir, are you the Lion or the Ox? Better yet, maybe the lawyer whom writes these often found oppressive laws.

George S says:

@ Ami Ben Joseph-09/17/11-0137hrs

Remarkable Sir! Thats’ almost the very words I would presume spoken by King George of England regards the Colonial Settlers of Colonial America when he learned of their dastardly act regards, his cargo of Tea being dumped in the Boston Bay, as their answer to his oppressive Tax laws.

If one takes the time to read the history of the Holy Land only one conclusion can be arrived at – The Palestinian Nation is a 20th century invention.

Read what Mark Twain had to say when he visited the Holy Land – it was empty and barren – no Palestinian Nation was present.

To all the Sad Self Hating Jews who have commented here, I say the following – When Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood come for You, You will be Thankfull to have Brave Young Jews like these Settler Girls come to Your Defense.

To the anti-semites commenting here I say who cares about your hateful comments. May Israel and the Jewish People be a Thorn in Your Eyes Eternally!

If you don’t think that growing up in a secular home in a suburb outside NYC, London, etc that you are going to be brainwashed, you are…brainwashed!

BTW, the learning methodology in Judaism is not to challenge everything the teacher says. It is to learn the teacher’s methodologies the way a diciple learns from a master, and then apply the methodologies honestly to the material being studied.

nil says: The Arabs aren’t native to the land they’ve lived in since the 7th century. Mere transients! . . .

“Mere transients” is what the Jews were considered by the Muslims when they threw them out of North Africa, where they’d been living since the fall of the second Temple. The Saudi Arabs invaded much of the Middle East, committing genocide against the indigenous populations if they did not convert to Islam.

There has ALWAYS been a Jewish prescence in the Holy Land. ALWAYS. Not so the Arabs or Muslims.

@ sara says: Sep 9, 2011
2:22 PM
“These young women deserve a chance to go out and see the world, to get university education, to choose a professional path, to explore their identity and sexuality like we, American women can. For most of them this will never happen”

Sara these girls are pious. Why do you want them to explore their sexuality?

Why do you want them to be like so many American teenage girls who are brainwashed by the media and a degenerate culture to start whoring around at an early age, so that by the time they are young women they genrally have low self esteem?

These girls know their identity they do not lack in this regard like you liberal women do.

You are very sarcastic… and I must say, very easy to write such an article when you don’t live here….I from these girls you are writing about, except I grew up in the city, and chose after marriage to move to the settelments. For you people who think peace is so easy to make, and that a bunch of settelers are whats stoping it- you’re crazy. I don’t understand how you weren’t ashamed to talk about Ruthi like you did. Do you know what it’s like to sleep with a knife under your bed-just in case, or to have you children in bed with you every night because you are scared to leave them in the other room?! You have no idea what it’s like to live here. And it’s not because “we started throwing rocks”. I think that it is clear already that the west bank is not what the Palestinians want. they want our heads. They will want more and more every time we give something. Not that you seem to care if this whole country was given to them. But in that case should you really be writing for a magazine on Jewish Life?! You seem to be on their side…Maybe go live with them, We’ll come see whats left of you after a couple of hours…I now that jews are usualy the biggest antisemites but I hope it’s just that you never got to live here in this beautiful part of our peoples country given and promised to us so way back….

Im from Brazil and Im just glad we are far away from Israel. Hitler was a monster for the genocide of Jews. The genocide of the Palestinians will not be seen with good eyes too. Both sides suffer with the war.

Dear Editor and fellow readers of Tablet,
I am sorry to see the invasion of the spinners has arrived here by interconnection to other web-sites. Both Barry and lazer need basic correction. I’m glad to see that several other posters clarified two of the outstanding dangerous events committed by people who quite naturally involved themselves in the political life of Chicago, Illinois. Neither were Jerry Wright nor the U.S.Ambassador to North Africa. Rev.Wright informed me that Trinity Unity Church of Christ in Chicago also had another affiliate located in my area which is as unlike Chicago as you could imagine. I left high school in a Midwestern suburb for a private school that my mother had attended,a few years after Bernadine Ohrenstein arrived with her parents in that same suburb where she later went to the same college prep high school that I’d originally attended. She later made it her business while employed at Northwestern University to object to Jeremiah Wright receiving an Honorary Chair and to prevent it. Although lazer and Barry have their facts reversed from reality, what would motivate the former Bernadine Dohrn to punish Jerry Wright? Did it have anything to do with the book written by her husband Bill Ayers,an apologia reviewed in The New York Times, yet nobody remembers because that appeared on the morning of 9/11/2001 ?
It seems more apparent that they simply wanted to punish Barack Obama for becoming President of the U.S and ignoring them after he discovered what they really were before he met them and back when he was just a kid.

zionist from Itamar says:

these girls are amazing!
they fight to protect their country and family.
these girls live in a world were every week there are attempts to terrorist attacks!

do you hear about this?
how can you criticize us when you are not here? in our coping mentality?

these girls lose thier mother and father brothers and sisters.
they are the ones who live on burning ground, FOR YOU!
the arabs (there is no such thing palestinian due to there is no such state) want us dead! yes, me the jew, who went to the army up to high levels in order to protect your nation!
they want to kill you too, just because you are a jew.
they try to kill us! these girls dont do that because they are Bored.

מחכים לך בארץ ישראל.

Doctor Bucephalus says:

I found the article beautiful and more important, absolutely necessary. I spent two years in Israel at a Yeshiva around 99. I was shocked at how far things had gone politically, at a total loss for words at what I saw. My one objection is Rubin’s use of the word eroticism… while I see what she must have observed the question of eros in a religious community like that is many times more complicated than the politics here. I’d think it optimistic to imagine it taking another decade to hear that story told even remotely right, and the religious laws and cultural messages are the easy parts of that story.

One comment to Yisrael Medad you make it clear to me again that no matter how modern we’ve gotten, many of us still don’t get some very modern things. She did not pull a hatchet job, and in being afraid she would you opted out of the process and the article documented as much. That’s the maximum price you paid for it. But there’s more.

The story is about the girls most of all. It’s about the Kahanists, who stand out for a reason, thus making it a story. It’s not about your council or the school system’s lovely hierarch, but about people, and like it or not the story about these people mattered. If it were up to you this thing you admire even while disagreeing it would never see the light. All you can see is facile pieces against you and facile articles for you. Freedom of speech means real dialogue, and not being afraid of what truly free discourse can bring.

william Engledow says:

appears israel could take a lesson from these girls. Good to know all of the newer generation are not brainwashed.

You captured the picture of what all of my beautiful, angry, intense West Bank nieces embody. I just wish I could talk to them about the issues…

1. These girls had just been completely traumatized by the horrific and violent death of their teacher and her family. I wonder what impact this had on the interview.
2. I read through the comments and the violent language on both sides, against Palestinians and settlers, is disturbing.

ross woodshire says:

yes it’s good to know that there are complete psychos on both sides.

Squall says:

Beautiful article with amazing photos. These girls are courageous and its good to know that not all teenagers are stupid kids commenting the latests dumb TV shows on facebook.

jeffrey guggenmos says:

im interested in the struggles for the young people in and around the conflict im christian,also a truck driver in the usa please help me to understand what im not privy to go through, not that its a privelage to be in your circumstances.ive never seen war on my home ground like so many of you young people have for this im deeply sorry for your plight,how ever if its any conselation i do pray every day for the peace of all people. Basically were all the same in physical form its just been twisted in the belief system.

John Home-Douglas says:

This confirms that all wars are religious based. I find this article depressing in as much as so much hate has been built up by the excuse that the Jew own the whole of Palestine because they were there first (not true) and because Abraham had decided this was to be their country(who gave him that divine right ?.)I was in Palestine 1946-47,the problem that now exists was not created by the Sabras,but the hoards of foreigners that came in,mostly from Europe. Aggressive Jews,who had gone through hell,that had turned them into snarling dogs. What is so sad is that Arabs and Jews are related,they are both Semites.

Ariellush says:

It seems to me that the author would be much more benevolent to Hamas and their leaders and “narrative” than to the Ma’ale Levona girls. It is a matter of preference and her political agenda.

Speaking as an Israeli, I’m disgusted that my country has allowed potentially intelligent young people to be turned into slavering fanatics exhibiting no more sense or perspective than the terrorists they describe as animals. Shame on you, Israel.

sue beardon says:

i feel such despair when i read about whether jews, arabs or anyone else was in the holy land first. It’s a futile and pointless line of argument. As a jew living in England I await the arrival of the Scots and Welsh, living on the Celtic fringes, back to the land that they inhabited long before Angles, Saxons, Danes, Normans and – dare i say – Jews, moved in. I am priveleged to live in a country, whlst not perfect by any means, does have a pretty good record of multi-cultural co-existence, inter-marriage and tolerance. I spent three months in a small palestinian village underneath the hill that Itamar sits upon. All my nieghbours were palestinian farmers and their families, bringing in their sheep and olives, keeping themselves to themselves, and watching daily for the incursio of settlers from above, bthing in their well, burning their olive trees prior to the harvest and parading through their streets with large guns. I was appalled that just after i left two palestinians from Awarta were accused of the murder of the family in itamar, and i wept. But the surprising thing, given the daily humiliations and acts of harrassment that my nieghbours experienced, was that these retaliations happen so infrequently these days. Generally the message of resistance through non-violence is pretty much the majority view. And I love this, because i absolutely believe that if there is a god, which i doubt, his will would be done far more by human beings seeing each other’s humanity and learning to live together in pace, than by claims that he promised one tribe land at the expense of others. I was struck in the article by the message of purim – what’s mine is yours, what’s yours is yours – in other words, everything is for all of us. Halleluja to that

This articles describes some of the least cooperative people I’ve ever read about. It seems they don’t play well with others and don’t want to. An amazing portrait of modern tribalism, though. Very well reported.

Shmuel says:

More power to them! It’s about time some of this Jewish pride that I see every day gets some exposure in mainstream press.

There is no doubt that Elizabeth is an excellent writer, but there is equally no doubt that her stories are extremely biased.

The author herself admits to having written http://www.nytimes.com/2002/06/30/magazine/30HAMAS.html?pagewanted=all and anyone who reads the piece should pick up on the heavy anti-alias bias. Terrorists who blow up Jews, Muslims, Women and Children are referred to as “fighters”. Their sob stories are given great considerations, the Israeli narrative is tucked away in footnotes (if even then).

I sympathize with the pain of these girls but disagree with their reaction (acting out violently against Palestinians). I believe they should let the army do its thing (stop attacks, respond to them) and stay united. I also agree with them that the army should focus more on their safety than political correctness, but the difference is that I would never take matters into my own hands. I believe doing so is counterproductive.

What a waste of Jewish lives! When enthusiasm exceeds discretion and wisdom, it turns to fanaticism. Do not make Jerusalem or the land an idol. Those who create a love for Zion amongst the non-Jews in the region, do not dispossess natives in the land of their homes and livelihoods, create an understanding of Torah which will bring Muslims into its embrace, those will create a new, safe,secure Zion in harmony with its own best ideals.This is what it means to be a nation of priests (not warriors), a light unto the world. To be a liberator,not an oppressor. Other people — some, but not all –have lower standards; it does not mean we should emulate them. A recitation of past injustices to us, does not mean we can inflict injustices on others. Follow the path of Hillel, not Shammai.

Jacob says:

I’m no self-hating Jew. I love our religion and culture.

But this article makes me deeply ashamed of the settler culture that Israel has not only tolerated, but empowered. The occupation is a cancer on the State of Israel and on Jews worldwide, and these girls sadly embody all of the hatefulness, violence, small-mindedness, and danger that the occupation represents. Israel should dismantle all settlements – not for the Palestinians, but to regain its own soul.

The 8% of Israelis who live across the Green Line are not brave. They are not fighters who will save other Jews when the going gets tough. They only endanger all Jews with their greed and fanaticism.

Jules says:

This is is really sickening. These photographic images of young women in preening poses of ugly occupation look like some kind of sick soft porn photo essay in the “sexy” service of illegal Israeli settlements and of course the without end ethnic cleansing of Arabs. Pretty girls and pretty nauseatingly sick.

Jon Liebowitz says:

G-d bless these wonderful patriot young women! Keep on keeping on! We need a new generation of Jews inspired by the ruthless pride of Joshua, and not the despicable appeasement of Rabin.

Jon Liebowitz says:

Shame on all the weak-minded so-called Jews who come on here to express their outrage at these wonderful youth who give hope for a FUTURE for the Jewish State of Israel. I wonder how many NYTimes or NPR reports it took to rip out your Jewish soul – he soul that preserved us for 2,000 years of exile? 50? 100? 500? If it were up to you weaklings, Judiasm would have long ago perished. You think these young women are “extreme” or act like “animals”? Do you know that when Joshua defeated our enemies, he killed every man, woman and child? Why don’t you cowards retreat to the Upper West Side, and leave Israel to REAL Jews, who still have a soul, and a BACKBONE to defend the Jewish State (yes I know you HATE that title, JINOs) against an enemy which does not share your cultured sensibilities (as the Fogel butchery SHOULD have proven to you).

Timothy Broman says:

I support Israel since my youth.

We all wrote Moshe Dyan a letter when students, and his secretary answered my class.

I am proud of your young men and women who stand up against the hypocrisies of politics.

Sincerely,

Timothy

Jean Terry says:

Bless these girls and their friends and community. The Fogel tragedy is horrible and I pray that someday soon Israel can be safe and live in peace. As a Christian I believe Christ is coming soon and it will happen as the Jews are God’s chosen and he loves Israel.

Ben Cohen says:

These people better get used to living in an Arab country. If there is a 2 state solution this territory is getting ceded to a new Arab country, and if there isn’t a 2 state solution then there will be a single Arab state in historic Palestine.

Ben Cohen says:

Jew. In. Name. Only. here…..

There is a political goal and a theological one. The Political goal is a political entity that is majority Jewish and independent from the Arab world. The theological goal is to move to the land of you’re ancestors. I believe that the political goal is more important than the theological one.

Hate to burst your bubbles people, but 99.9% of the 600,000 Jews living in Yehuda & Shomron live there only because it is a 20 minute drive to the hi tech jobs in tel aviv. Tell these people to pick up and move to the Negev and they will laugh at you. There is no employment there, no industry so how will they eat? And besides, why should they move a two hour drive from Saba and savta?

Understand this, and then you will understand why more and more Jews are building homes there. It’s not politics, it’s pure free market economics.

Sue Beardon – it was so nice to read your post. You said what I’ve often wanted to but never quite got the chance to. I was born of Irish parents in London and moved to NY. When I see the English far right talk about expelling newcomers I fantasize about having the chance to agree with them and declare that once they’ve all gone back to Germany or Norway or wherever their ancestors came from me and my fellow Celts will be quite happy to get Britain back. But of course the Celts themselves came from somewhere else, supposedly near Switzerland.

But I’m really writing to say how refreshing your voice of reason and decency is. It’s because of people like you I think there’s still a chance that Israel can become what it has the potential to be; the economic powerhouse of a free, democratic Middle East.

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Its interesting to note that all the girls interviewed were dropouts. Where are the interviews with the current students, or the real graduates who are now doctors, lawyers, accountants, etc. My daughter is currently a student in Ulpanat Levona in the 12th grade.Next year she will do sherut leumi, after which she wishes to go to university and study veterinary science. This article sort of ignores the majority in favor of the few you chose to interview. Hardly the overall picture.
The Palestinian people were created by the Palestinian charter in 1966. Prior to that year the west bank was mostly empty of civilians but patrolled by Jordanian military.This is history, look it up….

Adam for Peace says:

As a Jew descended from the brother and son of 11 Holocaust victims (my Grandfather’s parents and 9 siblings were exterminated by the Nazis), I feel outrage toward Jews who invaded and now occupy lands that even Israel agrees belong to Palestinians. The young women in this article were brain-washed from infancy by violent vigilante parents who drove defenseless, innocent Palestinians from their homes. But now these young adults can investigate the history themselves. Painful though it would be for them to confront the reality that they are the offspring of foreign invaders, occupiers and oppressors, that pain pales compared to the suffering that their parents caused innocent Palestinians. It is past time for not only Israelis but Jews across the world to unequivocally denounce the atrocities that extremist vigilante Jewish “settlers” committed against defenseless Palestinians. Jews must confront the objective reality that in the immediate wake of the Holocaust, no doubt warped by unprecedented, unimaginable horrors that they witnessed and suffered, Jews violated the human rights of innocent others in self-survivalist desperation. That fundamental human instincts would drive any nearly exterminated population to extremes in an effort to survive cannot justify human rights violations in a world where justice, fairness, and respect for human rights must govern. After predominantly Christian Europe failed to exterminate Europe’s Jews, Europe orchestrated the oppression of Palestinians in a purportedly compassionate creation of a Jewish “safe haven.” But Europe’s attempted genocide of Jews does not morally justify the oppression of Palestinians. Palestinians and Jews should both have “safe havens,” and both could. But first, they must stop killing each other, and Jews should unconditionally return to Palestinians all occupied territories. Then both Jews and Palestinians should unite in demanding appropriate reparations from their true common oppressors.

    So sorry you are suffering from Stockholm Syndrome by proxy. Why you should feel guilt for being deprived of your native land for 2000 years is beyond me, I can only surmise you are easily brainwashed.

The new narrative, is it, hate? Hate devours and hate conquers and hate spawns more hate, and creates an endless circle, that feeds on itself.

This massacre of innocents was more than terrible, it was heart rending and perhaps hard rendering, because what does one do, in bearing witness to such slaughter? One feels enmity. One feels there are enemies bent on slaughtering us as if we have no souls, as if we have no hearts, as if we have no humanity, and those who do these deeds have surely lost all perspective, and definitely their souls, their own humanity, and that is a terrible loss to contemplate.

The answers are difficult to come by. Despair at such brutality, such aimless terrible brutality, as in the murder of mothers, fathers and children in cold blood, begs for response. How does one respond? What is the correct answer? Solomon we need you.

All I know is this, and that is more blood shed, does not ever seem to work, and the cycle continues. We need a new paradigm. The world needs a new paradigm. A new perspective on events, and hatred, and that paradigm has got to be, universal love.

How do we arrive? What are the true seeds of peace? How do we sow what we truly desire. This is the garment of many colors, Joseph’s, a garment that requires sewing, a melding of colors, of different hues, of yous, and that is going to take us to another place, if only we can start. As for needles, we need EL, we need God as never before.

Think about words, and see whether words themselves, can be turned into plough shares, into what’s shared, what’s precious, and good, for us all.

There are definitely numerous particulars like that to take into consideration. That may be a great level to carry up. I provide the ideas above as basic inspiration but clearly there are questions like the one you deliver up the place the most important factor will likely be working in sincere good faith. I don?t know if best practices have emerged round issues like that, however I’m positive that your job is clearly identified as a fair game. Each girls and boys really feel the affect of just a moment’s pleasure, for the remainder of their lives.

How quaint? The author paints a stunningly sexy and attractive portrait of what are essentially the manifestation of the terrorist youth movements that my fellow countrymen seem to think is exclusively Palestinian. All of this talk about Auschwitz and painful Jewish history to cover up the power disparity that maintains, promotes, and enables these militant Jewhadists. It’s great that the article takes their comments at neutral value and then spins descriptions into romantic seductions for the distant American readers. PLEASE – I’m sorry, but these women and their children will probably die in the conflict they are dragging the rest of us into. No mention, of course, as to how our tax shekels here in Tel Aviv are paying for their violent hippie fantasy. Thanks, but no thanks, Ms. Rubin.

george says:

A typical piece of anti-Israel garbage from that notorious anti-Israel rag, the NYTimes, by one of its many anti-Israel ‘Jewish’ writers.

There has to be a better way.

Among the most depressing pieces I have read in a long time. I am not a bleeding heart lefty. I have no illusions about who the Israelis “partners” are, and the slim possibilities right now of making peace with them. Nonetheless, the teaching of hatred to Jewish kids, the idea that Arabs should be loaded onto trucks and taken away…this makes my blood run cold. These Jews, this way of thinking, this maximalist mindset– will doom Israel to eternal war.

    BunnyOlesen says:

    They are already doomed to an eternal war as long as the ‘palestinians’ exist in their current state. Their children watch ‘kids’ shows with talking rabbits that tell children martyrdom is great and there will be no peace until all jews are swept into the sea, and also that if anyone else in Denmark draws an image of the prophet they should be killed. This is a show for 5 to 10 year olds.

    BunnyOlesen says:

    They are already doomed to an eternal war as long as the ‘palestinians’ exist in their current state. Their children watch ‘kids’ shows with talking rabbits that tell children martyrdom is great and there will be no peace until all jews are swept into the sea, and also that if anyone else in Denmark draws an image of the prophet they should be killed. This is a show for 5 to 10 year olds.

Thanks for a great article. Truly frightening.

John DeLancy says:

May Ha’Shem bless and protect these young ladies and make them stand bold as Miriam and as Devorah. May He surround them with favor as with a shield, and may they find their countries leaders supporting, rather than arresting, them. May their light shine to the nations, chasing away the darkness.

May Rav Gadi and his fellow laborers be likewise blessed. May his borders be expanded and may his school overflow with children who are not ashamed to be Yehudim living in Yehudah, who are not ashamed to be Am Yisrael living in Eretz Yisrael.

May Ha’Shem make them all as trees planted by running water, whose leaves do not fade and who bear fruit in their season. May they be comforted that Ha’Shem knows their way, because He orders their steps.

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BunnyOlesen says:

The israel’s face the same choices given to all non muslims. Die, leave, or fight. Ask the Assyrians of Turkey, Syria, and Iraq, oh wait, they’re either gone or displaced, guess you won’t be able to. Instead just do a search on Syrian ‘rebels’ targeting christians (aka foreign mercenaries who are not Syrians and who will kill every last Christian, if they can.

“Kazakhs, Russians”? The author clearly doesn’t know what she’s talking about. She is refering to Jews who immigrated from Kazakhstan to Israel as “Kazakhs”. They aren’t
Kazakhs. They’re Jews. Just like the Russians, Ukranians, people of German origin and others who came to Asian countries in Soviet times never were Kazakh, Kyrgiz, Tajik, Uzbek, which are completely differnet people with their own culture and language. All were regarded as Soviet citizens, but of different ethnicity/nationality. It didn’t matter where they lived, in Russia or Uzbekistan. Their passports listed them as “Russian”, “Ukrainian” or as, well, “Jew”. Which was not always pleasant for the Jews. And the Jews were regarded as Jews, and not as Kazhaks or Russians. The author should get informed about such basic facts before writing nonsense.

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Girls at War

The teenage believers of the West Bank settlements.
Photographs by Gillian Laub.
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