The West Bank Settler on the Wrong Side of the Fence
Beni Raz is not a typical settler - he wants to leave, and has founded a movement to make it easier. But this has made him a pariah in his community. Beni is not an ideologue. He was a bus driver with an urge to establish better accommodations for his family. At his salary level he could afford an attached house in a development open air with plenty elbow room a real shot at suburban style living. Inside Israel, he would have paid much more for considerably less.
Israel subsidized the West Bank new housing to develop the land as a Jewish entity. Most officials used the 100's of thousands of new inhabitants as a bargaining chip. When peace negotiations failed, housing prices dropped and many people could not leave. Secular Jews such as Beni became more frustrated. The harsh economy has chained them to the ongoing conflict with no end in sight.
Worse for Beni, his political activities cost him his job and the respect of his neighbors.
The majority of them have a strong commitment to continue life on the West Bank. Although they are not particularly religious, they have joined the right wing in outlook. The Arabs had lived for 100's of years showing little concern about improving their circumstances. The Jews inhabited a vacuum and made it live.
Ilan Mizrahi has spent 16 years photographing and filming right wing Israeli settlers in the West Bank city of Hebron. His film, Israel: Rise of the Right, looks at the followers of Rabbi Meir Kahane.
An American Orthodox Rabbi, Meir Kahane received much attention when he established the Jewish Defense League in New York in the 1970's. At the time, the organization was much needed as an auxiliary police force. The Jewish flight to suburbia had left many older Jews behind. These people fell prey to the youth gangs and the street toughs that roamed the abandoned areas. The JDL organized young Jews to defend the older ones. They patrolled the city with communication devices. Their fundamental purpose was to prevent crime. They trained in Police procedures and tactics without weapons. They alerted Police authorities to potentially dangerous situations.