Thursday, December 14, 2006

A Challenge from Tormos-Ayya

I am an American citizen born in the United States brought up in Tormos-Ayya. I met one person from Shilo who happens to be the Security guard, his name is Mark. He isn't a bad guy, whoever he is, he is still an occupier. If I run into a Shilo resident in the States we'd probably meet for lunch or something, but I highly doubt that could happen in Palestine.

I'd like to know what the Shilo residents think of Turmusayya and its residents. Given the history of settlers and the Israeli government before and after the 1948 war, Palestinians just can't trust these settlers, because we know they harbor nothing but distrust and hate for us. If any open-minded people reside in Shilo "which parts of belong to Tormosayya" Will they admit that they wronged the people of Tormosaya? Wronged as in confiscated lands, and killed some of the residents. Can they apologize to the Palestinians and make genuine Peace offers?


Monday, December 11, 2006

New Group for this Dialog

The hope that the blog and associated group will act as venues where people who are not capable of meeting face-to-face due to the hostilities between them today, can share thoughts, insights to lifestyles and ultimately what connects them to this place, the Shilo Valley and the communities in and around it.

Please keep in mind that these information resources, the blog and the group, are public and the material in them accessible to every human being who has access to the Internet. Please do not use them to post information which might potentially damage the safety and security of any party. But do use them to reach out and share insights and exchange "snapshots" of lifestyles that might potentially build bridges of understanding, or at least demarcate the boundary of misunderstanding.

To make it equitable, I've set the posting limit at 3 photographs per day, but anyone who is a member of can post. Hopefully this will encourage contributors from residents of all the communities surrounding the Shilo Valley.

You can find the site at :

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Former TY Resident Writes from LA, USA

hey, how r u ?

well i just found about your blog yesterday the one between turmosayya and shilo. i even put up a post , not showing up so far.. well im not writing this email to bash the jews and say this land is my land, b.c this thing will never get us any step closer to peace.

i noticed u guys asked the turmosayya resident about his reaction to the bombing in Tel earlier this year, can i ask u about ur reaction about what the palestinians suffer, lets say ur reaction to a pic of 6 month old babe killed ? would u also say thats a self defense??? and other subject i wanted to see ur reaction on is that of confiscating palestinian lands ?? do u just say its a jewish land we havee the right to it ?? before u answer that question think of this indian american tribe takes over lets say chicago and say this land was ours before any american stepped on it!!!!!! and they started to confiscating and demolishing whatever comes in their way.

anyways im from turmosayya and now in the U.S grew between tormusayya and Los angeles, always dealt with jews, i'd love to see ur blog more active, one more thing about confiscating lands!! how was ur reaction when i don't know who made the move, but in maybe 2000-2002 the started a small settlment all the way east of the valley on top of the mountains.. im looking forward for ur answers and have no problem with posting this if u want on ur blog..


Friday, November 10, 2006

Clash of Cultures : Dialog II

Jihad, Turmos Ayya resident too said ...

Well Palestine is for Palestinians, and its promised to U guys by Great Britain. They promised that because they wanted an apology from U guys for what happened to Jews in the Nazi Death Camps.
One day as we will all will fight to fight for our land back, we will retain it sooner or later, Inshallah (Allah Willing) it will be Arab owned again.
One last thing: It is a great thing to talk about and hear from both sides. I lived in Turmos Ayya for almost 10 years, look from my house, two sides and I see Shilo. I wonder how you guys see us from that side? I would like to see some photographs of Turmos Ayya taken from Shilo's side.

Salam Jihad,

I too prefer to exchange words and ideas than bullets or other lethal means. I'll try to put up some photographs of how Turmos Ayya looks from the Shilo side of the valley.
As for your other comment, I don't think the Jewish People are here in the Land of Israel because of the British, the United Nations or some misconstrued compensation paid the Jewish People for the tragedy of the Holocaust of the Second World War.

First the Jewish People always lived in the Land of Israel, at least since Avraham left Haran some three thousand years ago. As for the British and the so called Balfour Declaration of November 2, 1917, that predated the Second World War by twenty two years. I think it more realistic to see both the Balfour Declaration and the League of Nations decision at San Remo in April 1920 as a recognition of the reality. The Jewish People, after 1,795 years of oppression and forced exile, having demonstrated their eternal devotion to the Land throughout all the centuries, was poised to return and recreate a nation-home for themselves. We can argue what might have happened if six million Jews had not been systematically murdered during the Second World War ... how many of them might have followed in the footsteps of those countless Jews that returned to the land generation after generation. It is interesting to think that the demographics might have resolved the question of who would build a country on the shores of the Mediterranean and on the hills of Judea and Samaria, without recourse to the influence of outside powers?

What fascinates me is the duality of your comment. On one hand you inform me, Mr. Jihad, that Arabs will rise up to fight for the land, yet on the other you seem to look forward to dialog with those you claim 'stole' the land from you? Please help to understand how these two, on-the-surface contradictory interests sit together in the same personality.

I look forward to your response.

Yoel Ben-Avraham
Shilo, Benyamin

(called Ibrahim Iben Ibrahim by my Arab friends in the Galil)

Clash of Cultures : Dialog I

As a Turmos Ayya resident living in the US I would like to say that it is always good to listen to the others opinions, especially to people from Shilo. I was amazed by the level of dialog between Turmos Ayya resident and Avraham. I wounder why Turmos Ayya resident is not writing any more. please keep talking, please to all.
Posted Friday, September 22, 2006SA

I of course cannot answer for the residents of Tumos Ayya but I suggest it is relatively simple - real open honest dialog between equals is not a possibility between an Arab in Palestinian society and a Jew who lives in the Land of Israel. Not because the Jew is not capable of being open and listening to divergent opinions. No, simply because if such an Arab were recognized by his peers/neighbours his life would be in danger.

I might be wrong, but it would be interesting if someone from the Palestinian side could come up with a better explanation.

Ibrahim Iben Ibraham
Yoel Ben-Avraham
Shilo, Benyamin

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Clash of Cultures

As a resident of Shilo who sees Turmos Ayya spread out in the valley beneath my home, or drives by the western border of the village when I drive to or from Jerusalem, there is a great deal of curiosity about who lives there, what they believe etc. One of the "rumors" that I've heard is that a sizeable number of the families who live there have strong "connections" with the United States. The simplest form of "connection" would be a family member who lives and works there, much like the Italian and other European communities sent "representatives" to America at the turn of the 20th century.

I bring this up in the context of trying to understand where our neighbor's "heads" are at; what they believe; to what extent are they capable of the concept of co-existence! Ideally I'd like to believe that this "American Connection" would have a positive influence, opening my neighbor's to the possibilities of coexistence and mutual tolerance.

What caused me to revisit my wishful thinking was a very heart-felt article by an American Arab in the New York Post today. Read "One Arab's Apology" by Emilio Karim Dabul, then ask yourself. If a man who lives in the heartland of freedom and tolerance is afraid to publicly voice self-doubt and criticism of his faith and ethnic group, what can I expect from an Arab who lives in the Middle East?

Friday, September 08, 2006


It takes real courage to be willing to go public and exchange opinions and beliefs with "the enemy". It is especially so when weekly we read about "suspected collaborators" being brutally murdered by Arab thugs belonging to one militia or another.

It comes as no surprise when this blog discovered that my "partner in dialog" disappeared.

It is extremely surprising when others offer to step up to our virtual podium and try their hand at open communication between Jews and Arabs. I look forward to their contributions, and encourage all this blog's subscribers to feel free to ask questions and to encourage our guests from Turmos Ayya .
Yoel Ben-Avraham (Iben-ibrahim)
Resident of Shilo, Benyamin

P.S. Don't worry, I've offered to create an intermediary email address to avoid unnecessary exposure to possible dangers, if they so desire.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Response to Sara,

[Posted by anonymous on Friday, April 28, 2006 ]

Dear Sara,

Let me tell you my father's point of view. He worked with Jews outside of Palestine & in Palestine he dealt with them in many businesses. He even joked about one of your scouts in our area before the British handed our country to a new colonials in the name of religion & just for Jews who suffered in your Europe. [The] man's name was Shmidt. He was an archeologist. My father met him in Jerusalem.

Even my father or me now have no objection living with a Jew from Palestine because he has every right just like me to live in this beautiful land. NOW if that means he is going to confiscate my land destroy every thing that comes in his path the story changes, sorry to till your successive governments have nothing in their little minds but KILL, DESTROY, CONFISCATE, IMPRISON, MORE WIDOWS, CUT TREES ESPECIALLY OLIVES BECAUSE THEY ARE HISTORY.

One day we will live in peace, it's as sure as you are looking at your screen now. Again but not as oppressors & oppressed as humans [with] dignity, future, education, respect & all other humans wish in their dreams. HISTORY CANT BE IGNORED 4 EVER its about time your GENERALS REALIZED THAT, for THE SAKE OF OUR KIDS & YOURS.



[Editor: I fleshed out short forms and corrected obvious spelling but did not change the words in the text.]

Strange You Should Ask

Posted by anonymous on Friday, April 28, 2006

Strange you ask these questions you no better than any body else how our kids live. Let me give you an idea if you don't know.

First step toward going to school--did you sleep well my son ? No mother the sound of shooting from the soldiers scared me I could not sleep--don't worry son they are only trying to scare us -- give me some food mother I am late--eat at school son you no u get sandwiches their --but mother if the soldiers come we will be locked in till they go--ok I want you to study bring high marks to show to your father he wants to be proud of you- ok mother I do not want to go to the university there are so many road blocks on the way to Ramallah ---don't worry son they wont be there when you grow up--ok mother then I want to get big tomorrow.

What's Happening in Turmos Aiya?

[As our correspondent from Turmos Aiya has apparently decided not to participate in a public discussion, I thought I'd publish some interesting comments posted by residents of Shilo and anonymous writers who appear to be 'Palestinian' Arabs.]

Sara of Shilo wrote on Wednesday, March 08, 2006

We haven't seen a post by either of you in quite a while--are you still blogging? I'd love to hear more about every day society in Turmos-Aya; what is a typical day like? what do people do for amusement? or for work? what subjects do the children study in school? is the curriculum different for boys and girls?

Does anyone in Turmos-Aya believe that it would be okay for Jews to continue to live in a Palestinian state on the West Bank? Or are most people opposed to such an idea? I've been told that before the Second Intifada, things were better between Jews and Arabs--is that true in your opinion?

Monday, April 17, 2006

Shamed to Death

A must read. Although it doesn't use the language, the report actually does a very good job of explaining how the "Shame-Honor" dychotomy of Arab culture/psychology is exploited in the recruitment and manipulation of suicide bombers.

Another described how he approached individuals who were suspected for collaborating with Israel, suggesting that a suicide mission would erase the blemish that they have caused themselves and their families. In yet other cases, suicide bombing was offered as a way to erase the shame and “dishonor” that a rumor about suspected female sexual misbehavior caused the woman’s family. Offering to become a shahid and commit suicide to restore the tarnished family reputation was a strategy that recruiters used to recruit candidates. In January 2004 the first Hamas female suicide bomber, a mother of two small children from Gaza who was suspected for an extra marital affair, was driven by her husband to the checkpoint where she blew herself up.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Welcome Back

Dear Resident of Turmos Aiya Shalom,

First off let me express my own "welcome back". We were all a little apprehensive when you dropped off the net. In a time when people are rioting and even dying around the world over whether a Danish newspaper intended to mock the Prophet Mohammad, it was not a radical idea to fear that perhaps someone decided the very act of communicating openly with a Jewish "Settler" was a crime punishable by immediate death.

Thank you for your answers to my questions. I've been studying the demographics of Judea & Samaria for also twenty-five years and it is interesting to see how the trends I've read about translate into reality on-the-ground. What often overwhelms me is the tremendous history of the land you and I live on. There are remains from the very "dawn" of (recorded) human history, the early Cannanites, and every other period down to and including the Muslim conquest of the 7th Century, the Christian Crusaders of the 12th Century and the Ottoman and finally British in the last century. Discovering these remains, appreciating and piecing together the stories of the people who left them, is one of my life's greatest pleasures.

In reference to your response to my issue of "sensitivity", you have to understand. For almost a decade we have listened to the leaders of our "Partners in Peace" respond to every major terrorist attack, not with a revulsion against the crime and loss of life, but with some self-absorbed "Its not good for the Palestinian People ..." tripe. If these people would only get themselves a decent Public Relations consultant, their overall image would be very different. Hence your words 'echoed' this same grating one-sidedness. Forgive me if my remarks were not sufficiently elaborated.

So ... are you going to say something about the PA elections, or should we stay clear of areas that might jepordize you?Looking forward to your response!

Yoel Ben-Avraham
Shilo, Benyamin

Monday, February 06, 2006

Some Tentative Answers

Dear Yoel and Readers,

First of all I would like to apologize for the long absence. No I didn’t stop answering your questions or comments, rather I had many computer problems (keyboard stopped functioning) and unfortunate internet connections, although now everything is back to normal and hopefully will stay this way. Thanks to those who were concerned, but I couldn’t inform you what was happening. (I’m safe and sound.)

In an earlier blog entry, I expressed myself as being shocked about a Jan.19 suicide attack in Tel-Aviv. I also said “something like this had to happen, only to make it more difficult for our elections to proceed.” Yoel commented that it made arabs seem cruel that I didn’t show any sorrow for what had happened to the Israelis, rather I focused on the negative outcome that would have hit us...(maybe our elections would have been delayed, or Israel would have banned voters in Jerusalem…) Rather this being a “slip of the pen”, as Yoel suggested, I consider this more of a misunderstanding. Usually, when I hear of a suicide attack on Israelis, a smile wouldn’t appear on my face, nor any form of happiness. As a Palestinian, I don’t think that killing innocent civilians (in cases women and children) as a solution to an existing problem. Islam forbids taking the lives of the innocent in battles, wars, and conflicts.

On the other hand, attacks on military vehicles/bases/areas are admitted, (telling you by faith.) Anyways, I do have concerns about my own people and country, especially when were going through what may lead me and the Palestinian peoples future. Now when you said that this “creates the feeling that Arabs are heartless and cruel” what did you mean in terms of “Arabs?” Did you mean all Arabs worldwide or the Palestinians perhaps? Or is this a bad case of “a slip of the pen.” It’s another problem that many point their fingers at Arabs and Muslims for all sorts of issues!..........

Now also in your reply to my previous blog, you asked some questions, and here are the answers as numbered by you:

When did Turmos Ayya start building outside the "Tel" area?
1- Builing around the Tel area is unsure exactly, so I took a strole myself to these houses and noticed the dates carved in stone going back to the early 1900’s, no earlier. The more modern houses around them date to the 20’s 30’s......Mostly in the 50’s our population started rising, therefore I can answer your question as”in the 1950’s”
When did you finally receive electricity and piped water?
2- Again, unsure when exactly, but I think sometime in the early 60’s, I’ll have to get back on this one
Where do you send your children to school?
3- Our city contains 4 schools. An elementary coed from grades1-5, an all boys school (grades 1 to12), an all girls school (grades 1 to12) and a kindergarten. Our schools are not coed from 6th grade and up, beacause we don’t belive that the mixture at such age is apropriate, since Islam bans dating and unneccesary social interaction between males and females.
How many mosques are there in your village?
4- There is 3 mosques (masjids) in our city. Two are currently open to the public througout the day for prayers, but only one is used for the Friday noon prayer. The other is the ancient one first built long ago, that still stands today.
Do you have an infirmary or health clinic in Turmos Ayya?
5- Ofcourse, we have a clinic run by an educated doctor. Other than him, a hospital currently opened about 2yrs ago with good equipment.
When you go to larger urban centers to shop etc where do you go? Nabulus?
Ramallah? Some place else?
6- When I go shopping or if I need anything not available in the city, I go to ramallah, where I can find almost anything, and there’s also american goods.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Keyboard Anyone?

Dear Readers,

In light of your many comments of concern ...

It turns out that my correspondent from across the way has been "tongue tied" these past few days, not because of PA elections nor Israel's brewing civil war .... but because his keyboard broke!

Anyone have a keyboard to donate?

Yoel Ben-Avraham
Shilo, Benyamin

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Sunday, January 22, 2006

On Bombs, Checkpoints and Ancient Houses

Dear Resident of Turmos Ayya;

As like most of you, I was shocked Thursday evening upon hearing what had occurred in Tel-aviv, another suicide bombing. Days away from our elections, something this bad was waiting to happen, only to make it harder for voting and proceeding with the campaigns.
Please reread this passage from your last message.

Although I'd like to believe otherwise, the simple reading of your words is that the distressing aspect of the suicide bomber attack was the possible negative effects on the elections. This kind of apparent "insensitivity" creates the feeling that Arabs are heartless and cruel. What do you think? Was it a simple slip of the pen (as you are writing as a non-English speaker) or is there something deeper culturally as to which aspect of this tragedy is predominate in your mind?

Although in an earlier statement of 'checkpoints', I did not mean they shouldn't be enforced, rather I questioned why only we the Palestinians had the trouble of going through them, for every nation has the right to hold any sort of security run-throughs in order to ensure their own safety.
I definitely agree with you. In fact many of the suicide-bombers succeeded in entering Israel in order to commit their vile acts by being transported in vans or taxi's sporting yellow (Israeli) licenses. I too agree that these vehicles should be checked, no less than non-Israeli vehicles.

I will mention though, that when you travel from Canada to the United States, there are separate lanes for non-Americans or non-Canadians when you enter each respective country, and separate lanes for citizens of each country. In short, this is not necessarily a discriminatory act.
My Shilo friend noted earlier abut the Tel here in Turmos-Ayya. Well, it consists of many old houses, dating back (written on stone blocks) to the early 1900's and of course earlier. ... Although very old and partially ruined, I still see and think of it as a beautiful part of our city which we can remember our past relatives and how they lived. In fact, my father and his fathers once live in these old stone houses, early in the 1950's. What's amazing is that till this day, many of these houses are lived in, and used by the 'poor' residents.
I have a couple of questions for you ... straight forward, no tricks. A sincere attempt to try and understand what happened here in our valley over the past fifty years:
  1. When did Turmos Ayya start building outside the "Tel" area?
  2. When did you finally receive electricity and piped water?
  3. Where do you send your children to school?
  4. How many mosques are there in your village?
  5. Do you have an infirmary or health clinic in Turmos Ayya?
  6. When you go to larger urban centers to shop etc where do you go? Nabulus? Ramallah? Some place else?
Looking forward to your reply,
Yoel Iben-Ibrahim
Shilo, Benyamin

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Memories of a Tel.

As like most of you, I was shocked Thursday evening upon hearing what had occured in Tel-aviv, another suicide bombing. Days away from our elections, something this bad was waiting to happen, only to make it harder for voting and proceeding with the campaigns. Although in an earlier statement of 'checkpoints', I did not mean they shouldn't be enforced, rather I questioned why only we the Palestinians had the trouble of going through them, for every nation has the right to hold any sort of security run-throughs in order to ensure their own safety.

The city I live in was once that of a 216 resident population (under the Ottoman Empire in 1596) and in 1933, population rose to 717, and in 1942 it was estimated to be around 960. Now we are about 2500.

My Shilo friend noted earlier abut the Tel here in Turmos-Ayya. Well, it consists of many old houses, dating back (written on stone blocks) to the early 1900's and ofcourse earlier. He also said that he would love to visit this site in our city, which is impossibe. I on the other hand have the priveledge of walking through this area everyday, and I do. This is because I use this path as a short-cut to get to other places. Although very old and partially ruined, I still see and think of it as a beautiful part of our city which we can remember our past relatives and how they lived. In fact, my father and his fathers once live in these old stone houses, early in the 1950's. Whats amazing is that til this day, many of these houses are lived in, and used by the 'poor' residents.

My father and grandmother often tell me of how they used to go olive-picking on the hill which Shilo now rests on. They also would go there, in the spring and just enjoy sitting under a tree, viewing Turmos-ayya. Many of my family members lost their land due to the constructing of this settlement, and are still holding on to their documents that prove their ownership, hoping one day for a return to what they had long lost. But what is scary is that as time passes, our village will expand, and so will Shilo, and one day they will meet and seem to be as if one.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Between Shilo & Turmos Ayya

Who Can Go Where:

As a Palestinian, I dare not cross the valley that both belongs to and is forbidden to be entered by us, for which the Shilo city "controls." I know this as a fact, since many have suffered by going there. I also know many who own lands there and cannot harvest crops in it......What a loss.

Dear 'Resident of Turmos Ayya',

I hear the issue of the road blocks. If only they had been more effective twenty nine people wouldn't be hospitalized tonight.

Yes the issues are difficult, but somewhere you and I have to be some kind of starting point upon which we agree ... from there we can disagree and even agree-to-disagree, but otherwise this is not a dialog but "the conversation of the deaf", two monologs that don't listen to one another. Where shall we start?

Do you know the Tel in Turmos Ayya is probably twenty-five hundred years old? You know the elevated section with all the older buildings from before 1948 - essentially the original village before it started expanding into the lower lands around. I'm facinated by archeology and would love to explore that part of your village, but it would be safer to run zig-zag in the middle of a busy street. A Jew cannot just walk in Arab controlled land as Vadim Norzhich and Yosef Avrahami learned when they mistakenly entered Ramallah on October 12th, 2001. Yet I see Arabs from both 'East Jerusalem' and the villages surrounding Jerusalem shopping in the stores in every neighbourhood in Jerusalem. Why is that?

Arabs from Turmos Ayya are not welcome in the areas inside the communities of Shilo nor their surrounding areas. Since the 28th of September 2000 we are at war. It is an ugly war where Arabs try to kill as many Jewish civilians, especially women and children as possible. As a result the Jews of Shilo, like many other communities, have seen fit to minimize the potentially hostile Arabs from entering, working or even visiting their communities. It wasn't always like that. The Jews who lived here until the first Intafada in 1987, not only shopped in the surrounding villages, and hired their nreighbours to help build and plant, but more than once the participated in family celebrations, and invited their Arab neighbours to join them in theirs.

Shilo Valley Looking NorthI won't pretend to get involved into the details of land claims and counter claims. I'm certain there are mistakes made and I am certain that to some extent the disputes are as much political as they are legal. None-the-less I must say that one of my favourite photographs of the Shilo Valley (Emek Shilo in Hebrew since Biblical Times 1295 years before the common era) shows the wide fertile valley as it looks at the end of the winter, during the spring plowing and planting. Yes, from the road on, toward the Industrial Area and neighbourhoods of Shilo, Arabs are definitely not welcomed. But right up to the three metre wide road, the residents of Turmos Ayya, and the Beduin they hire to work their fieds, plow and seed and harvest without impedment.

So yes the situation is not easy. Why are we at war? Why do we have to protect ourselves from vicious attacks on our women and children? Lets try to find a root for the strife we are both suffering from and see where we can go from there!

Your Neighbour,
Yoel Ben-Avraham
Shilo, Benyamin

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Thursday, January 19, 2006

My day

As I wake up early in the morning and step outside, I look over to my right and see far on the hill an Israeli Settlement. The only thing separating me from it is a highway and some fields, and little did I know, there are residents, citizens, families, and workers living an average daily life as I do here in Turmos-Ayya. This is a separation of two different peoples, each bound to their land and beliefs. As a Palestinian, I dare not cross the valley that both belongs to and is forbidden to be entered by us, for which the Shilo city "controls." I know this as a fact, since many have suffered by going there. I also know many who own lands there and cannot harvest crops in it......What a loss.

Many of our primary rights here have been taken from us. One of the important ones are traveling. Going to other cities as an Arab is very hard, especially with all the checkpoints and pull-oversaw we go through. Once as I was going to Jerusalem wit's my family, there was a checkpoint ahead of us. The driver had a yellow license tag, but did not stop to be checked. As we passed by with sorrow upon those who made the stop (nearly 20 vehicles), I wondered why we were among the Israeli travelers, who would also pass by undignified the long traffic line.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Life in the West Bank?

Dear Pen-Pal from Turmos Ayya;

Between Shilo & Turmos Ayya:

I'd like to know a little more about Jewish life in the West Bank, do you find it difficult? For us it is an ongoing struggle. We have the Israeli army vehicles coming into the city everyday, and were not given our primary rights. Its just an ongoing struggle.

Its difficult to answer this: What is Jewish life in the West Bank like? It's life, like in Jerusalem or Beer Sheva. Yes I see the occassional "Check Points" on the road between Shilo and Jerusalem when the Israeli security forces have received information of a possible suicide bomber or the planned movement of some known terrorist. I'm certain you'll find it hard to believe that I'm sorry to see it is still necessary to do this. At the same time, it is difficult to feel sorry for the population suffering from these actions when you see the Palestinian polls that demonstrate their broad support for suicide bombing.

I prefer to travel in bullet-proof buses, but will take a ride in a regular vehicle when I have to get somewhere quickly. In the same way I no longer stand on the roads to catch a ride, after twice being mistaken as a target by some thankfully poorly trained Arab marksman. In reality the only place I really fear for my family is when they run around the streets of Jerusalem. There two my children have thankfully been spared injury from Palestinian suicide bombers, once in a totally miraculous fashion.

But all the above does not really affect us. Oh we do recognize the dangers and pay the price of living so far from school or work - but we believe in what we are doing - living here in Shilo.

Let me digress for a moment. Shortly after I and my wife married, we moved to Jerusalem. I remember the feeling I had preparing for the festival of Passover. For almost two millenium our families had wandered the globe, Europe, Russia and North America - each year celebrating Passover and at its conclusion saying or singing "Next Year in Jerusalem". I'm certain that in many generations there was a brave or fool hardy member who didn't just 'say it' but actually made the attempt to return to the Land of Israel. Here we were celebrating Passover in Jerusalem.

What I want to share is this: it was not just our own private sense of wonder and accomplishment. No I sincerely felt that we were realizing the collective aspiration of generations of ancestors that were not capable of returning. Our celebration was theirs as much as ours! They who had "kept the faith" all those generations, had passed the traditions down to their children generation after generation - we were the culmination of everything they strove for! Got a feel for it?

Thats how we feel when we wash our dishes, weed our garden, take the dog for a walk or stroll up to the post office to collect our mail. Every single simple mundane activity is a kind of realization of the aspirations of the entire Jewish People and in that context the fulfillment of G-d's prophecies as written in the Bible. We're home. It might not be easy to be home, it might even be dangerous or 'expensive' but there is no place like home.

I look forward to hearing from you soon. I'd like to better understand what you mean by "primary rights".

Yoel Ben-Avraham
Shilo, Benyamin

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Hello from Turmos Ayya

Hello Yoel,

I am writing now from Turmos Ayya, since I'm now renting a house here for the time. Thank you for replying, and that's a great picture you've sent.

I'd like to know a little more about Jewish life in the West Bank, do you find it difficult? For us it is an ongoing struggle. We have the Israeli army vehicles coming into the city everyday, and were not given our primary rights. Its just an ongoing struggle.

By the way, could you send more photographs, that would be great. I'm sending you a picture of Shilo from our view. I'd like you to show me how Shilo is in the inside, they say its relevant to America.

well thanks,
I'll keep you posted
Turmos Ayya

So Near But Yet So Far

I've been "living on" the Internet since the early 80's. Definitely you can find my "fingerprint" on websites and discussion forums throughout "cyberspace", and despite dire warnings to be careful, my personal policy has always been to use my own identity. It certainly was not surprising to find 'fan' mail in my inbox from anti-Semites and self-hating Leftist Jews, and the occasional righteous Arab. What was surprising was to receive a polite straight forward message from an Arab who lives less than 2 kilometers away from where I live.

We exchanged a couple of innocent messages from time to time and I have to admit, the idea of this being some kind of ploy either to lure me into becoming a hostage or to divulge information (readily available elsewhere) that might weaken the security of my community was always in my mind. Yet I did not want to walk away from an opportunity to use this small opening to learn more and share ideas. At some point I realized the answer was staring me in the face. Daily I invest hours updating several personal and many professional blogs! Why not create a blog - co-authored by myself and my Arab neighbor to share our exchange of messages so others can read them and discover together with us the two worlds that appear to be in inevitable conflict.

So I invite my Arab correspondent and you to share what I hope will be a fascinating exploration of two worlds in collision. Maybe through our efforts we can find a way to contribute in some small way to finding a way to coexist.

Yoel Ben-Avraham
Shilo, Benyamin


To protect my Arab correspondent I set up a dummy email address so messages to and from him (or her?) cannot reveal his/her real identity. There are forces in the Palestinian world that might see such an open public exchange as treason-to-the-cause for which the Palestinians have only one answer - kangaroo courts and a lynching.