Ariel-Third Largest Settlement in the West Bank

Fred Schlomka
It was a clear day today as we drove up into the hills from Israel into the West Bank, driving along the fine four-lane highway that reaches from Tel Aviv into the heart of the Palestinian Territories where 25,000 Israelis live in a nice middle class surburban town called Ariel, the third largest settlement in the West Bank. This week I had only two young ladies from the USA on the scheduled Friday tour from Tel Aviv. As we drove into Ariel though the checkpoint they were amazed at the size of the settlement. We entered a broad boulevard that swept up the hill to the center of town. Along the left side of the road we passed neighborhoods of neatly kept row houses and small apartment buildings.

We kept driving up to a new neighborhood being built on the northeastern edge of the town and paused at a lookout point to review the vista below. We could see several acres of caravans which are still in use for new immigrants, and the Ariel University which dominates everything on the east side. The visitors from the US were a little taken aback by the normalcy of the town: street after street of nice normal homes inhabited by nice normal Israelis. Not a radical settler in sight, just average people who were attracted by the cheap homes, subsidized mortgages, tax breaks, and other incentives that the Israeli government still uses to encourage people to move east of the Green Line. There's also quality of life. Just a half hour from Tel Aviv, this community is high in the hills far above the coastal pollution and some of the nicest views in the country on a clear day. All public amenities are available: swimming pool, gardens, community centers, etc etc. What's not to like?

Ariel, the third largest settlement in the West Bank, is considered by Palestinians to be a serious obstacle to peace.

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