Jerusalem Tour . . . . for one

Fred Schlomka
Yesterday I received a call from a lady while I was driving in to Jerusalem. She was interested in a private Jerusalem tour and I just happened to have a few hours available in the afternoon. This young woman had just completed a United Jewish Appeal (UJA) tour of Israel and wanted some balance since her entire visit had, of course, been from the Zionist perspective. It was quite a brave thing for her to do since her friend who accompanied her on the UJA tour refused to come because she was too afraid to visit Palestinian neighborhoods of Jerusalem. So I picked the lady up at the Old City's Damascus Gate for a tour of Jerusalem area settlements, the Separation Barrier, and my discourse on the Occupation.

I love these types of tours. They give me a change to have one-on-one conversation with people who are truly interested in the Israel/Palestine situation. As usual she was impressed and shocked at the size of Ma'ale Adumim, the second largest settlement in the West Bank which essentially cuts Palestine in half. She also has the erroneous assumption that most settlers were kippa (yalmuke) wearing radicals.

I explained that the vast majority, about 85%, of settlers were ordinary people who moved to the settlements because of the subsidized cheap housing, tax benefits, and higher quality of life. Most large settlements are leafy suburbs with nice public ammenities such as swimming pools and parks. Since many settlers could never afford such housing or lifestyle inside Israel, it seems like a step up for them. Most are also oblivious to the real issues of their residence - illegal under international law, living on stolen land, and becoming part of the problem, another obstacle to peace.

All of these issues, and more, are discussed on the Jerusalem tour, illustrated by visiting the facts on the ground.

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