Today we met with our first Israeli settler. Hailing from the city of Chicago, Ardi Geldman grew up in a non-religious Jewish household, but after the unexpected death of his father he began to study his faith. He came to Israel for the first time in 1977 to study in a Yeshiva, met his wife, and then moved back to US to start their family.
In 1982, Mr. Geldman and his family emigrated to Israel and have been there ever since.
Speaking with Mr. Geldman was challenging. He had sterotypes of us, outsiders wanting to listen to his story, and we had stereotypes of him, a settler within the Palestinian borders. We asked him why he had chosen to live here in the settlement and not in another place in Israel. He and his family moved to that particular area (outside of Bethlehem) because it was affordable, close to family, and they had the opportunity to design their own house. He considered all of the West Bank part of Israel and said that legally, all the land is “up for grabs” and the “borders are artificial.”
We were challenged by our own history of expelling the Native Americans; asked why we did not give back the land to them and move away. Mr. Geldman posed that a peace settlement would not result in peace between people in this part of the world; he held little hope for a peace solution of any kind.
At the end of our day we met with Khaled Ammayreh, an Islamic Journalist. Mr. Ammayreh is an American educated writer who is living in Durah, outside of Hebron. He is well known for his articles and writes often for several news agencies including Al Jezeera and the Christian Science Monitor.
Speaking with Mr. Ammayreh was also very challenging. He spoke in very strong language against the actions of Israel. He said that it was too late for either a peaceful solution or a two state solution; he predicted that the situation would break down into violence at some point. On this, Mr. Geldman and Mr. Ammayreh agreed.