More than 400 thousand Israelis live in Judea and Samaria, the occupied territory, which is globally referred to as the West Bank. Israel claims that the land is not occupied, and this question is moot because she was never a country, and its status has never been determined. In 1967, the result of the six day war, Israel took control of the territory known as the land which the God of the Bible promised to His people.
“It was not just victory in the war. It was a return to roots,” says Sandra Austin Baras from the charity organization “Christian Friends of Israel”.
The modern community of Bethel, which was established in 1977 and is home to 6,500 Israelis. This is the same area which is named after its biblical ancestor of the Betel nut, also known as the Bethel “house of God”.
Four thousand years ago, as the Bible says, Jacob saw in a dream a stairway to Heaven. God appeared in a dream and promised the land to Jacob and his descendants.
Check in was easy. The soil was dry and rocky. Initially, the government of Israel has not adopted such a solution, but Israelis on all sides of the political and religious spectrum supported the idea.
“And I believe that almost the entire population of Israel was with us,” said Rabbi Eliezer Waldman, one of the founders of the Israeli settlement of Kiryat Arba on the West Bank of the Jordan river.
The first settlement was called Faraz Zion. It appeared in 1927, 20 years before the founding of Israel. The Arabs destroyed it three times.
The siege of 1948 led to the evacuation of women and children and the massacre of those who remained. The people evacuated at a young age, such as Jerry Katz, never lost hope for the return. The government allowed them to do so in 1967.
“As little kids we said we were going to come back. As little kids we always said that it was carried out, and this time it really became real,” says Jerry Katz, a resident of Kfar Etzion.
But even in this situation, the settlements continue to attack.
Some communities are isolated, and others are very close to hostile Arab villages and cities. Some of them are small, in others there are thousands or tens of thousands of people, and they are entertainment centres, schools and pools.
Military experts say that if Israel abandoned the land, particularly from Samaria, which in some places is six miles wide, then the Jewish state would become defenseless.
“No settlements are a stumbling block to people around the world, and the basis of settlement of the Jewish state in the middle East” — says Rabbi Eliezer Waldman.
Many supporters point out that almost all Israeli settlements built in the state, not on private land. And misunderstandings can occur when the Palestinians begin to demand sovereignty.
“It is important to understand that the rights of private property of the Arabs fully respected. But we do not agree that they have sovereign rights to this land,” says Sandra Austin, Baras.
At the same time, many Israelis were ready to abandon the land in exchange for promised peace.
Now, once in 2005 Israel removed the twenty-one Jewish community in the Gaza strip and four in the Northern West Bank, they changed their minds.
“This was a statement to all Israelis that the settlements are not the cause of the conflict in Palestinian-Israeli relations, and, accordingly, they may not be the reason for the restoration of peace, says Yoram Ettinger, expert on us-Israeli relations and politics in the middle East. Is a message to terrorists that their actions are not only compensated, but that they have more and more recognition in the world community”.
Although the United States has long had a clear position against the settlements, Israel believes that change can happen during the presidency of trump. A few years ago he even made a donation to a spot near Bethel.
And while most of the world is pushing Israel to abandon its biblical heritage, those who live here, hope can continue to fight for him.