This story really needs to be circulated. Occupation is now as Zionist as hatred of Palestinians but better PR may convince the most gullible people who believe that “nice” people live in the colonies and should be allowed to stay. Oh sure, they have no legal right to do so, Palestinians are given virtually no services or backing by the state and abuses occur daily.
But the settlers seem like charming people:
In the past, West Bank settlers marketed their presence as of vital importance to national security and strategy. But these threats failed to conquer their audience, and two years ago, Yossi Dagan, assistant to the Samaria Regional Council head and chief of its strategy department, decided to change the tune. He came to the conclusion that the average Israeli preferred to sample fine wine than hear about rockets falling on Tel Aviv, and set himself a goal: to bring as many media personalities and opinion-makers as possible on tours of the West Bank.
The tours are neatly tailored to suit the character of each group. Most of them begin at Bruchin, where guests are told that while the settlement was established in the wake of a government decision and had received most of the required permits, it was still termed an (illegal ) “outpost” by the official report authored by Talia Sasson. Visitors continue to a tasting at the Tura Winery in Rechalim, where they receive a bottle as a gift, intended to show them the high quality of life on the other side of the Green Line. From there they go to the Giv’ot Olam (Hills of Eternity ) organic farm of Avri Ran.
In the past, Ran’s farm was synonymous with violence against Palestinians and hostility toward journalists. These days, visitors are invited to sit with Ran’s children, drink homemade yogurt and eat omelets made from organic eggs and bread baked on site, while listening to tales of local agriculture and settlement. Dagan has managed to attract many government ministers, as well as media personality Avri Gilad, poet/columnist Menachem Benn and the former head of the Israel Bar Association, Shlomo Cohen.
Following his visit, Benn moved to the Nofim settlement, where he pays NIS 2,800 a month to rent a seven-room house. Gilad, a radio presenter for 25 years, suddenly discovered the West Bank. The day after his visit, he said on Army Radio: “I went on a tour that revolutionized my awareness of settlements in Samaria. I visited places I was raised to detest. I returned in a state of confusion: confused about the injustice done to citizens who were called on by the state to settle, given building permits and then frozen out. I was surprised to meet people with whom I had a lot to talk about, with great warmth and intimacy. Most of the discussion [about settlers] on the left is hatred. What really surprised me was the proximity – 23 minutes and you are deep into the area.”