Monday, July 30, 2012

My Amazing Illegal Outpost Adventure: Psagot and Migron

Yom sheni, 11 Av 5772.

If you haven't read Parts One and Two of this tour and feel the need, please click here and here.

From one boutique to another, we now moved on to the town of Psagot, where we would tour the winery.  We were to have met with Noam Orr, eighth-generation Jeusalamite and journalist, who is also one of the founders of our previous stop, Barkan.  Unfortunately, he had to take care of his elderly parents -- which is about the best excuse a nice Jewish boy can give for not keeping an appointment.  (We got to see first hand how challenging is the life of a tour guide, as Eve Harow had to juggle her tour around our hosts' schedules.)  So we went straight to the wine tasting.  Nobody argued about that.

Most people I know will never be able to afford to live in villas such as these.
A little Palestinian "Gan Eden," courtesy of a relatively free life in Israel.
As an aside, I want to speak to you a little bit about the countryside en route. Let me make it clear that I would like Israel to be a Jewish country, under complete Jewish control, within the Biblical borders established by the Creator of the Universe.  In a perfect world, Arabs and other peoples would not be excluded from living in my country as foreign residents -- unlike the Arabs' call for a Judenrein Middle East -- as long as they accepted living peaceably in the Jewish State.  That said, I recognize that they currently live among us, in their own "no Jews allowed" towns and cities.  What I resent is that many of the world governments and media would have you believe they all live in refugee tent villages and get about exclusively on donkeys.  The truth is that there are Arabs dwelling in dire poverty (as are there Jews, much to our shame); but there are also Arabs living in affluent villages and cities, and driving late-model private vehicles.  Do yourself and me a favor, and never let those who lie about Israel convince you to perpetuate the sin of the spies.

They tried to kill us, they didn't succeed...  Let's drink.  (Okay, in keeping with the actual tradition of "Let's eat," they did serve pretzels, too...)

 The Psagot Winery was impressive, situated in a a beautiful little oasis in the desert... and filled to the brim with tasty, expensive wine.  I truly enjoyed it -- but I have a rule.  If a wine is going to cost 110 + NIS a bottle, it had better give me that "Ahhhhhh!" dance on my tastebuds that only one decently-priced wine has ever accomplished.  (That was a 1997 Beron Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon.  Everything else has to measure up to that.)  No dance, no shell out shekels.  But since it was free, and spitting was optional, the Dearly Beloved and I had a lovely time.

The staff was friendly and informative.  The film about the winery remembered to tell us that this was Biblical territory, recently proved by an authentic coin found in an archaeological dig.  Please check out the Wine Musings Blog for details and a more flattering review.
One of the friendly staff members at Psagot Winery.

Nice, clean layout for efficiency and tasting pleasure

Belly up to the bar, frum tasters!  It was hard to get us downstairs for the movie...

Not the best photo of the actual metal replica of the authentic coin found in the area.

The Dearly Beloved and I spent most of our time outside, enjoying the scenery.
After that refreshing little break, it was time to move on to the part of the tour I had waited for since Egged wheels first hit the highway.  Life in a little semi-Anglo bubble forces one to travel outside the comfort zone if we're going to learn anything about the communities that spend an inordinate amount of time in the news.  Migron is such a place.

When we entered the gate, love of Israel and love of children were the first signs this tiny community exuded.

We were met by a lovely young woman (who said that she was asked to speak to us because she speaks English fluently, being an Anglo olah vatika, and because she's the yishuv grandmother.  Looked pretty young to us).  Her name is Aviela Deitch, and if you have questions about Migron from an insider -- including how you can help -- please feel free to contact her.
Eve Harow, Aviela Deitch, and another sweet member of our tour group.

Aviela, speaking with passion and conviction born of the knowledge that she and her community are in the right.

These small caravan houses look out on our Jewish Biblical history.

Children are the most important "crop" produced in this sweet little village.
We had to take over a classroom, as the shul was being used for an educational program for the children.
 Aviela explained to us the situation.  Migron was established in 1999, on property legally designated as under the management of the Authority for Abandoned Property.  For years, the small community carved out of the rock and weeds a vibrant little home.  For twelve years, there was never a complaint by an Arab about stolen property.  But in 2006, Peace Now (an organization whose true motivation I would love to understand) found lists from the 1960s of names of mukhtars from the clan of the King of Jordan to whom he had gifted the property.  According to the king's own ruling, the property was to be farmed within 10 years, or would revert to the crown.  In the interim, the land was reclaimed by Israel in a defensive war.

These are the Arab agricultural fields that Peace Now accuses the Migron Jews from stealing from the Palestinians?  What were they growing?  Where can you sell rocks and brush?
 The land was never farmed.  In fact, when the residents of Migron approached the Arabs whose names were on the list in order to buy the property, the Arabs were surprised to hear that they owned any land!  This apparently did not stop them from accepting money -- so the residents of Migron have raised and spent a great deal of money over time to buy every parcel of land upon which Migron rests.  Peace Now has attempted to block these land purchases at every turn, preferring to go the more inflammatory route through the court system.
More of the alleged "fields" supposedly stolen.  Yeah...  I can see that.  NOT.  The building in the background is the community mikveh.

Sandwiched between the elegance of the Psagot Winery and an Arab-owned quarry (where rock is legitimately harvested, rather than in the fields of Migron), is the new planned refugee village for the Migron residents.
At one time, the Israeli government supported and encouraged the settlement enterprise, as did the Magistrate's Court (which should be the only body involved in a property dispute). Migron was no exception. According to the booklet "Migron: All the Lies, All the Truth," Ariel Sharon classified Migron as a "strategic outpost" that would not be evacuated in any scenario. However, recently the Israeli government -- and especially the Supreme Court -- has seemingly turned its back on any communities that might upset their hopes for a two-state solution -- even though many Israelis and other intelligent observers now see this option as an epic fail.
 Remember the beautiful bracha inadvertently given to the Jewish people by Bilaam?  "How lovely are your tents, O Yaacov..."  This referred to the modesty of the Jewish people who emplaced their tents so that no window or door faced the window or door of another's tent.  No such consideration here.  "If we need a cup of sugar," quipped Aviela," we will only have to reach out our window and take it from the table of the dwelling next door."

One of the many precious industries Migron adds to the world is a Horseback Riding Therapy Clinic, devoted to helping young people to overcome psychological and emotional challenges.  One of our tour members asked Aviela what would become of the horses.  Would the community be given sufficient warning to move them?  "There is nowhere to move them.  When you see the housing they have planned for us, you will see that there is no place for them," she responded.  "What will be done with them?" we asked.  Aviela answered as gently as she could: "They will have to be killed."
The sign outside the stables quotes Pirke Avot:  "If I am not for myself,  who will be for me?  And if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?"
At this writing, Migron (originally condemned by the Supreme Court to be evacuated on 1 August) has been given a reprieve until at least 21 August. May our prayers for the establishment of Migron as a legitimate part of Israel be answered, along with our prayers for all of our Torah-established inheritance. If you want a tour with an excellent, informed and passionately pro-Israel tour guide, I strongly recommend Eve Harow.

Photo credit: Ruti and Avi Eastman


Mrs. S. said...

May our prayers for the establishment of Migron as a legitimate part of Israel be answered, along with our prayers for all of our Torah-established inheritance.
Amen, kein yehi ratzon!

Susan said...

Liked to hear the political side. Sometimes the truth just NEEDS to be given voice.

An aside, that lovely Psagot wine bottle label with the ancient coin was designed by our (Neve Daniel) own Yochanan Black.

Think anyone would want to do some research and see if Peace Now (a) has a reserved parking space at the Supreme Court, (b) uses a special door at The Court for VERY regular customers and/or (c) would consider changing its name to Peace Never as that's where its policies and practices are taking us? just thinking.......

Varda Meyers Epstein (Judean Rose) said...

Funny to see this blog as I just spent the entire Nine Days writing about Israeli wineries but somehow missed Psagot. Thank you for the insider's view!

Ray Saperstein said...

As always, I love reading your posts, and I agree 100% with your views regarding Jewish ownership of the land. It really would be interesting for Jews to press for the Biblical boundries of Israel, but most commentaries agree that that would include chunks of modern-day Lebanon and Syria. By the way, didn't the Rothchilds buy something like 30,000 acres of land that is now part of Lebanon? I think it was purchased in the mid 1800's.

Meir Anolick said...

My parents have a beautiful view of Migron from their living room, ever since we moved to Kochav Yaakov. It would be strange to see that hilltop empty.
Also, Aviela Deitch and her family are former residents of Kochav Yaakov, who moved to Migron within the past couple years. They are good friends of my family and they had us over for Shabbat on our first Shabbat in Israel.