Miri Maoz-Ovadia
Miri Maoz-Ovadia Miri Maoz-Ovadia, married to Shlomo and mother of Naveh, lives in Neve Tzuf. She is the overseas spokespersons coordinator for the Binyamin Regional Council. Thursday 23.6.16 No comments 1581 views

Too Normal for a Settler

I’ve recently reached a difficult and sad conclusion. I think that it’s the reason why I am having trouble functioning as the spokesperson of the Binyamin region and that makes me a less relevant subject for journalists to interview.

I’m too normal, too regular, too boring.

Problem number 1: I don’t live on a hilltop. True, I’ve lived in a caravan for two years, but it’s a caravan that unfortunately is located in a town, and an authorized, legal town at that. Even worse, it was one of the first towns founded in Binyamin, when having a pioneering spirit wasn’t an insult but rather an esteemed trait in the world. This town has roads and infrastructures and beautiful homes and green parks. Not wild enough, not neglected-looking enough.

Problem number 2: I only have one child, and not eight (although it’s definitely a future goal…). They can’t interview me with various children jumping in front of me, in back of me and all over me. It’s too normal to interview a young woman with just one toddler who is playing quietly outside. Because that’s the same as any young woman from a kibbutz in the North or from a city in Israel’s center.

Problem number 3: My opinions are too normative and boring. I have a hard time watching the long lines of Arab workers waiting at the security roadblock early in the morning. I think that the reality of shopping for food together and working together is a positive thing. Even when there are terrorist attacks. Not because we have no choice, but because this is the ideal humane reality in my opinion – for people who practice different religions who live in the same country to be able maintain reasonable neighborly relations. Maybe it’s a bug that I have because I’m the daughter of immigrants. Or maybe an older bug that’s part of my DNA, as a daughter of the Jewish nation, who lived in various lands for 2000 years and always wished for just a bit of mutual respect and the right to live as a Jew in a foreign country with equal rights (which they never had).

Problem number 4: I did not choose to be a settler. You can’t ask me what caused me to drop everything and live in a settlement. I’m one of the natives, the children. I was born here 29 years ago. I was born into this reality that I didn’t choose. This has always been my home, so no one can attack me with questions about my choice. The course of my life was the same as any other girl who grew up here in this town. I was always right wing, I didn’t become religious, I didn’t leave religion, and I don’t have too many grudges to bear against God – not even about the disengagement from Gaza. Grudges against people and political leaders were always abundant, but again – who doesn’t have those? That’s normal. Again, the same normalcy that’s working against me.

But maybe one of my worst problems is that I know how to speak. I was born with that trait too; I didn’t acquire it. Yesterday during a 20 minute conversation with an insurance agent, when I was finally asked what I do and I answered “spokesperson,” the agent said he wasn’t surprised. That I sounded like one. That he thought I was a lawyer, but that spokesperson fit the vibe I had given off too. Journalists don’t really want to talk to spokespeople. “It’s not authentic,” because the words that spokespeople say are too precise and calculated. The chance that they’ll be able to catch me saying something that sounds scandalous, or get a juicy comment out of me, or a media scandal, are very slim. So to “maintain the authenticity,” the foreign reporters prefer not to interview spokespeople of regional councils, of towns, or spokespeople in general. They ask to meet with the ideological residents to understand what life is like here. The ideology that they are looking for includes phrases like “God promised the land only to us,” and if they can get in some comments about revenge or hating Arabs, even better.

Orly Goldclong was interviewed for a morning talk show about Shimon Dotan’s new documentary, “The Settlers.” She said that people like her, from Maale Adumim, Gush Etzion, Ofra, all of the mainstream ‘settlements’ aren’t represented in the film, and I completely identified with her. In the documentary’s soundtrack, Dotan is quoted saying that “80% of those living here today in the settlements are settlers of convenience and housing solutions, and are not driven by ideology.” But a moment later, the director adds to his explanation, heard as the villas are shown on screen, that he chose not to focus on them in this film. The script was written in advance. The dichotomy was written in advance. Either you’re a ‘convenience’ settler or an ‘idealist’ settler. How can you reflect upon a complex reality with such a simplistic perspective?

Disclaimer – I haven’t seen the film yet but I was involved in just one meeting that was enough to make me realize that the script for this documentary was written in advance. I met the producer who worked with Dotan, conducting investigations to gather subjects for the filming days, two years ago at a small café in Rehavia. She told me that they were planning on making an in-depth documentary film on the settlement movement, and although I was advised not to cooperate with Dotan, I sat with them for at least two hours and offered to arrange in-depth interviews for them with various personalities from the settlements, from the many towns in Binyamin. She never got back to me. They found their way to Esh Kodesh on their own of course, but they apparently skipped Psagot, Ofra, Shiloh and Eli on the way. Not interesting enough, not “ideological” enough for them. It’s important to realize that Esh Kodesh isn’t a community of extremists. There are 40 charming families living there. But when someone looks specifically for those juicy comments, he’ll find them, and edit out any other reasonable comment that was made by the subject, because it doesn’t support his pre-written script.

So I’m too normal and the subjects I found are normal too, so sometimes it does produce a “normal” news article (what a surprise that there are normal people here!!!). But sometimes journalists decide to forget about the article “because there wasn’t enough meat in the interview.”

People like me don’t go down in the history books and not in the documentary films either. We didn’t create our reality from scratch, but today the reality is us, the normal people, the boring ones. Those Who believe that the land is holy but also enjoy flying to Paris to see the world. Who are willing to sacrifice in order to live in a place where the security situation is sometimes fragile, and the political situation complex, for a warm community and good education for our children. Because our dream includes living in the heart of the land of the Bible, but also sitting in our homes with a garden and gazing from the porch at the mountains that are covered in our history.

This upcoming year, the fiftieth year of the settlement of Judea and Samaria, many more words will be written about the settlers. There will be many more episodes and TV series and films about the settlement movement.  But those who insist on living in the past and seeing only the extreme edges won’t truly understand the current reality or meet those people who are living that reality.

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