Vox Tablet

Living the Middle-Class Dream—Beyond the Green Line, in a West Bank Settlement

Far from being religious ideologues, most settlers say they are apolitical and just want a house and some quiet

January 17, 2014
(Callie Maidhof)
(Callie Maidhof)

Many people outside Israel think that settlers in the Palestinian territories are a small but powerful group of religious zealots—back-to-the-land types who form hilltop encampments and chase Palestinians from their olive groves. Though that kind of scenario exists, it is not what anthropologist Callie Maidhof found, for the most part, when she embarked on her field research in the West Bank. Maidhof wanted to find out who lives in settlements and why they go there, so she moved to a settlement of 8,000 people—she likens it to an American bedroom community—for nearly a year. The answers she found challenged the perception that religious Zionism has motivated nearly one in 10 Israeli Jews to put down roots in the West Bank and raised the new question of why that perception persists.

Maidhof joins Vox Tablet host Sara Ivry to discuss how Israelis inside Israel view settlers, how the American dream is responsible for settlement growth, and how her experiences living on the settlement compare to where she lives now: in the heart of Ramallah.

Vox Tablet is Tablet Magazine’s weekly podcast, hosted by Sara Ivry and produced by Julie Subrin. You can listen to individual episodes here or subscribe on iTunes.

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