A Settlement in the West Bank(Time)
Navigate to News section

Birthright for Israelis?

West Bank tour companies are giving a new look at the land

Adam Chandler
October 11, 2012
A Settlement in the West Bank(Time)

Shmuel Rosner, a man who has his own domain, has a piece today on the Latitude blog titled “Occupation Tourism.” In it, he describes the rising popularity of West Bank tours geared toward Israelis that place a special emphasis on forging a connection between Israelis and parts of the West Bank that, presumably, Israel would have to cede in order to manage a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.

“We believe these tours will serve as a tie-breaker in Israeli public opinion,” Yossi Dagan, a co-director of the project, told the newspaper Israel Hayom last year. Other organizers try to be subtler and describe the project as a “national acquaintance project.” The guide is instructed to say the tour is not about politics but about seeing the land and seeing the facts — the facts on the ground. That’s a smart move, if not a totally honest one: the view, the land, the facts, the narrative of the day are all very much political.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that — so long as you keep your eyes open and both look at what you see and look for what you don’t see.

On a day trip to the Samaria region you see a scenic view, strategic points, biblical landmarks, welcoming settlers and organic agriculture. You don’t see roadblocks, military activity, protesters or kooky rabbis, and you don’t see many Palestinians.

It’s a compelling idea that Israelis should get to know the land that causes such consternation. But if the purpose of the trip is to take a look at the Jewish past in biblical Judea and Samaria, it’s equally important that everyone look at what the Jewish future will resemble if Israel holds onto the land.

Adam Chandler was previously a staff writer at Tablet. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, Slate, Esquire, New York, and elsewhere. He tweets @allmychandler.