Op-Ed: Coming Home: Bitten by the Settler "Vampire"
Orit ArfaThe writer is author of "The Settler," a novel following the rebellious journey of a young woman into Tel Aviv nightlife following her traumatic eviction from her home in Gaza during the 2005 withdrawal. Visit Orit's website for more info: www.oritarfa.net.
Note: This article contains Twilight movie spoilers, but none that haven't already been revealed ad nauseum in entertainment tabloids.
I never understood how intelligent people could enjoy the Twilight movies. When I became one of them, I either had to concede intelligence or defend an intellectual value in this five-part visual escape into the teenage world of Bella's "love" for vampire Edward Cullen.
My recent trip to Israel and my sudden plan to make aliyah next month--to become a "settler"--makes me better understand my attraction to these films.
Bella is a weepy, angsty teenager who can't stay away from the gorgeous Edward Cullen. Her love is immediate, uncontrollable and seemingly childish. The Cullen clan of vampires adopts Bella as Edward's future bride. Her love matures from mere lust into deep spiritual understanding when Edward's bite transforms her into a vampire. Finally, she is her true self. She experiences existential healing. Once lonely, misunderstood, awkward, she belongs somewhere.
As I drove through the hills of Judea & Samaria this past week, I felt like Bella finding her place. My "vampire" family is the Israeli "settlements" in the heart of this contested territory. A crass and unflattering metaphor? Not if you've seen the movies.
The Cullens are vampire "vegetarians" who seek to co-exist with humans and their natural enemy, the werewolf. They have cast off their instinct for human blood to live ethical vampire lives and to feed only off animals. Time and again, vampire, werewolf, and human band together to save lives from the evil Volturi vampires. The Cullens and their cousins all over the world contribute to humanity, eschewing violence as a means to solve conflict.
Twilight's vampires are not only physically stunning and strong but each has a unique gift or talent, whether mind-reading or seeing the future. Bella becomes even more beautiful as a vampire. Her skin turns porcelain; her hair, strong and shiny. Then there's the eyes. Blood red eyes turn striking hazel upon conquering human blood lust.
"Settlers" might as well be evil vampires from the way the media and some politicians portray them: obstacles to peace who prey off "Palestinian" blood. What novelist Stephanie Meyers has done for vampires is exactly what Israel needs to do for this most maliciously maligned community. She has refashioned the image of these creatures into moral lights.
I know, however, that "settlers" have and always will be moral lights.
They are Israel's most peace-seeking people--the key to bringing different people together: Arab/Jews, religious/secular, Zionist/non-Zionist. Contrary to popular stereotypes, they are a diverse group, professionals and farmers, educators and winemakers, entrepreneurs and artists. The media focuses on lone vigilantes to smear them, but even these vigilantes are peaceful compared to Arab lynch mobs and suicide bombers.
The young settlers I have met stand tall. Their Zionist strength and physical vitality and beauty are reminiscent of early kibbutzim settlers. And the eyes. "Settler" eyes are sharp and piercing, as if they see truth because they live it every day.
Jews must have superhuman powers to defy misguided world opinion and live in the Biblical heartland, theirs by legal, historical and ethical right. They don't seek peace by running away from Arabs and building fences, only to leave our enemies thirstier for Jewish blood. They live among Israel's self-proclaimed enemies to halt genocide and act as a buffer between Islamic terrorists and people who love life. They understand the battle is not for land, but for a philosophy of peace and life over a philosophy of war and death.
This is why the Arab world scapegoats the "vampire settlers" most of all in its war against Israel. The people of Judea & Samaria see daylight. They're onto Israel's enemies. They're the embodiment of Jewish strength and independence. No matter what their fate, they are Jewish eternity and will never die.
I have seen the delicate fabric of co-existence here, how Israelis build roads, ecological systems, educational institutions and businesses that benefit the entire region, Palestinian Arabs included.
For a while now in Los Angeles, I've been feeling like I don't belong, like very few people understand me, like I'm alone in the fight for the free world. But with these good settler "vampires," I'm not alone. I don't have to hide what I think or apologize for being a proud Zionist. I can roam--even fly--through the land, daring to drive alongside Palestinian cars and through Arab towns, without feeling afraid or evil as the world would have me feel.
When I cross the checkpoint (Jews have them too) into Judea & Samaria, I feel like I'm in a constant, beautiful movie about heroism, more beautiful than the cold world of Twilight.
That is why I did not hesitate when offered the opportunity to make my home in Ariel and work as Director of Communications and Visitor Services for the Ariel Development Fund. Finally, an opportunity to be true to who I am. To be a "settler." To be a Zionist "vampire." I start May 1, 2013.
I look forward to welcoming the people of Los Angeles and beyond to the shiny city of Ariel, the capital of and gateway into this miraculous world. Be warned, though. I bite.
And - happy Yom Ha'atzmaut!