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      Fundamentally Freund
      by Michael Freund
      An alternative approach to Israeli political commentary.
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      Michael Freund is Founder and Chairman of Shavei Israel (www.shavei.org), which reaches out and assists "lost Jews" seeking to return to the Jewish people. He writes a syndicated column and feature stories for the Jerusalem Post. Previously, he served as Deputy Director of Communications & Policy Planning in the Israeli Prime Minister´s Office under former premier Benjamin Netanyahu. A native of New York, he holds an MBA in Finance from Columbia University and a BA from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. He has lived in Israel for the past decade.
      Av 7, 5766, 8/1/2006

      Israelis Streaming into Judea & Samaria


      These are trying times for Israel, as our Prime Minister lies in a hospital intensive care unit and his fate remains uncertain.

      But even in these difficult days, there was a bit of good news last week which went largely unreported but which is worthy of our attention.

      At first glance, you might find it hard to believe, but the facts speak for themselves: despite the forcible eviction of thousands of Jews from Gaza this past August, the total number of Jews living over the so-called Green Line nonetheless grew in 2005.

      According to statistics released last Thursday by Israel’s Population Registry, the number of Israelis living in the territories increased by 1.5% in the last six months of the year, rising from 250,179 before the Gaza withdrawal, to 253,074 at the year’s end.

      Settlement_building Since the former figure included the over 9,000 Jews who then lived in Gaza and northern Samaria and were subsequently expelled, the increase is actually much larger than the statistics suggest.

      This is a remarkable development, because it shows that the Gaza pullout not only failed to deter Israelis from moving to Judea and Samaria - it also did not push those already living there to pack up and leave, either.

      Indeed, according to the Population Registry, nearly all the communities in Judea and Samaria experienced growth, with some registering double-digit expansion.

      The trend, then, is clear. Even with setbacks such as the Gaza retreat, the Jewish people are continuing to return home.