Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Regional Development, Silvan Shalom, toured Gush Etzion on Sunday.
During the tour, Shalom visited the local branch of the successful supermarket chain belonging to Israeli entrepreneur Rami Levy (who recently made headlines after his successful bid to take over development of the Nof Zion project). After meeting with Levy, Shalom observed the area of Bat Ayin and met with the Mukhtar (Arabic for the head of a village or neighborhood) of the nearby village of Khirbet Zakaria.
During the meeting Shalom learned of the excellent relations and cooperation between local Jews and Arabs, a relationship headed by Gush Etzion Mayor Shaul Goldstein and the Mukhtar. Following the tour, Goldstein said that Gush Etzion is the perfect place for one to actually be able to find long-standing stability and regional cooperation between Jews and Arabs.
“Gush Etzion is glad to be a bridge between Jews and Arabs,” said Goldstein. “This comes from our deep connection to our land, which was received after much bloodshed for thousands of years of history. It is precisely the connection to our land and not a disengagement from it which allows for such regional stability.”
During the tour, Shalom said: “For years the instability in the Middle East was blamed on the State of Israel, due to the ongoing conflict with the Arabs. The processes we see today in various countries such as Lebanon, Egypt and Tunisia, show that these statements have no basis. The instability in the areas around us proves once again that the State of Israel must ensure its security and have strong and stable security arrangements, in order that at any time and in any situation we can ensure the security of Israeli citizens.”
Shalom concluded his tour with a visit to the Makor Chaim yeshiva in Kfar Etzion, where he participated in a ceremony marking one student’s finishing the study of the Talmud.