Efrat’s New Square - A Step Towards Normalcy
On Tuesday, the ciy of Efrat (known also as Efrata) in Gush Etzion celebrated the inauguration of the new, large traffic circle at the southern entrance to the community.
The public road on which the traffic circle is located is used by Jewish and Arab residents alike, and the point where drivers entering Efrat had to make a sharp left turn with heavy Jewish and PA traffic coming in both directions was extremely dangerous before the circle was built. Traffic was rerouted for months as the much-needed construction took place, but the complaints gave way to broad smiles as residents began to enjoy the convenience and safety of the new traffic pattern.
Since the road is used by Arabs and Jews, the heads of the nearby Arab village Jouret Al-shama’a, whose families suffered fatal accidents on that corner, were also invited to the inauguration ceremony.
Efrat Mayor Oded Revivi explained that he invited the mayors of the neighboring Arab villages to the ceremony because the community has good neighborly relations with the surrounding villages and hopes for many more chances for collaboration with them.
“We see in this step a willingness and mutual desire of the two populations for good neighborly relations,” Revivi said. “This square was built on Efrat territory but for us, the mere arrival of the heads of the nearby village and the exposure that accompanies their presence at this event expresses their willingness to continue good neighborly relations and we welcome that.”
Revivi recently told Arutz Sheva that “the whole settlement movement, the whole establishment of Jews living in Judea and Samaria was based on relations with the neighbors. If it wasn’t for outsiders who try to come and interfere we could have stayed living there one next to the other peacefully.”
Speaking at the first International Regional Cooperation Conference, Revivi said that Efrat was established 30 years ago out of the belief that Jews do not want to live with a fence bordering their community. And indeed, the city does not have a fence. During the Oslo War, there was an instance of a terrorist who infiltrated and reached the supermarket, where an alert American immigrant shot him. After that, the community attempted for a short period to raise the funds to install an electronic virtual fence.
“Those relationships with our neighbors have managed to maintain themselves and we still don’t need a fence and we still manage to live peacefully one next to the other,” he said.
Efrat, one of whose founders is the indefatigable Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, the city's Chief Rabbi who left the Lincoln Square Synagogue in Manhattan to build the city and the Ohr Torah Stone network of educational insititutions in Israel, is an expanding and special place to live. New housing has just been approved, and if more housing received government approval, it would probably be snapped up instantly. It is a place where both native-born Israelis and immigrant anglos feel at home. Arutz Sheva's Judaism section features Rabbi Riskin's dvar Torah every week.