Efrat, the largest town in the Gush Etzion bloc of settlements located in the Judean hills south of Jerusalem, hosted none other than the pro-Palestinian Authority Washington-based J Street lobby Monday night.
J Street did not make any excuses in its wanting to meet the “other side,” and the mayor of the largely-Anglo community founded by Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, said that the meeting was important because it gave a chance to the local residents, many of them highly intellectual and sucessful professionals, to explain their point of view to the organization.
Efrat and neighboring Jewish towns of Gush Etzion are considered part of the settlement blocs that Israel insists on retaining as is, if there is any future recognition of the Palestinian Authority as an independent entity. Efrat, however, is literally a stone’s throw from Bethlehem, which separates it from Jerusalem, and Bethlehem, presumably, would be part of a future PA state.
Gush Etzion residents have had their share of fatal and injurious terror incidents..
Efrat Mayor Oded Ravivi explained to Arutz Sheva, “The J Street lobby asked us to host a delegation. Since we believe that in order to get our message across, we have to meet with those who do not agree with us, we agreed.
“We organized a group of residents for a roundtable discussion with J Street leaders.”
He rejected any ideas that hosting J Street, which officially is considered persona non grata by the government, makes the lobby look legitimate in Efrat’s eyes, believing that free speech does not mean agreement.
“Efrat is an open community,” Mayor Ravivi said. “There is no guard at the gate who examines anyone’s political opinions.” He added the exchange of opinions might result in J Street leaders returning to the United States with – perhaps – a slight change in their opinions towards residents in Judea and Samaria.
“If they change their opinion even a little, it was worth it,” he said.