Dozens of teenagers from Samaria (Shomron) sat down with Members of Knesset on Tuesday to discuss their hopes and concerns as representatives of the region.
The youth, members of the Samaria Youth Council, met with MKs Rina Frenkel (Yesh Atid) and David Azoulay (Shas).
One of the main concerns the teenagers raised was the problem of safe transportation. They noted that many of the public bus lines that connect Israeli communities in Samaria to central Israel are heavily used by Palestinian Arab workers.
This means that often there is no room for Israeli youth on the buses, they said. When there is room, youth still may feel threatened or unsafe.
Many women and teenage girls living in Samaria have complained of sexual harassment on the buses in question.
MK Frenkel promised the youth that she would speak to the Transportation Minister to see what can be done in the matter. The Transportation Ministry previously pledged to address the problem by adding more buses.
Another issue that youth said has them worried is the problem of housing. The entire country has experienced a massive increase in housing prices in recent years; in Judea and Samaria - where construction was frozen for nearly a year and where the population is rising faster than anywhere else in the country – the problem is particularly severe.
Sarit Izrelov, an 11th-grade student from the town of Tapuach, told the MKs, “I really want to build my home in Samaria, but the demand is higher than the supply. They make it hard for us to build.”
“I’m afraid I’ll come back from the army and I just won’t have anywhere to live,” she related.
Other youth representatives backed Izrelov. Samaria youth want to stay in the region, they said. MK Azoulay told the youth, “The Shas party has supported, and will continue to support, construction in Judea and Samaria.”
Construction projects in Samaria often bring an international backlash due to the fact that the Palestinian Authority claims the region as Arab land. While Jews have historically lived in the area, PA leaders say all land that was under Jordanian control between 1948 and 1967 should become an Arab state – and should be off-limits for Israelis.
Gershon Mesika, head of the Samaria Regional Council, expressed satisfaction following the meeting. Mesika explained that he was “happy to hear MK David Azoulay’s declaration… We will work together to strengthen Samaria, and the Judea and Samaria region as a whole.”
Mesika also expressed pride in the youth representatives’ awareness of the issues, and their activism in the halls of Knesset. “It’s clear that Israeli leadership in Samaria has a future,” he said.