Chairman of far-left group Peace Now Yariv Oppenheimer, the persistently bitter ideological opponent of Jews in Judea and Samaria, has been assigned to do guard duty outside a community he wants evicted - and he spoke about his experience to Arutz Sheva on Sunday.
Oppenheimer shrugged off serving outside of the northern Samaria community of Mevo Dotan, noting that it's simply where he was assigned and that it's his civic duty to do so.
During his guard stint, Oppenheimer met with residents of the outpost. While, obviously, debates over his virulently anti-"settler" positions emerged, he stressed that "nothing" will change his mind - but it was still a chance to show him "what the reality is like."
"It's not that I do not know the reality, but I see it from the military's perspective and the settler's perspective, and that's different than other angles," he was quick to state. "I got to know reality from this angle."
"I met a lot of people here and had very interesting discussions, they were very polite and there was a lot of mutual respect on both sides," he stressed. "I have not changed my views and they did not change their positions, but I can be more familiar with the rationale behind it."
Oppenheimer noted that there are inherent differences from viewing Judea-Samaria in a political context and in a security context.
"You see that the IDF's perspective is different, so it is easier to develop conversations, even with the knowledge and confidence that what we speak of remains between us and is not part of the [Peace Now] job," he added. "I'm here because this is a government decision and I do it as part of my duty. "
Oppenheimer notes that some of the "settlers," as it were, "were surprised to see me and there were some who received advance warning."
Overall, however, "discussions were agreeable," he said. "You're hosted at a settlement or outpost, an area that they feel is their home, and you are staying in their home. That is the atmosphere."
''It's not that I came to live in the settlements, but I have come to do reserve duty and this is also an opportunity to give my perspective and hear the perspective of the other side. "
While Oppenheimer insisted that meeting with regular civilians - not high-profile spokespeople - in Judea-Samaria did not change his views, he nonetheless respects their idealism.
"There are many honest people," he said. "There is plenty of idealism that I oppose, but it exists. People come here not for personal reasons but to change the State of Israel or change reality, and it reminds me of the caring of friends I have on the Left."
From the other side of the conversation, Oppenheimer opined that being in uniform made dialogue easier.
"Sometimes, wearing a 'Peace Now' T-shirt immediately gives off connotations: that you are an 'anarchist,' 'slacker' or a 'European' rather than a patriot," he explained. "Speaking in uniform gives some immunity to this easy misconception, but I'm not here to persuade or convince, but to do guard duty - and if it's possible on the way to get to know the people and have them know me, I'm all for it."
Arutz Sheva asked Oppenheimer about the extreme left's tirades against the IDF, which has allowed soldiers on reserve duty to be hosted in the homes of "settlers." Now that he himself is being hosted, has his position changed?
"This is a difficult issue," he said. "We are people who are together in the same boat right now. You want to be a human and you are in people's homes, and they want to be human and kind."
"On the other hand, there are ideological differences and therefore there are two different issues and you have to find a balance."
"I'm not a fanatic," he claimed. "There is no black and white. We do not see ourselves and do not seem to others to ignore the existence of the settlers. On the other hand we did not come here for a Shabbat but to fulfill an order."