West Bank settlement - AP - March 13, 2011
A worker at a construction site in the West Bank settlement of Maale Adumim, near Jerusalem on March 13, 2011. Photo by AP
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A new non-profit organization, started by Israeli settlers, plans on investing $2 million to pay for subsidized tours of the West Bank for the Israeli public.

The target audience of Mishkefet, which calls itself a "national acquaintance project," is secular Israelis who do not venture out to the West Bank settlements often, and the tours are due to explore historical and national Jewish heritage sites, as well as farms and other agricultural projects.

Mishkefet plans to bring half a million visitors on the tours, and will enlist the help of field schools to organize them. Participants will pay 45 shekels to take part, with the rest of the costs subsidized by donations to the foundation.

“We say: ‘Let’s get to know each other, regardless of political opinions, and definitely before you are decided on your point of view – come and take a look with your own eyes. Because the land of Israel is waiting for us to get to know her,” says Benny Cohen, one of the prganizations two founders.

Yossi Dagan, a resident of Samaria who co-founded Mishkefet with Cohen adds that, “The big enemy of settlement, and in general of Israeli society, is ignorance. No one arrives in Judea and Samaria, sees the settlements that are blossoming there, and remains indifferent.”

The trend of West Bank tours has been strengthening recently. In recent years, Samaria Regional Council has organized 300 tours for public opinion formers and journalists, and now their aim is to increase the crowds for in-depth tours.