Citizens in enemy territory
The story of Yair Har-Sinai, who was murdered last week near the settlement of Sussya in the southern Mount Hebron region of the West Bank, seems to come straight out of the Bible. A religiously observant Jew living in extreme modesty, who never carried a weapon because he considered the Arabs "guides and not enemies," who did not even have a door in his house, who baked his bread on a taboun (an Arab bread oven) in the courtyard and made his living from selling dairy products from the animals h
The story of Yair Har-Sinai, who was murdered last week near the settlement of Sussya in the southern Mount Hebron region of the West Bank, seems to come straight out of the Bible. A religiously observant Jew living in extreme modesty, who never carried a weapon because he considered the Arabs "guides and not enemies," who did not even have a door in his house, who baked his bread on a taboun (an Arab bread oven) in the courtyard and made his living from selling dairy products from the animals he kept. All he did was go into the fields to tend to his flock and there he was attacked by members of the other tribe, the tribe of guides, and murdered. But this is only one part of the biblical tale. The other part has yet to be written. It will probably begin with a description of a peculiar Jew who looked for and found a fine location for his eccentricities. He took his wife and nine children, chose a plot of land without a permit, placed two mobile homes on the land without a permit, dug a private water well and appointed himself inspector assigned to preserve and protect the lands of the state.
Har-Sinai perhaps did not bear arms for ideological reasons, but a few years ago he and his friend Moshe Deutsch seized Mussa Abu Sabha, whom they suspected of stealing 60 head of sheep from Har-Sinai's flock. In the fight that ensued, Abu Sabha stabbed Moshe Deutsch in the back before the two pinned him to the ground and tied him up. Not long afterward another settler, Moshe Skolnik, arrived on the scene, cocked his rifle and murdered the bound man.
Har-Sinai did not fit the conventional model of the ideological settler - though there have been others like him, such as Dov Dribben, who was murdered near Havat Maon three years ago, or the inhabitants of the mini-outposts near the settlements of Itamar and Yitzhar. But Har-Sinai, who wandered about alone in enemy territory, of his own free will and desire, has already been draw into the consensus that no longer differentiates between an Israeli citizen who resides in enemy land and a resident of the State of Israel - a consensus that is even ready to grant him a special status. Whereas Israeli residents are warned against entering the areas of the Palestinian Authority, and are placed on trial if they are caught buying vegetables in enemy territory, settlers like Har-Sinai enjoy a dual status. Unlike other citizens they are not punished if they commit that offense, and in death they are cloaked in the aura of a biblical hero.
Two days after Har-Sinai's murder, Aharon Obidiyan, from Zichron Ya'akov, was gunned down in the vegetable market of Baka al-Garbiyeh. The shots came from the other side of the border. Obidiyan, a observant religious Jew, who was active on behalf of the community, was the father of four children. His death infuriated those who knew and admired him and the residents of Zichron Ya'akov. But there were many who wondered what he was doing in the market in Baka al-Garbiyeh. After all, everyone knows it's dangerous to wander around near the border, certainly across the border. No one in Zichron Ya'akov thought of establishing an outpost in his memory.
The difference between the two episodes is that Obidiyan is a citizen of Israel and a resident of Israel. All the warnings, regulations and defense mechanisms that apply to the country's residents applied equally to him. Har-Sinai was not a resident of Israel when he was shot, and no romantic aura of a shepherd's flute and bleating sheep can cover up the simple fact that this settler was murdered in enemy territory. This should not be construed as meaning that everyone who crosses the border will inevitably be murdered, or that there is legitimate murder and illegitimate murder and that only those killed in terrorist attacks inside Israeli territory are true victims.
However, it should be understood that settlers, whether living in handsome houses or in dilapidated mobile homes, are doing so by choice and in the knowledge that the official borders of the State of Israel - those within which the state and its citizens have an agreement about their protection - do not apply to them. The humanitarian consensus, which holds that people in distress should be given help, that murder should be prevented and murderers brought to trial, cannot be confused with the lack of consensus regarding the status of the settlers and the settlements. The State of Israel can, and should, offer these Jews, who reside in an enemy land, what it offers every Jew who wants to immigrate to Israel in order to find a haven. It cannot move the country's borders in their honor.