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The settlement of Modi'in Ilit is hardly temporary accommodation for its 55,000 inhabitants  

The couch is low and yawning; one of those deep couches from which it's difficult to extricate oneself. But why would I? It's very comfortable. It sits on a tiled floor amidst the innocent clutter of furniture in a charming, small living room. Brimming bookshelves hide the whitewashed walls and boast mainly religious texts, but a few English biographies and some children's books add some colour. I'm sipping Earl Grey tea and eyeing the kosher-for-Passover biscuits.

I could easily be in a leafy North London suburb but for the fine weather outside. As it happens, I'm on the West Bank, so-called for its situation to the west of the River Jordan. To most Israelis, however, the territory goes by its biblical names, Yehudah and Shomron (Judea and Samaria), or by the compound Yesha.

My hosts, Michael, a twenty-something Canadian rabbinical student, and Rebecca, from the UK, were recently married. I notice their ketubah (religious marriage contract) on the wall.

Michael moved here from Canada to study at the world-renowned yeshiva (religious academy) here in Alon Shevut. The academy, a large, white, angular building nestled in a cosy campus overlooking the valley, attracts many students from the Anglophone world. Its teachers are acknowledged authorities on biblical commentary, traditional law and Jewish philosophy, and many of the Israeli students split their time between learning and military service. Rebecca, meanwhile, made aliyah ("ascended") to Israel a few years ago, and moved to Alon Shevut for the innocuous reason of marriage. These are not the ideologues from the television.

Alon Shevut is part of Gush Etzion (the Etzion Bloc). It's a short bus ride from Jerusalem over the Green Line, the border from before the Six-Day War, fought 44 years ago. Israel astonished the world by defeating the armies of Egypt, Jordan and Syria, which had assembled against it, and more than tripled the size of the country in under a week. The territories captured were the Sinai (since returned to Egypt as part of the 1979 peace accord), the Gaza Strip (from which Israel unilaterally disengaged in 2005), the Golan Heights (annexed by Israel), East Jerusalem (also annexed) and the West Bank. Within a few years, several communities had been established in the Etzion area, including Alon Shevut.

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K Crosby
June 6th, 2011
1:06 PM
Was this article about the West Bank or Zamosc?

June 4th, 2011
10:06 AM
Good article. Interesting that Shalit unites the country- next piece on him?

May 27th, 2011
9:05 PM
Well Written and interesting. It's good to have a field writer oppinion to uncover the curtain of the statesmen declarations. Remember what the late Israeli Foreign Minister had to say after the six-day-war in 1967 "I think that this is the first war in history that on the morrow the victors sued for peace and the vanquished called for unconditional surrender". Abba Eban

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