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Thursday, 19 July, 2001, 22:10 GMT 23:10 UK
Life as a Jewish settler
Jewish settlement
The Gaza settlements are illegal under international law
By Kylie Morris in Gaza

The Jewish settlement of Neveh Dekalim may be next to the Palestinian village of Al Mawasi, but it feels a million miles away.

To reach the settlement, we drive on a new road parallel to the bumpy track which took us to the Palestinian village. But on the settler's road, we face nothing more than nods and waves from the Israeli soldiers.

The morning we pull into the settlement, the townsfolk are transported by a miracle. Someone has won 21m shekels ( $5m) in the lottery.


The fact that we are fighting such a low moral Palestinian leadership makes everything very difficult for a moral nation like the Jews

Rifka Goldshmidt
In the modern town centre, we find the agent who sold the winning ticket, but he explains that just the chance to live here means you are rich. For those settlers who take the plunge and move to the Gaza strip, they will tell you the living is good.

"You can look around, you can see everybody, they don't look like they're in the middle of a war or anything like that. They live freely, happily, their day-to-day life is 100%," said one man.

"It's a good life and I love this area. I love the people here, and I think I and my family will stay here for ever," said another.

Contested land

The Gush Qatif group of settlements, which includes Neveh Dekalim, is home to 6,000 people. They spread across a swathe of land inside the Gaza strip, which is also the high-density home of more than a million Palestinians.

Palestinian throwing stones in Gaza
There are frequent clashes with Palestinians living in Al Mawasi
Under international law, these Jewish settlements are illegal. They are on occupied land, and for Palestinians, they represent the sharpest edge of the Israeli occupation. In the trail of failed peace deals between the two peoples, the Gaza settlements have always been the ones to give away.

Rifka Goldshmidt is a school teacher. She's appalled by the thought of children being caught in the violence, but says the settlers must stay and fight.

"Once, two or three bullets went through the window above the kids' heads. It's horrifying to think that these children, who've done no wrong to anyone, are in danger all the time," she said.

"The fact that we are fighting such a low moral Palestinian leadership makes everything very difficult for a moral nation like the Jews, because they shoot from populated areas. The Israeli government has to respond. We don't want to kill children, but sometimes they make us."

Coming home

Rifka's husband is one of the settlement's successful farmers, who serve up fruit and veg to the world's supermarkets. Rifka explains that with the farm and family, they have come home.


Every day, everything can change. Today is calm, and tomorrow can be like hell

Itzaak Meron
"My late parents were holocaust refugees. They arrived in Israel in 1948, and they knew that they had come home," she said. "And that kind of Zionistic feeling we actually grew up with. We sucked it with mothermilk, and that's why I feel that every place in Israel that I walk is my home."

Not all of Neveh Dekalim's residents have taken to the settlement like mother's milk. The Meron family is watching the Tour de France on television when we visit. They came from France three years ago, but now they've seen enough.

"Every day, everything can change," said 24-year-old Itzaak. "Today is calm, and tomorrow can be like hell. You don't know who's firing on who. You can hear mortar, and I don't think it's healthy to live here."

"It is very strange. I only saw those kind of situations in the movies before I came here."

Perhaps the movies could come up with a happy ending for the settlers of Neveh Dekalim and the Palestinians of Al Mawasi, but in the real world, any resolution will take some powerful imagining.


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06 Jun 01 | Middle East
29 Jun 01 | From Our Own Correspondent
13 May 01 | Middle East
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