Always Defiant, West Bank Settlers Feel Abandoned

If this is the case, how does Medan address the international bodies -- the United Nations, Amnesty International, the European Union, and Human Rights Watch, to name a few -- who declare the settlements illegal?

This is our land and we’re not afraid of saying it. ... I have coexistence with my neighbors but we will not be impotent. They want peace? Our hand is always outstretched. But if you hit me, I’ll hit you back twice. And harder. After that we’ll talk peace.

A building ban injunction was filed against Avigail in Israel’s high court within months of their arrival. But eight years later, the jury is still out. The settlers have built a dozen or so pre-fab, built-to-deconstruct-on-evacuation-order homes, and a paved road leading to the synagogue, ritual bath, and a soon-to-be pizza joint.

But their illegal status combined with the constant threat of evacuation weighs heavily. U.S. demands are a concern, but Medan is under the impression that the U.S. government should conform to Israel’s needs if they want friends in the region. That’s wishful thinking under the current U.S. administration, a shift that may spell Avigail’s demise, and dismantling would be tragic:

What will I do if we have to leave? Do you ask a father what he plans to do after his child dies of cancer? I’m here because the Israeli government wants me to be here for reasons that are much larger than you or me. There is no reason for us to be removed.

I walk a few hundred feet across the road to the two-bedroom, A-frame prefab David and Shira Recanati share with their three children: an infant and two grade-schoolers. David, 29, belongs to the Recanati family, credited as one of the top five donors to Israel.

He admits to having left the family fold to opt for an isolated hilltop life, but he he views himself and his family as the vanguard of Israel’s future, living on the frontlines of a political war being fought over land ownership.

Standing at the Recanati family kitchen sink, I notice David’s revolver lying on the countertop. The quiet, pastoral setting can -- and does -- turn hostile with the click of a safety catch.

There have been no violent incidents since Avigail settlers moved in, but Shira’s car was pelted with stones during Operation Cast Lead, and she worries about her safety when driving on the deserted roads at night. The attractive, dark-haired 30-year-old confides:

The toughest part is I don’t feel like my country supports me. ... In Israeli society we’re considered pariahs and outcasts. But if I’m not here, there’s no Israel. I sleep fitfully at night worrying the Arabs will kill me and my children in our sleep and my own people turn their backs on me.