Reflecting upon Barbara Pym’s blindness (which I discuss in my previous post "I don't want to spoil the party") became an opportunity for self-examination; it made me revisit a period in my own life when I too was blind to what was going on around me.
After spending almost 14 years in the US where we lived the American dream -- a lovely family, two daughters, a good job, a house in the suburbs, a garden, and a car-- we went back to Israel. There we lived, for several years, in a small apartment in the center of Tel Aviv. Although it was convenient and centrally located, we longed to get away from all the noise and the pollution of the big city and hoped to recapture our old life in the suburb.
The “solution” came when I was at the hairdresser's; another client told us about a beautiful community called Oranit only a 28 minutes’ drive from Tel Aviv. Tzvi, my husband and I drove to see it. We loved the location and the community; it was hilly and reminded me of the Carmel mountains in Haifa where I grew up. We drove a little further and saw the border control station about 6 km to the east . Seeing that station we just assumed that Oranit was well within the borders of what is termed “the Green Line” (the pre 1967 borders of Israel). Soon we found a house that we both loved. The owners, a very nice family with two daughters, just like ours, were going to be our next-door neighbors. We made an offer on the house and met to sign the papers at the lawyer's office. Then to our dismay we discovered that we had just committed ourselves to buying a house in the occupied territories. It transpired that although Oranit was on the Green Line it was still considered a settlement.
Because of my political beliefs, had I known that Oranit was on the Green Line I would not have bought a house there. Our blindness could be explained in the fact that we have been away for many years and out of touch (pre-internet days). Thus, we were unfamiliar with the specific details and the differences between communities inside, on, or outside the green line. We had seen the border station several kilometers away and were convinced that we were at a safe distance within the green line.
We lived in Oranit for 7 years and although I loved the place I always felt uneasy and was apologetic about residing there. In addition, the political situation in Israel didn’t make things easier. I was used to volunteering and offered to teach at the school in the neighboring Arab village Kefar Kasem. However although we were always welcome there as customers at the stores, my offer was declined. Also as a settler I was not welcome as a volunteer in an educational project of Arabs and Israelis.
I live now in the area of Tel Aviv; many people have since moved to Oranit, and it is a prosperous community. I don't know if the newcomers had beem aware of its “settlement” status before they bought a house there. Many errors happen because we are not in a position to ask the right questions, we can’t imagine what we don’t know until it is too late.
For me Oranit will always be a symbol of my blindness; a humbling experience.
p.s. I added a map you could find Oranit on the green line