Shortly after the last presidential election, my husband, me and our then 3-year old twins left all that we were accustomed to in Oak Park, Michigan and moved to Karnei Shomron, a beautiful neighborhood nestled in the rolling hills of the Shomron, known to most Americans as “The West Bank.” We embraced our inner-Americanness by buying a house and living the “American dream” in this highly disputed area, which is labeled “Palestinian territory” by BDS supporters. If it sounds radical, it really isn’t. Our village was built after the Six-Day War and the parcels we live on, originally pre-war Jordan, were purchased and developed fair and square. No Palestinians were chased off our land.
Our 2016 move was not inspired by President Trump’s victory. We were not running away. As religious Jews, living in Israel was something my husband and I dreamed of doing our entire lives. Unlike where we lived before, Westchester County, New York and Ann Arbor, Michigan, here just meters from our backyard is evidence that Jews belong here – the remnants of a 2,000-year-old Jewish trading post. As a Jew, right here feels more like home than anywhere in America I have ever lived.
Moving to this suburban enclave, with rugged and beautiful landscapes and desert winds, just spitting (or, God forbid, missile) distance from the cities in the center of Israel, has given us a sobering perspective on the 2020 American election. We are not only considering what the outcome will mean for America, since we have older children living there. We are also extremely concerned about how it will affect our lives here.
So far President Trump has been good to Israel. Moving the embassy to Jerusalem, acknowledging the Golan Heights and initiating peace with many neighboring Arab countries has been extraordinarily supportive, but our part of Israel is still contested. We recognize that in the “Art of the Deal” there are always strings attached and we pray that our town and home are not those loose ends.
In Trump’s proposed peace plan, there are concessions on both sides. Still he has initiated the concept of peace and says the boundaries are up for discussion by both sides. What the world doesn’t know is that while an Arab can live in Israel, a Jew cannot live in Arab cities. Even visiting places like Ramallah, Jenin, Tulkarm and Nablus can be dangerous for Jews.
With Democrats largely embracing the views of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, I fear that Biden/Harris may be inclined to undo Trump’s pro-Israel policies and make unilateral moves to enforce Israel’s pre-1967 boundaries. That would effectively force Jews like us out of our homes and into the narrow boundaries that can easily be attacked by a neighboring hostile state.
As religious Jews, we pray each and every day for peace. The daily calls of the Muezzin remind us that our friendly and God-fearing Arab neighbors pray too and many of them work along with and some for us. There are others who don’t much care for our presence and who let us know how they feel by burning tires, spewing toxins into the air we share, or throwing stones or Molotov cocktails at our cars as we commute to and from work. As inured as we’ve become by occasional incidents here, most of us here in Karnei Shomron found the videos of raging riots in our hometown cities like New York, Seattle and Minnesota very frightening and distressing. We have strong ties to all these places. My husband went to school in Portland and Wisconsin. While racism is appalling and must be stopped, violence and lawlessness is not the way to stop it.
Two weeks ago at 4 a.m. I snuck off to the bathroom to watch the first presidential debate. My initial thought was how unpresidential both candidates were. The disrespect, interrupting and scorning from both former Vice President Biden and President Trump was painful to watch. I couldn’t help but feel that this year our presidential choices are awful. It felt like there were no grown-ups in the room. Not even the moderator.
For information on the American election, we are dependent on social media and American newsfeeds. It is especially hard to examine core voting issues when the general media seems focused on gaffes, tweets, personalities, histrionics and accusations of racism. There is also a lot of misinformation masked as news on social media sites. More than once I have shared something only to be informed that it was untrue or outdated. The polarization of the media makes it very hard to get an intelligent and even-handed read on the issues and to have an untainted vision of what is really happening in America.
To me the core issues of the election are world peace, regional safety, security, law and order, economic stability for one and all and strong recognition and acknowledgment of foreign allies and the strong handling of foreign enemies – like Iran. I respectfully recognize that my priorities are unique and that others have different thoughts. That is the beauty of democracy.
Obviously, the handling of COVID-19 has become a major factor for all of us, but any mishandling appears to be universal and quite understandable. This is a novel virus and there is still so much we don’t know. When you cut the political rhetoric and hyperbole and focus on the solutions available, policies still must be developed and strategies implemented. Who will do it best? I’m not sure.
I would love to believe that on November 4, the winning candidate will bring unity, respect and sense to an America that is imploding. Unfortunately, it appears that chaos in America will prevail. No matter who wins, the election results are likely to be disputed and the reaction will no doubt be stressful and difficult on Americans everywhere. For those of us who believe in a Higher Power, all we can really do is pray. And I do.
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This Voices story was written by Judith Segaloff. Judith is a journalist living in Karnei Shomron, Israel.