Ein Prat: “Forging a New Paradigm for Israel” (at the expense of Bedouin children)

At Ein Prat, which has both pre- and post-Army programs, young Jews from all different backgrounds, American and Israeli, secular and observant, liberal and conservative, come together to study canonical texts, both Jewish and Western. Nestled among rolling hills, these youngsters gather to “forge a new paradigm for Israel,” and in their spare time, some of them take part in a fun and funky Jewish music group called The Fountainheads.

Where does such a place exist? For some odd reason, Ein Prat’s location is not listed anywhere on its English-language website.

Here’s why:

Ein Prat’s programs, which attract many liberal-leaning American Jews, are located in Kfar Adumim and Alon. Kfar Adumim is a settlement, as is its satellite settlement Alon. Anyone who chooses to study at Ein Prat chooses to directly benefit from and support the continued military occupation of over two million Palestinians.

Picture from Ein Prat’s website.

To be clear: the people of Ein Prat, its faculty and students, could very well be -and indeed probably are- thoughtful, complex and kind people. I assume the same about most settlers, and most people. My criticism is not leveled at the character of the individuals of Ein Prat (many of whom I know personally), but rather at the system which Ein Prat necessitates just as much as do more explicitly ideological settlements like Yitzhar (home to Torat HaMelekh and active groups of “hilltop youth”). Indeed, without checkpoints, roadblocks and the denial of an entire people the right to vote for the regime that controls both their day-to-day life and their destiny, neither Ein Prat or Yitzhar could be where they are.

Of course, the students of Ein Prat would never go and beat up Palestinian children. In fact, Ein Prat probably encourages dialogue with Palestinians. And yet, the violence enacted by both places is, at its root, disturbingly similar: a systematic, structural violence.

Picture of Khan Al-Ahmar’s elementary school, which Ein Prat’s Host Settlement Kfar Adumim wants demolished.

Ein Prat students grapple with a whole range of issues, but do they grapple with the issues going on right around them?

Near Kfar Adumim and Alon is a small village called Khan al-Ahmar. Khan al-Ahmar’s residents are Bedouin refugees who fled their homes in the Negev in 1948 and their descendents. Khan al-Ahmar, like many Palestinian villages in the Israeli-controlled parts of the West Bank, known as Area C, does not receive basic services including electricity and water. Up until recently, Khan al-Ahmar also did not have a school. To get to school, the children of Khan al-Ahmar had to walk a route that was both long and dangerous, and a number of them were killed crossing the highway.

In 2009, Israelis and internationals helped the residents of Khan al-Ahmar build a school out of tires and mud. Khan al-Ahmar, like other Bedouin communities, was not included in “master plans” following Israel’s occupation of the West Bank in 1967, and thus is not allowed to even apply for construction permits. The school was built without an Israeli permit, and with the hope that Israeli policymakers could find in their hearts enough mercy to allow this school- a symbol of dignity, learning and cooperation- to stand.

This hope was in vain. Even before the school was finished, the Civil Administration issued orders to demolish the school. The demolition was not carried out immediately, thanks to legal efforts and the pressure from various NGOs, including Rabbis for Human Rights (with whom I have been active over the past year, although the views represented in this article are mine and should need be taken as necessarily connected to the organization), individual activists and embassies, and the processes remain frozen today.

And then: this past August, Kfar Adumim, along with its satellite settlements Alon and Nofei Prat (Ein Prat’s hosts and homes), filed a petition that sought, according to Haaretz, to require the IDF and the Civil Administration to “explain why the school had not already been demolished,” and to chastise the law enforcement authorities for failing to prevent the residents from planting trees around the school and installing playground equipment. [Update: the Civil Administration has verbally committed to maintaining the freeze on demolition of the school, despite pressure from Kfar Adumim, et al, and Regavim, the sinister settler group currently pushing for Susiya’s demolition. Such a commitment, however, could change at any point].

Why on earth would Kfar Adumim, et al. put such effort into making sure that a Bedouin elementary school is demolished?

Because that is how occupation works. The elementary school in Khan al-Ahmar does not pose a “security threat.” The demolition is planned because the school is a symbol of permanence and of dignity. And Palestinian permanence and dignity are anathemas to the occupation.

Kfar Adumim’s petition merely comes to ensure that the occupation functions at full force. And the occupation must function at full force so that the residents of Kfar Adumim and Alon and Nofei Prat can continue to have cheaper housing or a more biblical backyard or both, and so that Ein Prat can continue to flourish as a moderate, pluralistic place of study in a beautiful desert locale, to which Jewish kids from all around the world can come to open their minds and their hearts, to make catchy, creative music clips, and to “create a new paradigm for Israel.”

It is sometimes necessary to lay things out bluntly and simply: When one chooses to learn at Ein Prat, they are casting their ballot for the occupation to continue, at least for the time period in which they are there. They are giving their implicit support to the daily humiliation the occupation brings upon on millions of non-Jews. They are loaning their name to Kfar Adumim/Alon/Nofei Prat’s petition to demolish the elementary school in Khan al-Ahmar. And they are quickening the pace at which all of the Bedouins in the Kfar Adumim area will be transferred out of their homes and villages.

My ask, then, is also quite simple: if you wouldn’t take a hammer to the tire-and-mud walls of the school built by the children of Khan al-Ahmar, then don’t go learn at Ein Prat’s settlement programs. Period.

Update: After posting this post on facebook, a friend directed my attention to this clever, appropriate and perhaps-offensive-but-let’s-be-real-unforunately-accurate graffiti:

 

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About Moriel Rothman

Writing, Activism, Poetry, Love.
This entry was posted in Israel's Military Occupation of the Palestinian Territories, Reflections & Analyses. Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to Ein Prat: “Forging a New Paradigm for Israel” (at the expense of Bedouin children)

  1. r says:

    a. The location doesn’t appear on the front page of the English website? Well, it does on the front page of the Hebrew one, and in addition, it announces it in a huge font in the title of the poster you present… Doesn’t really seem like they’re trying too hard to hide it…
    b. “Stop Apartheid” is indeed a clever phrase. Pulitzer.
    c. “Why on earth would Kfar Edumim etc…..? — Because that is how occupation works.”
    Again, great journalism work.

  2. zvi says:

    I’ve been waiting for this one..

  3. r-
    a + b. correct. It does appear in the Hebrew page, which speaks to the unfortunate reality that Israeli society has gone so far right that a program being in the occupied West Bank wouldn’t give most people event a moment’s hesitation. And if something being in the West Bank is no different than it being in Israel proper, then the green line is essentially a meaningless concept, and if the green line is meaningless, and this is all one entity, then I challenge you to tell me any meaningful way that Israel is not an Apartheid state, as defined by a state that gives certain groups full rights and others basically none based on ethnic/religious/racial/national identity.
    c. If you disagree with my argument, please provide an alternative answer to the question: “Why on Earth would Kfar Adumim etc…”

  4. It’s important to point out that the school in question serves the Jahalin Beduin – who were chased out of their ancestral lands in and around Ma’ale Adumim, and suffer from double discrimination – both as Palestinians a the hands of Israel, and as Beduin at the hands of Palestinian society and the PA.

  5. Rabbi Burstyn, you are absolutely right! Thank you for adding that. The story has so many layers (many of them so tragic).

  6. Not Important says:

    Great post! What’s missing, and it’s indeed an important tidbit, is that The Tikvah Fund is apparently one of their main sources of funding. That says quite a lot if you ask me.

    • As with my response to Rabbi Burstyn, I totally agree. Want to tell us a bit more about what the Tikvah Fund is, and why it says a lot in your opinion? :)

  7. zjb says:

    Thanks so much for posting this about Ein Prat. It is funded by an American neocon outfit called the Tikvah Fund, which hosts culturally conservative programming at Princeton University for undergrads and also the Jewish Review of Books. They pretend to be non-partisan, but it’s just subterfuge. If’ anyone is interested, I’ve written about the Tikvah Fund at Zeek Magazine at http://zeek.forward.com/articles/117374/. I’ve also written about Tablet Magazine, which is linked up organizationally with Tikvah. That one appears on my blog at http://jewishphilosophyplace.wordpress.com/2012/06/04/why-i-dont-like-tablet-online-magazine-corporate-money-the-new-read-on-jewish-life/.

  8. zjb says:

    Reblogged this on jewish philosophy place and commented:
    More information re: projects floated by the Tikvah Fund, this one on a settlement in the West Bank.

  9. Myron Joshua says:

    The most valid question raised in the article is “Ein Prat students grapple with a whole range of issues, but do they grapple with the issues going on right around them?” It would have been more rewarding getting a response from Ein Prat rather than merely using what could be a fine program to highlight the broader and urgent issue of settlements and its effects (on the human and political levels).
    Yes, EIn Prat is an example of the how easily Israelis live with the results of occupation often (and selectively) ignoring its political AND moral ramifications.. Making the equation that supporting, or participating in Ein Prat programming goes to far, without knowing what Ein Prat’s actual attitude is. (Proper disclosure: I settled in Kibbutz Kfar Etzion four years after it was (re)established over the Green Line. And yes, i try to grapple with the issues going on around me..)

  10. Myron, I think your criticism is a fair one, and I would certainly love to hear Ein Prat’s response. Unfortunately, though, I think we can pretty well guess what Ein Prat thinks about the political and moral ramifications of the settlement project, and about [the complete absence of] Palestinian rights, as based on 1. issues raised by other commenters (namely that Ein Prat is supported by the agenda-heavy and not-so-Palestinian-friendly Tikvah Fund) and on 2. stories that I have heard from friends who studied at Ein Prat about how the curriculum basically fully ignores Palestinians, comments that I chose not to include in this blog as I did not want to name anyone without there consent, and “story by unnamed student” is not a compelling way to make an argument and on 3. that it is located, as stated, in Kfar Adumim, which is, in turn, leading the charge against the Khan al Ahmar school and on 4. the fact that when Micha Goodman speaks, he speaks as if Palestinians do not exist and on 5. the fact that the program lists itself as “in Israel” gives a pretty good sense of what it thinks about “occupation.”

    • Myron Joshua says:

      Most points you raise from “curriculum ignoring the Palestinians” through the program listing itself as “in Israel” does not show “what it thinks about occupation” but sadly points in the direction that it may not think about it at all. This iis par for the course on both sides of the Green Line. It may not seem much different than right wing organizations with an agenda, but to me the complacency behind this type of blindness is a challenge calling to be aroused from its slumber, rather than an ideology to be fought. (It is not an easy process and often active denial wakes up first..)
      I am trying to turn to someone at Ein Prat in hopes of getting a response.

  11. Well, please update me if you do hear anything. My assumption, is, as stated, that Ein Prat has no intention of looking critically at the occupation in general, or of speaking out against plans to demolish the school in Khan al-Ahmar and to expel Bedouins from the area in particular, but I would be thrilled to be proven wrong, especially on the latter issue (which is inextricably connected with the former)

    • Yitz Landes says:

      I’m glad that Myron raised this issue and that he’s trying to elicit a response. I will try and do the same. For now, I’ll say that friends of mine who have studied or taught there have had discussions and trips (even with Breaking the Silence) to disuss the conflict, but haven’t had any such programming that relates to the Kfar and it surrounding settlements (the occupation is in Hebron, not in Ein Prat…).

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