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News and views on Israel, Zionism and the war on terrorism.

November 13, 2002

Hit by a terrorist, kibbutz still shares a well with Arabs

Is this decency, idealism, or simply naivety?
KIBBUTZ MEZER, ISRAEL – After one of the more shocking terrorist attacks in the past two years, reprisal was on the mind of many Israelis, including some in Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's cabinet. Sunday night, five people - including two children - were killed at this kibbutz by a Palestinian gunman, who then escaped.
But at a meeting Monday with Mr. Sharon, leaders of this dovish community wanted something else: a commitment that a new, security fence - stretching some 66 miles through the West Bank to block terrorist infiltrations - will not be built on land taken from their Palestinian neighbors in Kafin village, just across the old border in the West Bank.

"As it stands, a grave injustice is being done to our neighbors," said Doron Lieber, the economic coordinator of the kibbutz, the only Israeli community to argue for rerouting the fence. According to current plans, Kafin would lose two square miles - 60 percent of its farmland. Mr. Lieber says this will not only be bad for the Palestinians, but bad for the kibbutz, fueling enormous resentment throughout the area.

"The moment those beautiful trees are cruelly uprooted, our island of tranquility is turned into any other place in Israel," he says.

This kibbutz prides itself on a half century of good relations with neighboring Arab Israeli villages. So the irony that it was targeted by a militia linked to Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement was not lost on anyone, including Palestinian leaders.

But on Monday and Tuesday, it seemed to be precisely that history, as well as the kibbutz's humanistic ideology that were coloring the initial responses to the attack. "I feel like someone who has been slapped in the face," said Lieber. "My hand was stretched out in peace. But a slap in the face is only temporary. It rings in your ears a bit, but when the ringing stops you go on."

For others, it will be ringing for a long time.
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