The Neshamah Center - Barry Leff - I did something today that the Israeli government seems to think is dangerous.  At least that’s what the sign says: “Area A: Danger to your life and a criminal violation.” 

 Area A is the part of the West Bank that is under Palestinian civil and security control (mostly places like Ramallah, Nablus, and Bethlehem).  I visited the under construction Palestinian development town of Rawabi with a group from the Hartman Institute. Truth is, our busload of rabbis visiting a construction site did not feel particularly death defying.  But it was very interesting. (And a point of clarification: it was not illegal for us Israelis to join, as the visit had been coordinated with the proper authorities.  And it was completely safe.)

We were on a tour of the West Bank led by people representing a variety of ideological views, including Danny Seidemann, founder of Ir Amim and Danny Tirza, the former IDF officer who was in charge of the routing of the security barrier for many years.

Both speakers were excellent, although I did not learn a lot I didn’t know before.  Danny Tirza spoke sincerely about wanting to balance security with the interests of the Palestinians, and the Supreme Court has mostly backed the choices he made, with a few exceptions.  Still, I couldn’t help but wonder whether the Palestinians felt that a kipah wearing guy who lives in a settlement was going to be the most objective when it comes to balancing their needs?

But for me the most interesting part of the day by far was visiting Rawabi.  Rawabi is by far the largest private initiative in the West Bank.  It’s basically the Palestinian version of Modi’in, although they seem to be doing a much better job of planning.  Perhaps it helps that Moshe Safdie, an Israeli architect who planned Modi’in took them on a tour of that Israeli city and told them what he did wrong!