We’re spending Shabbat with friends in Kochav Hashachar, a national-religious community of 300 families, comprising Kochav Hashachar itself, Maaleh Shlomo and Mitspe Kramim within the jurisdiction of the Mateh Binyamin Regional Council. The population is roughly 1,500.
Kochav Hashachar is located on the “Allon Road” some 18 miles North of Downtown Jerusalem. The yishuv is situated toward the Eastern edge of the Judea-Samaria Mountain Range, overlooking the Jordan Valley.
We’re staying with the Rabbi and Rebbetzin (and their four children) who mentored my wife on her journey to a more religiously observant life. Though Rabbi Hillel is from the US, and his wife Aliza, is from South Africa, they met in Israel after making Aliyah and only later returned to the town of Port Elizabeth to serve as the community Rabbi for the town’s dwindling Jewish population.
I’m sitting on a quiet hill overlooking vineyards – grapes grown in Kochav Hashachar are purchased every year by Carmel Mizrachi for their red Fantasia Sparkling Wine – and, beyond that I can see the Jordan valley.
Israelis who live in communities beyond the green line differ in their motivation. Some are secular and others religious. Some are ideological and others motivated by the religious significance of Judea and Samaria in the context of Jewish history, and yet others induced by more practical reasons such as the lower cost of living relative to the major urban areas. Still others find comfort in small town life, where they know all of their neighbors, and where parents feel safe allowing their children play and roam within the community.
What strikes me also about life here is the quiet, the stillness.
Occasionally when I read accounts of life in such Moshavim in the Guardian, the words I read conjure pictures of a place which seem to represent not life as it is, but life as a parable – stories and fictive illustrations in the service of satisfying popular and conventional mores.
I often wonder whether what many in the affluent, post-nationalist West find so alien about Israelis, particularly those who have settled across the green line, is their passion for place, the reverence we possess for this particular place over all others – an apt illustration of the failure of many to understand Jewish particularism more broadly.
To discriminate, in the positive sense of the word, means to distinguish accurately; to elevate some places over others. To discriminate means to choose.
When you choose to identify with a particular religious community, you choose that faith and that community and not others. When you marry, you choose your mate over everyone else.
Residents here have chosen Kochav Hashachar over all others.