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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Jennifer Rubin spends a day in Samaria

Jennifer Rubin - who knows a hell of a lot more about Israel than most Americans - spent a day in Samaria last week, and was surprised by what she saw.
Even well-informed consumers of international media imagine that the West Bank is crowded, dangerous and replete with roadblocks and officious Israeli security forces. So when one leaves Jerusalem, crosses the Green Line -- a cement wall and a checkpoint (not unlike the set-up for an agent at a U.S. border) -- and travels up and down the highways of Samaria (the portion of the West Bank extending north), you realize how little non-Israelis know about the Jews who live in territory that is the focal point of so much international attention.

The media terminology doesn't comport with one's direct observations. "Settlements" are not hovels tended by goat herders. Settlers are not uniformly religious. The Palestinians who demand the right of return are generally the descendants of those who left Israel proper in 1948; the region is still sparsely populated and was even more so in 1967. And while negotiators have shuffled back and forth trying to reach a peace deal, there are at least signs of peaceful coexistence between some Palestinians and Israelis who shop and work together.

On a Wednesday afternoon Naftali Bennett met me in Jerusalem. He drove up in an unassuming, white compact car. He was dressed in jeans and a plaid shirt and wore a small knitted kippah not unlike conservative and modern Orthodox Jews in the United States. His parents made aliyah from the U.S., so his English is impeccable. It was not until we were well on our way that I learned he was Bibi Netanyahu's chief of staff during the years in opposition and also the founder of a high-tech company, Cyote, that makes 70 percent of the software used to detect bank fraud. In 2005 Bennett sold the company. After a stint with another high-tech company, his life took a dramatic turn.

He told me that he realized during the second war in Lebanon that Israel's survival was not assured. "I grew up in the 1970s," he said. "But I never thought all this talk about Israel facing an existential threat was real." Then his best friend (who served in the same elite unit as Yoni Netanyahu) was killed. The realization set in that Israel's survival was not a given. For reasons that became apparent as the day unfolded, he is convinced that his three children will not grow up in a vibrant and safe Israel unless the West Bank remains part of the Jewish state.
Jennifer's post has two parts and I suggest that you read the whole thing. The first part is here and the second part is here.

And Bennett's former company is named Cyota (with an a at the end), and the website of the company that bought it in December 2005 is here.

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