Global News Journal

Beyond the World news headlines

from FaithWorld:

Visiting Israeli settlers in what my GPS calls “unreachable areas”

(Editor's note: Doug Hamilton, one of our most experienced correspondents and lively writers, recently took up a new post in Jerusalem. Here's the back story to his latest feature "A Biblical view of peace high in the Holy Land.")

(Photo:the West Bank Jewish settlement of Psagot, 17 November 2008/Eliana Aponte)

When I began my assignment to Israel & the Palestinian Territories two months ago, I was determined to get out and about and see as much as possible for myself. I wanted to find out up close what life was like for the people who live here -- from the Palestinians lining up obediently to get through intimidating Israeli checkpoints, to the nightlife crowd a world away in chic Tel Aviv, to the Orthodox Jews in 16th century attire in their Jerusalem districts where you dare not drive on the Sabbath, to the Palestinian olive groves and to the settlers on the occupied land of the West Bank.

I bought a GPS navigator to help me get around and the first thing I discovered was that my desired West Bank and Gaza destinations were "in an unreachable area", according to the device. The occupied territories show up as dark grey background on the GPS. But its warnings can be overridden and  it will then guide you  pretty accurately to the "unreachable destinations" you seek.

As the little green arrow that designates your car moves along corridors through the dark grey background, isolated splodges of beige show up on the map. These are Israeli settlements, mostly on the hilltops. You look up from the highway and see new roads going up the slopes leading to new houses with red-tiled roofs. They are protected by steel gates and coils of razor wire and electric alarm fences, or set behind Israel's formidable security barrier of concrete and watchtowers. The further out you go from Jerusalem, the more there is a frontier feeling to these strangely suburban-looking little communities, surrounded by rocky terraced hillsides that have barely changed down the centuries.