(Gush Etzion is a community of twenty-two settlements south of Jerusalem in the hills of Judea, inside the Palestinian territory of the West Bank.  the land was purchased by Jewish farmers back in the l920's, and communities were built there, later to be destroyed by the Arab League. From November 29, l947, the settlement village of Kfar Etzion was surrounded by the Arab League and cut off from Jerusalem.  The village surrendered the following May, after which 127 Jews were killed by the Arabs.  Other villagers were taken prisoner and their homes looted and destroyed.  When the area was taken back during the l967 war, the settlements were rebuilt.  Building and expanding continues to this day.

I met D and S, two sisters, in their home in the settlement.)

D. 12

My mother works as an organizer for seniors' programs.  My father had a heart attack three years ago and died.  So it's just the three of us.  We live in a settlement near Herodian, where King Herod once had a palace.  It's really nice here, like a small town, although it's bigger now than it used to be.  There are over 600 families here now.  We used to know everyone but it's getting a little too big for that now.

Mom says our settlement is like Mayberry from the Andy Griffith Show - a very quiet, safe, nice place to live. Other places can be more dangerous for kids.  There are more cars, more crime, lots of strangers, but here it is safe.  It's nice and easy.  We can just walk to school.  The school I go to has boys and girls in separate classes, so I have all girls in my class.

There's a little market here, so we can get a few things, but for real shopping we go to Jerusalem.  Jerusalem is only ten minutes away.  Here we are on the top of a hill.  There are hills and valleys all around.  You can see for a really long way, out across the desert.

My friends and I are really into cooking these days.  We like to cook almost every day.  We made chocolate chip cookies yesterday and spaghetti today.

T. 10

At my school there is a little farm, with animals to keep like sheep and chickens. Every class takes one day a week to take care of the animals and do all the chores.  This is training in case we want to be farmers one day

We also have time each week when we can do different things we want to do.  Whoever wants to do art, they do art.  Whoever wants to do sports, they go do sports.  You can do Israeli folk dancing if you want to.  I'm doing science.  It's great because we get to make stuff for the school.  The kids from the last session made a composter, and we'll be making recycling boxes.  A woman from an environmental organization comes every Monday and she tells us how we can save the environment.

D.   Ninety percent of the time, it's very quiet and normal here.  We come home from school, do our homework, we have supper, nothing unusual.  But sometimes things are a bit different.

In the war with Gaza over the winter, the Arabs sent rockets here and they exploded close to us.  We could hear the explosions and it was really scary.  We didn't know how many rockets would come, or when, or where they would land.  It was really bad.

There is an Arab village on a hill above us.  They sometimes come and throw rocks at us.  They have a riot and they throw rocks at Jews driving by.  One time a rock hit my mother and broke her arm.  Where she broke it, it still hurts when the weather is cold.

But that doesn't happen every day.  It's mostly very quiet and normal.  People are really good to each other, like in any close community.

When Dad died, people came together to help us through it.  A woman taught me about massage as a way to deal with stress, and now I think I want to become a professional masseuse.  My mother's family is all in the United States, so she really needed the neighbours and they came together for her.  We have really good people here.