Kidnapping of Teens Jangles Nerves in Usually Calm West Bank Settlement

Gush Etzion Feels More Like Suburb Than Battleground

Suburb Not Flashpoint: Teenagers in Gush Etzion rally for the return of three kidnapped students. The settlement is in the spotlight, but it’s usually a sleepy suburb not an international dateline.
getty images
Suburb Not Flashpoint: Teenagers in Gush Etzion rally for the return of three kidnapped students. The settlement is in the spotlight, but it’s usually a sleepy suburb not an international dateline.

By Ben Sales

Published June 24, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(JTA) — At a shopping center in the middle of Efrat, families eat pizza, a deliveryman unloads a cart and a barista serves coffee. On a passing bus, a banner reads “Gush Etzion – an Israeli home.”

In many respects it’s a normal, quiet Monday in this settlement that has grown into a large commuter suburb for Jerusalem.

At a nearby intersection, though, the calm feels absent. Israeli soldiers patrol the crossroads, and a curb usually crowded with hitchhikers looking for a ride is empty.

The June 12 kidnapping of Israeli teens Gilad Shaar, Eyal Yifrach and Naftali Frenkel while they were hitchhiking from the area has upset life in the Etzion settlement bloc, or Gush Etzion, south of Jerusalem.

During the past week, Israeli residents say, life has felt more tense and their communities less secure. For a week following the kidnapping, Palestinians living in the area who work in Israel were unable to get to their jobs.

“I feel scared that there’s no security,” said Tali Ardani, 32, a supermarket employee in Efrat. “I didn’t feel like that before. I used to hitchhike at that very intersection.”

As West Bank settlements go, Gush Etzion – with Efrat at its center – is about as mainstream Israeli as it gets. The Gush Etzion area southwest of Jerusalem and Bethlehem includes 20 Israeli settlements and about 70,000 Israeli residents living among about 18,000 Palestinians.

Shortly after Israel conquered the West Bank in the 1967 Six-Day War, settlements were established in the area. Some of the first residents were the children of Jews massacred after the Kfar Etzion settlement was seized by Arab forces during Israel’s War of Independence in 1948.

The settlement bloc has since become a collection of Jerusalem suburbs. It is widely expected to remain part of Israel under any peace deal.

Opponents of a Palestinian state also recognize the Israeli national consensus on the area’s future as part of Israel. In his proposal to annex vast swaths of the West Bank, Israeli Economy Minister Naftali Bennett has lobbied to start with Gush Etzion.

But the kidnapping of the teens has served as a harsh reminder to Efrat residents that they live in a conflict zone. Locals say that since the kidnapping, the number of residents trying to hitchhike here has dropped dramatically.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • "To everyone who is reading this article and saying, “Yes, but… Hamas,” I would ask you to just stop with the “buts.” Take a single moment and allow yourself to feel this tremendous loss. Lay down your arms and grieve for the children of Gaza."
  • Professor Dan Markel, 41 years old, was found shot and killed in his Tallahassee home on Friday. Jay Michaelson can't explain the death, just grieve for it.
  • Employees complained that the food they received to end the daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan was not enough (no non-kosher food is allowed in the plant). The next day, they were dismissed.
  • Why are peace activists getting beat up in Tel Aviv? http://jd.fo/s4YsG
  • Backstreet's...not back.
  • Before there was 'Homeland,' there was 'Prisoners of War.' And before there was Claire Danes, there was Adi Ezroni. Share this with 'Homeland' fans!
  • BREAKING: Was an Israeli soldier just kidnapped in Gaza? Hamas' military wing says yes.
  • What's a "telegenically dead" Palestinian?
  • 13 Israeli soldiers die in Gaza — the deadliest day for the IDF in decades. So much for 'precision' strikes and easy exit strategies.
  • What do a Southern staple like okra and an Israeli favorite like tahini have in common? New Orleans chef Alon Shaya brings sabra tastes to the Big Easy.
  • The Cossacks were a feature in every European Jewish kid's worst nightmare. Tuvia Tenenbom went looking for the real-life variety in Ukraine — but you won't believe what he found. http://forward.com/articles/202181/my-hunt-for-the-cossacks-in-ukraine/?
  • French Jews were stunned when an anti-Israel mob besieged a synagogue outside Paris. What happened next could be a historic turning point.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.