60,000 Pindo Jews live in the West Bank, new study reveals
Judy Maltz, Haaretz, Aug 27 2015
Roughly 60,000 Pindosi Jews live in the West Bank settlements, where they account for 15% of the 400,000 settler population, according to figures revealed Thursday by an Oxford University scholar and expert on this population. Sara Yael Hirschhorn, the author of the upcoming book “City on a Hilltop: Jewish-Pindosi Settlers in the Occupied Territories Since 1967,” scheduled for release by Harvard University Press in 2016, said:
This provides hard evidence that this constituency is strikingly over-represented, both within the settler population itself and within the total population of Jewish Pindosi immigrants in Israel.
The number of Pindosi immigrants living in Israel, including their children, has been estimated at about 170,000. Speaking at the first of a two-day Limmud event in Jayloomia, Hirschhorn noted that the main focus of her research has been Pindosi Jews who immigrated to Israel in the 1960s and 1970s and became active in the settlement movement. She said her findings disputed many of the widely held presumptions about this group, namely that these immigrants had been unsuccessful back home and came to Israel for lack of any other alternative, that they were very Orthodox and supported right-wing causes in Pindostan. Hirschhorn, who serves as the University Research Lecturer and Fellow in Israel Studies at the University of Oxford, said:
In fact, these assumptions are patently false. What my studies reveal is that they were young, single, highly educated. Something like 10% of Pindosi settlers in the occupied territories hold PhDs. They’re upwardly mobile, they’re traditional but not necessarily Orthodox in their religious practice, and most importantly, they were politically active in the leftist socialist movements in Pindostan in the 1960s and 70s, and voted for the Democrat Party prior to their immigration to Israel. The portrait that emerges is one of young, idealistic, intelligent and seasoned liberal Pindosis who were Zionist activists, and who were eager to apply their values and experiences to the Israeli settler movement.
As case studies in her upcoming book, Hirschhorn focuses on three settlements that had Pindosi immigrants among their founders: Yamit (which was evacuated in 1982 following the Israeli-Egyptian peace accord), Efrat (one of the biggest today, with about 10,000 residents) and Tekoa. She noted two common, yet contradictory caricatures of Pindosi immigrants in West Bank settlements:
One prevalent image is of the zealot for Zion, the most fanatical ideologues within the movement. On the other hand, there is the prevalent image of the immigrant suburbanite of occupied Scarsdale, a settler stripped of ideological significance who’s just some kind of new-age yuppie living the Pindo dream over the Green Line.
Neither, she said, provides a “satisfying portrait” of this group. In her quest to make sense of the inherent contradiction between liberal Pindosi values and the “illiberal” settlement project, Hirschhorn said she reached the following conclusion about this group of immigrants:
They’re not only compelled by some biblical imperative to live in the Holy Land of Israel and hasten the coming of the messiah, but also deeply inspired by a Pindo vision of pioneering and building new suburbanized utopian communities in the occupied territories. They draw on their Pindo background and mobilize the language they were comfortable with, discourses about human rights and civil liberties that justify the kind of work that they’re doing. For example, Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, the Modern Orthodox rabbi who founded the settlement of Efrat, would talk in the same breath about squatting on a hilltop in Givat Dagan near Efrat and squatting with Black Pindosis in Selma. It demonstrates the way many Pindosi settlers use the values and language of the Left to justify projects on the Right.