The Man Who Stopped the Freeze
Although Dayan describes himself as essentially “an urban guy,” he and Einat preferred the hilltops of Judea and Samaria—the biblical terms for the West Bank—to the hip neighborhoods of Tel Aviv. Although many Israelis buy homes in settlements for a higher quality of life and lower cost of living made possible by financial incentives, the Dayans’ decision was an ideological one. “There are more important things in life than being near good restaurants and the opera house,” says Dayan. “We thought that the best thing for the State of Israel and its security is being here. So we decided to move to Samaria.”
They chose Maale Shomron, founded in 1980 and now home to about 150 families, in part for its mix of religious and non-religious Jews. “Our way of life is almost completely secular,” he says, “but we didn’t want to live in a secular ghetto.”
But it is, in other ways, quite isolated. For years, residents of Maale Shomron had to drive through the Arab city of Qalqilya as well as several Palestinian villages. The bypass road—which was built in the mid-to-late 1990s and passes the Arab village of Azoun—has for several years had the third-highest rate of stone-throwing incidents in the West Bank, Dayan says. But there was never a time—even during the height of the second Intifada—when he wouldn’t go out on the roads. He refused to get his car outfitted with bulletproof glass on principle, he says, so as not to give in to fear. But like most kids in settlements, his 17-year-old daughter, Ofir, who has two years left of high school, takes a bulletproof bus to school. Dayan calls this “an infringement on human rights” as much as anything Palestinians endure.
Dayan, who serves as chairman without pay, is passionate about why he devotes his time and energy to the settlement cause. A Palestinian state, he says, would be a “launching pad for attacks on Israel” and would essentially spell the end of normal life in the Jewish state. Dayan believes that the territories are crucial to Jewish identity, religious or not. As he puts it, “King David never walked in Tel Aviv, but he did reign in Hebron.”
Dayan has been praised for his leadership of Yesha. “He is leading Yesha to become again a major factor in the Israeli political scene,” says one colleague, “and it hasn’t been easy.” Adds Chaim Levinson: “Dayan is very popular and people are satisfied with his leadership.”
That said, some settlers are vocal about their concerns. “After the terrible failures in the disengagement, our expectations of Yesha are very low,” says Boaz Haetzni, who lives in Kiryat Arba, the original settlement on the outskirts of Hebron. “Yesha will not be able to lead another popular campaign like Kfar Maimon,” where masses of people came out, night after night, to demonstrations against the disengagement plan in 2005, Haetzni says. “If Yesha calls now, people will not answer. Yesha can concentrate on lobbying and getting their message across and building settlements, because this they know how to do. Lots of groups are working without the Yesha Council, and avoiding it entirely. Everybody has his own agenda.”