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Visiting a Jewish village in a Partisan Maccabee Camp

Updated: Jul 10, 2023

Maccabee partisan village north of Bet El.

What is it like to live in a village with 26 families on the top of a mountain overlooking some of the most transformative events in Jewish history? We visit with a local resident who facilitates reconciliation dialogue sessions between local Jews and Arabs. . Rabbi Yehuda HaKohen shares his take on the beauty and challenges of living the dream.....that is, living next to the biblical place of the dream of Jacob's Ladder , Abraham's Covenant Amongst the Parts, and the site where Judah the Maccabee was slain in battle. All can be viewed from his backyard.

Random street in the city of Bet El.

When you drive around the West Bank town of Bet El, it feels like a normal Israeli town with approximately 5,000 to 10,000 residents. However, in the Gofna Hills just north of Bet El, in the ancient Maccabean partisan camp, exists a small Jewish village of roughly 26 families. We caught up with Rabbi Yehuda HaKohen, an educator who organizes grass root dialogue sessions between West Bank Jews and Palestinians seeking to transcend the one sided narratives on both side. In this episode we take a casual stroll through his neighborhood and discuss life on the mountain.

Walking through small Jewish the village.

The discussion turns towards life in the West Bank and some of the reconciliation dialogues for work that R' Yehuda does on both sides of the conflict. Whereas most people watching this from thousands of miles away, R' Yehuda has established deep relationships with his Arab neighbors through is work. When asked about his perspective on things he clearly stands in the camp of wanting to push back on international influence for a two state paradigm and wants to "find a way to live together here with our neighbors in such a way that works well for both of us." When asked to elaborate on his work he characterized it as, "Reconciliation work mostly creating dialogue sessions for some of the most radical Jews and Palestinians really living their 'people stories,' really willing to live, fight and die for what we believe to be important to our story. [We make a space] to come together and really engage with the identity the narrative and the aspirations of the 'other' because I think we both have a very unhealthy principled refusal to even understand the 'other' experiences himself here." Watch the full video.

At the end of the day, everyone knows.... it is complicated. But one thing is for sure...the more we research and the more we talk to both arabs and jews living on this holy ground, the more we see how the media and talking head narratives can be very far from the truth on the ground. We are looking forward to hearing from more people and sharing that mosaic of perspectives, of the Jewish and Arabic people who live here, in future episodes here at Tribe Journal.

Walking through the "back yard" after seeing the ancient sites of the Maccabee camp on the way back to the village.


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