4 Stops in Shomron: See Old and New

4 Stops in Shomron: See Old and New

At first, I said no.

I had been on trips to the Shomron (Samaria) in the past.

The schedule seemed similar to previous visits to the Shomron and Barkan.

However, on Sunday morning, as the Jerusalem, Israel skies turned grey,

String Bridge in Jerusalem Israel on a cloudy winter morning

I was on a bus on my way out of town before the rain started to come down…

and come down long and hard on the very dry Jerusalem streets.

Arab village with nice and new houses in West Bank

As we drove away from Jerusalem, the morning sky was blue and clear.

Clouds gathered as we neared the Barkan Industrial Park in the Shomron.

Ariel Industrial zone from Shomron road

The view from the road to Barkan of Ariel Industrial Park was as impressive as ever.   The development and growth in the once-barren hills is amazing.

Israel Allies Foundation meeting in Shomron with Yossi Dagan and David Haivri

Stop #1 in the Barkan included greetings from the Shomron Council officials to the Israel Allies international parliamentarians.  These supporters of Israel had come from around the world.

Sierra Leone Thomas Coker and US SC Alan Clemmons take a selfie on Israel Allies tour to Shomron

I have an entire album of selfies.  Dr. Thomas Coker of Sierre Leone taking a photo with Alan Clemmons of South Carolina has to be the new favorite.

Full disclosure – one of the main reasons I decided to go was to meet Facebook friend Rep. Alan Clemmons who initiated the first US anti-BDS legislation in South Carolina. Over half the US states now have similar laws against Israeli boycotts.

 "Never Again will nations stand silent in the face of boycotts against the Jewish people," parliamentarians and sign

“Never Again will nations stand silent in the face of boycotts against the Jewish people,” stated this declaration signed by the international group of 25 ministers and parliamentarians.

MK Miki Zohar at Barkan Industrial zone for IAF lawmakers

MK Miki Zohar held up a photo of Kim Levengrond Yehezkel z”l  and Ziv Hajbi z”l as he addressed the delegation. The signing and speeches were held in the parking lot of the Twitoplast factory.

In October last year, this workplace of coexistence, that I had written about more than once, was the shocking scene of terror when the two young parents were murdered.

IAF Josh Reinstein, parents of terror victims and MK Miki Zohar at Barkan Industrial Park one year after murder

Ziv’s mother spoke as did Kim’s father (seated in center). Both asked the international lawmakers to get their governments to stop funding terror. Standing is IAF President Josh Reinstein, and sitting next to the podium is Yossi Dagan of Shomron Council.

No trip to the Barkan is complete without Moshe Lev Ran, who spoke to the international visitors in the Twitoplast factory.

Moshe’s smile and message were not new.

As I have shared in the past, these factories in the Shomron employ thousands of Arab workers. Work in these Jewish businesses means higher salaries and benefits than under PA.   If an Israel business is forced to close from the EU labeling restrictions and boycott, those hurt most are the families of the Arab employees.

Factory in Barkan Industrial Park

Each time I go to the factory there seem to be more products.

Israel Twito, the creative genius behind Twitoplast, has over 100 patents.

This graphic makes the areas A, B, C, clearer than if I tried to explain the complex situation of governance in Yehudah and Shomron.

Red signs forbidding Israeli citizens entry to Arab village

Roads in the Shomron in area “A” have red signs not allowing Israelis to enter.

As you can see the weather had changed by the time we left Barkan.

West Bank scene where person was killed by terrorist and memorial set up

The memorials of terror victims are along the road near intersections.

West Bank Israel scene from road of small village and rolling hills

Villages in the valley sit between the rolling hills that line the road.

New housing on the hilltops gets more impressive with each visit.

Stop #2 was also a repeat and as expected the Kabir Winery lunch was excellent.

The second reason I decided to go was that Leah Goldin, mother of Hadar Goldin z”l, was to speak after lunch.  For 5 years and 4 months, she has tried to get her son’s remains, held captive in Gaza by Hamas, returned to Israel for burial.

I was on a bus returning to Jerusalem from Soroka Hosptial in Beer Sheva after the supposed 2014 ceasefire. Rockets were still being fired, and we could see the Iron Dome at work.

Hamas killed and captured Hadar two hours after the “cease-fire” began- a war crime and against humanitarian rules of conduct. Goldin wanted to make the legislators aware and urged them to help in their home countries.

Stop #3 was in Shiloh.

Israeli Allies leaders at Shilon

This was done very quickly as the sun was setting soon.

Shiloh Alan Clemmons at Israel Allies IAF

Minutes after this it started to rain.

Shiloh with international IAD parliamentarians

Very quickly the group posed for a photo next to the new colorful display of the Twelve Tribes.

I went prepared for the day with an umbrella and plastic bags, however, they were on the bus.

Ancient tabernacle of Shiloh and Jewish holy ark in new hologram movie

We ran up the hill in the dark and rain to shelter in the Shiloh hologram show of ancient Shiloh, and movie reenactment with actors.

For 369 years ancient Shiloh was the site of the Tabernacle before King Solomon built his temple in Jerusalem. You will have to come to see for yourself, as rainy nights are not the best conditions for photography.

Stop #4 was the Psagot Winery.

Psagot Winery restaurant

Another ride up a winding, narrow road to a mountain top, to the warmth of a fine restaurant.

Psagot Wine bottles at Winery

And wine. Good wine. Psagot owners went to the ICC international court to try and reverse the EU labeling against Jewish businesses in the Shomron. They lost, but they plan to keep trying. With 200 disputed territories in the world, they ask why only Jewish Israelis have to be singled out with special labeling?

Having been in the Shomron, it was good to see and hear the old and new.

Plenty was happening on the Jerusalem streets, besides heavy rain.

UN Ambassadors at Israeli President's house on tour led by Danny Danon

A tour of Ambassadors to the UN, led by Israeli UN Ambassador Danny Danon was at Beit Hanasi, the Israeli President’s House.

For most of the international diplomats, it was their first trip to Israel.

In Jerusalem a group of Arab high school students going to Islamic Museum

While they were in private discussions with President Rivlin, across the street, a group of Arab students was on their way to the Islamic Museum

More from Leah Goldin speaking about humanitarian and legal issues.

More Facebook Shomron photos of the trip HERE 

More from what’s happening in Jerusalem, Israel next time.

Shomron Tour: 7 Stops Over Green Line

Shomron Tour: 7 Stops Over Green Line

Once in while it is good to leave Jerusalem, Israel, and see what is happening in other parts of the country.

An opportunity for a trip to the Shomron was hard to pass up. Three times previously, I joined various groups going over the green line to Judea and Samaria, to the Shomron. I was interested to see how things have changed. Often those who travel a regular route do not notice change as much as one who only goes by occasionally.

Arab houses being built along road outside of Jerusalem Israel

Leaving Jerusalem, one sees how much construction is happening, how built up some areas are today. Above are a few of new Arab houses along the road.

King of Jordan Palace on top of hill near Jerusalem Israel

Neighborhoods stretch out with new dwellings. In the distance, however, is one undeveloped area.

View outside of Jerusalem, Israel unfinished palace King of Jordan

There it is up on the hill, still the same as it was decades ago. The shell of the King of Jordan’s planned summer palace. No one seems to want to touch those dunams of land.

Shomron trip new construction of Leshem

But new Jewish neighborhoods are also under construction, Leshem is a planned and growing community.

Outside of Jerusalem, Israel cattle grazing along side of road

One thing has not changed, along the road one still see piles of junked cars in Arab neighborhoods.

By the Oslo Accords, Judea and Samaria was divided into three areas: Area A, B and C.

To make something extremely complicated  simplified:

Area A is under PA control. B is under PA governance with Israeli security. C is under Israeli control.

Israel Lookout from high elevation can see in all directions

First stop was Pedu’el. From המרפסת של המדינה, HaMirpeset Shel HaMedina, loosely translated as Israel’s Lookout, on a clear day one can see, well almost forever, to the sea. It is one of those spots where one realizes just how small Israel really is.

Fabrics to be recycled in Ofertex factory in Shomron Barkan Industrial park

Ever wonder where those old stained clothes and seconds of wipes end up?

Second stop was at Ofertex manufacturing plant in Barkan Industrial Park.

Spinning threads into recycled fabrics in Barkan Industrial Park factory

I wrote about a visit to Barkan Industrial Park  two years ago. While SodaStream got the media attention, dozens of companies are based in the region. This one recycles fabrics to make cleaning cloths, repackaged under private labels for Walmart, Dollar Stores and European clients too. Oftertex was started by Polish survivors who came to Israel in 1950. Fourth generation owners of this private company employ 120 people. Of the 100 Arab workers, some are third generation employees. Israeli companies pay over three times average PA salaries, plus have better working conditions and benefits.

Industrial park in Shomron, Israel over green line

Thousands of Arab workers are hurt if BDS boycott’s are effective, if production slows or a business is forced to close or relocate.

Security barriers to protect those waiting for bus in Shomron

Back on the road, we passed a memorial to one of too many Israelis who were murdered by terrorists at this bus stop.

Itamar view of part of town

Third Stop was in Itamar, which I had passed on previous trips, but never entered. I had not realized how large and spread out it was.

Shomron, Itamar houses from afar.

A few of Itamar homes in the distance, as seen from Zimerman Farm where we heard the story of Zimerman Family’s pioneering in organic farming.

Itamar view from Zimerman Farms.

Looking out, one sees how getting into Itamar is not so easy, and requires planning. I could not help thinking of the Fogel family as I stood and stared out.

Two Israeli soldiers on watch in cement security in Shomron road

We passed Israeli soldiers standing guard on the road in a cement shelter for protection.

Red signs at road to Arab villages in Shomron forbidding Israelis to enter

And those red warning signs, telling Israelis not to enter PA territory, were posted at the Arab villages of Area A.

Har Bracha, Blessed Mountain, view below

The view on the way to Stop Four on Har Bracha, Blessed Mountain, is worth sharing, even if it was hazy that day.

Har Bracha wine bottles on display for tasting.

Wine tasting with lunch at Har Bracha, demonstrated the quality wines coming from vineyards planted in the once barren land, now producing 50,000 bottles a year.

View of Nablus from lookout above Shechem

My first visit to Shehem, Nablus, inspired an Israellycool post.  Finding Yosef’s Tomb from the safety of the lookout on Mount Gerizim was harder this time.

View of Nablus from lookout above, closest Israeli access to Josef's Tomb

Stop Five showed “the refugee camp” which is still the same cramped, pathetic photo op, as the areas around have grown and sprawled outward in all directions.

Factory owned by Samaritan family having problems selling to EU

A Tahini Factory near the overlook was Stop Six. The owner Yosef HaCohen shared his story of being a Samaritan businessman. Not Jewish. not Muslim. His children are in the school system under PA, and Har Bracha Tahini is trying to do business in Europe, not so easy for a company located in the “West Bank.”

Oven on street preparing food for iftr Ramadan meal

A trip through the Shomron on Ramadan, when Muslims fast all day, and eat after dark, means food places are shut in the morning, but fires get going in late afternoon.

Internet project shows Arab names of towns which were Jewish, used same names

On our last stop before returning to Jerusalem, Michal Eshed shared her Eretz IL research. She has found sources for hundreds of locations with Arab names that were built on top of Jewish sites, where the Hebrew source names were used and translated to Arabic.

Memorial wall in Shomron for fallen

Near the Shomron Community Council building where Eshel shared her power point presentation, is this memorial plaza.

Police checking cars near Ramallah after IDF soldier was mortally wounded

Our bus was stopped by police not far from Ramallah on our return to Jerusalem. Traffic was backed up the other way. We had heard a soldier had been critically wounded.  The police were checking cars, looking for someone. Sadly the young soldier died from his head wound.

The Shomron’s “checkerboard of governance” is complicated. Seven stops on a day trip are like a drop in the bucket. One blog post only provides a small piece of the picture..

Land in Shomron seen from Itamar

I thought to close with a bit of the view overlooking Itamar in the Shomron.

More photos from day can be seen HERE

Interested ro see for yourself? Let me know and I will introduce you to those who want to share the beauty of Eretz Yisrael.