We are the gate to Jerusalem from the Dead Sea and Jordan Valley, said Benny Kashriel, the settlements mayor, who has pushed the settlements expansion during his three successive terms in office. If we werent here, the Palestinians would string their villages together all the way to Jerusalem.
Meanwhile, Palestinian advocates insist that international law requires that the settlement, like others in the West Bank, be dismantled. And they dismiss Israeli security concerns as unjustified, given Israels undisputed military preeminence in the region.
Today, 32,000 Israelis live in Maale Adumim. Most of them work in Jerusalem, a 20-minute commute. And like the Meyers, most of them were drawn to the relatively inexpensive housing. In Maale Adumim, thanks to generous government subsidies, a three-bedroom apartment costs about $150,000, while in Jerusalem it can cost more than twice as much.
The settlement boasts two shopping malls, hospitals, swimming pools and tennis courts as well as a $2 million Peace Library. There are also 100 companies and small factories in an industrial zone inside Maale Adumim. There used to be a Burger King, until an international boycott forced the multinational company to withdraw its branches from settlements in the Occupied Territories. A local burger shop replaced it.
The air is clean, the schools are among the countrys best and the crime rate is low. This city is so quiet that it has only one traffic light, said Jacob Richman, a soft-spoken internet consultant who runs the citys unofficial web site. Like the Meyers, Mr. Richman said he wasnt specifically looking to live in a settlement when he moved to Maale Adumim 16 years ago. I was looking for affordable housing very close to Jerusalem with a lot of green spaces. What has kept him here, a bachelor surrounded by families, is the community spirit, he said.
He enjoys the Purim parades when children and some adults dress up in costumes to celebrate the holiday commemorating an ancient Jewish victory. We [also] had a snow day where they imported snow from Mount Hermon, part of the Golan Heights that Israel won from Syria and continues to occupy. People move here, like it and tell other people, Mr. Richman said. They find it an attractive place to live.
Mayor Kashriel said he is most proud of the harmony among the diverse mix of residents in Maale Adumim. About 40 percent consider themselves Orthodox or fully observant. The remaining 60 percent either consider themselves secular or attend synagogue but also drive on the Shabbat (Sabbath). Most of the residents are Sephardic Jews, who trace their origins to Arab countries. The Ashkenazic Jews, who hail from Eastern Europe, are a minority. Unlike other such communities, there is no turf fighting in Maale Adumim, the mayor said.
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Tags: Jerusalem Gaza Strip/West Bank Occupied Territories