Faith Pulls Jewish Family to West Bank

Article excerpt

Byline: Jeff Wright The Register-Guard

As an Orthodox Jew living in Los Angeles, Zachariah Goldman decided to heed the government's warnings of possible terrorist attacks and moved his family last fall to a safer place: Eugene.

Renting a home on the south side of town, Goldman and his wife, Ora, seemed to have found a quiet community in sync with their lifestyle of home births, organic foods, meditation and recycling.

"We're not hippies, but we are into the psychological and spiritual aspects of the human potential movement," says Zachariah Goldman, 31. "There are many ways we fit in with Eugene."

But now, their books are again packed as the Goldmans and their three young children prepare to move again - this time to Bet El, one of an estimated 170 Jewish settlements in the occupied territories of Israel.

First settled in 1977, Bet El is now a community of nearly 900 families. It's located about a mile north of the city of Ramallah, site of some of the worst fighting and killing in recent years.

The West Bank is home to an estimated 2 million Palestinians and 380,000 Jews. The Jewish settlements are widely regarded as an obstacle to President Bush's "road map" to peace in the Middle East, and are officially opposed by the United Nations and others who contend that they violate international law.

Previously a part of Jordan, the West Bank has been occupied by Israel since the Six-Day War of 1967. An estimated 2,400 Palestinians and 800 Israelis have been killed since the latest Palestinian intifada, or revolt, erupted in September 2000.

For the Goldmans, the decision to move there is grounded in religious conviction and pragmatism. It's not about moving to a more dangerous spot in the world, they say, but to a place where they expect to find spiritual nourishment and personal support.

"We're not picking the West Bank to make a political statement to George Bush," Zachariah Goldman says. "It's about finding a community that feels right to us."

He acknowledges that many regard his views as politically incorrect, even radical: A two-state solution, he says, "is not realistic and is not going to happen. It's a no-go. Most Palestinians want Jews out of the (West Bank) area and most Jews don't want to leave, at least not entirely."

That kind of thinking is "extremely destructive" in the view of most mainstream Jews, says Irwin Noparstak, co-chairman of Eugene's Jewish Community Relations Council. The council supports a two-state solution, "and to accomplish that, the settlements have to be abandoned," he says. "So the last thing needed is to increase the settlements."

Adding settlements now, Noparstak says, "puts a tremendous drain on both the Israeli and Palestinian economies and perpetuates war instead of peace."

The Goldmans, of course, don't see it that way. The two had different religious upbringings in Los Angeles, but came to similar perspectives on their religion: Zachariah is the son and grandson of Orthodox rabbis. …