Event Held to Aid West Bank Settlers

The Associated Press
Monday, February 26, 2007; 3:59 AM

TEANECK, N.J. -- As protesters chanted and waved signs outside, roughly 250 American Jews received information on buying homes in the West Bank during an event promoted as a way to help Jewish settlers.

Though the U.S. government, Palestinians and the international community see any settlement construction in the West Bank as harmful to Middle East peace efforts, supporters consider it an expression of their faith.

Rabbi Steven Pruzansky of Congregation B'nai Yeshurun, the synagogue where information was distributed Sunday, said people were interested in the houses as investments and possible homes, "as well as to make a public statement that there are Jews in the world who believe, want to send a message that, the land belongs to us, to the Jewish people, and we make that statement without any shame, any hesitation."

Dror Etkes of the Israeli settlement watchdog group Peace Now said he believes it's the first attempt by the Jewish settlement movement to sell homes in settlements in the U.S.

Aaron Levitt, one of about 25 protesters outside Sunday's meeting, said the sales pitch was deliberately inflaming the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"The enemies of the U.S. are able to use the Israeli occupation as a rallying cry," said Levitt, 37, of Queens, N.Y., a member of a group called Jews Against the Occupation.

Police were on site to make sure the protest remained peaceful.

The event was organized by the Israel-based Amana Settlement Movement. Aliza Herbst, a representative from Amana, said the company was turning to North American Jews to buy homes so it can rent them out to young Israeli families for about $250 a month.

A letter from Amana said prices of single-family homes begin at $120,000.

One person who left the Teaneck event with plans on buying was Jack Forgash, 60, of Teaneck, who said he would see the purchase not only as an investment.

"I would consider it generosity, charity, a form of giving somebody a chance to live in a house, not be homeless," said Forgash, who described himself as a business executive.

"I don't see a problem with Jews living there because I recognize the fact that over a million Arabs are living in Israel proper, and they came to be happy with their lives," Forgash said.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2007 The Associated Press