One hundred Israelis and Palestinians gathered in a Succah belonging to the chief foreign envoy of the settler movement in what was touted as a “celebration of coexistence” in defiance of the Palestinian Authority, which last year arrested four men for attending a similar party with their Jewish neighbors.
Local Palestinian leaders from half a dozen cities and towns in the area attended the event hosted in the West Bank town of Efrat in the Succah of Oded Revivi, who also serves as the town’s mayor, along with Efrat Chief Rabbi and founder Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, IDF head of the Judea and Samaria Division Brigadier General Nir Aran, and Commander Morris Chen, head of the local police district. After last year’s arrests, Revivi pledged not to reveal the identities of the Palestinian visitors.
Revivi explained that the Jewish holiday of Succot was an ideal time to host such a gathering, since it requires extraordinary measures such as living in a temporary dwelling booth – or Succah – for a week. Peace too, the settler leader explained, takes extraordinary steps.
“We will only have peace once we have good neighborly relations,” Revivi told Breitbart Jerusalem.
“Instead of counting Jews in Judea like sinful calories, the international community should be looking to us to learn about coexistence,” he said, referring to the West Bank by its biblical name. “Here in our ancestral homeland, we are building bridges of peace daily.”
“The corrupt Palestinian Authority is constantly trying to silence us, but they will never succeed. Last year they arrested my Palestinian guests for the crime of drinking coffee with Jews. This year we met in secret, but we still met and will continue to meet until the voice of the large sane majority is heard loud and clear. Peace will not come through forced separation, peace will come by bringing people together, from the bottom-up,” the mayor added.
During the Jewish holiday last year, four Palestinians were arrested for visiting Revivi’s Succah as punishment for “normalization,” or fraternizing with the “enemy.”
At the time, one of the arrested, 41-year-old Noman Othman, said that although he had worked in the Efrat settlement for years, this was the first time he had been invited as a guest. “This is good,” he told the Washington Post. “Our relationship is evolving.”
Othman said he bore no hard feelings regarding the expansion of settlements, which the Obama administration had slammed as “an obstacle to peace,” the report noted.
Othman also stated that he had no problem with Efrat, home to some 10,000 Jews – many of whom are also American citizens. He said that the establishment of a Palestinian state should not affect the Jews living in Efrat who “should stay on their land” – even if that land becomes part of a Palestinian state.
Earlier in the week, an Israeli official speaking on condition of anonymity said the construction of nearly 4,000 homes in the settlements was set to be approved.
Revivi responded with a mixture of hope and cynicism, saying, “Announcements are nice, but bricks and mortar are what is needed.”