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Palestinian labourers building new apartments in Beit-El.
Photo by Rhonda Spivak

View of Ramallah from Beit-El, with the buffers between the two. The first building with the red roof on the right hand side of the photo next to a parking lot with cars is the PA Ministry of Health.
Photo by Rhonda Spivak

Palestinian workers building in Beit el. They looked away so as not to have their faces photographed since they don't want it broadcast that they are working to build a Jewish settlement.
Photo by Rhonda Spivak

Barbed wire fence separating Beit El from the outlying areas of Ramallah. An UNWRA school is on the other side of the barbed wire. The school has the long grey fence around it.
Photo by Rhonda Spivak

Editor's report: My Visit to Beit El, the Settlement to Which Donald Trump Donated $10,000 and For Which His Envoy David Friedman Raises Money.

by Rhonda Spivak, January 28, 2017

Donald Trump donated $10,000 to the Jewish settlement of Beit El, adjacent to Ramallah,  in 2003 in honour of David Friedman, who he has named to be US Ambassador to Israel. Friedman raises some $2 million per year (according to Ha'aretz) for this settlement in his capacity as the volunteer head of American Friends of Beit El Institutions. 
In 2010, I  visited the settlement of  Beit El,   only a 20 minute drive  across a rocky plateau , north of Jerusalem,  towards the  capital city of the Palestinian Authority, Ramallah.  While the drive isn't long, it takes one well past Israel's security fence, deep into the heart of Samaria (the West Bank).

Founded in the late 1970's by religious Jews, Beit -El is the site of the biblical Bethel, where  according to Jewish tradition the patriarch Jacob fell asleep and dreamt of angels ascending and descending a ladder to heaven.  

I don't know what I expected exactly when I went to Beit El, but I was rather taken aback  to realize that Beit El isn't only near Ramallah—it  has practically merged with Ramallah.  In fact, there was virtually no open space left between this Jewish settlement and the burgeoning Palestinian capital.
Of course, when Beit El was founded  by a handful of  Jewish settler families in the 70's, there wasn't a Palestinian town or village in sight. It may never have dawned on anyone at the time that one day, as each of Ramallah and Beit El grew, the two would converge on each other.
Ramallah is in "Area A,"  as designated  by the Oslo Agreement, meaning that it is land under full Palestinian control.   While Ramallah's inhabitants numbered 12,000 just after 1967, today it  has a population of about 57,000.  Beit-El, which is in "Area C," where Israel retains full control, now has almost 6500 people.   With each passing year,  Beit -El  has  grown down the hill, while Ramallah,  has  grown steadily towards it. 




Standing from my vantage point in Beit El, I had a panoramic view of Ramallah , where Mahmoud Abbas has been President for  12 years and his two sons have monopolized much of PA trade, by peddled influence to win major contracts in the West Bank or serve as middlemen in foreign deals, particularly with the United States. (For an eye opening report on this see


David Bedein's investigation on how humanitarian aid to the Palestinin authority has been embezzled for personal gain: )


As Mary, an American Christian living in Ramallah, who did not want to give her last name, told me in 2010, " Ramallah is a place where some Palestinians have made  lots of money, and yet other Palestinians aren't any better off than they were."

After visiting Beit-El, I realized why Israel couldn't possibly try to include the settlement within Israel's security fence.  Geography doesn't allow it.  If there ever is to be an independent Palestinian State ,  Beit- El  would be a settlement that Palestinians would want to be evacuated. It's buildings could be given to Palestinian refugees as compensation in lieu of them returning to homes in pre-67 Israel.  Beit-El would then effectively become a neighborhood of Ramallah. 



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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.