The mere word is enough to bring out the strongest emotions in all of us. Disgust. Sympathy. Anger. Frustration.

The settler situation in Israel is enough to send normally calm people into tirades. Quiet people into shouting matches.

When I lived in America, I never quite knew what to make of settlers. I was confused by the whole situation. But I knew one thing: they were extreme. And I was scared of that.

So when I came to Hebron to cover the Beit Hashalom (House of Peace) protest, I had no idea what to expect.

Beit Hashalom is a house in Hebron that was bought by a family in America that claims to be direct descendants of former inhabitants of the house. Nine families have moved in since the house was bought,.

A week ago, however, the Israeli High Court ruled that the families in Beit Hashalom had to leave.

The settlers refused to accept this. And they meant to protest. To stay in the house. And this is why I came to Hebron. I had to see this for myself.

The rally started in Kiryat Arba, a town bordering Hebron. The stadium filled with people. It was soon clear that everyone there were settlers, with a few exceptions.

As speaker after speaker came up, I could feel the energy mount. After each rousing speech protesting the injustice of the Israeli government, people clapped, hooted, and stood to show their support. The energy pulsated through the room.

A woman came up and showed a video of the transaction between the buyer of the house and the previous Palestinian owner. She played audio of the man admitting that he had sold the house. Proof after proof was brought. Each piece of evidence tore into the energy more and more.

Right before leaving, I heard the last speaker say: "We will not just enter Beit Hashalom, but all of Hebron, and all of Israel."

What had I gotten myself into?

Finally it was time to go. A van blasting music with lyrics that said, "Hebron is our home!" drove towards Beit Hashalom, followed by hundreds of supporters. People sang and danced on their way there. There was a feeling of festivity in the air. What happened to the frustration? I was confused.

When we finally arrived at Beit Hashalom, people intermingled happily. Grins and smiles surrounded me. It almost felt like a party.

Mezuzahs were put up as the entire crowd looked on. People cheered as each one was put up. Afterwards, groups of people broke out into song and dance. Others looked on and smiled.

As I left the room, I had to find out more about what was going on. I needed to hear it straight from people's lips. But everyone I talked to refused to talk. The moment they saw my voice recorder, the smiles disappeared, the mouths shut, and they shook their heads. They didn't trust me.

I finally found someone who was willing to speak to me. A man wearing black and white. A black hat. And stickers. All over himself.

He talked quickly and energetically. He, like most of the speakers, emphasized that, "It is a fight for our very survival here in Israel. Whether we stay here or not."

Suddenly, a man walked up and interrupted. He looked at me suspiciously, inquiring as to what I was doing. I suddenly found myself surrounded by about eight settlers, who all eyed me curiously.

I tried explaining that I just wanted to hear the stories. I worked for a Jewish website,

The man nodded. Most of the settlers disappeared. He turned to the man covered in stickers and explained that all the journalists would take pictures of him. That the picture would be all over the world. And all the settlers would seem like extremists.

Sounded familiar.

With a frustration that reminded me of the rally the man said, "If they see a weakness, they will take advantage of it. We are in a struggle over every little thing."

The man's name was Noam Arnon. He was a spokesman for the settlers in Hebron. He began explaining to me why the moment I took out a voice recorder, people looked at me so suspiciously: "The media is anti-Jewish. Anti-Semitic. Pro-terror."

As he explained his belief that the Jews of Beit Hashalom were being mistreated, that all the settlers were misrepresented, it slowly became clear why there was so much frustration in all the settlers' voices.

There was a feeling of pent up energy. The settlers simply felt voiceless. Despite the journalists that surrounded them, they could not speak to them. Despite the fact that every single move a settler makes is recorded and watched, they felt unheard. Even though they lived in the Holy Land, they felt hated by their own people.

They felt alone.

I walked outside for a breath of fresh air.

The moment I walked outside, though, I suddenly saw boys, all looking around thirteen to fifteen, running down the road. Outside of the perimeter that the soldiers had set up. I decided to follow them.

I heard chanting. Yelling.

Halfway down the road, the sound of bullets being shot filled the air.

More yelling.

More bullets.

As I ran away from the sound of bullets being shot, someone looked at me and asked, "Why are you running away? Go back!"

Only in Israel do people run towards bullets.

I later found out that the boys had gone through Hebron and sang and chanted. Palestinian boys came from their homes and threw rocks at the settler boys. The soldiers shot into the air to disperse everyone.

As I looked around after the incident, I began to realize how many of the protesters were teenagers. No more than fifteen. Girls and boys.

As the night progressed, the teenagers became more and more restless. After the initial excitement, the night had become calm and quiet. It was obvious that, more than anything, the teenagers simply felt as if they wanted their voices to be heard.

And so every now and then they would break the stillness in the air. They tried to get around the police over and over again. Over and over again they were stopped.

One boy began screaming at a soldier: "How could you do this to Jews? Why are you stopping your own people? What side are you on? I am your brother!"

The soldier, almost as young as the boy, looked at him with an intense sadness. He was on the verge of tears.

When I returned to my yeshiva in Jerusalem the next day, someone asked me if my experience had changed my views on settlers and Israel in general.

I thought for a moment. And I realized that the words that I was used to hearing, such as "extremist" and "fanatic" seemed to dissolve away. The settlers were simply people.

It quickly became obvious that more than any other word, "frustrated" described the settlers best. Frustrated that their government ignores them. Frustrated that the world misunderstands them. But, most of all, frustrated that their own people have rejected them.

There was a moment, however, when the frustration melted away. As the settlers made their way towards the house, no one seemed angry or upset or ignored.


Because there was something happening. Because the settlers were literally stepping forward. They no longer felt as if they existed within a state of stasis. The simple act of singing, of chanting, broke down their barriers. Despite the fact that they felt the whole world hated them, for a moment they felt as if they could sing to everyone, even their enemies.

Now, imagine if someone was actually listening.