I remember the first time I took the long, winding bus ride to the site of the Judean settlement my family lived on for seven years. During the ride, all I could think of was what my mother would say if she knew where her daughter was going to live.

With each long stretch of uninhabited, barren land we passed, interrupted only by an occasional primitive Bedouin village or a lone, wandering donkey or sheep, I was feeling that in every sense of the phrase, I had gone too far. Within two years, I had become observant, gotten married, moved to Israel and had a baby. But this ride, taking my little family out beyond "the sticks," was the first time I wanted to slow down - maybe even go back and rethink my decision.

All I could think of was what my mother would sayI knew that the land I was traveling through was Judea, but I also knew that that same land was what the rest of the world called the West Bank. The thought that I was going to become a West Bank woman terrified me and made me increasingly nauseous.

The settlement was about a fifty-minute drive from Jerusalem. When you had driven past the last point where you'd think Jews would dare to make a settlement, then you were probably getting close to it. On a clear night, lights from the Hilton Hotel in Amman, Jordan, were plainly visible from our settlement.

In June of 1981, the Jewish Agency, in cooperation with Yeshiva Aish HaTorah, sponsored and founded the settlement of Maalei Amos. We were among the first ten families. Water, food supplies, gas and electricity could not always be counted on in those days.

But the pioneer life in the Land of Israel's Judean frontier taught us to appreciate the basic necessities we had always taken for granted. I can almost hear the squeals of delight from children and adults when the weekly milk and bread delivery truck arrived. Each time the electric generator went on the blink at night, another knot was being formed in the community bond, though we didn't realize it at the time. Nearly everyone would come out of their homes, and enjoy the only light available - from the moon and the multitude of stars above us. It never failed to remind me that I was part of something awesome.

The spirit of Judaism felt alive with hopeBefore long, we were one of thirty eight families, with about a hundred and ten children. We lived in pre-fab, trailer-like houses and eventually had a synagogue, mikveh, girls' and boys' schools (through fifth grade), a small health clinic, a "general store," a recreation center, playground, atiny library and daily van service to and from Jerusalem. Sometimes, when I heard myself describing the place, I would almost feel like a character from Fiddler on the Roof. But there was a striking difference. In the small, mythical, beaten-down town of Anatevka, the fire of Judaism was slowly being dimmed. In our little town, the spirit of Judaism felt alive with hope.

It must have been about five years after its founding that Maalei Amos had its first wedding. Those Judean hills had not witnessed a Jewish wedding for thousands of years. Four of the oldest boys in our little community held high a golden velvet chuppah (wedding canopy). Anyone who could play an instrument brought it and played. We prepared the wedding meal in just two busy days, and the children made decorations that transformed the recreation center into a festive wedding hall.

Gathered around the chuppah, I felt a strong sense of why we had come to live in those remote and barren hills. The hills were slowly turning green already. Maybe they had needed the nourishment of Jewish children singing psalms, the songs of Torah learning, and voices rising in song to welcome a bride and groom.

For seven years we lived at Maalei Amos - seven years indelibly impressed on my memory. The Intifada, the Palestinian uprising, took us all by surprise that seventh year. Suddenly, our next-door neighbor was hit by a Molotov cocktail; the community van was enflamed by a homemade bomb. Another resident lost his teeth and had seventeen stitches over his eye when he was attacked by Arabs. My daughter's schoolmate, on her way to class one morning, had her glasses smashed into her eyes. On every car and bus ride to and from our village, we knew that the possibility of danger was high. But most surprising of all, the world-wide media portrayed us as criminals for living there. Public opinion suddenly turned sharply against us, demanding that our land, our homes, our hills, be given to the Arabs.

Our community was set on fire by ArabsMy children, now grown, remember the Friday evening, just before candle lighting, when our community was set on fire by Arabs, and they remember how the residents worked together to put out the raging flames. Maalei Amos remains behind barbed wire, but someday the joyous songs from the Judean hills will find their long and winding way past all the fear, to hoped-for harmony.

Jerusalem is surrounded by mountains, and G‑d surrounds His nation (Psalms 125).

Author's Note: Maalei Amos is still a small yishuv in the Gush Etzion area of the Judean Hills, with approximately fifty families in the community. The residents no longer live in the "caravans" (trailers) that we lived in then; they have built homes there. My family left Maalei Amos in the summer of 1988.