Life on Itamar by Leah Goldsmith (written in 2000)
Yishuv Itamar is located in the Gav Hahar region, or literally, “the Hump of the Mountain”. It is hill country, tremendously big, picturesque and mysterious, varied with long and wide valleys who resemble a mosaic coat of many colors ranging from pea to deep jade greens and chestnut browns in the winter and spring months. In the summertime the colors are dry, like the colors of Rebbeca’s jug, in which she served Eliezer and the camels in Babylon. There are springs and wells in the hills. The bounty stemming from the blessing given to Joesph….”The blessings of the father are potent above the blessings of my progenitors to the utmost bounds of the everlasting hills”(Vayechi 49). The tribunal portions of Ephraim and Menashe, the sons of Joseph run across these highlands. In every direction that one looks, the views are emanated with authentic biblical greatness and Jewish nobility. This is the chief feature of the landscape, of your life in it, and you are struck by the feeling of having lived here in the past. When we made aliyah to Itamar 15 years ago by Divine Providence, a strong vibe pervaded the air- here I am, where I ought to be. Gav Hahar is crowned by two noble peaks that rise 3,000 feet above the surrounding country, the mountains of the Blessing and the Curse- Har Gerizzim and Har Eval. They sometimes resemble twin Mount Sinais simmering in a purple Holy haze of splendor, the gray, jagged rocks breaking through on the Eval side, and majestic forests waving on the Gerizzim. You cannot imagine why G-d created these mountains for any reason in the world than just to be the gate, the very shoulders of the Land of Israel, with Shechem (literally-shoulder) resting in the valley. In the winter, the winds blow incessantly here. They strike the sides of the mountains and hills and blow against the windowpanes of our homes. Sometimes the houses shudder from it. The clouds, which travel with the wind, release the blessings of the dew and the bounty, the blessings of Joseph. Huge droplets of rain pour down the little streets of the yishuv and form little temporary streams and pools. The sky can become very gray and dark with a range of gray clouds and you remember Noach sheltering his family in the ark. In fact, the most rain falls in these parts. That is the way it usually is, when the blessings are given. When Joseph was thrown again into the pit, the skies suddenly cleared and the grounds await It is a drought year. But, even so, the fields are full of scarlet poppies and blue pansies. The deer run free in these parts and skip from hill to dale. Interestingly enough, not many Jews have come to resettle this Land. It is still a hidden place to most. In all Gav Hahar there are no more than 500 families. They are spread upon these ancient mountains, Harey Kedem, sparsely. There are 4 yishuvim, Itamar, Bracha – situated on the mountain of the Blessing, Yitzhar, and Elon Moreh. Each yishuv has a panorama unique to its position on the “hump of the Mountain”. Elon Moreh sloping off to the north and the famous portion of the daughters of Zlofchad, Yitzhar, to the west and a breathtaking view of the Great Sea, Bracha- upon the whole of Gav Hahar, and Itamar to the east, to the Jordan. Before the recent intifada AlAksa, some curious Tel-Avivers would drive out in their 4×4’s to catch the breath of this land that reaches beyond time and space. That has stopped now. We, the local settlers, are inquisitive about any vehicle that is not a bulletproof bus on these roads. At times, life on the yishuv seems like that of a hermit, with the stillness of the night sometimes so out of the ordinary. But, all of the time you can feel the overshadowed existence of the local natives, much like the Canaani, the Perizzi and the Chitti, running parallel with your own but on a completely different plane. You can’t help but wonder, when will this end? The echoes of our ancestors, the echoes of the screams of Joseph call out from the nearby pit, and you can hear “Ode Yoseph Chay”. History and the future whisper in the spring wind. They console. They inspire. It is only a matter of time that Joseph returns. “And you shall dwell in the Land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your G-d”.