Led by Executive Director Helen Freedman, Americans for a Safe Israel (AFSI) returned to Ariel as part of their semi-annual delegations to Israel on October 22, 2013. AFSI is a Zionist organization in the United States that makes it a point to visit and strengthen Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria.
It’s only appropriate that AFSI visits Ariel, given its emphasis on a “safe” Israel. Ariel was recently ranked as the safest city in Israel, and the reasons for which were highlighted throughout the tour. While Ariel is widely known to be in a region of conflict, it’s actually a place where Arabs and Jews work together peacefully.
Participants learned about the coexistence between Jews and Arabs, with more than half the work force at the Ariel and Barkan Industrial park consisting of Arabs from nearby villages. They had the opportunity to speak with Rasheed, a warehouse manager at the Lipsky plastics factory, who discussed the favorable working conditions and spirit of harmony in which they work.
AFSI witnessed the growth of Ariel, celebrating the new housing projects going up, but one project stood out. Along the southern end of Ariel sits a row of buildings dedicated to the Netzarim community which was displaced from Gaza in 2005. AFSI has followed their progress from the time they found refuge at Ariel University‘s dorms and continuing to the construction of their caravan village. Participants looked out to the road leading to their forthcoming permanent homes, hopeful that the road of their tragic displacement will reach its end soon.
The group finished the tour at Ariel University with a briefing by Prof. Alex Bligh, Director of the Middle East Research Center, who discussed some of his successes and challenges in the face of international forces that seek to marginalize Ariel University for its location in Samaria. They enjoyed falafel and shwarma at Ariel’s main commercial center before the next stop on their tour.