ELI, West Bank — Among the most ardent advocates of labeling products made in Israeli settlements are Gedaliah and Elisheva Blum, American-born religious Jews raising four children high on a hilltop here, in the heart of what most of the world envisions as the future Palestinian state.OK, so now I feel guilty.
The Blums have since 2009 run a website promoting small businesses — mechanics, real estate brokers, caterers, etc. — in the settlements generally viewed as illegal under international law, and last fall they unveiled an online boutique selling settler art. Their approach is an attempted antidote to the “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions” movement that has been gaining ground lately — buy local, invest, celebrate.
“We wanted to use that same tool everybody else is using against us, for us,” said Mr. Blum, 35.
...Their operation is admittedly small bore and symbolic. The “Orange Pages” — the color is taken from the campaign opposing the 2005 evacuation of Gaza Strip settlements — gets 1,000 hits a day. It lists 2,000 businesses, 700 of which pay about $14 a month for more prominent play. Mrs. Blum, who is 30, said some settler leaders told her “don’t promote us, just keep quiet,” but that only a handful of companies had ever declined to be listed.
The new art boutique has sold a dozen prints and one original, totaling $4,500. Profits are put into the Orange Pages — as Mr. Blum put it, “a man from Alabama buys a painting from Hebron and enables a plumber from Shilo to get more exposure.”
Like many settlers, the Blums think Israel should annex the West Bank.
“If you created a time machine and you went back 2,000 years, the center of Jewish life was here, it was Judea and Samaria, it wasn’t Tel Aviv,” Mr. Blum said, using the biblical names for the territory. “If we don’t want to fight for this land — I mean fight as in living and building — we’re erasing our history.”
Mrs. Blum moved at age 5 to Efrat, a settlement south of Jerusalem. Mr. Blum grew up secular in New Jersey, and came to Israel in 2000 on the first free trip for young diaspora Jews run by Birthright. When he came back with Birthright in 2003, she was one of two Israeli volunteers greeting the plane with rugelach from the famed Marzipan bakery. He decided that day they should marry.
They run the websites from their modest home, where Mrs. Blum’s paintings — of an archway in Safed and a Kabbalistic interpretation of creation — adorn the walls and the children, ages 2, 4, 6 and 8, wander in and out.
“The message for our children is, you see something wrong, you fix it,” she said. “We saw a boycott, we see injustice, then you do something about it. Even if it’s just one little baby step.”
Because I interviewed the Blums nearly a year ago and I had never edited the video for the blog! (Although I did mention them last October when the English version of their website went online.)
Now that they are newsmakers, it is only right for me to try to make up for it.
Here they are in a house in Eli that they were renting at the time, talking about what life is like as Jews living in Judea and Samaria.