Land of the Chases / by Dan Weingrod


 In Hebrew this sign says "Eretz HaMirdaphim". In English it translates as "Land of the Chases". But like so much in this region, meaning is tangled in history, religion and strife. 

During the 70's, when Israel's occupation in the West Bank seemed to be marked by a halo of innocence from the Six Day War, terror incursions would take place from Jordan. Crossing a relatively unfortified border at the Jordan river terrorists would cross the flat Jordan Valley and quickly end up in these hills. When they were detected, and they very often were, army teams would set out to chase, capture or kill them. After some time these chases, mirdaphim, became almost an event. With enough fore-knowledge interested parties, including high ranking officers, could join the mirdaph and participate in the thrill of the chase.

But there's another deeper set of meanings that can be ascribed to these words. Mirdaph comes from the Hebrew word "Rodef" which can be defined as:

"A Rodef in traditional Jewish law, is one who is "pursuing" another to murder him or her. According to Jewish law, such a person must be killed by any bystander after being warned to stop and refusing."

This definition of Rodef was perverted by right wing pro-settlement rabbis and used by Yigal Amir, the assassin of Yitzchak Rabin, as religious justification for his actions. 

The sign sits there like some grim Ozymandias, celebrating and threatening at the same time. Welcoming you to the land where those who chased in the end became the rodef . An awful nostalgic beacon of the days that were, and the future that settlements and occupation created.