©2007 Stephen J. Shaner

The Hilltop Youth of Havot Ma'on

oung, attractive, no makeup and hair hidden, she props a broom against the wall near the door. Raised in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, her family and friends thought it was crazy marrying an orthodox man and moving to an illegal outpost settlement in the Judean hills.

At first, the couple slept in a tent. Now theyíre working on a new home; little more than a big room with stairs to a loft but built solid with a massive, exposed wood beam through the ceiling.

Her husbandís become a skilled carpenter and whatís completed so far reflects it. Both have university degrees. She studied sociology. They donít have children yet.

Whenever enough moneyís saved to purchase materials, construction continues. Thick plastic covers holes where windows will be framed in. Asked if worried someone could simply cut the plastic and come into her home in the middle of the night, she shrugs it off. If an Arab (Palestinians are never called Palestinians) wanted to harm them glass wouldnít matter anyway. In fact, she suggests, itís the Arabs who are frightened because they donít know whatís in the forest.

Outside, among the trees, itís early afternoon. The air is fragrant, fresh. A breeze moves the branches. Countless shadows play on fallen pine needles. Electric cable and plastic water pipe run in maze-like fashion on bare ground. They originate down the hill in Maíon and terminate at washing machines, sinks, stereos and light bulbs in the forest.

One small house, where two single men live, has a floor of massive stones, walls and ceiling of warm wood paneling. Itís rustic but cozy, like an alpine cabin at a ski resort. Beer bottles scattered; a camp stove; Hebrew books on a shelf; soft light filtering through windows.

A new synagogue is being built, the foundation started. Cement; poured into the earth.