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Thursday, February 07, 2008

Our Friends: Hana Julian and Family

"Arrivals: From Brooklyn to Arad"
by Yocheved Miriam Russo JPOST

Hana (52) and Sinai (57) Julian
Birthplace: Hana, Hamden, Connecticut; Sinai, Los Angeles
Aliya date: July 2003
Occupation: Hana, journalist; Sinai, Chabad rep
Family status: married, seven children

When Hana and Sinai Julian made aliya with Nefesh B'Nefesh in 2003, instead of staying with relatives, going to an absorption center or a rented apartment, they and four of their seven children went directly from the airport to the "unrecognized" Beduin village of Dragot - Drijag in Arabic. For the first three weeks of their lives as Israelis, the Julians lived with the 800 members of the Abu Hamad tribe in the Negev.

Since the 1960s government policy dictates that the country's 185,000 semi-nomadic Beduin must be moved into official "recognized" villages, so they can be provided with water, sewers and other utilities. About half the Beduin have refused the relocation effort, preferring to live in unrecognized encampments such as Dragot, which has no maintained roads, postal service or utilities, except for a sizable generator providing electricity.

For new olim, beginning life in a Beduin village sounds strange, but both the Julians and their host, Younis Abu Hamad, say they regard each other as family. "Jews and Beduin can live together without problems," Sinai Julian says. "We both have the same roots, going back to our father Abraham. It's time for us all to come together."

The Julians met and married in New York in 1990, a second marriage for both. "We had five different mutual friends trying to get us together," Hana says. Born in Hamden, a suburb of New Haven, Hana grew up in a secular Zionist family that encouraged aliya. "I'm adventurous," she says. "I've done a little bit of everything, worked as a firefighter, a bluegrass singer with a band, a journalist, a director of a news bureau and a radio broadcaster, but I'm really a certified social worker. My first marriage didn't work out, although we had two wonderful children. I'd already become observant through Chabad, and was living in Crown Heights when I met Sinai."

Sinai was born into a similarly secular Zionist family in Los Angeles. "Sinai is my birth name - I went through Los Angeles public schools with that name," he says. Like Hana, Sinai had been married before, and had a son. He'd spent time at Kibbutz Gezer in the 1970s, but had returned to the US. "I'd planned just a short trip to wrap up loose ends, but I got stuck for 17 years."

The Julians have four children together, and three from prior marriages. "My oldest daughter is married with two kids in Brooklyn, and my son is in college in Brooklyn," Hana says. "Sinai's son is married with a baby in Jerusalem. He learns in kollel."

Aliya was part of the Julians' marriage agreement, but was deferred, again and again, due to various family issues. The breakthrough came when Hana's recently married daughter visited Israel and became very ill while touring the Dead Sea.

"A Beduin tour guide had been showing the kids the sights," Hana recalls. "As it happened, he was the one who called me in New York, telling me my daughter needed me. I came, and while I was here, he also drove me around. One day Younis asked me, 'What are you doing in New York?' I was a social worker, I explained, but he said, 'No, what are you doing in New York? You're religious. God says Israel is your home. What are you doing in New York?' When God sends a Beduin messenger, we figured we'd better pay attention."

Things moved quickly after that. "I was selling insurance," Sinai says. "We were broke. But I figured if we were gonna be broke, we might as well be broke in Israel. I wanted to live in Jerusalem, Hana wanted a rural community, then Younis suggested Arad. We'd never heard of it, but he said it was a very nice community, with wonderful people, about 10 kilometers from his own village of Dragot. He even offered to find us a house in Arad, which he did - but it wasn't quite ready when we arrived. That's why we stayed with them.

"We made a pilot trip before we came, during the Pessah season. We looked at Arad and decided we liked it. We spent two weeks with Younis and his family then, too, and moved to a hotel for the actual week of Pessah. By that time, Younis and his whole family felt very much like our own family."

Younis, his wife, his son and a cousin came to meet the Julians, participating in the official NBN welcoming ceremony. "They were escorted in, with special clearance from the Shin Bet," Sinai says. "We went from the airport to Dragot."

In Dragot, the Julians moved into a new home that Younis had built for his son. "The son hadn't married or moved in yet, so everything was brand new and kosher," Sinai says. "Our kids loved it - they slept on the roof, where it was cooler, and ran all day with the Beduin kids with the sheep. I davened outside in the garden. We respected their traditions and they respected ours. We were treated just like part of the family."

"I'd get up in the morning to help make the breakfast pita," Hana says. "The women get up at 6 a.m., the men at 7, so one morning, I came out wearing a very long T-shirt, down past my knees. I didn't think it mattered - there were only women around. But Younis's wife was shocked - she sent me back into the house. 'You have to get dressed,' she said. 'You can't come out here like that. It's not modest!' In many ways, our customs are very much alike.

"We felt perfectly safe in that village. We'd have been in more danger in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv - let alone New York."

Today, the Julian family lives in a sunny, spacious home on a quiet cul-de-sac, where they have frequent guests. In addition to their two dogs and five cats, for a time they also had a white donkey named Gandolf, who insisted he belonged inside on Shabbat.

"Excuse the mess," Sinai says, gesturing. "We have 25 children in four bodies."

Hana and Sinai say they're "reasonably fluent" in Hebrew. Everyone learned some Arabic in Dragot, but the language spoken at home is English.

"When we came, Kobi was 12, Esther was eight, Golda was six and Zalman was five. In the beginning, at school, the children struggled with Hebrew," Hana says. "It took about five months to get some tutoring help from the government - they really aren't supportive of aliya to the South. Now, the kids are fine - among themselves they speak Hebrew, but I insist they speak English to me, so they don't lose that language."

"At the moment, we have mostly Israeli friends," Hana says. "The Anglo community in Arad isn't huge, but we have plenty of English-speaking friends, too."

"It's tight. We're struggling."

Sinai commutes to the Dead Sea Mall. "I work for Chabad, encouraging men to put on tefillin, distributing literature and Shabbat candles. In terms of satisfaction, it's the best job I've ever had - but the worst in pay."

"I freelance, plus I'm an editor and writer for Arutz Sheva," Hana says. "I do radio newscasts once a week. Beyond that, I'm also the Ann Landers of the Alzheimer's set - I write an advice and information column for Alzheimer's Weekly."

Hana: "I'm American Israeli, but I'm also a Jew."

Sinai: "I'm an American Jew who lives in Israel. I have to go to the States next month, so I e-mailed some friends, 'Are you ready for a visit from an Israeli?' As I wrote it, I thought, 'Is that me?'"

"We're Lubavitcher Hassidim."

"We love Arad, and plan to stay here. We'd like to buy the house we're renting, fix up the yard, especially."

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  • At 4:52 AM , Blogger Arnold Harris said...

    Hana Levi Julian's data on Jewish population growth in Judea, Samaria and east Jerusalem confirm what I had already known; but the updates throuth the end of 2007, showing a steady 5.2% growth rate, are highly gratifying.

    The fact is, nobody ever shall succeed in removing these Jews from their homes, villages, cities and settlement blocs. And if such a population growth expansion rate is maintained, in about 12-13 years there will be more than a million Jews in these redeemed parts of the Land of Israel.

    As a trained urban and regional planner, I have found that American-style urban sprawl is one of the most effective and permanent ways of eating up formerly open spaces, turning exurban communities into urban suburbs, and creating new political realities, all without much effort.

    As this process progresses, the facts on the ground will make it much easier to reduce the size of the Arab population of these territories.

    As it becomes clear that Judea and Samaria are permenent and that because of this, no Arab state is feasible or even possible in Judea and Samaria, it will be easier to convince Arabs in communities that will be surrounded by these settlement networks -- one after another -- that their future will be better elsewhere. This will enable buy-outs at reasonable cost. For those Arabs who remain, possibly some arrangement can be made to give them permanent Trans-Jordanian citizenship with resident rights in Judea and Samaria so long as they agree to cause no trouble for Israel.

    The large Arab population centers will take longer. The local authorities of Ramallah, Nablus, Qalqilya, Tulkarem, Jenin, Bethlehem and Hebron, following Israeli absorption of most of their hinterlands, may more readily acquiesce to Jewish communities built within their communities. Each of these will be an additional Kiryat Arba sort of city within a city, but with probably smoother relationships with their urban neighbors than the original model in Hebron. This will make it easier for the Jewish communities, with their dominance of the economy, to buy up increasingly significant portions of these cities and to spread still further. I suspect that the local leadership of Jericho, always looking for tourist and investment money, will more readily agree to such an arrangement than the other Arab municipalities.

    As for the remaining refugee camps in Judea and Samaria still under UNO control, these can be shut down at an appropriate time, their administrators deported, and the residents either shipped across the river into Trans-Jordan or given assistance to settle outside the Arab world altogether. But they will in fact be dispersed well away from Israel's borders.

    I have not commented here on Golan or Gaza. Golan is stable, and it is vital for Israel's security against Syria and to protect the Galil water supply. Nor is any kind of formal peace with that country either likely or possible in the foreseeable future. It is in Israel's interest to build up Golan's Jewish population, its agricultural economy, and to harden its defenses.

    Gaza is significant in that nobody really wants to annex it. The hostile population work in Israel's interests; without pacification of Gaza, no "peace" discussion with the Fatah entity in Ramallah can ever be meaningful. Which means the Jewish development of Samaria and Judea will not be seriously interfered with.

    But leaving Gaza's hardened and hateful population in place with Qassem rockets that can rain down on neighboring Israeli cities cannot be permanently tolerated.

    But the time will come when a hostile government in Egypt will try their luck at war with Israel for a fifth time. When that time comes, and Israel mobilizes its armored divisions, mechanized infantry and air power, the Egyptian army will be swept out of the Sinai yet again. But this time, one must hope that the government of Israel will expel the Gaza population -- including its refugee camps -- across the Sinai and even across the Suez canal. They can perpetuate their anti-Jewish hatreds just as easily in the slums of Cairo as they can from within rocket range of Ashkelon.


    Arnold Harris
    Mount Horeb WI USA


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