I had the pleasure of visiting Rabbi Dee in Efrat this week, and received a totally new perspective on what is going on in the area generally referred to as the West Bank.
Efrat started life as a settlement in 1983, peopled significantly by national religious Jews who believed as a matter of religion that they should settle in Judea. It is probably true that had the Arabs made peace immediately after their crushing defeat in 1967 the various settlements and towns in the West Bank might never have been built. However the Arab ability to ignore reality, so carefully fostered by the Western democracies, created a vacuum which the Jews ultimately filled.
The leadership of the charismatic Rabbi Shlomo Riskin from New York and the establishment there of a modern Orthodox yeshiva (which among many others trained both Rabbi Sylvester and Rabbi Dee, both Rabbis of Radlett United Synagogue) caused Efrat to grow significantly.
The areas known in Israel as Judaea and Samaria are actually full of a number of flourishing towns. Maale Adumim and Gilo among others are suburbs of Jerusalem. Towns like Efrat and Gush Etzion are significant centres. Efrat is now a town with a fast-growing population of people who settle there not because of religious or political ideology but because it is a very pleasant place to live, with an extremely good school system and a very broad approach to Judaism in the modern age.
Efrat is surrounded by prosperous Arab villages with quality housing and cars. These Arabs are comfortable and settled being part of Israeli development. The education medical care and Social Security that they receive is superior to anything that the Arabs receive in other areas, let alone Gaza, and they come under the protection of the rule of law in Israel, rather than brutal anarchy.