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January 21, 1994 - Image 28

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1994-01-21

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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Getting Off
The Sidelines

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Ozer Schild quit a secure life as Haifa University
president for the uncertainty of the West Bank town
of Ariel.

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n these days when Jewish
settlements are the last place
Israelis want to move to, and
some settlers are thinking
about getting out, Ozer Schild
is an exception —a prominent
exception.
"Thursday, Oct. 14 was my
last day in office as president of
Haifa University. On Friday
morning, Oct. 15, the freighters
came to take our furniture and
we moved in here," Professor
Schild said in a recent interview
from his rented house in Ariel,
the second largest settlement
(pop. 12,000) in the West Bank.
He had another four-year
term ahead of him as president
of one of Israel's seven univer-
sities, but he gave it up. Now he
teaches statistics and does
"what they ask me to do" at
Ariel's College of Judea and
Samaria, waits to assume an
administrative post there, and
also waits while real estate
agents try to sell his apartment
in Haifa so he and his wife Gili
can buy a home in Ariel.
Professor Schild, 62, is an Is-
raeli anomaly. He is a Danish
immigrant, which is rare
enough by itself. Specializing in
social psychology and educa-
tional policy, he is one of the
very few hawks to be found in
the humanities region of Israel's
intellectual world.
While a right-winger on de-
fense and foreign policy, he is a
leftist and a believer in "equal-
ity as a value in itself' with re-
gard to domestic and economic
issues. And now he is one of a

tiny handful of notable Israelis,
recognized leaders in their
fields, who have chosen to live
in the settlements.

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Squarely-built with white
hair, an exacting, European-
bred academic but also a re-
laxed, friendly and voluble man,
Professor Schild does not make
a big deal out of his decision.
"I'm not a firebrand, I'm not a
demonstrator, I don't go around
carrying signs," he said.
Nor has he suddenly become
imbued with a mystical feeling
for the rocky hills of Samaria.
When asked what Arab village
it was that could be seen from
the window of his living room,
Professor Schild said, "I don't
know, I'm not very good at ge-
ography."

He's not a religious man. He
didn't move to the West Bank
to rough it. If he had, he
wouldn't have come to a place
like Arid He wants a nice, com-
fortable home - "I'm not a saint
and I'm not a masochist," he
said.
What it was that drew him
out of the president's office of
Haifa University was a feeling,
shared by his wife, that it was
time to "get off the sidelines."
They had first thought about
moving to a settlement when
Gush Emunim started up in the
mid-1970s, but a career move
took him from Jerusalem to
Haifa, and besides, he said, it
was just a thought at the time,
nothing too serious, nothing re-
ally compelling.
Even after the Likud was
overthrown in the last election,
no alarms went off for the
Schilds. "Everybody engages in
wishful thinking. We realized
there would be a drying up of
the settlements, but that there
was really a danger?" he said,
meaning the danger that Israel
would give up territory to the
Palestinians.
"We kidded ourselves for
awhile, and only started facing
reality this past summer."
By August they were decid-
ed and two months later they
were new settlers. Professor
Schild does not pretend that he
and his wife have struck a great
blow for Eretz Yisrael - "It
wasn't a question of what we
could do," he said, "as much as
it was a question of how we
would feel. Would we feel good
watching from the sidelines,
seeing predictably unpleasant
and scary things take place, or
would we feel better if we were
at least a part of the quote, un-
quote settlers, the residents
here?"
The Schilds are feeling bet-
ter these days. He has been in-
vited to appear on all the news
talk shows, and refused. He's
done a statistical survey for the
Council ofJewish Communities
in Judea, Samaria and Gaza,
but no public political work. The
settlers' council could use Pro-
fessor Schild at their demon-
strations, as a prestigious figure
and as a counter to the stereo-
type of the hotheaded, mes-
sianic, tire-burning Jew from

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