In his last posts, Assaf Gavron wrote about moon­light­ing as an Israeli mover in NYC and about Israeli fast food. His most recent book, Almost Dead, is now avail­able. He’s blog­ging all week for the Jew­ish Book Coun­cil and MyJew­ish­Learn­ings Vis­it­ing Scribe.

The Jew­ish set­tlers in the West Bank have fas­ci­nat­ed me for many years, and espe­cial­ly those liv­ing in the ille­gal out­posts – a few mobile homes on remote hills with no run­ning water or elec­tric­i­ty, who are in a con­stant cat-and-mouse chase with the author­i­ties. Regard­less of polit­i­cal opin­ion (if such a thing is pos­si­ble in our region, espe­cial­ly in this part of it), the extreme sit­u­a­tion in which they live seemed like the per­fect set­ting for a nov­el: the com­bi­na­tion of law­less­ness, lack of clear bor­ders, the sense of adven­ture and of con­quer­ing new fron­tiers, as well as the breath­tak­ing land­scapes, reli­gious fanati­cism and the vio­lent nation­al con­flict, make it feel like a mod­ern, sur­re­al kind of West­ern – it is, in fact, the Wild West Bank.

The West Bank (often referred to as Judea and Samaria) is geo­graph­i­cal­ly near­by the Israelis who don’t live there: from Tel Aviv, where I live, it is less than a 30 min­utes dri­ve. Yet most Israelis keep as far away as pos­si­ble. Seen as dan­ger­ous and con­tro­ver­sial, some of it blocked by walls and parts for­bid­den, it is indeed abroad” for many. Yet it is ever present on the news, on polit­i­cal and at din­ner tables dis­cus­sions. So after I real­ized it could be a great set­ting for a nov­el, I decid­ed to go there. For over two years I trav­elled, some­times once a week, some­times more, some­times stay­ing overnight, or for the day. I went all over the West Bank – the desert lands of Judea; the green­er, hilli­er Samaria; big­ger, estab­lished set­tle­ments; and the tini­est outposts.

I want­ed to see life behind the news head­lines. I want­ed to test the stereo­type of the set­tlers as a crazy, seclud­ed, fanat­ic, vio­lent and racist bunch, armed with God’s orders to set­tle the Promised Land by Jews, regard­less of oth­er inhab­i­tants, inter­na­tion­al law, Israeli gov­ern­ment deci­sions or oth­er pet­ty earth­ly” mat­ters. I was curi­ous to learn about the peo­ple, their thoughts, their way of life, and the ways in which their pri­vate life con­verge with the larg­er, polit­i­cal sto­ry. I want­ed to find out what actu­al­ly hap­pens on the ground when the pres­i­dent of the US, the most pow­er­ful man on earth, forces Israel to freeze the con­struc­tion in the set­tle­ments, and how it actu­al­ly affects the inhab­i­tants of the mobile homes in a tiny out­post on some neglect­ed hill in Judea (hint: they don’t care much).

In one out­post, a stun­ning place on the edge of the desert, I found a small hut to sit and write. The bath and toi­let were out­side under the sky, the floor was hard rock and the wind whis­tled through the cracks, but it was inspir­ing and authen­tic. I met the locals and encoun­tered their archi­tec­ture, their pets (includ­ing a camel), their organ­ic fields and olive groves, and their Arab neigh­bors. Obvi­ous­ly, I have found a much rich­er and more com­plex world than the stereo­type pre­de­ter­mined. The nov­el is still in progress…

The Out­post (work­ing title) will be pub­lished in 2011 in Israel. Assaf Gavrons most recent book, Almost Dead, is now avail­able. He’s blog­ging all week for the Jew­ish Book Coun­cil and MyJew­ish­Learn­ings author blog­ging series.