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Forty years later, two view from the West Bank's Road 60

An Israeli and a Palestinian reflect on the impact of the Six-Day War that began 40 years ago Tuesday.

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The road that runs between Sinjil and Shilo retraces one of the oldest paths in the Middle East.

The ancient Israelites would have traveled up it on their return from Egypt to bury Joseph's bones. Jesus would have traveled down it on the way from Galilee to Jerusalem. Slightly more recently, 820 years ago, Saladdin's forces pushed through here to wrest Jerusalem from the Crusaders to reclaim it for the Muslim world.

Today, Road 60 is still the backbone of the West Bank, like a spinal column upon which all movement is dependent. The Israeli and Palestinian communities along the route live in clear view of each other and hold radically different visions of who really belongs here and who is persecuting whom.

Here, along this serpentine road that rambles through a gentle green landscape, is the heartland of a conflict that was defined by the Six-Day War, which began 40 years ago Tuesday.

Just west off the road and up a hill, the Palestinian village of Sinjil has a proud history. It was named during the Crusader period as St. Gilles, pointing to at least a millennium of life here and more. It boasts a well that is believed by inhabitants to date to the time of the biblical Joseph, held in the Muslim tradition to be a prophet.

Turning east and up a steep slope, the Israeli settlement of Shilo feels itself equally rooted in past and present. Directions to Shilo, which the community's website offers, come straight from Judges 21:19. After the Exodus from Egypt, the first Israelite capital was here, and this was the place of the Tabernacle for more than 300 years.

Given that overwhelming weight of history, the past 40 years seem like a too-brief chapter in the life story of a corner of the earth that has long roused religious fervor and international rivalries.

But in these four decades since the fateful June 1967 war, when Israel captured the West Bank from Jordan – deemed a "liberation" by some Israelis and an "occupation" by Arabs and most others – there have been reality-altering changes in the landscape, from its physical characteristics to demography. The postwar settling of about 267,000 Jews into the West Bank have placed Israelis and Palestinians in uncomfortable proximity of each other and complicated the prospects of reaching a two-state solution.


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