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Young Israeli settlers go hippie? Far out, man!

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"We're the new hippies. We are connected to the land. We are spiritual," says Yishai Fleisher, a radio host at the settler radio station Arutz 7 who attended the festival two years ago.

Rejecting 'Western' culture

Expounding as if he had just digested the ideas of Henry David Thoreau's Walden, Mr. Fleisher says that the new generation of settlers rejects the consumerism and promiscuity of "Western" culture. But for all the talk spirituality and universalism, it has not made them more sympathetic to the aspirations of their Palestinian neighbors for sovereignty.

"You can't have peace and love without understanding first the essential ethos of the Middle East, and that is that people only respect you when you stand your ground. That is not only a message to the Arabs, but to the US and foreign powers who want to impose things on us," he says. "The kind of hippie that I'm talking about is Abbie Hoffman. We stand up to aggression."

Clashes predicted

The young settlers came of age on the front lines of the largely nonviolent resistance to Israel's 2005 evacuation of settlements from Gaza. Disillusioned by older leaders for urging them to avoid confrontation, many predict clashes that if Israel's government ever makes good on a promise to the US to clear out unauthorized settlement outposts.

Recently, settlers at more ideologically fervent settlements like Bat Ayin have adopted a policy of vigilante retaliation for hilltop evacuations or Palestinian attacks. Some of Bat Ayin's residents clash with nearby Palestinian villagers, and several years ago a cell was convicted in an Israeli court for plotting to blow up a Palestinian school. That said, Bat Ayin is also one of the centers combining Jewish learning with eco awareness.

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