Settlements? התנחלות (hitnaxhlút) is not the same as התישבות (hityashvút)

I think it’s important to stress that the Hebrew word התנחלות (hitnaxhlút), generally translated as settlement, refers specifically to Israeli-Jewish settling on Palestinian land occupied by Israel in 1967, & is radically different in meaning & spirit than the Hebrew word התישבות (hityashvút) that denotes any kind of settling and was the only word used for Jewish settlement in Palestine prior to the establishment of the State of Israel & still denotes settlement on land within the “Green Line”.

Both are modern nounal verbs (or verbal nouns), & are ‘reflexive’, meaning that they denote ‘making oneself such-&-such’. Both, too, stem from biblical roots with very strong connotations.

התישבות (hityashvút) stems from the root ישב (yasháv), to sit or dwell, & means the act of settling oneself, establishing one’s home somewhere. From the same root comes the word ישוב (yishuv) which means a place of settling or settlement, be it a village, a commune, a town or a city. In the plural  all such places are called yishuvím. Also, in pre-Israel Palestine, the entire Jewish population & its institutions were known as the Yishuv, the Settling.

But התנחלות (hitnaxhlút) stems from the root נחל (naxhál), to receive a tract of land as a rightful inheritance, & actually means to make oneself the receiver (& in practice the taker) of such a tract. There are many biblical references to such tracts – נחלה (naxhaláh) in the singular, נחלות (naxhalót) in the plural – given by ‘God’ to the Israelites, to the different tribes, to families, & to individuals. The use of this term implies that the takers are actually accepting what has been given to them by ‘God’. At the same time, it is a blatant & shameless, aggressive term that does not hide the fact that what it refers to is appropriation of land that can then be passed by inheritance to succeeding generations. Another interesting fact is that the same word is used both for the act of taking land in this way & for the settlement that is established in such a way. Thus ‘settlements’ in the Occupied Territories are called התנחלויות (hitnaxhluyót).

I know that it is too late to change the current usage in English. Also, there is no equivalent English word to translate the Hebrew word התנחלות (hitnaxhlút). (The closest might be something like appropriation for the act, & colony for the place so appropriated; it would need to be a word that also projected the arrogance implicit in the Hebrew word, the sense of divine right &/or duty to obey a divine commandment that is felt by the more fervent “settlers” if not by the opportunistic land-grabbers who have jumped on their bandwagon.) But I do think this is something that people who think & care about the situation in Palestine, but don’t know Hebrew. should know about.







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