Judea, the right-wing Zionists call this place. The apostle Mark called it “the wilderness.” I couldn’t comprehend how such barren hills could sustain life. I’d been to Brazil’s Sertão, the steppes of New Mexico, and to Andalusia, in Spain, where the spaghetti westerns were filmed. None of those deserts were as dry as this. Yet to the north of us grew the vineyards of Mount Hebron, famed for its grapes since biblical times. The foothills to the west extended into Israel. To the east dropped the Jordan Valley, where the storied river, once crossed by the Israelites, bottoms out into the Dead Sea. In Israeli-settler parlance, and according to the Torah, God granted this land to the Jews.

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