The Gem of Judea

by Dina Altura | May 29, 2017 | Producers

On our way to meet this month’s producer, we drive along a winding road between olive trees and vinyards and climb up a steep mountain where a gem of the Judean Desert is revealed: Pnei Kedem.

This hilltop is the home to 50 idealistic families who built their houses, planted their trees and paved the roads of their village with their own hands.

We meet Tamar Rund in front of her house, as she greets us with a smile and a hot beverage. Even on a warm spring day, the winds of Pnei Kedem are cooling.
She invites us inside to a beautiful living room that is covered with oil paintings of Judean landscapes. “My daughters picked those paintings from my collection” she smiles, “they like having a changing exhibition in the house”.

Tamar, 33, was only few months old when her parents decided to leave everything they knew and loved in the United States, to move to Israel. “In a way I am happy they made this decision for me,” she says, “it is not an easy thing to do, and I am thankful to live here, in Israel.”

Tamar’s parents started their new life in Efrat, Gush Etzion and were a vital part of Efrat’s development. So it was only natural that Tamar wanted to follow their footsteps. After meeting her husband Eitan, they began the search for their dream house. “We both wanted to find a place where we could play an important role in establishment and development. This was the case with Pnei Kedem”.

“When we arrived there were only 24 families here and we had to take an active part in building the community.” They planted the trees outside, raised money for cultural activities and took part in whatever was needed.
“Right now I am the chairman of the security committee here. It is a very small place, without even a supermarket or a community center, which means that we really have to be there for each other as a community – all the time”.

Tamar’s fascination with art started in High School. “I came one day to my parents and told them I would like to be an artist. I was very nervous about their reaction but to my surprise they were very supportive and encouraged me to pursue my dream.”| She received her B.Ed. in Emuna College in Jerusalem and then an MFA from an online college in San Francisco. Tamar mostly paints the gorgeous landscapes of Judea which she fell in love with in her childhood; she also paints the portraits of her neighbors and friends. “The people that live here are very interesting, I like painting them.” She also teaches art in a boys’ high school in Kiryat Arba to which she travels twice a week.

Tamar and Eytan moved to Pnei Kedem eight years ago and live in their humble, cozy house together with their four daughters. In response to our question about the difficulties in living on a hilltop in Judea she responds with yet another smile and mentions the roads that are not very safe due to the aggression of the Arab neighbors who attack the Jews with rocks and Molotov cocktails. “Only last week a family from here was attacked with Molotov cocktails that were thrown at their car: it was a miracle nobody got hurt”. It is not always simple living in a small village in Judea but Tamar and Eitan view this as their obligation and privilege. “Living in Israel is what we should do, this is our land.”

But these are not the only challenges the Runds had to go through this year.
Eytan, who works as a tour guide turned unwillingly into a hero after responding quickly and efficiently to a ramming terror attack. On January 8th four soldiers were killed, and 17 were wounded, when a flatbed truck driven by an Arab terrorist rammed into a group of soldiers that was guided by Eytan.

“My husband is a tour guide who likes guiding tourists but mostly he enjoys guiding solider groups. As he was instructing everyone to put their bags back on the bus – a truck came and hit him. The terrorist killed the soldier he was talking to instantly and my husband was thrown back, he rolled on the grass. He was surprised to discover he could get up and understood it was a terrorist attack and right away ran to shoot at the terrorist; he just shot his whole magazine and shortly was joined by others. A few seconds later, the truck stopped.”

Tamar takes a long pause before continuing. This episode has clearly not been easy on the family. The kids still worry about their father going to work. “It was really a matter of few centimeters between life and death. Eytan suffered some minor injuries to his legs. The first thing he said to me on the phone was – I am okay, I can walk, I am not paralyzed. I was just at a terrorist attack but I am really okay.”

Now Eytan is back at work, doing what he enjoys most – guiding young soldiers and teaching them about their heritage and roots.

Tamar continues with her art work and hopes that you will enjoy her print that is included in this month’s package. It is one of the breathtaking landscapes of Gush Etzion.

“I am very happy to do what I love” Tamar concludes.