(Written in commemoration of the second anniversary of the destruction of Gush Katif.)
I stood outside the Nitzan Caravilla site on a warm summer afternoon and watched the golden hay being baled. The heavy machinery grinded loudly and spat out large, square sweet-smelling bales.
As I stood silently and stared, I was once again a small five-year-old child with big brown eyes and short, curly brown hair, clutching my mother’s hand tightly on a Shabbat afternoon in Chandler, Arizona. After the Shabbat morning meal, my family would always go on a walk to Desert Breeze Park. On the way there, when the season was right, we would stop and watch the hay being baled. My father would watch with a grin and a sparkle in his green eyes, explaining the hay baling process to us. My mother would be cheerfully amused, and my siblings and I would stare with wide-eyed wonder.
Time passed, and with God’s help my family made aliyah to Neve Dekalim, Israel. Agriculture was different there. Vast, rolling gray hothouses took the place of open fields. Bug-free vegetables and beautiful flowers took the place of stalks of hay. Golden sand dunes and small communities replaced the urban sprawl. Only the summer heat remained the same. I wasn’t sorry for the change – nor was my family. We grew and blossomed in lovely Gush Katif.
More time passed. Every paradise has to have its snake, and Gush Katif was invaded by several nasty vipers. The second Intifada burst out: roadside shootings, roadside bombs, attempted Arab infiltrations, mortars, Kassam rockets, Jews injured, Jews killed…
We learned to live under the shadow of Arab terror. We were hurting, and our wounds were raw and open and bleeding. But we persevered. We smiled bravely and dug our roots deeper into the sandy soil.
And then the second viper showed its fangs. The Arabs were plucking our flowers when our Jewish government announced its desire to uproot us. The smile froze on our faces and our hearts were heavy. We set out to struggle. It was a long struggle, a brave struggle. There were demonstrations, a human chain, a Likud referendum in our favor, orange streamers, prayer vigils, street-blocking…
But the government won. And the Jewish nation lost. We were quickly uprooted, our houses destroyed. The Arabs smiled maliciously and paraded victoriously among the ruins.
And then the people of Gush Katif were forced into two years of wandering. They traveled to Jerusalem. And from Jerusalem they dispersed to a great many locations, for their numbers were vast and the government did not know where to place them. And from Jerusalem they wandered as far south as Be’er Sheva and as far north as the hills of the Galilee and the Golan.
Eventually they settled in numerous, temporary Caravilla sites. And they were sad, and they were weary, and they cried unto Hashem. And slowly, slowly they gathered strength. They recalled the five years of hardship they had borne in Gush Katif. They remembered their fallen and the joyful faces of their foes. And they refused to be beaten. And if one listens, one can once again hear the determination in their voices and their visions for the future.
So I stand and stare at the hay being baled outside the Nitzan Caravilla site. It’s a lovely day; the sun is shining, the sky is blue and the golden hay is being gathered. And, for a bit, I allow myself the luxury of taking a trip along memory lane.
My brown eyes smile and my hair blows in the wind. And despite the pre-fab Caravillas, the high unemployment, the corrupt government and the national security problems – despite all, I laugh, enjoying a golden moment.
It’s been a very long journey from the hay fields of Arizona to the hay fields of Nitzan. And we’ve been temporarily banned from paradise. But this little girl has grown up – with strong roots in the past and fervent hope for the future.