Inside the houses we had swept and swept; sluiced and sluiced until we could finally reach the real floor. The walls, though, proved unbeatable. Anyone who touched the walls was whitewashed. The whitewash wasn’t washable so we couldn’t sluice off the white powdery layer that dirtied anything that came near it. The lime-based paint needed to be scraped away should we want to try out more colorful and washable surfaces. Who had the money, who had the time?
Slowly, slowly, we tamed our environment, salving its raw rocks with soothing top soil, leveling its bumps and craters into useable roads and filling its silent emptiness with the songs of young families building a Torah Yishuv.
Finally Keren Kayemet came and planted trees. Real trees, somewhere for the dove to rest its feet. So it was that my Matityahu-bred young one asked:
“What’s that noise mummy?”
And I, with the thankfulness of having a long lost loved-one returned, beamed out:
“It’s a bird, it really is a bird.”
Matityahu is building again; filling up its half-finished streets and civilizing its wild empty places. Building house by house, playgrounds, public gardens and bright plentiful street lights.
The original simple one-story houses have been grown by their owners into family villas: some spreading luxuriantly over the generous house plots and some stretching upwards in an added story. The number of Matityahu households has finally reached three figures.
We have made it!
And yet, when I pass through our main playground and see an unfamiliar face, I don’t know whether it belongs to one of “us” or to a “visitor” from the town that grew up on our borders. I can spend a day or so alone in my house and not have contact with a single fellow resident. They no longer need me and I no longer need them.
The trees have grown and flourished. The blackbird’s song serenades in the coming evening and I recall the rocks, the dust and the camaraderie. Our dream hasn’t quite come true.
For most of the people living here, Matityahu is just a quaint place to live. We live in houses with gardens and not just in apartments. We have plenty of space and very little traffic. Our playgrounds have character and imagination. We even have a swimming pool. Yet these people didn’t hear the first birdsong. They came to a completed Matityahu. They didn’t live through its birth pangs.
And yet, I have had the privilege of interviewing some of those brand new families about their new home. Each one talks of the unseeable part of Matityahu: the caring, the spirit, that soupcon of a being one big family, a humming of shared purpose: community.
A Matityahu tree is not just for a dove to rest its feet. It’s for it to build its nest.