It isn’t often that we get to meet our childhood heroes and in the rare cases that we do, they often don’t meet our expectations. However, Aaron Breslin from New Jersey’s experience with his heroes was more than he ever thought possible.
It all started in 2008. Aaron was in middle school and working on a history assignment about the expulsion from Gush Katif. Aaron titled his “In the Shadow of a World Destroyed: Memories of an Expelled Teenager.” His work was so good, it not only qualified for the next level of the Southern Regional Division of the New Jersey National History Day Competition at Rider University, it actually went on to win first place. Gush Katif was once again on the map!
Aaron’s assignment gave him much to think about. He wondered what it was like to live in Israel, to be religious. He decided to strengthen his own Jewish identity and switched to a Jewish school. After graduating, he came to Israel to study, where he combined religious subjects with fun day trips throughout the land.
Aaron arranged to spend a Shabbat at Nitzan, the largest community of Gush Katif expellees. He wanted to see for himself what these people were like, and what their conditions were, and he especially wanted to meet the author of Grains of Sand: The Fall of Neve Dekalim, a novel that had a profound effect on his life.
How did it feel dining and davening with Gush Katif families?
It was a very warm experience. Every family I went to seemed to just be so welcoming, but it was a different type of welcoming. You really felt like you could just stay with them forever.
Did it meet your expectations?
It went beyond my expectations. I expected more of a run-down type of community since it was fairly new and filled with families that are literally restarting their own lives. I didn’t expect the houses to be as incredible as they were. Even the beit hakenesset was absolutely gorgeous. The fact that the community is still building tells me that it will grow to be an incredible place.
What did you learn that you didn’t know before?
To be honest, I learned that everything that happens in your life should be taken as a sign from Hashem; though it seems rough at the beginning, the struggle is worth it and the results are beautiful.
If you could tell others one thing about your visit, what would it be?
I would tell people get ready to have the most awesome and inspiring Shabbos of your life. For anyone that doesn’t know about Gush Katif, it’s a must to spend a Shabbos there.
To schedule a visit to the beautifully-renovated Gush Katif Heritage Center contact email@example.com.