Tisha B’Av is approaching, and with it, the awe-inspiring and painful memories I felt in when I visited Gush Katif, on a mission with Assemblyman Dov Hikind.
Three years ago I wrote to Anita Tucker, apologizing for never having offered her my personal support. She had poured out her heart in an e-mail on Tisha B’Av, relating how she had just bought a used treadmill. “I really feel just right on that walking machine – it fits our present situation perfectly. I extend endless energies to move forward and no matter how hard I try and how much effort I exert I always end up in the same place.”
June 2005 was a ridiculous time to pick myself up and go to Gush Katif. But I sensed and knew what was at stake. And I’ve never been able to fool and deceive myself when reality stares me in the face. I remembered a short note I carry with me in my wallet. The Klausenberg Rebbe, who lost his wife and 11 children during the Holocaust, once said that he thanks G-d that when Jews suffered so terribly he suffered with them and was not spared. I picked up the phone and called Hikind’s office. I booked my ticket and told my children, “I HAVE to go.”
Morag, Former Settlement in Gush Katif
I think about Gush Katif every day. The orange ribbon, faded and tattered, hangs from my car’s side window. An orange bracelet hangs over a picture frame. My e-mail address is l’zecher hachurban. I have unbelievable, breath taking, moving and heart soaring pictures of Gush Katif, a world that was maliciously destroyed. Did one have to be a Biblical prophet to see the ramifications and disaster of that destruction?
In my mind I can still see Rav Avrohom Holtzberg from Crown Heights holding on to a tallit-wrapped Torah, on the plane and on the buses, carrying it until he could deliver it to one of the yishuvim. I can picture the meals, the speeches and emotions at Neve Dekalim, whose mayor when addressing the crowd closed with the words, Hashem oz l’amo yeten, Hashem y’varech etchem b’shalom. I see the beautiful shuls, homes and greenhouses. I remember being welcomed with the sound of children singing heiveinu shalom aleichem in Netzarim; rushing to Sderot to offer support when a rocket fell in a living room, when it was not yet business as usual. I remember the cemetery, the davening mincha and saying Tehillim there. I close my eyes and envision Kerem Atzmona where trees and shrubs were planted in honor of Suzanne Davis by her family. I still have a picture of two of her grandsons lovingly and carefully planting one of those trees. And all the time the words, Al kol eileh andal takor et ha’tikvah…” resound through my head and bring me to tears.
Neve Dekalim, Former Settlement in Gush Katif
The unforgettable kumzitz we participated in brought back memories of kumzitzim in front of Har Hertzel when I attended seminary in Bayit VeGan. I remember the unforgettable faces of the children being taught by the Zilberman method. I see the gigantic nursery at Atzmona and hear the “come back in six months and you’ll see how everything’s grown, etc.” And finally I remember the sea at the aptly named, Shirat Hayam.
And the shuls, the shuls, the shuls. I can’t speak for the Almighty, but I was all for blowing them up so that they not be used for the filthy purposes they are now being used for. I can’t argue about kedushah rishona and kedushah shniya and all the justifications, both on the left and on the right.
To me it seems simple. The Arabs have one goal in mind – to destroy us. Their faith is absolute, they are determined, and nothing stands in their way. Think of leaving your children in a car to be blown up at a checkpoint as long as it also kills Israelis. The terrorists at Entebbe were angels compared to the Arafat-bred Palestinians of today. We tremble before them, instead of trembling before G-d. They know it, and they smirk as we play into their foul hands. The plain fact is that we have lost our resolve and are unfortunately, often governed by Jews who are not Jews. The Jews in Gush Katif lived ON the sand – the geniuses who maliciously removed the Jews of Gush Katif from their lands and homes – live with their heads IN the sand.
Shul in Netzarim, Former Settlement in Gush Katif
I walked around Gush Katif, looked at the people, the skies, the sea, the greenhouses, the nurseries and shuls. Every day I listened to their stories and their mesirat nefesh, theirpurpose and total belief in G-d and in what they were doing. They had an inner glow about them, a nachat ruach. The same look many Israelis had in the late 1950s and 1960s when I had the zechut to live in Israel and to sense what the people of Gush Katuf were feeling – hatzneia lechet im Elokecha.
Why use the word disengagement – disengagement from what? It seems to me that we “disengaged” from our core, our Jewishness. G-d and I never “disengaged” from each other. He and my people, my fellow Jews are the essence of my being. They are what defines us as Jews. The Jews of Gush Katif truly defined themselves as Jews. I said it then and I’ll say it again, that G-d will surely punish us for what we have done and for what we permitted. During this period of time we cry for what our enemies have done to us throughout the ages. To that we must now add what we have done to ourselves. I see it as no coincidence that the expulsion was planned for right after Tisha B’Av.
I wanted to share with Anita Tucker that before I had read her e-mail, I had read a fascinating article by Yosef Y. Jacobson entitled “Intimacy in Flames.” I wanted to share parts of it with her, to emphasize our bitachon, our optimism and everlasting love of G-d, and to try to offer some words of comfort to her.
The Talmud relates a profoundly strange incident that occurred moments before the destruction of the Bais HaMikdash: When the pagans entered the Holy Temple, they saw the cherubs cleaving to each other…the “Holy of Holies” was seen as the spiritual epicenter of the universe. Two golden cherubs – two winged figures, one male and one female – were located in the “Holy of Holies.” These cherubs represented the relationship between the cosmic groom and bride, between G-d and His people.
Tradition teaches that when the relationship between G-d and His people was sour the two faces were turned away from each other, as when spouses turn from each other in anger. When the relationship was good, the cherubs would face each other. And when the love between G-d and His bride (Israel) was at its peak, the cherubs would embrace “as a man cleaves to his wife.”
When the enemies of Israel invaded the Temple…there they saw the cherubs embracing each other. They dragged them out of the Temple and into the streets, vulgarizing their sacred significance. This seems bizarre…the relationship between G-d and His people was at its lowest possible point, for that was the reason for the destruction and the subsequent exile. The Jews were about to become estranged from G-d for millennia. The manifest presence of divinity in the world, via the Temple in Jerusalem, would cease; Jews and G-d would now be exiled from each other.
Yet, paradoxically, it was precisely at that moment that the cherubs were intertwined, symbolizing the most profound relationship between G-d and Israel. How are we to understand this?
Rav Dov Ber, the Maggid of Mezrich gives the following explanation: Based on the injunction of the sages that a man ought to consort with his wife prior to leaving home on a journey, the Maggid suggested that G-d, prior to His long journey away from home, expressed His intimacy with the Jewish people. Prior to the onset of a long exile, the cherubs were intertwined, representing the intimacy preceding the journey.
What the Chassidic master was attempting to convey through this dazzling metaphor…was that at the moment of the destruction, G-d impregnated (metaphorically speaking) a seed of life within the Jewish soul; He implanted within His people a piece of Himself. And for two millennia, this “seed” has sustained us. The groom may have seemingly departed and been consciously concealed, often to an extreme, yet a piece of His essence was embedded within the Jewish people; a spark of divinity was sown into the Jewish heart.
Many empires, religions and cultures attempted to demonstrate to the Jewishpeople that their role in the scheme of creation has ended, or that it had never begun, luring them into the surrounding prevailing culture. But the intimacy they experienced with G-d just moments before He “departed” left its indelible mark. It imbued them with a vision, a dream and an unshakable commitment. Throughout their journeys, often filled with extraordinary anguish, they clung to their belief that between them and the Almighty existed a covenant. They not only absorbed the “seed,” they fertilized it, developed it and transformed it into a living organism.
At the moment the Temple was about to be engulfed in flames, redemption wasborn. The intimacy between G-d and Israel at that fateful time produced a hidden seed that would eventually bring healing to a broken world. The acknowledgement of generations of sages that Moshiach was born on the ninth of Av is testimony to the intimacy that has accompanied the milieu of estrangement and exile. Now we simply wait for the birth. Nachamu, nachamu ami, yomar Elokeichem I thanked Anita for showing the way. And I thanked her for letting me pour out my heart to her and to G-d on that Tisha B’Av.
Tisha B’Av is again approaching. Our situation seems bleaker, and even morefrightening. I wish I could rise to the level of Rabi Akiva who laughed as he saw wolves walk on Har HaBayit. But I am mired down in the here-and-now, fearful and lost in the destruction.
Yet, I feel and live that “seed of life” within my Jewish soul that Hashem implanted in all of us. It will continue to sustain me, to nurture me, and to help us all light up the darkness.
And in front of my eyes, I see the image of the people of Gush Katif and I remember.