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September 19, 2014 / 24 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Neve Dekalim’

Remembering Gush Katif

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

           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 Jewish
people 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 was
born.  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 more
frightening.  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.

Title: Grains Of Sand: The Fall Of Neve Dekalim

Wednesday, July 4th, 2007

         This is a book we all need to read because of its message. Even though it’s the debut novel of a young writer (she was 18 at the time) and perhaps more for a teenage reader, the heartbreak of the destruction of a 30-year dream, that was destroyed in a few moments, is guaranteed to pull at your heartstrings.

 

         Something unbelievable happened and, if we don’t learn the lesson, this story threatens to be repeated in many more Israeli communities where Jews have settled and forged meaningful lives. The danger may come, not from our enemies, but from our own governmental decision-makers.

 

         The author was born in America, and lived with her family in Neve Dekalim until 1992 until the tragic Disengagement in 2005. She loved her life in Gush Katif, where she spent her childhood and teenage years with her parents and six siblings.

 

         The story is written as a novel, with a fictitious family comprised of parents Yoram and Miri Yefet and their two teenage children, Efrat and Yair. The father is a farmer inspecting dunams of vegetables to ensure they are bug-free. At first their lives and concerns are typical of Israelis all over the country, even though the firing of mortars and rockets is often a nightly occurrence.

 

         We learn of intermittent tragedies such as the murder of a beloved teacher, Miriam, in a terrorist attack. Sadly such events have become commonplace in Israel as the Intifada shattered lives and families that can never be whole again.

 

         The community’s foreboding strengthened when Prime Minister Ariel Sharon gave a speech at the Herzliya Conference. He stated clearly that he intended – if he didn’t find an Arab partner – to withdraw unilaterally from the Gaza Strip and part of Northern Samaria (Shomron) even though it meant dismantling settlements.

 

         Thus the residents of Gush Katif realized that their only hope was to raise national awareness of what their communities actually were and the kind of idealistic people who lived there. They decided to mount a massive campaign to convince citizens to vote against Sharon’s plan should it come to a national referendum.

 

         The Yefet family began by choosing a city and going door-to-door to talk with any residents who were willing to listen. Some were. Many, however, felt that “the settlers” were the stumbling block to peace and would be no loss if disengagement should eventuate.

 

         These were usually ones who did not know that Gush Katif boasted 21 thriving communities of 8,000 settlers, religious and secular, Israeli-born, as well as immigrants. They lived there despite 11,000 terror attacks and 4,000 mortars and Kassam rockets. In a short time, the entire Gush joined the “Face to Face” campaign, handing out pamphlets, vegetables that were grown there, and CDs of their beautiful, endangered communities. Many strategies were originally employed, including wearing an orange star. However, public pressure caused an end to this campaign with its echoes of the Holocaust.

 

         Much of the book is written in the form of Effie’s diary entries, which I suppose are typical of the way a young girl might record her thoughts. There are also extracts translated from various articles in the Hebrew press in 2005, as the Disengagement built towards reality, with mass demonstrations, blocking of roads, civil disobedience and prayer vigils, which we know with hindsight, were all in vain. Efforts were made to try to convince soldiers to disobey orders, which presented a moral predicament for them.

 

         In the final pages, you will find your cheeks wet with tears as you finish the book – fiction that so tragically became fact. Read it – and remember!

 

         The book is available from Mazo Publishers, P.O.B. 36084 Jerusalem 91360 Israel; or info@mazopublishers.com  Tel: Israel 054 7294 565 USA: 1 815 301 3559 .

 

         Dvora Waysman is the author of 10 books, including Esther – A Jerusalem Love Story; The Pomegranate Pendant and its new sequel: The Seeds of the Pomegranate also available from Mazo Publishers. She can be reached at: ways@netvision.net.il 

A Gazayra In Gaza

Wednesday, January 26th, 2005

The Hebrew word gazayra means evil decree. Sometimes, a government decree is just that – an indisputably evil order, as when Pharaoh of Biblical times commanded the murder of all Hebrew male newborns. Sometimes, a troubling order is a necessary evil – as, for example, when land is confiscated in order to build a much-needed highway.

The Israeli residents of Gaza are faced with an evil decree. I am not an Israeli, nor do I live in Israel. As I see it, it’s not fair to “talk the talk” and expect others to “walk the walk”. I can’t give my personal opinion about whether the Sharon government’s plan to evacuate the Jewish communities of Gaza later this year is an unavoidable, justified evil, or an inexcusable one. All I can do is give a human face to the implications of this forced move.

Truth be told, until a few months ago, my perception of Gaza consisted of sun-baked sand dunes, camels, donkeys, and a few plucky but fanatical men, women and children living in makeshift caravan trailers, barely eking out a living.

And then…. I had the privilege of meeting and interviewing Moshe Saperstein of Neve Dekalim, the largest self-contained town in what is collectively called Gush Katif. Moshe can best be described as a grizzly teddy bear. He is an American who made aliyah with his wife Rachel in the 1960′s, and a war hero who lost his right arm during the Yom Kipper War. Several years ago, he lost a few fingers from his remaining hand while taking out a sniper who he came upon while the “fighter of the holy Jihad” shot at passing cars filled with women and children.

During our chat, Moshe invited me to his home in Gaza whenever I was in the neighborhood. Later, when he emphatically stated with an impish glint in his eye that he “would never lift a hand against an Israeli soldier,” I knew that I would accept his gracious invitation. If for no other reason but to meet his wife, a true eishet chayil.

And so it came to be that I was in Israel sooner than I thought, courtesy of Nefesh B’Nefesh and El-Al (G-d willing, you’ll read about this soon). On this recent trip, I made my way to Gaza and to the Sapersteins who, like many Israelis, fulfill the mitzvah of hachnasat orchim (hospitality) wholeheartedly.

Within seconds of arriving at Neve Dekalim, my mental image of the Jewish communities of Gaza was turned inside out. I found myself in a tropical paradise complete with waving palm trees heavy with dates, lemon trees in the front yards surrounded by a colorful smorgasbord of flowers, and a glistening Mediterranean Sea in the background.

I visited the Sapersteins and other families. All welcomed me to their homes, which were saturated with an aura of serenity and contentment. The windows everywhere were open to let in the glorious sunshine and the rejuvenating sea air. Over 500 hundred families from the four corners of the world have made this slice of Eden their home.

Rachel drove me around the town, and we visited the Ashkenazi and Sephardic shuls, both magnificent in the meticulous attention given to the detail highlighting their unique cultural designs. The Hesder Yeshiva is an architectural marvel, shaped both inside and out as a Magen David – the Jewish Star of David. No matter where you stand or from what angle you look, the six- pointed design is everywhere.

What struck me in particular was that there was no litter on the ground, no garbage anywhere – except in the trash bins. It became apparent that this place was built with love and bitachon – unwavering faith – the kind that can be found when someone believes that what he has is truly his. The residents view their homes and property the way parents view their children – theirs to nurture, to love, and to protect.

Neve Dekalim has its own hospital, schools, yeshivot, supermarkets, a post office, a zoo, a central library and playgrounds. It is not a trailer camp on sand dunes. It is a self-contained community with a thriving organic produce industry.

I asked Rachel if Gush Katif had a cemetery. It did. “What would happen if the disengagement took place?” I asked. In the past, non-Muslim cemeteries that have fallen into the hands of the Palestinians have been desecrated or paved over. Rachel shook her head and told me that all the bodies would have to be disinterred and reburied, necessitating the sitting of shiva all over again for the families of the deceased.

Those widowed would have to take a week off and have their emotional wounds opened again. Parents would have to rebury their lost children, children would have to mourn their dead parents. All over again.

It was at that moment that the full human implications of the disengagement plan hit me with the emotional equivalent of a Kassam missile.

The Gaza Disengagement Plan is more than a relocation program, where people are moved out of their neighborhood to another. It is an amputation, an abortion, where a part of these Jewish pioneers is going to be ripped out and the seeds of the future that were sown not come to pass. The land into which these people have put their hopes and aspirations, their sweat, blood and tears, is both their child and their mother, for they in turn sustain themselves physically and spiritually from this little bit of earth that they know as home.

I am not judging if this amputation is necessary for the greater good, or if it is an abomination that should never take place. All I know is that for its residents, Gaza is a living, beloved, precious entity.

And for those like Moshe, who have already lost a part of themselves – can they be expected to freely give up even more?

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/a-gazayra-in-gaza/2005/01/26/

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