War journal, entry 1

Monday, July 28, 2014

We’ve just had a siren. Six short syllables that contain so much! The 30 second frantic dash to the security room, the panicked glance to make sure every family member is there, the tense listening for the boom, and the uncontrollable rush for news. Having described the symptoms, I ought to give the untenable situation a Latin name. One could say: I’ve just had an admonitio sirenis, or there’s recently been an outbreak of et annuntiabis sirenarum, and we’d all nod our heads knowingly, say we understand, tell you how brave you are and ask you if you perhaps you’d like some chocolate or an alcoholic drink. And then we’d settle down to chat comfortably about similar cases and narrow escapes we’ve had or, depending on your state of nerves, delicately change the topic.

An amusing chat would be Things I’ve Seen in my Security Room. Throughout the weeks of sirens, at the most tiresome hours, various barriers have broken down in my family. Nothing will ever be quite the same after seeing one another rushing through the security room door at 2:00 a.m. in ludicrous pajamas, or with shampoo suds still in one’s hair and wearing a toga-like towel. Since we’re all incredibly mature, we know that life comes before dignity and try not to make too big a deal of how anyone looks at these unfortunate times. Who am I kidding? We have a hearty laugh and tease each-other mercilessly. We’ve stopped short of taking pictures and spreading them on social media, though that might actually help Israel’s case in the world press. But then again, why humiliate ourselves for the anti-Semites?

Sadly, our dogs don’t always make it to the security room in time. They’re the first to hear the siren, but often their response is simply to stand still and howl. We call their names and urge them to rush with us to the protected room, and it’s absolutely heartbreaking if, after closing the heavy door, we discover that one of the dogs isn’t with us. Throughout the next 10 min. that dog will bark, whine at us and scratch the door from the other side. Much as we’d love to, we harden our hearts and keep the door closed. 10 horrible guilt ridden minutes. When the time is up and we open up, the dog comes to greet us, wagging its tail, nosing and licking us. Such a very happy reunion.

While in the security room this evening, my brother read the tragic news that a mortar killed several people in the Eshkol region. Israel doesn’t, and never did, have any defense against mortars. To protect its civilians from mortars, Israel will have to ensure that no mortars are fired from Gaza. Will it do this? Considering the years Gush Katif suffered from mortars, as have all communities in mortar range, I’m not holding my breath.


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New article in ESRA magazine :)

So cool! I recently stumbled across my name in the article “Whatever Happened to Gush Katif” by Marsha Stein in the Esra Magazine  as she vividly discusses her tour of the Katif Heritage Center in Nitzan.   Reading it made me feel as though I were once again conducting that tour, it’s spot on!


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New Permanent House Project – a Success!

Dear Friends and Supporters,

I am very pleased to be working with Friends of Gush Katif, keeping in touch with all the communities, and doing my small bit to help former residents improve their future, and keep the Gush Katif spirit alive.  I am currently pursuing my MA in English Literature at Bar Ilan University.

And now, enough about me… time for the news!

We are delighted with the success of the first stage of helping those families who haven’t the financial means to build a permanent home! Thanks to your generous donations together with financial aid from the State, 20 carefully screened families are in the process of moving their Caravillas to the community’s permanent location, and transforming them to nicer homes. By adding an exterior stone facing for decoration and a mandatory security room for safety, these Caravillas become cozy abodes. We are very thankful to have found, with your help, the promised “solution for every settler;” one that allows every family to live with its Gush Katif community. It’s important to note that this is only the first stage; there might be some more families who need to avail themselves of this option of transferring a Caravilla to the permanent site.

This has been an action-filled month with many families moving into their new homes in Nitzan, Be’er Ganim and Palmachim, and ceremonies marking the yearly ending of some programs – while other projects steamed ahead! Additionally, this month is packed with organizing important ceremonies and Gush Katif commemoration events reminding us – and the many wonderful people who care – that the spirit of Gush Katif still lives, and we draw strength from our past.


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Yair Stern – A Light from the Past

Yesterday, the 25th of Shvat, I went on many different websites expecting to find coverage of Yair Stern’s 71st memorial. I was saddened to find that it wasn’t mentioned on any site – all were busy covering the induction of the new Knesset members. While the present and future are important, it is vital not to forget our past. On the advice of a Facebook friend, I contacted Israel National News (INN) and they asked me to write an op-ed. Click here to read. Feel free to share and post comments on the INN site.

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Purim: learn your booms

As usual, Purim this year was ushered in with firecrackers, cherry bombs and larger, more powerful fireworks. They were noisy, loud and … they took me back to Gush Katif. At night, lying in bed and hearing the booms, I sleepily wondered whether it was mortars causing the windows to rattle. Mortars – shouldn’t that be Neve Dekalim, I wondered. And if so, then shouldn’t my bedroom window be on this wall? But there was no crackling announcement after the booms, so I concluded that they weren’t mortars. Wait! I’m in Nitzan, I realized. Perhaps it’s Kassams. But there were no sirens. Then again, maybe the loudspeaker system just wasn’t working. Thankfully, a few scattered picas infiltrated the sudden silence. Just children playing, I realized, and returned to sleep.  

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When the dog crossed the road…

Yesterday I had just gotten to the bus stop on the main road when I spotted a big, brown dog. To be more accurate, it spotted me and came over wagging its tail, sniffing me and everyone else at the stop. I noticed it had on a choke collar. How terrible, I thought. Some family must have tired of the dog, and just dumped it here. And it was such a friendly creature. To think humans could be so cruel!

The dog decided, like the famous chicken, to cross the street. I shut my eyes in horror. Horns beeped furiously, and the dog swerved this way and that, but couldn’t seem to figure out that it should return to the stop. It wasn’t hit yet, and a soldier and I waved our hands at it and called. Such a stupid creature! It must have never been loose before. It took it ages before it figured out it should return to us. Once it did, I tried to tie it up with a piece of rope I found, but it wouldn’t let me. Then I decided I should make sure it has water. So, spotting a cup, I was going to pick it up and pour water in it, when the dog realized I wanted the cup, and decided to beat me to it. It grabbed the cup and ran around with it, crushing it in its mouth. Oh, dear. And soon my bus would come and I’d have to leave it behind.

Suddenly a man approached whistling. The dog took one look at him and started barking. This was surprising. Upon questioning the fellow, it turned out the dog belonged to his aunt. Well, the dog had no intention of letting the man get him. For whatever reason he really didn’t like him. I don’t know why – the dog was well-fed, and didn’t show signs of beatings. And if he wasn’t returned home he would starve or be run over. So I caught the dog, and then the man was able to grab him (the dog registering protest), and I slipped a rope on it (the man hadn’t brought a leash).

As they headed off the dog was still upset. But once they entered the orchard the dog cheered up.

And I boarded my bus with a feeling of relief.



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Rabin Memorial

And so another Rabin Memorial Day has passed. My problem with these RMDs is the way they’ve been twisted. Instead of being about Rabin – the Man (and then you could talk about the long stretch of his life, the pros and cons, what you admire and what you disapprove of), they are about Rabin – the Peace Process, or about Rabin – the Murder. Any ceremony that talks about the Peace Process is bound to be held by fanatic Leftists who won’t let anything change their world view, and won’t let anyone say something against it. You must be careful, for the ground which they step is holy and the people of whom they speak are angels. And if you are a stranger in their midst you must declare yourself: are you for them or against?

A memorial talking about the murder is the more common. These memorials stress how terrible the act of murder is; how deeply we deplore it, and how we are one people and should be unified. I don’t like these memorials because I don’t feel the need to announce that I’m against murder, or a specific murder that was committed 16 years ago. I had nothing to do with it, nor did the National Religious camp in general (much as some disliked the PM), nor have I any plans of committing murder. Or robbery, or breaking and entering, or drugs.

As for unity, while I identify with my nation in general, I don’t like to sing hymns to unity. I like differences, and I like people having their own uniqueness. It shows individuality, freedom of thought and action, and it makes life more interesting. And after all, it is very difficult to answer the question: what are we all supposed to unite around? I mean, for a successful unity, we’d all have to agree on that. I don’t quite see that happening. But I don’t think that’s bad. G-d didn’t like the Tower of Babel and they were wonderfully united.  

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Noah – not a metaphysical chap.

Noah was a man Who Got The Job Done. Not only that, but he Didn’t Ask Questions. If this were in Ankh Morpork, Sam Vimes would have approved. The question is, do we approve? And did our commentators approve? It seems that they didn’t really. They would have preferred it if he had spoken up for his wicked neighbors and argued with G-d a bit. Avraham did, they all say, and seem to think that clenches the argument. But does it? And was Avraham in the right when he supposedly wanted to save the Very Wicked Cities of S’dom and Amorrah?

I always thought it was possible, perhaps probable, that Avraham wasn’t seeking to save those places, but merely trying to understand the way G-d thought and worked. Wait, so let me understand this, if there are a lot of good guys there, you’re still going to kill everyone? Oh. But what if there aren’t a LOT of good guys, but only a little bit of good guys – do you still kill everyone (including the good guys)? Once Avraham understood the way God worked he never ‘argued’ again – not even when G-d had him take his son to sacrifice. Noah, obviously, just wasn’t a metaphysical sort of guy.

But he did know about Symbols. He understood the rainbow all right. And he knew to sacrifice to G-d after they all stepped on dry land again. And where would we be if he hadn’t given us the dove? And the olive branch?

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We bring them together

The four Succot species are very different from one another.

The lulav is strong and straight; the type that will break in a fierce wind. Which is, perhaps, why it grows in the very center of the palm tree, protected by many fronds. If you don’t know the correct art for taking it, you will kill off the tree’s growth.

The etrog is completely different in shape. Yellow, round and sweet smelling, this is a citrus fruit; the ‘off-spring’ of the tree, and not just another branch.  It is also a feast for the taste; if you know how, after Succot you can turn it into jam or preserves.

Aravot are supple willow branches. Since they bow to the wind, they’ll weather any storm – but they certainly haven’t the dignity of the palm tree…. Also, they have their own weakness: they need a close by water source.

Last is the hadas (myrtle). It has a lovely fragrance, but does not have a good taste. These branches aren’t from a tree but rather from a bush, generally grown as a hedge.

It is only by combining these four different plants – three varied shades of green and one yellow, some with scent and flavor and some without, some straight and others round or supple, etc – that the Succot set is complete. Unity is created by variety, and the same is true for people as well. Therefore, aren’t we glad it only comes once a year?

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Protecting us from ourselves

Succot is when we put our trust in G-d. We go out to a small flimsy dwelling that we constructed ourselves, and we eat and sleep there for seven days. G-d who looked over us for 40 years in the desert can surely look after us as we observe His commandment. But will He look after us when we disregard His commandments? When we decide not to protect ourselves according to common sense? When we plan on releasing 500 Arab terrorists for one Jew?

G-d could punish us by letting the obvious conclusion of our actions occur. Or, He could decide to protect us. Not because we deserve it – but because we represent His name. And for the merits of the Ushpizin whom we will honor in our Succahs…

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