Monday, August 22, 2005

#136 Reflections

Musings #136
August 22, 2005
The 17th of Av


A few short weeks ago, I was one of the privileged few journalists to accompany a
Nefesh B'Nefesh flight to Israel. Over two hundred Jews, between the ages of two months to eighty-five years, from all over North America were on the airplane with me on their way to new lives in Israel. They were in transition, suspended from one life to another, high over the heavens, in a high-tech vehicle traveling rapidly.

No one could promise them the life of their dreams or security, but it wasn’t stopping them. They all had different plans, Eitan to the army, Ruth to an Assisted Living Home, Jay, twisting balloons and high tech, and Nechemiya too young to remember that he had any other home. They were all so open, photogenic and enthusiastic. All who could speak were itching to tell me their stories and plans. And yes, they were very aware that Israel was on the verge of one of its greatest traumas, but as Jerry insisted, “I’m making aliyah now because of what’s happening… to influence… ”

All of the experts say that moving from one’s home is considered one of the major traumas a person can endure.

Yesterday I walked into one of the Jerusalem hotels housing refugees from Gush Katif. The people I observed looked shattered. I couldn’t establish eye contact, and I didn’t want to invade their private grief. They were at the post-trauma stage during which they needed some time to re-gather their energies in order to decide how to proceed with their lives. The person in charge told me that I could interview the youth gathered for an activity, but when I tried to ask the kids, they looked at me blankly, with dead eyes.

There were many volunteers looking for things to do, but there wasn’t much that could be assigned. A bulletin board in the lobby had a sign announcing that a barber and someone to cut women’s hair would be there at certain hours. People were milling around, and when I tried to talk to them, only those who were friends, volunteers and non-refugee guests were willing to respond.

The Gush Katif refugees and the Nefesh B’Nefesh immigrants answered the same call. The Land of Israel is calling all Jews to make it their home. The tragedy is that the government, contrary to the electoral platform it professed, destroyed Jewish communities and made parts of Eretz Yisrael Judenrein, empty of Jews.

It has been such a strange feeling torn between the enthusiasm of new immigrants and the mourning of people burying idyllic lives in Gush Katif and Northern Shomron. My recent visit to New York was like experiencing a parallel universe. The vast, vast majority of the Jews in the United States are not only “neutral” about what has been going on with Disengagement, but they honestly don’t believe that it has anything to do with them.

In Israel and many other places where there are Jews, the traditional game to play on Chanukah is “dreidel.” It’s a spinning top with four sides. Each side has a Hebrew letter, the first letter of each word in the sentence: “Nes gadol haya poh!” “A great miracle happened here!” It commemorates the story of Chanukah that ended with finding a small bottle of pure olive oil to re-light the flame in the Holy Temple, so that worshipping there could commence.

The dreidels made for use outside of Israel are different. Instead of the letter “peh” for the word “poh,” “here,” they have a “shin” for the word “sham,” “there.” That’s the root of the problem. There is no unity in the Jewish Nation as long as there are two types of dreidels, the “poh” and the “sham.”

IMHO, the very best slogan ever by YESHA was “YESHA zeh kahn,” YESHA is here!” Unfortunately, many Israelis don’t think of themselves as part of YESHA. That is why and how the government succeeded in implementing Disengagement. They started with the two spots in YESHA most avoided by your average Israeli, Gush Katif, (which people confuse with Gaza,) and the northern Shomron. And if your average Israeli avoids these spots, certainly most of Diaspora Jewry feels even less connected.

The Jews of Gush Katif disappointed the government and media by being so dignified and non-violent. We were bombarded by “experts” predicting civil war and violence by the “fanatic settler population.” They were completely wrong. As of today, Gush Katif is being emptied of its remaining Jewish civilians, and the television shows soldiers crying as hard as the refugees.

The first time I saw Israeli soldiers crying on television was June 1967. I’ll never forget the TV newscast of the liberation of the Kotel, the ancient wall of the Temple Compound. Then they cried from pride and joy, and now from embarrassment and sorrow.

We really believed that “Geula,” Redemption was close, but we miscalculated. So much more must be done first. We must unify the Jewish People. I have a small request for those of you who live in “Chutz L’Aretz,” outside of Eretz Yisrael, please get rid of your old dreidels with the letter “shin.” Remember that we’re all connected, one family. Please try to feel our pain and know that our danger is yours.

And we in Eretz Yisrael also have to find ways to emphasis that we are one Nation and one People. We welcome our olim chadashim, new immigrants and we try to comfort and help the Disengagement Refugees establish new homes in Eretz Yisrael.

Rachem, Rachem, May G-d Have Mercy on Us All,

Batya Medad, Shiloh
Copyright©2005BatyaMedad, Contact me for publication permission; private distribution encouraged.
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