Monday, July 22, 2013
“Dirat Arai”: The ‘Temporary’ Succa by Hadassa DeYoung, K’far Darom/Elon Moreh
“Dirat Arai”: The ‘Temporary’ Succa
What was it like living in Gush Katif? I’ve been asked that question countless times. Answering it doesn’t get any easier. Stories are a good way of relating events so that’s what my writings commemorating the anniversary of the Expulsion are usually are. Succot in Gush Katif was a special holiday, in many ways, from the neighbors helping us buy and transport the succa parts to tear gas meant for rioting Arabs interrupting our meals to wondering if mortars launched from Dir-el-Balah were going to prevent us from fulfilling the mitzva of sitting in the succa.
Like many couples my husband and I married in Elul, not long before the High Holidays. We arrived in Netzer Hazani about a week after our wedding. Unlike most couples in Israel we couldn’t pack our bags, catch a ride and spend the holidays with family. We were ‘alone’ – although one is never really alone in Israel - and celebrating the holidays with friends who were in exactly our situation didn’t appeal to us so we decided to stay home. For Rosh HaShana we received more invitations than there were meals and even we also received an invitation for before the Yom Kippur fast. All that was left was the matter of building a Succa, known as a “dirat arai”, a temporary dwelling built especially for only the week of Succot.
Time passed and we still hadn’t purchased a Succa. Yom Kippur passed and I began to seriously worry. Succot would begin in only a few days and I had no idea how we were going to acquire a Succa. Fortunately immediately after Yom Kippur as we were having the fast-breaking meal siata d’shaimaya (help from Heaven) arrived. A neighbor pulled up next to our house, honked his horn and shouted, “Uri! Come! I’ll take you to Neve Dekalim and you’ll buy yourself a Succa.” He not only took my husband to Neve Dekalim but also vouched for us. We didn’t have enough cash on hand and the checkbooks hadn’t arrived yet. I guess the kind neighbor figured that without family in Israel or a car or checks we wouldn’t be running away too quickly. They returned from Neve Dekalim, the generous neighbor helped Uri start the building the succa and then he apologized (!) for having to go home and build his own succa.
Two years later we headed for the young community of K’far Darom, once again moving right before Succot. We packed up the minivan, drove to our caravan and began to unpack. A smiling grandfather stepped out of the neighboring caravan and greeted us. “Shalom, I’m Chana Cohen’s father. Welcome! Do you need any help?” We turned down the offer, not wanting to inconvenience our new neighbors and said that we’d manage. After about half an hour he returned, looked at us, up and down, and insisted. “Take care of your home. I’ll build the succa with my grandchildren.” He said and he did.
Years passed and on the year celebrating 50 years to the founding of old K’far Darom we sat in the Succa, “under siege”– roads were closed because of the security situation – thinking about how the original founders of K’far Darom were literally under siege during the War of Independence.
Four years later the rioting and attacks began on Rosh HaShana, the attacks that would only increase until the Expulsion, after which the terrorists would increase their attacks on the rest of the Negev, once the Jews were forcibly removed from Gush Katif. The Arabs rioted close to K’far Darom’s fence and the tear gas blew into our yard and our eyes. As the holiday of Succot drew near neither the riots nor the tear gas had stopped. During Succot we took wet towels into the succa with us, for relief from the tear gas until we could run inside. Once we didn’t take wet towels with us and we started to think that maybe tear gas was wafting in our direction. I didn’t say a word, but my three year old daughter announced that, “We should have brought towels!”
By the next year we already had to keep our ear attuned to the sound of mortar launches and announcements of “purple rain”, the code for falling mortars. “Color red” warnings were rare. Almost always the mortars had already been launched before the army could warn us. We sat in the succa, like anyone else celebrating the holiday, but our conversations were a bit different.
"A mortar fell. Let’s go inside”
"No it didn’t. We’ll stay in the Succa.”
"Ima (mom)! A mortar fell!”
I wasn’t convinced but just to be on the safe side we went inside. Later I learned that a mortar had directly hit our neighbor two doors to the left. Their second, completely unfinished, story suffered a direct hit to a corner, leaving a gaping hole. Fortunately the family wasn’t home that day.
Years passed and the Arabs of Dir-el-Balah continued to launch mortars. Not only the security situation but also our metal frame and nylon walled succa began to heat up too much. “We should buy a succa in which it’s pleasant to sit,” I suggested. My husband reminded me that we didn’t have a car – which we didn’t at the time – and how was he supposed to bring wooden succa walls home. I didn’t back down. “Do we lack neighbors with large vehicles?” My husband was convinced and bought succa walls, once again in Neve Dekalim. We waited again for siata d’shamaya, which wasn’t long in coming.
Several days later the phone rang and on the line was our closest neighbor. “Shalom, – speaking I’m at – and I see succa walls with DeYoung marked on them. Would you like them?” Absolutely. We received our succa walls at our doorstep and our neighbor had the mitzva of bringing them to us.
We sat in that succa three times in K’far Darom. Then it, the ‘dirat arai’ was loaded into a shipping container with the rest of our belongings and our ‘permanent’ house was razed to the ground. The succa remained in the hot, stuffy container for a bit longer than a year until in the mountain air of Elon Moreh it was built, once again according to our custom, by a new neighbor we’d barely met.
We managed to move once more, to a new house in Elon Moreh, right before Succot and we’re still waiting to move again, with the succa back to K’far Darom.
At this time of year when we remember the destruction of Beit HaMikdash and for us the more personal destruction of Gush Katif and the northern Shomron, particularly K’far Darom I think about the upcoming Succot holiday. We moved four times right before Succot, and we have plenty of time to return to K’far Darom, with that ‘temporary’ “dirat arai”, by the holiday, if we don’t merit the rebuilding of Beit HaMikdash and going up to Jerusalem by then.
Hadassa DeYoung, K’far Darom/Elon Moreh