Friday, August 12, 2011

Gush Katif - From Despair to Repair

I was honored to be a speaker at Jerusalem's Commemoration of six years since the destruction of Gush Katif. The theme of the program was From Despair to Repair.

I spoke about the repair in action for the Gush Katif community by the Committee for Gush Katif Bridal Showers. The audience was B"H very enthusiastic.

You can listen in to my speech: (MOVIE)

There is probably not one person in this synagogue who hasn’t either worn an orange bracelet, or stood shoulder to shoulder in mammoth protests throughout the country, or prayed their hearts out at mass tefillot at the Kotel or under a Gush Katif palm tree, or perhaps blocked traffic on a highway (sh, I won’t tell anyone).

There’s probably not one of you who doesn’t still possess the orange ribbon from his car (mine is hanging on the rear-view mirror) or his orange t-shirt or his bottle of Gush Katif sand and sea shells.

There’s probably not one person in this room who didn’t link arms with a new friend in the 120,000 person human chain that ran 90 kilometers from Nissanit to Jerusalem, or who hadn’t traveled to Gush Katif for a day/week/month of solidarity.

There’s not one of you who didn’t weep his eyes out when parents and children were forcibly pulled out of their homes or their shuls, or when tractor plows turned our heroic friends from Gush Katif into wretched homeless.

The foundation of today’s we-want-a-home tent protests did not begin last month on Rothschild Blvd. They began in Gush Katif six years ago when 10,000 Jews became homeless, just as former Israeli Prime Minister Arik Sharon predicted, “The fate of Netzarim is the same as the fate of Tel Aviv.” And so it is.

We all knew the despair of Gush Katif and the Northern Shomron. To some extent or another we each fought the battle, and we felt it.

Perhaps we still despair that all our struggles, all our protests were for naught. But I don’t agree.

As believing Torah-Jews, we know that G-d created the cure even before the illness. And so, as thousands of Jews prayed in Netivot, crammed into the Rose Garden, or snuck through the fields to Gush Katif, G-d was preparing thousands, even hundreds of thousands of Jews to open their hearts to the spirit of Gush Katif and therefore be ready and willing to help with the repair when the Expulsion He decreed, would actually happen.

Hashem prepared you and me as the cure, prepared us for this moment of repair.

There’s probably not one of you who didn’t volunteer in one of the hotels or caravilla sites after the “Disengagement”, or hasn’t written a check that helped in some way, or participated in some other chesed project to benefit our expelled brothers.

The last time I was honored to speak here, I detailed dozens of chesed projects that regular people, like you and I, took upon themselves to help our brethren.

Now I’d like to speak about one with which I am intimately involved. Since six months after the Expulsion, a group of amazing women joined together to make bridal showers for the chattanim and kallot of Gush Katif.

For five and a half years, we have been celebrating with the same young people, who as teenagers in the Gush before the Destruction, had acted with great dignity to show their love for Eretz Yisrael - talking, convincing, protesting. They saw, literally, their homes and their parents' businesses wiped out, their childhood shattered.

Weddings are a time of joy, but for a GK family that was in trauma six years ago, and often even today is still in trauma, it can be yet another source of stress. Many parents are unemployed or underemployed, or dealing with life issues.

And even today, thanks to the work of JobKatif and the beginning of building in some communities, which is costing so much more than their compensation, the wounds of the past are still open.

Some brides and grooms were orphaned of one of their parents. Some are the children of terror victims, or terror victims themselves. When we recently showered a very famous and severely injured victim of a bus bombing, we each had to turn away to hide our tears, while she oohed and ahhed with such pure delight at the mountain of bridal gifts before her.

Some kallot are from families who have few or no rights. One mother, who has been fighting evil bureaucracy and indifference for so long, told us after her daughter’s shower, “I had thought that there was no good left in the world, until I met all of you.” The stories are endless, and so many are sad beyond words.

Out of destruction and despair, the voices of joy and gladness, the voices of the brides and grooms of Gush Katif can be heard, ready to begin new lives. And so our committee does its best to help them build their "bayit neeman b'yisrael" in a positive way.

On a trip to a GK temporary site, a mother told our committee that the chattanim we were showering had been leaders of the (maavak) the struggle. They were teens then before the Army, and they had been really hurt (nafshi) in their souls. The mother said that they had felt like they were “discarded and even hated by the nation.” But she added that our “outpouring of support for them, and the thought that Am Yisrael loves them has made a tremendous change for the better in their outlook and their feelings toward their people. It is a step forward in their healing.”

B"H, women have joined us from throughout Israel – possibly in your community, plus, cities throughout the Diaspora – to help these chattanim and kallot. Each has supplied a head-start with a warm caring hug for Gush Katif couples.

Bli ayin hara, to date, the Committee for Gush Katif Bridal Showers has helped more than 620 Gush Katif couples. If you have worked on or have attended a Gush Katif shower, please raise your hand.

I have chosen one out of hundreds of thank you letters to read to you, “To the women who support Gush Katif. Although we don’t know you by name or face, we wanted to thank you. We have no words to describe the warmth and excitement that washed over us when we got your package, which contained both gifts and love and generosity. I was in high school before the Gerush, the expulsion, and I felt that the battle we were waging was not just for my own house, but for Am Yisrael. The fact that you are now with us in our time of joy, in the time that we are trying to repair the damage, gives us hope for our people.”

It’s been many years since we linked arms in the Human Chain, but as my friend Anita Tucker of Netzer Chazani, soon IY”H, to be Yesodot, said, today “our hands and our hearts are connected in a chain of chesed that is more important and more dynamic than any of us can even imagine.”

B"H, new names are constantly added to our list as Gush Katif's young people build their tomorrow. Rebbetzin Esther Kitov told us that our showers bring out the best of Am Yisrael, because they cross every denomination of Jew, and unite the Jewish People in chesed. We thank our friends in America, Amazing Savings, who have provided meat and dairy flatware for every single couple since our first Efrat shower. Thanks to Yad Eliezer who say it is their honor to help us, because the people of Gush Katif were so generous to them throughout the years. Central Fund of Israel has been with us since we collected our first dollar check. And Job Katif and One Israel Fund have kindly helped us as well.

Like all other chesed organizations, we have been hurt by the economic downturn. But our Committee for Gush Katif Bridal Showers, made up of true tzidkaniyot, perseveres. And B"H, our showers have been a segula of good fortune and personal simcha for all those involved.

Friends, our showers have been possible because people like you who love chesed, want to rebuild Am Yisrael, and help us repair the wrong done to our brothers. All of us together are the cure for ills of the past.

I leave you with the words of a dear bride, “I pray that just as you have seen and felt the pain of the Churban, the destruction, you and all of us will merit to see speedily in our day the rebuilding of our Temple, the return of Hashem to Zion and the homecoming of Am Yisrael to all parts of our Holy Land. Thank you again in the name of many chattanim and kallot from the Gush.”

Olam chesed yibaneh.

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