|Winston Churchill once
said, “The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you are likely
Each of us has a dream, and hopefully a vision (my dear friend Anita Tucker said that each of us “must” have a vision). Our vision can be clearer if we step back a bit, and look from a longer wiser distance.
That was surely the thought in mind when my bat mitzva granddaughter Shir Tehilla and her parents developed an idea for her bat mitzva project. Shir would spend a day with each of her grandparents, and B”H bli ayin hara, great-grandmothers. She’d participate in what they enjoyed, or felt was important. She may not know it, but those feelings and values are inside her too, just like the brown eyes and sweet smile that she inherited.
So, today, it was our turn. My husband has a passion for growing things – fruit trees, plants, all kinds of fascinating green things. I love the people of Gush Katif and have been involved in their community for many years through the Committee for Gush Katif Bridal Showers and even preceding it. B”H, we took Shir Tehilla on an adventure that combined both of these passions.
We traveled to the renewed community of Netzer Chazani and met one of the most inspirational women in today’s world – Anita Tucker – a modern day heroine, a pioneer, a farmer, a Zionist, a leader, a builder, a backbone of Gush Katif’s past and its future, IY”H.
Anita told us the moving story of her life in Gush Katif and since the Expulsion. Shir was two years old when Anita’s home was destroyed. She doesn’t remember Gush Katif – only what we have told her.
Our subject for the day was trees. When Gush Katif was destroyed - its houses reduced to rubble - some of its trees remained. The communities of Gush Katif were living in hotels, in caravillas, in make-shift "towns", hoping one day to rebuild their lives, and of course, ultimately to return to Gush Katif, IY”H.
Five years after the destruction, Aviel Tucker found out that 1000 trees from Gush Katif had been saved by the Keren Kayemet L’Yisrael, which had replanted them in a nursery in the south until one day the communities would be built. Each tree – mostly palm trees and olive trees – was labeled with the community to which it belonged. Aviel found the Netzer Chazani trees. He cried.
The trees had fared just as the community had – some were flourishing and green, some were bent and broken, some were wild and aimless. Rooted in foreign soil, there they stood alone, until the day Aviel found them. He returned many times to hug the trees – yes, hug them - and tell them, “Hold on. We will get you. We will rebuild and we will bring you home.” Next year, he told the trees. And then…next year…and then…next.
It is almost ten years since the destruction of Gush Katif. Netzer Chazani is being rebuilt, and starting to look and feel like a real town. Aviel thought that this year might be the one when the trees come home. A few months ago, Aviel visited the nursery, and one of the caretakers said, “These trees are going to Palmachim. You never came for them.” No!!! Aviel argued that the Netzer Chazani trees must come back to the community. “But we waited so long for you to claim your trees. Palmachim is ready for trees.” After lots of negotiations, and with the knowledge that shmitta was almost upon him, Aviel knew the trees must be replanted in the new Netzer Chazani community immediately.
The cost was tremendous, but the community did everything it could to transport the trees (including a few from Gadid – there are Gadid refugees in Netzer Chazani’s new community, as well) to its new community. On long trucks, the palm trees were laid, on other trucks came the olive trees. Each was dug up with its original soil, still from Gush Katif.
This summer, 70 trees returned to their community. The trees were planted on the condition that they could be replanted when the Netzer Chazani community returned to Gush Katif, IY”H, may it be soon.
Aviel was told to leave one palm tree behind – why waste the money. This palm tree was broken in half. It would never live. Why spend money on a lost cause. He refused. We visited that tree today, and my granddaughter Shir hugged it. It has an interesting shape, but it is B”H thriving surrounded by its family and those who are pampering it with love and attention.
All of us have challenges in our lives. Sometimes we seem broken and “unfixable”. But with love and caring, and of course, faith, the broken can be mended, and we can each have a strong positive future.
Thank you to Anita and Stewart Tucker, and Aviel Tucker for an unforgettable day. Thank you, Shir Tehilla, for inviting Sabba and Savta to share with you some of the things we care about. We love you and are proud of you. Mazal tov to you and your Ema and Abba on your upcoming Bat Mitzva, IY"H.