Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Vacation Rule 101

The car's packed. Off you go.
Just one thing...Never go on vacation thinking you are going to create exactly the same magic you conjured up on your previous trip. I'm talking to myself on this one, because I make this mistake all the time.
But nothing is ever the same - not the weather, your accommodations, your fellow vacationers, your budget, plus loads of other variables.
Don't let change disappoint you. Navigate around it. Make new magic.
Go on vacation with the attitude of new discovery and a readiness to explore different kinds of fun and adventures.


Vacations are called get-aways for a reason. They're meant to take you away to another environment to challenge your creativity, your imagination and introduce new realities that will broaden your life experiences.
It's comforting to relive happy memories and it's exciting to try to recreate a wonderful episode in our lives.
But there's nothing as refreshing and exhilarating as uncovering yet another adventure that will sparkle in our hearts forever.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Another World

Summer vacations give us an opportunity to travel - see new places, meet new people, experience new things.
From each experience, we have much to learn.
I spent the day out of Greater Jerusalem today. Greater Jerusalem is my home turf. I am used to the people here, their rhythm, their beliefs, their look.
I came up the coast today and was greeted at the entrance of the city here with graffiti on the stone wall, "Rabin Tzadak". (Yitzchak Rabin was right.)
Coming from Greater Jerusalem, I am used to the "Kahane Tzadak" (Meir Kahane was right) graffiti everywhere.
My husband looked at the wall here and said, "We're not in Kansas anymore."
He was right.
But that's okay. It's okay to meet Jews who are not like us, to make an effort to find a minyan and to locate a kosher restaurant.
Firstly, it makes us realize how lucky we are to be living in an area where it's so easy to be observant in every way we wish.
It also reminds us that there's a big world out there, and we have to learn how to live in it.

You are Where You Live

Oftentimes you can look at a person and tell where he's from by his dress, his manner and his speech. Our environment dictates many of our attitudes too.
While watching the waves today next to a father from this area, I understood his point if view.
It was so lovely to sit on the cool damp sand, watch the children play by the water's edge, gaze upon the surfers bouncing happily upon the waves.
Here there is only peace - no Arabs (unless they're waiters), no soldiers (unless they're tourists), no outposts, no checkpoints, no bus bombs, no stonings, no roadside shootings.
Nothing can disturb this peace unless the news reports unpleasantness in other parts of the country. So who needs that?
I understand. I'd want to preserve the peace of my family as well.
So what must be done? I must walk in the footprints of my fellow vacationer, and he must walk in mine.
Now that we've built sand castles near one another, I hope tomorrow we might chat about our lives, the things we feel differently about, and perhaps even find things we have in common.
I've come to this other world for a reason, and it's not just to collect sea shells.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Extinguishing the Volcano of Hatred that Burned Against Gush Katif

A bit of unexpected dizziness kept me from neighborhood Tisha B’Av programs that I attend each year. Instead I laid low in the house, learned a bit and then watched some of the recommended videos about the destruction of Gush Katif and all it represented.
Even today, seven years later, it is so clear why the left-wing of this country could not allow the continued existence of Gush Katif, and why they hated the Gush Katif population with their entire being.
I am not one for harsh words. I am usually the one who tries to teach everyone Barney's song, "I love you. You love me. We're a happy family....Won't you say you love me too." That's the way I believe life should be, and the way we should raise our children. I long for brotherly love among our people, because the lack of it destroys Temples and towns.
But if we don't face the problems of our society, and we are constantly feeding innocents to the volcano, hoping that that will keep it from exploding and destroying us all, we will find that we have sacrificed the good for an unquenchable evil whose ultimate explosion will be more horrendous than anything we had feared.
Hatred and Jealousy
It is always hatred and jealousy - Cain against Abel, Esau against Jacob, Joseph's brothers, the Hellenists, onward and onward.
Seven years ago, the hate was so strong, nothing could extinguish the flames of the left-wing volcano. Gush Katif was everything hateful in their eyes.
The left could not fargin the Gush Katif residents a life of paradise – even with the kassams falling, even with the terror attacks. According to Rabbi Mendel Weinbach of Ohr Somayach, fargin means not to begrudge the success or well-being of someone else.
If You are Right, I Must be Left Wrong
If the way of life displayed in Gush Katif was the right way, then everything the Israeli left stood for was wrong. The people of Gush Katif were their opposite mirror image. So instead of looking into the mirror of their souls to correct their own lives/ideas/priorities, in order not to feel guilty, the left understood that the mirror must be smashed completely.
Yes, when left-wing Israel perceived that the bloc of Gush Katif communities stood for everything they were not, they simply couldn’t  fargin an entire population that lived in brotherly-love; that possessed higher values of dedication to Eretz Yisrael, Am Yisrael and Torat Yisrael – values that shined from the oldest to the youngest of their towns. They couldn’t fargin the sea of greenhouses and the bright red peppers that symbolized millions of dollars of produce for Israel. If only their businesses suffered from the terror around them. If only the world would really reject their produce, then at least they could gain a bit of  sympathy.
As the left-wingers lived for their nights out in the pubs or at the cafes, their designer jeans and name-brand possessions, they couldn’t  fargin the Gush Katif farmers for opening their hot houses widely to help the needy.

They couldn’t fargin them for flaunting their love of Torah with magnificent yeshivot and synagogues.
They couldn’t fargin them for having such an elevated existence, yet seeming regular, as well. If they were only detestable in every way, like the hareidim with their modestly dressed women and men in black, okay…but they wore tzitzit and kippot and still loved surfing and walking barefoot on sand dunes. They played a wizard game of basketball, rode horses and ATVs on the beach. From the outside they seemed too regular, so the left hated them even more.

And while the majority of left-wing Israel lived in the overcrowded overheated Merkaz (which isn’t the Merkaz – center – at all, because truly Judea and Samaria are) in apartments with two kids and a dog, the left hated the folks of Gush Katif with their big beautiful haciendas, filled with laughing children. "Why should they have more than I do?"
More than anything else, they hated them because they were heroes – because they took the cursed sand and turned it into a treasure for the State of Israel, because they didn’t say give me give me, but give you give you, and because they stayed planted during the bad, as they had during the good. If only they had cried and ran whenever there was a kassam, their Israeli enemies would have just smirked, “Ha ha, see them run now.”  
Surely the left would have let them stay if they had only shown fear. Every night’s news broadcast would have been an affirmation of everything they believed, “You see, that’s what they get for trying to create paradise. Now they’re getting what’s coming to them.” But they didn’t run. They stayed fast. They praised G-d if there was a miracle, and they accepted G-d’s ruling when there wasn’t.
Therefore, the left hated them because they represented so much of what was right and good. And, so the left-wingers momentarily thought, if they are right, then what am I?
And instead of delving any further into that idea, they said instead, “They must be destroyed. Then I will feel better.”
So Gush Katif was destroyed, its homes were reduced to rubble, its hot houses rotted away, its parents lost their livelihood, their spirits were broken and the beautiful synagogues were demolished. Success.
But the Israeli left is still unhappy. They still pray for visas to America, for flashy cars, for a world without G-d and His rules, for an end to everything that reminds them that their lifestyle is not perfect. Their problem still exists. So, who must be destroyed now? 
Extinguishing the Volcano
No amount of sacrifices will ever be enough for a volcano that feeds on hatred. 
Gush Katifers themselves and their supporters tried to put out the flames with their Panim el Panim (Face to Face) campaign. That was a commendable start. So too are the yeshivot and Jewish hang-outs in Tel Aviv.
Emergency!!! There needs to be a drastic campaign in the entire country, in every single school to teach the values of Eretz Yisrael, Am Yisrael and Torat Yisrael, yes the values embodied by Gush Katif. Just as school children have begun to be exposed to Jerusalem and even Chevron, they must be exposed to Torah thoughts and Jewish personalities of the past and present. This will breed understanding, Jewish pride, a strengthening of our roots, a feeling of purpose, and brotherly love. This is the only plan that will save the nation and put out the volcanic fire of hatred.

Seven Years after Gush Katif - No, It's Not Fine

It's Tisha B'Av.
My family went to synagogue to read Eicha (Lamentations). The Jewish people have plenty over which to lament - from the first major Tisha B'Av disaster (the sin of the spies in the desert) up through the destructions of the Holy Temples, the Spanish Inquisition, and most recently the Destruction of Gush Katif and Northern Shomron and the Expulsion of Jews from their homes.
On my way to sleep, I decided to check the news. Nothing special. IDF Home Front Command's Search and Rescue soldiers are training for chemical warfare. Opposition leader Shaul Mofaz said that attacking Iran could be catastrophic for Israel. The CIA says Israel is breaking into the homes of CIA agents in Israel. Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney has landed in Israel.
Regular day of news.
Then I saw a message from my niece. "On Tisha B'Av, remember the destruction of Gush Katif. Watch this movie - UNSETTLED - Documentary on the Disengagement from Gaza." www.vimeo.com/46423843
Looking at the Expulsion from the eyes of settler, soldier and politician, it is done in such a true-life human manner without anyone banging your head with messages, it doesn't seem like a documentary.Up-close, personal, compelling, excellent! Directed by Joel Blasberg and Oreet Rees, produced by Arnold Peltz and Joel Blasberg, it is also magnificently filmed and edited.
In addition to the interviews done with the subjects of the documentary, the film brings us right up close to the interactions between soldier and settler at the moment of the Expulsion. We hear their dialogue, their thought processes, their reasoning, their arguing.
"It will be fine," the soldiers told the sobbing residents of Gush Katif as their were being thrown out of their homes. "It will be fine."
Question to the Soldiers of the "Disengagement"
So, I'd like to ask a question to those soldiers who participated in the Expulsion, who said, "Don't worry. Everything will be fine." What do you think now seven years later when half of Gush Katif residents still live in refugee camps in paper-thin caravillot and a third haven't even been able to begin building their future homes yet. Is everything fine?
Soldiers who participated in the Expulsion and said, "Don't worry, everything will be fine," what part of families running into sewer pipes for shelter during a missile attack is fine?
Soldiers who said everything will be fine, what do you think now seven years later when unemployment is 14% high among Gush Katif families, and would be much higher except for the fact that Gush Katifers want to be productive, and have even taken jobs below their abilities in order just to work?
Soldiers who said everything will be fine, what do you think about all the marriages that have broken up, the illnesses that have developed, and the older teens who are now at-risk because of the results of the Disengagement?
And what do you think of the thousands of missiles that have been fired upon Israel from the Gaza Strip, from the former sites of Gush Katif community?
Soldiers who said everything will be fine, and commanders who told them to say it, just which part of all of this is fine?

Thanks to TheLandofIsrael.com for sponsoring the free stream today.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Israeli Olympic Athletes: Remember the 11 Angels as You Remember the Sabbath

To our dear Israeli athletes at the Olympic Games in London,

All of Israel stands with you, as you take your places on the starting line at every event. All our hopes are with you. All our good feelings are with you. All our pride is in your every stroke, your every action in every sport. Whether or not you bring home medals, you have already won medals in our hearts.
There has been quite a stir among Jews throughout the world, especially Israelis, calling for a moment of silence at the Opening Games on Friday night, Shabbat. The Olympic Committee has nixed any memorial of that sort for the 11 Israeli athletes massacred in Munich 1972.
My dear athletes, my children, my friends, Yiddishe kinder, you can make your own memorial. You can make a memorial that will have a greater impact than any Minute of Silence could have made.
Instead of just lighting a memorial candle, you can all together LIGHT SHABBAT CANDLES, make your own kabbalat Shabbat, call out Hashem's name and proclaim the Holy Sabbath in Olympic Village. You can sing Shalom Aleichem, Malachei HaShabbat - Welcome to you, angels of Sabbath - and you can have in mind the 11 angels that are watching over you and askingYOU to give them justice.
They don't need you to win at the games. They need you to remember 11 Jewish athletes, massacred at the Munich Olympics. And there is no better way to make the entire world remember these 11 Jews, who were killed because they were Jewish, than to remember the Sabbath and try as best as you can to keep it holy. This is the most powerful memorial anyone could achieve!
If you remember the Sabbath while you are at the Olympic Games, you will be making a kiddush Hashem (sanctifying G-d's Name) on the global scale that was achieved when Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon, o'h, asked his rabbi in Florida, "When do we observe Shabbat in space?" Suddenly the entire world was speaking about Shabbat and the glory of the Jewish people and their G-d.
Remember a few weeks ago when Israel's President Shimon Peres announced that he will not come to the Olympic Opening Event, because he chose not to desecrate the Sabbath in order to attend? Mr. Peres is not a religious Jew, but as President of the State of Israel before the world, he knew he must act in a way that brings honor to the Jewish nation. Every newspaper and television show in the world reported that "Israel's President Shimon Peres chose Shabbat over the Olympic Opener." What a kiddush Hashem!! Jews walked taller in every country under the sun because of that decision. And Jerusalem of Gold shined even brighter.
I understand that you feel you must participate in the Opening Event. And I don't know enough about the Olympics to ask you to stay back. But I ask you to try as best as you can to make the 25 hours from tonight until tomorrow night holier for yourself and your team. I ask you to find time in between all of this afternoon's exciting events to light Shabbat candles, drink a cup of wine for kiddush, sing Shalom Aleichem together. You can even dance the hora, if that's what you know.
But make a difference in this Olympics. Remember the 11 Israeli athletes who were murdered by Islamic terrorists because these athletes were Jews. Whether you are religious or not, whether you want to or not, you are representing every Jew in the world today.
Make your own memorial to Israel's fallen athletes by remembering that YOU ARE A JEW. And a Jew remembers the Sabbath to keep it holy.
No medal, no sports recognition, no feature story in a magazine could give Israel and the Jewish people more pride (or shall we say, nachas!) than if you made it known that the Israeli team remembers the Sabbath and the 11 angels that are at the Olympic Village with you.
Sharon Katz
Efrat, Israel

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Daddy Camp - a Dog of a Different Color

In neighborhoods through Israel and perhaps throughout the world, when camp is officially over, parents take turns making their own Parent Camp. Usually mothers take turns treating the children to their special talents - baking cookies, making jewelry, sewing, drawing, etc. Sometimes Big Sister takes the kids to the park or watches them ride bikes.
Today was my children's day for Parent Camp, and my son stepped into the act for part of the day. He created a Daddy Camp that was surely unique, and will surely not be forgotten.

My son grooms dogs for Holy Land Poodles. His own five miniature poodles are like frisky little teddy bears - friendly and fun, cuddly and cute. He decided to create a Dog Show for his Daddy Camp. Each camper was given one of the pups to groom and teach a trick. They could do anything they liked - comb their hair, make pony tails, wash their faces or anything else. They could fluff the puppies, tame their curls, whatever their imagination allowed. 
The girls had the most fun camp ever, creating fur fashions that would make the famous hair stylist Vidal Sasson jealous. The puppies, who are incredibly great sports, even seemed to enjoy the attention they were getting.
And the results were smashing.
After Daddy Camp was over, the dogs were paraded up and down the synthetic grass runway and awarded points for their appearance. The girls lobbied for the dog they had groomed.
Beauty Pageant
As one of the judges, I found that (top photo from left to right)  Snowy had the whitest face, Lacey had the cutest paws, Jasmine had the nicest pony tail, Dallas had the smoothest ears, and Rako was the fluffiest cotton ball-pup.

Talent Competition
Then it was trick time. Truthfully, red headed Jasmine was the only mini-poodle who exhibited any talent. She jumped for a string. The others were more inclined to lie around to have their bellies scratched. And that was fine too.
Daddy Camp - it should be a new tradition.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Summer Voices

Summer is here, B”H!! And soon Israelis will be on the move for vacations all over the country. We’re heading to the green hills of the Galil, to the trails of the Golan, to the beaches of the coast. Some hardy folks are even off to the south to dive among the corals or hike among the craters. Wherever you go - enjoy. Be safe. Make great memories.
Meanwhile, Am Yisrael is preparing for Tisha B’Av. We’re not just thinking of the break fast meal, but of the spiritual reckonings we must make in order to turn Tisha B’Av from a day of mourning to a day of joy.
Phil Chernofsky, the brilliant and dedicated editor of Torah Tidbits, wrote recently that three of the reasons for our Tisha B’Av mourning (the decree on the spies in the desert, the Destruction of the First Temple, and the Destruction of the Second) were caused by three respective sins - 1) the sin of the spies and their scorning of the Land of Israel, 2) the worship of idols and other sins that showed that Am Yisrael scorned Hashem, and 3) sinat chinam (baseless hatred).
The way to right the wrongs, Phil said, was to 1) love the land, 2) increase our love and dedication to Torah and Hashem, 3) show all of our brethren ahavat chinam (unconditional love).
Especially in our day, we’ve got to show the ahavat achim (love of our brother) that was sadly lacking in the times of the Second Temple, and unfortunately that seems to be missing often nowadays, as well. We’ve got to open our arms and our hearts to all Jews, even when they are different than we are.
There are three kinds of Jews in the world today - us (whoever and whatever we are), those who are less observant (in every way - including religiously and our relationship to Israel), and those who are more. Our Judaism (whatever form it takes), is, of course, the perfect one - balanced in observance and attachment to the Land of Israel.

Connecting with Other Jews

While their lifestyles may seem too loose or too wild or empty to us, it’s not that difficult to tolerate and even reach out to those Jews whom we feel are less observant than we are. We even feel noble when we open our arms to them.
But it is sometimes difficult to accept and respect Jews who seem stricter in their observance of Jewish law. Instead of appreciating their dedication to learning, their modesty in dress and uncompromising adherence to the mitzvot, we may see them as fanatics.
Let’s skip the Cain and Abel, Isaac and Ishmael, and Jacob and Esau stories for now. Our brotherly hatred grew when Joseph’s brothers detested him so much, they couldn’t even speak with him. They broke off communication immediately. It was not until many years later that they learned (the hard way) that each tribe had its own special mission, its own talents, its own way of living life and looking at life. Finally they understood how to appreciate each other’s differences and strengths. Thousands of years later, our situation is the same. Unfortunately we still feel hatred in our hearts against some brothers. Hashem knows how hard it is to stop this jealousy, resentment, etc. because He  commanded us, “Do not hate your brother in your heart.”
Every day the government, one national institution or other, or the media goads us to hate our brethren. Let’s not fall into the trap. Let us love our brothers, build a Jewish Eretz Yisrael alongside our brother, and together build the Holy Temple, IY”H. 
In this issue of Voices, our story about sovereignty over Judea and Samaria, Life in the Ulpana Neighborhood, and a ten-year Aliya Anniversary fully show our people’s love of Eretz Yisrael.
That’s not enough! We must each do our best to strengthen our relationship with Hashem and His commandments.
And we must pledge ourselves to help rebuild the Holy Temple in the third way - by looking past our differences, and to our commonalities. We must show acceptance and love for our brethren, no matter how different they are.
Enjoy this issue of Voices, and please visit our website and our blog, http://voices-magazine.blogspot.com.
Have a meaningful fast. May we be zoche to rebuild the Holy Temple in our day.

Sharon Katz

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Israeli Sovereignty over Judea and Samaria

After former Israeli Supreme Court Justice Edmund Levy and his committee reported their findings that Judea and Samaria were not occupied territory, and instead should have their settlements promoted, proponents of extending sovereignty over Judea and Samaria have felt their position strengthened and validated.
At this year’s Second Annual Conference on the Application of Sovereignty over Judea and Samaria more than 500 people jammed in Chevron’s Machpelah Visitors’ Center to hear Knesset Members, legal experts and journalists explain the legal, economic, demographic and political aspects of finally including Judea and Samaria officially into the State of Israel.
Judea, Samaria, Gaza were liberated during the Six Day War 45 years ago. Likud MK Tzippy Hotovely told the gathering that she hopes that sovereignty will soon be extended to Yosh (Yehuda and Shomron) so that by the “50th year, we will have a complete liberation of the Land.”
Among the speakers were HaBayit HaYehudi Minister Rabbi Prof. Daniel Hershkowitz, Coalition Chairman MK Zeev Elkin, Likud MK Miri Regev (chairperson of the lobby for Israeli sovereignty over Judea and Samaria), Adv. Yitzchak Bam of the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel, Former Israeli Ambassador to Washington Yoram Ettinger, Adv. Dafna Netanyahu, Mekor Rishon’s Eran Bar Tal, B’Sheva’s Immanuel Shilo, Adv. And author Howard Grief and Israel Prize laureate Geula Cohen.
Biblically Speaking
Of course, the basis of our claim to all of Israel rests in the Bible. Most everyone is familiar with the very first commentary by Rashi in Bereishit 1:1. In fact, both Israel’s first Prime Minister David Ben Gurion (in 1937 when he spoke in front of the Peel Commission, as head of the Jewish Agency) and its current PM Binyamin Netanyahu (when he served as UN Ambassador in the 1980s) held up the Bible as the Jewish Nation’s deed to the land. And just recently in Parshat Masei, where Israel’s ancient borders were delineated, we read, “You shall possess the Land and you shall settle in it, for to you have I given the Land to possess it.” (Bamidbar: 33:53)
Sovereignty in our Minds
Each speaker made a clear case for Israeli Sovereignty over all of Israel, but each lamented that the politicians were the biggest obstacle to this vision.
Several speakers said the first step (perhaps the most important) that must be taken in the Sovereignty movement is bringing sovereignty into the “mind”.
National Union MK Uri Ariel said that the best example of “the vision of full sovereignty from the Jordan River to the Sea” is the report by retired Justice Edmund Levy. “That courageous stand is a general acceptance and understanding for the whole country.”
Mayor of Samaria Gershon Mesika said that the Jewish people must stop seeing themselves as “grasshoppers” and speak up for “our right to the Land of Israel.” He mentioned that he had indeed done just that in a recent speech in Brussels, and he was applauded!
“We’re always apologizing instead of going on an offensive on all fronts. How can we receive the land of Israel unless we say it’s our right?”
Mesika continued, “If we want sovereignty over all the Land of Israel, the only way to act is to bring the matter of Judea and Samaria to our consciousness.”
He commented, “Ninety percent of the people have never been there. I had an MK in my office who looked at the map of the Shomron sand said, ‘Where is Gush Katif?’”
Mesika said that in order to bring Judea and Samaria into people’s heads, we must bring as many people as possible to Judea and Samaria.
He explained that when visitors come to Samaria’s Barkan Industrial Zone and understand that it’s only 15 minutes from Tel Aviv, “they can’t believe it!” They are also surprised to see Jews and Arabs working together in 150 factories there.
“We, as a group, are the strongest pillar, the most loyal guard of Israel, and we must spread the message of Judea and Samaria,” Mesika said. “We must be like the Mishkefet project and bring hundreds of thousands to Judea and Samaria.”
He concluded, “If we are strong and speak in terms of our rights without stammering, others will understand too.”
MK Tzipi Hotovely concurred, “We cannot stand before the world and stutter and mutter, ‘Yes, it is ours, but we are afraid to impose sovereignty.’” MK Hotovely said that we must push our sovereignty “vision” forward.
In fact, Hotovely has already submitted a bill to Israel’s Knesset to adopt the recommendations of Justice Edmund Levy’s commission on the legality of settlement in Judea and Samaria.
The Conference was sponsored by Women in Green (Women for Israel's Tomorrow) and amazing organized by its chairwomen Nadia Matar and Yehudit Katsover.

(More to come)

Friday, July 20, 2012

Visiting the OLD and NEW Ulpana Neighborhoods

As the seventh anniversary of the destruction of Gush Katif and expulsion of its families is upon us, as well as the 1933rd year since the destruction of the Holy Temple and exile of our people from their homes and their land, the State of Israel has given a tiny reminder that letzareinu (to our sorrow) expulsion and exile still exist, even in our Jewish homeland.
On the other hand, our people have shown us once again, as they did almost two thousand years ago, and indeed seven years ago, that love for Israel still burns in their souls, as does a determination to build and grow and go forward.

It was a week after the families of the Ulpana neighborhood were expelled from their homes. After so many months of valiant and varied efforts to prove that the Ulpana land was legally and rightly owned by the Beit El Yeshiva, unfortunately 33 families were forced to leave their homes and move into caravillas. And not just any caravillas, but caravillas that had been intended for Gush Katif families to begin their new lives at the construction site near their future homes.
I drove to Beit El and walked around Givat HaUlpana. It was weirdly empty – like a ghost town frozen in time. Thirty four parking spots were vacant. No children ran on the path, but bikes were tied up to the fences, seemingly waiting for their owners to finish their homework and come out to play. Flowers daintily swayed and lawns of grass were still green. It seemed like everyone had just disappeared or taken off for Shabbat.
I grabbed my camera, and left my car for a closer look. Signs still hung on the fences – signs of both hope and of na├»ve wishful thinking. “It’s in our hands to change things.” “Jew doesn’t expel Jew.” “Bibi, we don’t want another Amona.” “I built a house in Eretz Yisrael.” “The nation is with the Ulpana Neighborhood.”
Others got their say as well, “Caravillas again?” “Justice, it’s not.”
Then on the doors of the buildings were notices, “To the Ulpan residents, the youth of Beit El want to help you in any way – packing, cleaning, babysitting….just call us.” Beit El was clearly supportive of the Ulpana families. Even the falafel store offered a discount to Ulpana residents.
Suddenly I noticed a car at the end of the path. A man was loading bricks into his car. His son was in the garden below. “Shalom, what are you doing?” I asked. He said, “We love our garden. I don’t want it to be plowed away. I am going to try to rebuild it in the new neighborhood.” His son passed him brick after brick of his garden path, and he loaded them into his car. The trees and flowers stayed behind, but at least he would have his lovely path.
“How are you doing?” I always hated reporters who asked those kinds of questions. But I meant it like a friend, not like a reporter. “B”H.” “Are you traumatized?” “We are trying to get over the trauma,” he said.
A moment later three border policemen came marching by. “What are you doing here?” They wanted to make sure that no one tried to reenter the buildings. But the buildings were shut tight, and even the windows were closed up sealed. Chances of reentry was very slim.
The New Neighborhood
I drove to the other side of Beit El, to the new neighborhood. That’s what everyone calls it – Not Ulpana 2 or as was popularly thought Bnei Ulpana. Everyone simply refers to it as the New Neighborhood. A huge sign hangs on the fence across from the caravillas. It is a quote from Isaiah the prophet. "Bricks have fallen, and hewn stones we will build; sycamores have been cut down, and we will replace them with cedars." It’s a message of hope – IY”H, the new community of Ulpana’s expellees will be larger and stronger than their old neighborhood. Let us hope.
The Old Dream, The New Dream
Baruch and Michal Kitay are residents of the New Neighborhood. Born and raised in Austalia, Baruch made Aliya nine years ago, and his wife three-and-a-half years ago. Baruch told Voices, “I was raised singing Hatikva, feeling pride when I saw an Israeli flag, doing Israeli dances, believing shlichim who idealized life in Israel. I was always envious of the early pioneers of this country who had mesirut nefesh (self-sacrifice) and lived in harsh conditions to build Israel.”
“When they started the Ulpana,” Baruch said, “That dream of mine became a reality too.”
Then when the Prime Minister decided to take Baruch’s and 32 other families out of their homes, he was bitterly “disappointed.” “It was very difficult for me,” he said. In a press conference before the international media (a youtube clip by YWende captures the moment), Baruch said, “Mr. Prime Minister, where is your Zionism? Is building not Zionism, especially in the place of Yaakov Avinu?”

Although Baruch and his wife Michal still mourn their homes in Givat HaUlpana, they appreciate the zechut they had to live there and be a pioneer.
In addition, they are gratified that Beit El is finally receiving permission to build in the area of new neighborhood, after having tried to get the land for man years. “We are excited to be part of this enterprise in Eretz Yisrael,” he said.
First the Children
Baruch and all his neighbors are first and foremost worried about how the move to the caravillas will affect the children. The entire street is a building site with nails and building equipment and Arab workers everywhere. Baruch commented that he doesn’t understand why the entire move couldn’t have waited a few weeks until the street was completed.
The Kitays have moved from a 110 meter home on Givat HaUlpana to a 63 meter structure. Some of the other apartments were 130 meters with huge gardens. The families have been promised an additional room on each caravilla. Meanwhile, they’re making due, even though the children must play inside, and the road work outside their windows makes their entire caravillas shake. But still and all, he and his neighbors are working to get their homes in order, make the block more livable. He’s even organizing an ice cream party for the neighborhood children, sponsored by a Young Israel group from America. “We want to lighten the atmosphere of a place that could be heavy,” he said.
A Last Look at Givat HaUlpana
“It is very eerie up at the Ulpana now,” Baruch said. “It’s strange and not Eretz Yisrael-y to see four beautifully-kept buildings and beautiful gardens abandoned.”
“I was one of the last people to leave, and I saw many Arabs come. The Arabs were the last people in the buildings, locking them up so no one could come in. I left my home spotless. We cleaned the floors before we left. Then I saw the Arabs enter, make a mess of the houses, and block them up. To see these beautiful buildings and know they look horrible inside….”
Eighteen families are still left on the hill in buildings deemed “legal.” The experiences of the past year have cemented the bond between all the Ulpana families. “For now, we’re trying to keep a long distance relationship with the two sides of Beit El.”
The Blessing from the Bad
Baruch said that this trial has brought out the best in his family and the nation. He and his wife felt the support of Am Yisrael over the past many months. Foremost, “the people from Beit El have been outstanding in every possible way from food to babysitting to social services, psychological help, hot lunch and hot food. A group from Gush Etzion brought soccer balls and things for the kids. People from virtually all over Israel - from Eilat to Kiryat Shmona – have come all the way here to see how they can help us. It’s been very touching to really feel that achdut. We don’t feel that this is just about us, but that we are shlichim of Am Yisrael.”
“I am happy that at least we moved into a house,” Baruch said, “Because the people from Gush Katif didn’t have even that. We’re not dwelling on the bad and the injustice, because that doesn’t help. We’re building our new neighborhood. I’m planning to put down grass here, shade outside, because I don’t see anyone building us any houses in the near future.”
The government promised Beit El 300 homes if the Ulpana families would agree to move. “Until I see at least the 33 houses replaced, it’s science fiction for me. ‘Whatever you reckon’, as they say in Australia.”
Baruch and Michal were interviewed by international media before their expulsion from their home. Michal said, “Am Yisrael Chai. Our nation is incredible and beautiful. At difficult times you just become stronger. I am deeply passionately in love with this land. When someone tries to take away from you something that you love, you go crazy. And I am going crazy for this land, and I thank G-d, I’m going to continue living here for the rest of my life.”

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Old Friends Reunite in Chevron

I've heard it said that if you stand around Jerusalem's Midrachov (pedestrian mall) Rechov Ben Yehuda long enough, you are certain to see someone from out of your past.
Many years ago, my dearest mother ad 120 and I were eating lunch at Village Green restaurant when Mother found, seated at the very next table, her childhood friend from elementary school. That was an unforgettable reunion.
I experienced a similar reunion last week in Chevron.
I had gone to Chevron, along with hundreds of other people to participate in the Second Annual Conference on the Application of Israeli Sovereignty in Judea and Samaria. (More on that thought-provoking gathering in a future blog.)
On the other side of the room at the Machpelah Visitors' Center was a great-grandmotherly woman who sat quietly listening to the speeches. Her face was familiar to me in a distant sort of way, and the question of her identity bothered me throughout the conference.
Only a few minutes before the end of the program, the words "Script Supervisors" popped into my head, along with a name, "Olga". Still Olga didn't seem exactly right.  On my note pad, I wrote "Script Supervisors" and "Olga?"
Boing. I suddenly realized who this woman was. Thirty-odd years may have passed since we had first met, but I now knew that we had been good friends in New York City when we both worked in the entertainment industry.
At the time, I was a junior editor of an entertainment industry publication, and she was a powerhouse in the Screen Supervisors' Union (the folks responsible for the continuity of the movie script, in addition to many other tasks). We had become friends at first because we were both religious Jewesses – a rarity in the New York motion picture industry in the late 1970s and beyond.
I Know You
As soon as the conference was over, I popped out of my chair, ran across the stage and went right up to her. "I am Sharon Katz and I know you," I said. But she gave me a blank stare. Then I opened my note pad, and showed her the page on which I had written my guess at her identity. Her name wasn't Olga, but Olda. That's a name you can't forget.
She read the words slowly, "Script Supervisors." Her eyes opened wide, and then she looked up at me quizzically. I told her again who I was, and suddenly her eyes twinkled, and her smile shined with happiness.
"What are you doing here?" she asked. "I live in Efrat," I answered. She was so thrilled to hear that, she actually clapped. "I remember the day you told me you were going to move to Israel," Olda said. "And now you live in Efrat. I live part time in Jerusalem and part time in New York." That was exciting for me to hear as well.
Two gals from the New York movie biz, together in Chevron of all places – worrying, not about scripts or show business, but, about the future of the Jewish people in their land.
We hugged for a long time. She went back to Jerusalem, and I to Efrat. But we know that each of us has fulfilled her real dream of living in Eretz Yisrael and being part of the eternal screenplay of the Jewish people. B"H! Amazing!!