Tuesday, October 25, 2005


Ir HaEmuna Update

A few weeks ago I posted a very uplifting report from a friend who had been in the Ir HaEmunah Refugee Camp. Here's her latest report, which tells of a very different situation. You may distribute this; just please attribute.

Dear Everyone,

After the first couple of e-mails I sent out about the Jews fromGush Katif whose homes were taken from them and about the Atzmona transitcamp at Ir HaEmuna, I felt an update was in order, so here it is.

Not Such Good News

Over a month ago, I wrote to many of my friends in Israel and the US about the Ir HaEmuna (near Netivot) transit camp for those whose Gush Katif homes were taken from them and destroyed. My daughter and her family and friends from the late lamented Atzmona live there. No, make that “exist” there. I returned from my second visit to the camp a couple of weeks later depressed. The upbeat feeling I had after my first visit was gone, and I felt I had to send another mass e-mail and correct the erroneous impression I may have given. But I didn’t write, both because of the hopelessness I now found, and because I felt I needed to spend a longer timethere and speak to more people.

I’ve now spent more time at Ir HaEmuna, but probably still can’tgive as panoramic a description as I’d like to, the needs of children and grandchildren being what they are. But I’ll try. It would be wonderful if some of you could pay a visit yourselves and add to these impressions of mine…or better yet, show them to be unnecessarily bleak.

* The uncertainty that people feel is a killer. Is their government for them or against them, or simply indifferent? Will the lives and the homes they lost, or an approximation thereof, ever be restored to them? When, and where, and with whom? At a cost they can allow themselves? How well will they and their children recover from the terrible psychological scarring inflicted on them?

* The living conditions are impossible. Basically, there are 3 types of dwellings at Ir HaEmuna.

First, there are individual family tents within an enormous cement-floored and partially-roofed industrial space. It turns out these tents are enormously expensive, so most of them have been dismantledand the families relocated to….

Second, the caravans surrounding the original space. (These cost little or nothing, because they’re in such bad repair that they’re everybody else’s rejects.) My daughter, her husband and threechildren are considered a small family, so they’ve been allotted half acaravan. They have two tiny rooms with a toilet, a shower, and a kitchenette with a sink. They’re lucky, because there’s also….

Third, the“meguronim”. These are basically four-walled caravans that can be turnedinto as many “rooms” as the family can come up with drapes to divide them. No toilet, no shower, no water. There are public toilets and showers, most of whose doors haven’t broken yet, but it’s quite a distance to walk to these, and if it’s in the middle of the night, it’s cold. My niece’sdaughter yanked on a window curtain and part of the ceiling fell down. This after heavy rains a couple of days ago, when a couple of the dwellings facing the wrong direction got soaked through, with much damage caused.

A word about privacy: especially in the individual family tents, there is none. People have to develop the skills of a cat burglar and the speech habits of a spy to keep private things private and to avoid disturbing neighbors.

Oh yes, and food: mass-produced food is not to everyone’staste. One woman I spoke with said she and her family have been a lot happier since they decided “only Ima’s home cooking from now on.” Another woman, who made no such decision, is afraid she’s forgetting how to cook. Needless to say, both kids and grown-ups are going to town on carbs and fats. Diet clubs should be picking up lots of new clients.

* A month ago one woman said something that’s been haunting me. Referring to the children, she used the word “hefker”. She called out to one group of kids to get down off the roof, and they ignored her. A couple of minutes later, she warned a group of toddlers to come away from the road. No sooner did she round two up than two others appeared in harm’s way a few meters further down. These children, whom I’d always known to be obedient and respectful, saw their parents, rabbis, and teachers rendered impotent when they were torn from their homes. Why should they acknowledge their authority now? My own three little grandchildren look to me like little wild animals. When their lives return to normal—whenever?—can this damagebe undone?

* I have a personal serious objection to something I only suspect but am not certain of. I’m afraid of paternalism. Even among the dispossessed themselves—do their leaders and functionaries communicate “Relax, we’ll takecare of everything” to them? If they are, I can only hope the people are miserable being patronized, because they could very easily grow to like it.I want them to be in contact with each other, to empower each other. I want their representatives and leaders to know they’re being overseen and held to account. I’m unhappy whenever a DP says of any leader that he promised such-and-such would or wouldn’t happen. Our reliance can only be on G-d, remember I spent Shabbat Hol Hamoed Succot at Ir HaEmuna with my daughter. Some families have their succot right outside their caravans; others have theirs in groups with some of their neighbors’ succot some distance from theird wellings. I was deeply moved, walking from my daughter’s to my niece’s to another friend’s succa, hearing divrei Torah, blessings, and singing from a pot-pourri of ethnic melodies and styles, no Dolby necessary. The feeling was similar to what I felt many years ago when the Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires was bombed by terrorists just before Purim, and I was filled with love and admiration for my friends who were able to rise above their pain and sadness to rejoice on Purim because a Jew rejoices on Purim.

Maybe the queasiness I’ve been feeling is only because of the extreme discomfort my people are coping with—not badly—at the moment. After all, as wandering from one succa to another and enjoying the harmony and people’s cleaving to what’s eternal brought home to me this past Shabbat, thevitality of this people and this Torah is something neither bulldozers nor bureaucrats can beat down.

Chag Simchat Torah Sameach.


Today was my daughter's Bat Mitzva. It was in Prospect Park yeshiva and there were around 100 women and girls of all ages. The Bat Mitzvah was in solidarity with the people of Gush Katif. There was the usual singing, dancing and fun but there was also solidarity with the people of Gush Katif.The girls really got into writing letters and including 99Cent items in their packages to Gush Katif. You can see the intensity in their expressions and their understanding that this chesed is real. They really wanted those girls from Gush Katif to in some way know them that they care. They won tickets from dancing etc and with their tickets they bought prizes which they could keep or send to the people of Gush Katif. It was l'ilui Nishmas my Father z"l Yosef Zeev ben Moshe who in his lifetimes had many startovers. His first family was wiped out in the Holocaust. He remarried my Mother and had us. He tried various businesses until he became a zipper manufacturer. At age 65 he liquidated because selling the business wasn't an option because of the competition from the East. He started a the bottom this time as an employee and worked his way up. 15 years later at the age of 80 he suffered a stroke and once again, started over with OT and PT his new job. He relearned to walk and do steps and went to shul twice a day and wrote Tzedaka checks as well as bookkeeping. For 8 years he was productive in this way. His last year it was downhill but he really gave it all he had. The Bat Mitzva was also Li'lui my mother-in-law who was 15 years old at the time Nazi Germany took over Poland and was in the Warsaw Ghetto and Concentrations camps for 4 years at least. She too started over always with a love of life and full of hope.

I rewatch the TV video of the expulsion of Neve Dekalim and I cry. "Al Tastir Paneicha Mimeni". We pray that once again we will be zocheh that Hashem will shine his face upon us and we will be saved. - Vehair Panecha venivashea" as we say after lichtbenching.
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