Thursday, July 21, 2005

We Shall Overcome: From Kfar Maimon to Gush Katif

Over the course of my journey to Kfar Maimon and Gush Katif I witnessed events that have left me with a number of powerful messages that I have taken home with me, and I believe that they clearly express the unbelievable character and strength of the Jewish People, and should serve as a source of inspiration and hope for a brighter future for the Jewish People in the Jewish State of Israel, throughout the Land of Israel.

To hear me discuss some of them, you can listen to my interview on Israel National Radio (Arutz 7) by clicking here. (In the top part of the page, in the middle there is a section entitled: "The Struggle for Gush Katif - INR special coverage" - Click on Yishai and Malkah Fleisher's show on July 20th. I come on 12 minutes into the show...).

1) Put politics aside for a moment and ask yourself the following question: What cause would you consider important enough to put your life on hold for 3+ days, take off from work, travel hours away from your home, alone or with your spouse and children, have to live in a tent or sleep in sleeping bags, eat non-perishable foods, sit outside in unbearable heat during the day and march through the dark of night - all while going head to head with the government and security establishment?

40,000+ Jews (men, women & children - more on this in a moment) in Israel felt that the struggle over stopping Sharon's expulsion plan, and the battle over the character of the State of Israel (whether it will be a Jewish State or "A Nation like all others") were strong enough causes to warrant taking all of the above steps - and then some.

2) Children in Israel currently find themselves on summer vacation. Generally speaking, over summer vacation, children will go to camp, hang out at the mall, go to the beach, spend time with friends, or pehaps watch a movie... But of the 40,000+ Jews that participated in "The March", I would say that well over 50% (possibly as high as 60 - 75%) were under the age of 18 years old. To me, this says that the current generation of Jews loyal to the Jewish People, the Land of Israel and Torah of Israel care enough to spend their summer vacation involving themselves in the struggle over these causes, instead of just looking to have a "good time".

3) While besieged in Kfar Maimon, the spirit of the 40,000+ Jews was so incredibly high. People were singing, playing musical instruments, learning, catching up with friends, and dancing... It was as if these Jews felt some type of internal confidence, that not only was their cause just, but that in the end, we were going to succeed, and that our success would not come through fighting against our brothers, but by continuing to live as proud Jews in the Land of Israel - and letting the love for our fellow Jews, the Land of Israel and our heritage speak for themselves.

4) It's easy for me, on an intellectual or even ideological level to feel a strong connection towards the Land of Israel, as was expressed most clearly in my having made Aliyah to Israel from New York, but it is not often that I am able to connect with the Land of Israel on a physical level the way I did at Kfar Maimon and Gush Katif. Whether walking through fields to get from Netivot to Kfar Maimon, sleeping on the wet grass without a tent, sleeping bag, or blanket, walking along the Mediterranean coast of Shirat Hayam, and feeling the waves crash against me as I collected seashells, represented a type of personal bonding with the Land of Israel. I truly felt as if I had become one with the Land of Israel, and I have no doubt that that is how most people who participated in "The March" felt, as well.

Many people have the misconception that the Land of Israel is just another land, merely a physical piece of territory with no intrinsic value, and not worth sacrificing for. Throughout the Torah and other major Jewish sources, it is made very clear that without the Land of Israel the Jewish People are incomplete, and they are unable to fulfill their potential as a nation. We learn how the Land of Israel is conducive to the spiritual growth of the Jewish People and is a necessary component of the upcoming redemption - a sign of whose coming is when the Landof Israel gives off its fruits, which can be seen particularly clear in Gush Katif.

To have had the opportunity to re-connect with the Land of Israel has helped to recharge my batteries, and has left me on a high that will hopefully last myself, and all those who participated on "The March" through the coming month, when, with G-d's help we will all be able to celebrate the re-dedication of all of the Jewish communities in Gush Katif.

5) This was not your typical demonstration where people come for a few hours after work, chant some slogans, listen to some speeches and then go home. Many people on the left have questioned why the event couldn’t have been held in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv, but in asking the question they totally fail to understand the purpose of what took place at Kfar Maimon and the message that it was meant to convey..

"The March" was not a rally or demonstration. The 40,000+ Jews who participated were not asking any politicians to consider a different point of view. These Jews were saying that the current situation is unacceptable, abd we are going to work towards helping to bring about a different reality ourselves. With our feet. With our bodies. With our hearts. The time for speeches has come to an end, and the Jewish people have responded to the call for action.

6) I was blessed to visit the new home of Nadia Matar, co-founder of Women in Green, who has moved with her family to Kfar Yam (in Gush Katif) from Efrat. She and Women in Green have been influential in raising funds, through Minhelet Kela (The Gaza Absorption Authority), that have gone towards fixing up empty homes and structures in Gush Katif in order that Jews can move down to Gush Katif, and create a situation where there are tens of thousands of Jews living in the Gush - too many to be expelled.

(For more info about Minhelet Kela, and ways that you can contribute to this important cause, you can send an e mail here.

Among the homes that have been (or is in the process of being refurbished) is the home of Nadia Matar in Kfar Hayam. When I arrived at her home there were about a half dozen teenagers who were busily involved in building a deck for the back of her home - true Jewish labor. (Again, we see what types of activities Jewish teenagers are involved in during their summer break). This deck will allow Nadia, and many other Jews to sit in comfort while watching the waves crash against the shore, just a few feet away, with G-d's help, for many generations to come.

Another thing that struck me was the contrast between the way Nadia has been portrayed in the media, and how I perceived her. According to the media in Israel Nadia is a right-wing fanatic who represents extremist causes. What I saw was a Jew who is full of love for the Jewish People and who has devoted her life to ensuring that Israel will be a Jewish State, where the Jewish People will be able to live in all parts of the Land of Israel - proudly, as Jews are meant to do. She, along with many other special Jews who are in Gush Katif today can serve as role models as to what we, both as a nation and as individual Jews can be doing to help the Jewish People fulfill their collective destiny.

7) In Neve Dekalim, I visited another family who has also moved down to Gush Katif and will be staying there until the "victory celebration", as the mother put it. Again, she and her children all came off as being extremely positive and upbeat. This was all the more impressive when I saw the home immediately next door to theirs, which had a sizeable hole in the roof where a Qassam rocket had fallen.
When I asked her about, she was able to laugh it off. Her children were among those who were helping to build the deck at Nadia's house, and who spend their days in Gush Katif at the beach, and are enjoying life to the fullest, as Jews, living in the Land of Israel.

I visited the nursery in Atzmona, one of the largest in Israel, and a major exporter of plants and flowers worldwide, and there to one finds Jews continuing to plant, continuing to build, continuing to flourish.

If there is a single message that comes out in all of these stories, it is that the spirit of the Jewish People is alive and well. Yes, we are going through a difficult time period, but I believe that the above examples clearly display that the future belongs to us, those who are loyal to teachings and heritage of the Jewish People, and to the Land of Israel.

Without a doubt we are being challenged from on high, challenged to raise ourselves up to levels that we previously believed to be unattainable. We are being challenged as to how we relate to our fellow Jews, how we relate to our traditions and heritage, and how we relate to the Land of Israel - the three foundations of Religious Zionism - Am Yisrael, Eretz Yisrael & Torat Yisrael.

After spending 24+ hours in both Kfar Maimon and Gush Katif, I have no doubt that the Jewish People will not only rise up and overcome all of the aforementioned challenges, but we will use them as the springboard towards laying the foundation for a truly Jewish State in the Land of Israel... may we see it speedily in our days.


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