A week ago, on the eve of Yom Ha'atzmaut, our family moved from Efrat to Gush Katif. With the help of the Kela Authority (Gaza Absorption Authority) in the past months we renovated a karavan (mobile housing unit) in the yard of Arik and Datia Yitzhaki in Kfar Yam, and together with another family from Tekoa (another leader of Women in Green), we moved our homes from the Judean Hills to the most breathtaking of Israel's coasts: the coast of Gush Katif. I can't begin to describe the beauty of this place. The blue sea, the clean sand, the dunes and the palm trees turn this into an earthly Paradise. I end our first week in Gush Katif with the most optimistic feeling that, with God's help, we will succeed in frustrating Sharon's Plan of Destruction.
We registered our children at the Neot Katif school in Neveh Dekalim, and every morning they take the school bus from Kfar Yam, together with the children of Shirat Hayam. Our baby, Navah Elisheva, spends her morning in the day care center in Ganei Tal (incidentally, her name is an acronym for Ein lanu Yehudah ve-Shomron bli Aza - "We don't have Judea and Samaria without Gaza"). Their reception in the school and the day care center was especially warm. The principal and teachers spare no efforts so that our children will feel at home, with all the school supplies they need and catching up on lessons, and the children of Gush Katif have taken our children into their circle of friends. The school itself is very impressive: a complex of well cared for buildings, surrounded by a gorgeous lawn, flowers in a riot of colors, and trees that give the children shade during recess. If my youngest children were a bit apprehensive about the transition to a new school, the Katifari put them at ease. The Katifari is a very impressive zoo next to the school. The children, who love animals and care for them, visit the Katifari during recess. Camels, mice, sheep, hamsters, and parrots are only a few of the animals in the zoo. My sixth-grade son, who is just crazy about basketball, has joined Elitzur Gush Katif, and plans to spend hours on the basketball court in Gush Katif's impressive Matnas - a community center that offers countless activities for residents of all ages, both children and adults.
We are among the dozens of families who, like us, have come from throughout Israel to live in Gush Katif. We came to strengthen, but, the truth be told, we are the ones who are strengthened. Just a few days together with the veteran residents of Gush Katif taught us that they are heroes, infused with faith, who cannot be moved from here by any force in the world.
Here are a few examples:
Anyone who visits Shlomo's hothouses in Ganei Tal sees thirty dunams (about 7.5 acres) of breathtaking geraniums, in different colors. Some of the flowers are for export. The Europeans prefer the flowers from Gush Katif since they grow in the conditions that are most suitable for them, with the fine seashore climate; such conditions are very difficult to find anywhere else, in Israel or even throughout the world. This week Shlomo is preparing the hothouses for next year, and he declares that no one will remove him from their home. He invites visitors to come and pick his geraniums next year as well. It's the same with Anita, who grows celery and, like Shlomo and the other farmers, spends the rest of her time in explanations to visitors, who receive clear and inspiring messages of faith and the justness of our cause, faith in G-d, steadfastness, and love of the people, the land, and the Torah. All in all, the 5,000 dunams of greenhouses produce countless plants, vegetables, and flowers that are on the shelves of every store in Israel and throughout the world. Anyone who visits the greenhouses and hears the farmers is strengthened and inoculated against the campaign of lies and the witch-hunt in the governmental media.
The same is true for Neveh Dekalim. At the entrance to the town, the plants, flowers, and dazzlingly green grass provide a fantastic welcome. The message is clear: this is not a place that is about to be uprooted and destroyed. The people here continue to care for everything, to plant, to clean and polish, and to develop. The stores in the shopping center sell everything you want. The owner of the pizzeria has just finished renovating the walls of his store with bright new wood paneling. The clothing store sells stylish clothes that would not be out of place in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem. The restaurants offer their diners varied menus of tasty dishes. In the restaurant we meet many soldiers and journalists who receive, together with their food, a lesson in love of the homeland and the residents' determination to remain there forever.
On to Shirat Hayam and Kfar Yam, that are right on the coast, as their names imply: "Song of the Sea" and "Sea Village." As soon as you enter the gate, you hear the jackhammers and see the construction. Yes, Shirat Hayam is renovating the abandoned structures there, and, with God's help, in the next few days the sixteen families who live in Shirat Hayam will be joined by dozens of new ones. Shirat Hayam was established as the Zionist response following the attack on the school bus from Kfar Darom. The Arabs kill us, in order to drive us out from Eretz Israel? The response is unequivocal: we establish a new community in the land of Israel!! Today, Ariel Sharon's "disengagement" plan is a sort of mega-attack against the Jewish people's existence in its land, and so it, too, must be met with a Zionist-Jewish response. Sharon, like the PLO and Hamas, wants to deport Jews from parts of Eretz Israel? Our response is unequivocal: we build, absorb new families, and declare to the entire world: "The Land of Israel belongs to the people of Israel, according to the Torah of Israel" - and we will not let anyone, Jew or Arab, drive us out!
The more families that come, the easier it will be for us to prevent the deportation. The renovations and absorption of new families are spearheaded by a wonderful couple, Dr. Arik and Datia Yitzhaki, who founded the Kela Authority two months ago. They succeeded in convincing a considerable portion of the residents of the need to speedily absorb dozens of additional families, in all the structures that can serve as housing. In addition, the Kela Authority is collecting second-hand furniture, electrical appliances, and emergency supplies for D-Day (the "D" word is deportation - don't forget that), such as food, blankets, and tents, all stored properly. The Administration distributes the furniture, mattresses, and refrigerators to the new families, and stores the emergency supplies for D-Day. If and when Prime Minister Sharon will attempt to implement his malicious plan and close the Gush, the human shield of tens of thousands of Jews from all of Israel who will cut the fence and reach Gush Katif in order to defend the Gush with their bodies will receive food and tents from those stores. But Arik and Datia don't think that day will come. The government will realize that it is incapable of carrying out its plan. If we provide enough of a deterrent, the government will retreat and find some way to cancel its evil decree. If that happens, Arik and Datia promise to distribute the food stores to needy families before Rosh Hashanah. Anyone who spends even a few minutes together with this couple, as in meetings with the owners of the greenhouses, cannot help but be impressed by their faith, determination, and love of the people and land. Arik and Datia already invite all the people of Israel to the gigantic sukkah that they will erect in their yard for Sukkot 5766, five months from now.
We haven't mentioned the wonderful youth of Gush Katif, the hundreds of young people who spend their days and nights in different activities in defense of their homes, knowing that this struggle is not just for their homes, but for the entire State of Israel. "Gush Katif is the flak jacket of the country" is a slogan with which every Gush Katif child is familiar, and anyone who visits here knows that this is true. On Memorial Day, at the very emotional ceremony in Ganei Tal, one girl from the settlement lit a torch and said that this torch was in honor of Prime Minister Sharon, thanks to whom the entire settlement of Ganei Tal has been filled with new families; thanks to whom hundreds of thousands of people, who didn't know where Gush Katif was on the map, have come to visit; and thanks to whom the youth have mobilized for the labor of love on behalf of the land and homeland. Another youth lit a torch in honor of all the parents of the children of Gush Katif who continue to smile and to raise their children with love and joy; who do not despair; and, driven by their faith, mobilize for all the difficult and exhausting struggles against Sharon's Plan of Destruction. This boy thanked all the parents, in the name of the children of Gush Katif, for the great merit of growing up in the Gush. He said how proud the children are of their parents, and promised to follow in their path and develop Gush Katif for the generations to come.
This is the same youth that, instead of having a good time like their peers, contend every day with the mortar shells that land in their settlements. They don't understand why the government ties the hands of the IDF and refrains from responding. My children, as well, who already experienced their first mortar shelling, in their first days in school, right next to the school yard, were, on the one hand, impressed by the heroism of the children, but, on the other, were strongly disappointed by the army's turning tail. They asked me: "Mother, how is it that the army invests so many forces to the paving of roads for the deportation of Jews, but doesn't do anything against the Arabs who want to kill us?" I answered that the army doesn't respond because the government won't let the army act. I wanted to add: "Honey, we're actually talking about a government that implements the platform of Hamas and the Jihad. Both want to drive us out. Both think that Jewish blood is free for the taking." But I restrained myself. I know that when he grows up he will already understand this by himself. Then, with God's help, there will already have been a Jewish revolution in the country, the state will be headed by a true Jewish-Zionist leadership, and people like Sharon and the rest of the Oslo criminal crowd who surround him will be just a nightmare from the distant past, written in the history books, with their names tarnished forever.
I could give many more examples of the heroism and steadfastness of the inhabitants of Gush Katif. The media turns the spotlight on the few weak ones, and hopes to thereby chip away at the other families. As in poker, the first to blink loses. All the knowledgeable commentators report that the government is on the brink of collapse, and it's just a matter of time until the "disengagement" plan is relegated to the trash bin. The government already knows that tens of thousands of soldiers will not obey the illegal and immoral deportation order. After the successful trial run by Habayit Haleumi, it is clear to the government that what we saw in the road blocking operation will be nothing compared to what will happen on D-Day. Therefore, all eyes are turned to Gush Katif. If, Heaven forbid, they collapse and sign on in large numbers to plans that are actually deathtraps, like the Nitzanim plan or any other plan, then it will be extremely difficult to frustrate the Sharon plan. But if, on the other hand, the inhabitants of Gush Katif continue their firm and determined stand, and declare to all: "They will never move us from here," then we will have won, and the residents of Gush Katif will be written in the history books as those who saved the entire State of Israel, and not just the settlement enterprise in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza, from destruction and ruin. After a week in Gush Katif and my firsthand acquaintance with the inhabitants, my impression is that, thank God, the decisive majority of Gush Katif's residents are strong and steadfast and understand how fateful is the hour and the responsibility that they bear.
Dear brave and heroic residents of Gush Katif, continue to be strong! It is a great honor for our family to be part of you. With God's help, together with those faithful to Eretz Israel in Israel and abroad - we shall prevail!
[ Nadia Matar, Co-Chairperson, Women in Green | Published: May 22, 2005 ]
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