Let My People Stay!

Let My People Stay!
August 8, 2005
On Sunday I made another trip down to Gush Katif for a very special day. I wasn’t disappointed.
My oldest daughter Bat-tzion, grew up together with a neighboring girl named Merav, who lived two buildings away from us. They spent most of their waking hours together, be it at school or at home. They were inseparable for almost 18 years. Then, following high school, each went her own way, and it wasn’t long before Merav became engaged to a lovely man named Itamar. A few years ago Merav and Itamar moved to Shirat HaYam, the small caravan-home community, on the beach, not far from Neve Dekalim.
I’ve  visited Merav and Itamar several times in the past half a year, photographing them and their family, with the beautiful Mediterranean in the background [http://www.hebron.com/news/gkindepday.htm].
Last week Merav gave birth to her fourth child, her fourth boy. It was decided to have the brit milah, the ritual circumcision, not far from their home, in a small synagogue called Tiferet Yisrael. Tiferet Yisrael is a very special place of worship.
Labeled an ‘illegal outpost’ by the ‘authorities,’ the building was constructed about a week after Yom Kippur, some nine months ago. It was named in memory of Tiferet Tratner, who was killed by an Arab missile the day before Yom Kippur in Neve Dekalim, and First Sergeant, Yisrael Lutati, a Neve Dekalim resident, who was killed by terrorists at the Morag community not too long before Tiferet’s murder.  In English, Tiferet means ‘splendor,’ so the synagogue’s name means ‘The Splendor of Israel.’  At this particular event, the site was especially significant. Itamar built it.
I drove down to the Gush together with Itamar’s brother Ariel, and his wife and two of their children, who are Hebron residents. They had managed to obtain the ‘prized’ permits allowing them entrance to Gush Katif, to attend the family festivity. (I have a press pass, allowing me free access to the besieged area.) 
The trip was fairly smooth. We weathered the three checkpoints (the first of which is at least 20 kilometers from the entrance to Gush Katif). At each checkpoint you must show your ID card, or pass, and the obliging soldier, officer or police officer checks his wireless screen to see if our name appears in the right place. We had just passed the final inspection point and were about 10 minutes from Tiferet Yisrael, when we came upon a short row of cars, stopped in the middle of the road, with a closed barrier blocking the way. What happened – what’s the problem? We’d all passed the necessary checkpoints, so why have to stop here? A soldier at the gate told us, “There’s an ‘event’ at Kfar Darom’ so you cannot continue. “What kind of an event? Did something happen there?” I heard an officer tell some of the soldiers, “There is a terrorist alert on the Kissufim road – it has to stay closed.” Another soldier said, “It’s a terror incident at Kfar Darom.”
I quickly called my friends there to find out what was happening. The truth became clear instantly. The army decided to evacuate two security trailers from the community, in preparation for its abandonment. The Kfar Darom population, feeling that they were being deserted and that their security was being compromised, took to the road and blocked the tractor-trailer’s way, not allowing them to leave the community. [http://www.israelnationalnews.com/news.php3?id=87332]  In reaction to this protest, the army closed the roads leading into and out of Gush Katif. So, we waited for about an hour. Finally, when they let us through, we arrived at a second roadblock a few minutes away. In the end, we made it to the synagogue. They were waiting for us and for others, stuck in roadblock.
What mood would you expect to find Gush Katif residents in, a week before the guillotine is supposed to fall? Sad, tense, nervous? Nothing of the kind. The only emotions readily present were joy and happiness. After the brit, there were several ‘divri Torah,’ words of Torah, including a very supportive talk by Hebron-Kiryat Arba Chief Rabbi, Dov Lior. A couple of weeks ago Rabbi Lior was denied permission to enter the Gush by the Shabak – Israeli intelligence. However, they eventually relented.  There was dancing and singing, the was any good Jewish festivity should be. There wasn’t even a whiff of despair.
What faith these people have.
There is also another part to this story. One very important person was missing from the celebration. Nili (Nili bat Victoria), Merav’s mother, is very ill with cancer, and had to remain in the hospital in Jerusalem. My wife stayed with her, and when the ceremony began, we broadcast the event to her over our cell phones. That way, even if should couldn’t be present, she could at least hear the happiness. Despite this, cheerfulness reigned. The smiles on everyone’s faces told the story. [http://www.eretz.org/amitaibrit.htm].
Oh yes, I almost forgot, the baby’s name is Amitai, which contains the word (in Hebrew) Emet, which means truth. It also contains the initials of Merav and Itamar’s names, and also the initials of Tiferet Yisrael.
Yesterday I received a new song, written especially for current events. It is posted as background music on the above-mentioned website, the opposite of what we used to sing when protesting Russian oppression of Jews in the late Soviet Union. Then we used to chant, “Let My People Go.” Today, we have to sing the reverse: “Let My People Stay.”  On Sunday, in Gush Katif, I certainly didn’t see anyone leaving.
With blessings from Hebron.

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