Five years ago my husband and I stood at the foot of our bed and stared through streaming tears, as the television set bore witness to the Jews of Gush Katif (the united communities of Gaza) being removed from their homes and synagogues by Israeli soldiers and police. We were in dismay and shock. Like those amazingly wonderful Jews, we believed God would come through, even at the last minute, and stop this nightmare and the Disengagement would not happen. Prayers were issued; Jews and Christians had worked together for months trying to prevent the unimaginable. A fifty-five mile human chain, layers deep, from Jerusalem to Gush Katif born witness to the strength and intensity of staying on the once barren land. Even that didn’t work. The corrupt government of Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert had their way and nearly 10,000 weeping Jews were moved – some forcefully – from their homes, their lives, their jobs, their neighbors. They were put on buses and sent into the dark with illicit promises from the Israeli government… promises that were never fulfilled. Not only were their homes destroyed by Israeli bulldozers, but so were their lives as they watched the terrifying scenes of destruction on television over the next week. Only rubble and vacant synagogues, which were quickly defiled by Arab Gazans using them as latrines, remained.
Some of those amazing pioneers were sent to the southern tip of the Negev (Israeli desert) between the lower strip of Gaza and Egypt where they made the courageous decision to start over. Stooped by the heaviness of broken hearts, they picked up their hoes, their shovels, and their trowels and began again. They cleared and smoothed the very rugged landscape, and they built greenhouses. Their beautiful villas were only memories in their minds while they and their sometimes very large families managed to hang onto each other in the confines of caravans, which are really not much more than glorified cargo containers. They prayed. They worked. They prayed. They cried. They worked. They prayed.
Now, five years later, the promises of God are, once again, being fulfilled as this formerly barren wasteland blooms and brings color, life and hope to the rugged desert. These are Jews. They’ve been kicked out of their homes for generation upon generation, but they are resilient. They hang onto their God, their traditions and their promises. They work hard and they don’t wait on their government to bail them out.
This year presented their first crop of pomegranates raised on their new land. Pomegranates, one of the healthiest of all fruits, bring hope and blessings. Tradition tells us the 613 seeds contained in the juicy fruit represent the 613 laws of Torah given by God to Moses on Mt. Sinai, and that may well be. I do know, the traditional Jewish New Year’s blessing is “may your blessings this year be as numerous as the seeds of this pomegranate.” Yes, may they be. May these Jews who have been so rudely uprooted, be blessed in their new location and may those blessings never be ripped from them again. www.shorashim.com