<i>Eretz Yisroel</I> is Strong

I visited with friends and chatted with hitchhikers. I toured a well-established outpost, self-sufficient as an organic farm, and spoke with the young men living in an outpost that consisted of a few tents and an army guard (on location to make sure there would be no construction). I saw a quality of life that was Jewish, strong and proud.

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Aliza Karp,

Aliza Karp
Aliza Karp
Aliza Karp
Last summer, I spent an amazing two weeks in Eretz Yisroel. The first Shabbos I spent in Netzer Hazani in Gush Katif, Aza, amongst people who have incredible mesiras nefesh, sacrifice for higher values, and would not consider for a minute to look for an easy way out. In the midst of bombs falling into their community ? sometimes into their living rooms ? they retain a high level of family and community life according to Torah.

The second Shabbos, I was in heaven, in a town known as Yitzhar, in the Shomron. Not only is it in the clouds, to me, it is heavenly. Then on the Ninth of Av, I heard Eicha, the special Megillah for the Ninth of Av, read in the Herodian Palace near Tekoa, in Yehuda, with hundreds of pious Jews, all settlers (I presume, because who else would come?). The verses were read by men sitting in the various corners of the 2,000 year old shul, each voice bringing a new dimension of beauty overriding pain.

I visited with friends and chatted with hitchhikers. I toured a well-established outpost, self-sufficient as an organic farm, and spoke with the young men living in an outpost that consisted of a few tents and an army guard (on location to make sure there would be no construction). I saw a quality of life that was Jewish, strong and proud.

Then I came home. Soon enough, I found myself at the computer, looking at the news from Eretz Yisroel. "Yuck!" I thought to myself, "Who would want to go there?"

Now, half a year later, I just got off the phone with activist Baruch Marzel. He gave me updates on the difficult situation of shuls, Talmud Torah?s and chesed organizations throughout Yesha. They are so desperate. The economic situation is bad and the government is of no assistance. He bemoaned the prisoner exchange. He brought me up to date on the tragic saga of continued rebuilding of the Kahane shul in Tapuach West and repeated arrival of the bulldozers.

One of the reasons Baruch?s own Talmud Torah in Hevron is desperate for funding is because of who he is. He had a sponsor from oversees. The man came to visit, and told Baruch that he wanted to make a small change. Baruch refused. The man threatened to discontinue his funding. Baruch had no choice. As a person with integrity, he could not let money from America determine the quality of his Talmud Torah in Hevron. He lost his funding.

The Talmud Torah has many pictures of rabbis on the wall. It gives an atmosphere of what the rabbis stand for. The donor wanted the picture of the Lubavitcher Rebbe taken down. The Talmud Torah is not a Chabad institution. Baruch does not wear a fedora. But he would not compromise. I would love to write that as a reward, a new donor was found who gave twice as much. But it?s been a good many months already and the Talmud Torah is still struggling, but its doors are open, and they will remain so. And that poor rich man lost a chance to sponsor the study of Torah by children in Hevron.

So today, once again, Baruch mentioned all the latest issues and the difficulties involved? but his voice was not desperate. It never is. Which is one of the reasons I enjoy speaking with him.

Once I am writing about Baruch, I must mention his wife Sara. She is just like him, and more so. I even wonder if he gets his strength of spirit from her. After all, they live in Hevron, and Maaras HaMachpela was purchased for her namesake.

I had the merit to be in Hevron last spring, the first Shabbos that Baruch was officially in Hevron as a free man following his six month prohibition forbidding him from going home. The Marzel?s made a Kiddush at Maaras HaMachpela to celebrate his homecoming. Walking back up to their caravan in Tel Rumeida, as we were passing out cake and soda to all the soldiers stationed along the way, I questioned Sara about the ordeal she had just been through ? a woman with children living in Tel Rumeida without her husband for six months. She did not complain. She feels privileged to live in Hevron and considers the harebrained political situation as part of the struggle to live in Eretz Yisroel.

I know that the other women in Hevron, and all of Yesha for that matter, share Sara?s commitment and resolve. Anat Cohen, for one, has been arrested and beaten many times, even when pregnant. With all her gevurah, strength, she reaches the same level with her chesed, kindness. A woman worthy of living in the City of the Patriarchs, who are known for their middos, strong, pure and righteous character traits.

Also in Hevron is Elisheva Federman, who has endured her husband?s house arrest, administrative detention, his 53-day hunger strike, and now his continued incarceration without even being charged of a crime, because there is no crime, at least not in a country where there is freedom of speech. In addition to managing her home by herself, Elisheva continues to fight for her husband?s civil rights.

The people in Hevron, and throughout Yesha, are dealing with terror from the Arabs plus mistreatment by the politicians. I get discouraged, sitting far away, reading about their predicaments in the news. They live it.

So, when Baruch tells me all the latest struggles that he is involved in first hand - putting up tents, setting up generators, feeding the supporters who come to populate the outposts that are so essential to security, plus his publicity campaigns to teach the public the truth about Eretz Yisroel, and his chesed funds and his maintaining the shul of Ruth and Yishai near his Tel Rumeida home and of course his Talmud Torah - and then he says to me, ?Eretz Yisroel is strong,? I feel encouraged.

With all his comings and goings, I only managed to reach Baruch by phone late at night as he was returning home. We were still speaking when he walked into his caravan. He was delighted to see his sons learning Torah, bli ain hara. Another confirmation? ?Eretz Yisroel is strong.?

After speaking with Baruch, I look at the news with a different perspective, not between the lines, but above the lines. It doesn?t mean that I can sit back and let him do the work, it means there is work to do ? for all of us ? wherever we are. It is the struggle for Eretz Yisroel and we have to do our part, be it with our prayers, our money or our participation. And we can do it with enthusiasm stemming from the confidence that our efforts are not in vain. At least that?s how I feel. Because when Baruch Marzel tells me ?Eretz Yisroel is strong?? I believe him.