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      by Tamar Yonah
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      Tamar Yonah is one of Israel's most popular English-speaking radio show hosts. She made Aliyah from Southern California and after serving in the Israeli army began a prolific career in radio, including production, news and program development. She was the original creator and producer of 'The Aliyah Show' and still works whenever she can in that field. Tamar is a political activist, wife and mother residing in Judea and Samaria and currently hosts the top-rated shows of The Weekend Edition & The Tamar Yonah Show. Her award winning blog covers current events, religion, politics and anything else that's on her mind.

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      Av 11, 5767, 7/26/2007

      I Cried in Room # 617

      by Tamar Yonah

      It was a poem someone had written. Someone who was living in my hotel room before I got there. Someone who for eight months was crammed into this room with his family, bewildered, hurt and forgotten by his countrymen. Someone had written a poem, a poem of pain and anguish, ...and I happened to find it.

      ( In honor of the 2 year anniversary of the expulsion from Gush Kaitf, I am re-posting this piece I wrote that happened a little over a year ago)

      It was supposed to be a happy occasion. We were celebrating my son's Bar Mitzvah that fell in the week of Passover, and since we knew we wouldn't be able to host all the extended family in my house for a Passover Seder and a Bar Mitzvah Sabbath, we came to the conclusion that we would find an affordable hotel that would be able to sleep and feed the family here in Israel, and those coming from abroad.

      We arrived at a Jerusalem hotel, where I got the keys to room 617. After glancing around the room, I sent my kids and family down to the dining area where they had a light meal offered before the Passover Seder. I stayed behind to unpack their holiday clothes and to make up the beds for the children.

      I liked having some quiet after the brief chaos. We were eight people crammed into two small hotel rooms with an adjoining door. There was lots of luggage and little space to spread out. Two of my kids would have to sleep on the floor, I decided. I took up the two cushions from the couch bed that was in our room and decided to make it a mattress. Then, leaning over to pull out the couch-bed, I spotted a folded piece of paper between the mattress and the metal support springs.

      Unfolding it, I found it was actually two pages stapled together and typewritten in Hebrew. I began to read it.

      "Kinah" (Lamentation) was the title. No author's name. After the first three lines, I took some weak steps backwards, fell onto the main bed of the room and started to cry.

      It was a poem someone had written. Someone who was living in my hotel room before I got there. Someone who for eight months was crammed into this room with his family, bewildered, hurt and forgotten by his countrymen. Someone had written a poem, a poem of pain and anguish, ...and I happened to find it. 

      Was it left for me, the 'next occupant', purposely? Or was it forgotten in the rush to evacuate the hotel to let new guests take over even this temporary abode for Passover?

      I had heard that many of the families ensconced in these Jerusalem area hotels for an "indefinite time" were now being forced to move again to make room for Passover and Easter guests.

       

      "Oh my gosh, this room belonged to a family from Gush Katif!" I was shaking.

      What follows is a loose translation of the Hebrew text:

      Kinah

      On the Expulsion of Jews from Gush Katif,
      The Gaza Strip and Northern Samaria,
      I will lament every year with a broken and bitter heart.

      How is it possible that a Jewish prime minister - Ariel Sharon - can give away a land brimming with wisdom and talent to Arabs, oppressors of Israel, as a gift and present?

      How is it possible that he cheated his voters by expressing his love saying, "In my days, you will sit safely on your land," and then betrayed our trust, saying, "To them it belongs (the Arabs) ? not to you"?

      How is it possible that people were sent to build, work and settle, affirm by self-sacrifice the building of the land, and now they were betrayed and disinherited, their land handed to Ishmaelites?

      How is it possible that he made covenants with murderers
      and gave the land of G-d with no recompense, to rapists, and then he reproached and blasphemed, saying, there is no G-d in the land, Who judges.

      How is it possible that he attempted to cover his and his sons' crimes with much cunning, and shed shame on those goodly ones who toil over Torah, the people of the land? They will concentrate on the Disengagement, and his sons' guilt will be lost in oblivion and turmoil.

      How is it possible that the heads of parliament gave a majority to the decision - a parliament that was chosen by the nation.... to end the quiet dwelling of the old, and the playing of the children from their streets.... to expel them, shame them, and give what belongs to them, to a bloodthirsty nation?

      How is it possible that he scorned the laws of the Torah, he and his company of friends, and he despised the lovely land and legislated laws of his own desire?

      How is it possible that police, soldiers and judges all stood by his side and participated in the joys of all his evil deeds and did not say, "Enough. Our will is an evil one."?

      How is it possible that they announced to pioneering Jews settling the land: 'Enough! Stop! You have already sat many years in your settlements and now we will give this land to your enemies - your oppressors.'

      How is it possible that Israel, a holy nation, cried out in tears to undo and revoke the decree of insolents and criminals and G-d concealed His face and left His land to traitors?

      How is it possible that we stood in prayer and supplication and poured out our hearts; perhaps G-d will spare His nation and remove the decree of an evil government and the nation of G-d will lament, for the land was given to the hand of the vain and evil?

      How is it possible that Jews were forcibly expelled from their homes, tossed onto buses... men, women and their children, and no mercy was shown for their property and their hard work?

      How is it possible that they enacted a violent order... police and soldiers, to remove their brothers - the sons of Israel - from their homes? O Land, don't cover their crimes until sins cease.

      How is it possible that they destroyed, out of hatred, houses, synagogues and schools full of Torah, and mercilessly threw people out onto the streets?

      How is it possible that without any explanation or reason they destroyed factories, greenhouses and every growing field and gave their places to savages and the dishonest?

      How is it possible that he raised his hand upon synagogues and yeshivas, and put an end to houses of study and the chatter of infants, while saying, 'Thus the world's nations will love us more'?

      How is it possible that he invaded graves and extracted bones
      of holy ones killed by bullets, fire and stones and he did not feel he would be hit by a curse - shchik atzamot - where his bones are pulverized, ground and pounded?

      How is it possible that they gloated in the shadow of our sorrow, all his companions and lovers, saying, "G-d left the land, the house is empty of its Lord. Va-avdah b'hafkaira nicha leya "?

      He who has mercy on the poor, (please) have mercy on the afflicted and return them to their legacy, for in You they trust. And bring closer the Redemption, for Israel shall be redeemed by G-d for eternity.

      Who were these people who lived in room 617 for eight months? How many children did they have? What were their jobs before they were sacrificed by the politicians who came to power? Were they happy to leave the hotel for a 'caravilla' (trailer home), or were they victimized once again, but this time, too tired and too broken to fight? Did they leave this poem purposely for the next occupant of the room to find, which happened to be me, or was it left behind by accident? Why didn't the maid find it (everything was cleaned well before Passover, even the carpets were recently shampooed, I could feel the dampness in the rugs with my feet)?

      Did G-d want me to find this, to share this cry with others?

      Yes, I cried in room 617. I wonder how much crying there was in this room the last eight months before I got there.

      Since the expulsion, I have prayed every morning that HaShem should bless our brothers and sisters from Gush Katif and the northern Samaria region with even more wonderful and happier lives than before, and that things should start improving immediately for them.

      Crying is good. It's not a solution, although it's a good start to bring us to action. On behalf of our brothers and sisters who were wrenched from their homes, lives and communities, please, let us all do a special act of kindness in their merit: pray for their well-being in your prayers every day until they are settled; make a donation directly to these families to help them rebuild their lives (please email me at the link in the right hand column above) visit them, write them or make a 'twin city' with them to show that you care; make a firm commitment to act in the future to prevent anything like this from happening again.

      May any future crying in room 617 be from cries of joy from new occupants who have come to visit Israel to herald the Moshiach and help bring the redemption that G-d has promised us all. And may we start positive actions now to ensure it comes speedily, in our days. Amen.

      Postscript

      The mystery has been solved! The family in room 617 has been found. They were from N'vei Dekalim and they include 11 children. Hear this dramatic interview with the mother of this family here.