Gardening Season

As I think of planting a garden this year, I can't help but think of those who must have a much harder time with this decision than I am having. I am thinking of the people of Gaza. Like me, many of them are also probably wondering about whether to plant a garden this year.

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I'm sitting here contemplating planting a garden. I'm wondering when to plant it and what to plant now that the weather has gotten warm enough to think of spring and summer pursuits. A garden is such a beautiful expression of oneself. You can plant flowers, vegetables, summer berries, or all of them at once. A garden can give you a wonderful sense of self-satisfaction and a beautiful place for memories to grow.

My mother's garden was always a magical place for me, full of tall corn stalks, overgrown vines with plumping melons, and hundreds of flowers in every color. It seemed to represent the beautiful nature of my mother. It was the place that she taught us the lessons of life: hard work in the dirt and cold of early spring, patience, care, and love can all bring sweetness and bounty in the end. It is a metaphor for almost everything I have come to know as I grow older.

According to my mother, the very act of planting a garden is an act of faith. One must believe that the seeds you put in the dirt will be animated by G-d to grow into small seedlings. Then, as they grow and you do everything you can to nurture those seedlings, you must believe that they can survive, even though one's best effort can be destroyed in one frosty night, or by a horde of hungry locusts, or by a neighbor's goat that happens into your yard. One must know that one is never in control, but that is the beauty of a garden. A great garden, like a great life, is a combination of hard work, miracles and blessings.

As I think of planting a garden this year, I can't help but think of those who must have a much harder time with this decision than I am having. I am thinking of the people of Gaza. Like me, many of them are also probably wondering about whether to plant a garden this year.

If they plant a garden, they risk the possibility that their hard work, love and commitment will only benefit their enemies in the end. How painful to realize that they might have to walk away from the beautiful flowers, fruits and vegetables that they have nurtured, to leave them to an uncertain fate.

At that point, their gardens become much more than gardens. Those gardens represent Jewish lives, planted with the seeds of faith in the dirt of Gaza, animated by G-d's miracles, and nurtured by their dreams for the bounty of Israel. Will their lives and the lives of their families exist only to benefit their enemies? Will their best efforts be destroyed by the frosty indifference of politicians, by a horde of hungry European Union locusts, or by that old goat Arafat happening into their garden? Disaster, it seems, is too often on the horizon for the gardeners of Gaza.

But what if they don't plant their gardens? If planting a garden is an act of faith, then failing to plant a garden can only represent a lack of faith. Failing to plant a garden means that one has surrendered to the possibility of failure even before they have tried to succeed. This is the saddest of all possible options - even more sad than losing a garden to circumstance, and even more painful than being forced to surrender that garden to your enemy.

To stare at a plot of dirt where one could have had a garden of plenty is something Jews have never done, and it is something Jews should never do. We should continue to plant, despite the risks and the heartache. We have planted gardens and schools and homes and lives and children in every place we have been, and we have always known that we may be forced to leave at any minute. We planted before we left Egypt, we planted when we left Egypt, we planted in Israel, we planted in the Diaspora, we planted before the Holocaust, and we planted after the Holocaust.

So, I am hoping that the good people of Gaza will plant their gardens this year, no matter what Ariel Sharon says they should do. Where is a better place for Jews to have faith than in our own land? I hope Gaza blooms in bounty this year, and that there will be gardens where there have never been gardens before.

As for me, it is never a question of whether I will plant a garden, the only question is when and where. I think, this year, I will have to put an extra effort into it. After all, I don't know how long I may stay here, but while I am here, I must make a garden. G-d willing, my children will do the same some day - perhaps in Gaza!


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