The Wonderful People of Gush Katif

These lines will hopefully give you a short, but comforting, break from all the terrifying headlines about the coming expulsion of Jews, the incitement charges, the incarcerated kids and other horrors made possible by this government.

Ya'ara Paldi

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צילום: ערוץ 7
These lines will hopefully give you a short, but comforting, break from all the terrifying headlines about the coming expulsion of Jews, the incitement charges, the incarcerated kids and other horrors made possible by this government.

My husband and I feel that the least we can do to demonstrate our solidarity with the Jews of N'vei Dekalim, Ganei Tal, Gan Or, Shirat HaYam, B'nei Atzmona, Katif, Gadid and all the other beautiful villages in Jewish Gaza, is to go and visit them, to show them that we care. So this is about them, the wonderful people of Gush Katif, the very salt of this earth.

Since we don't own a car and there are no public buses going to Gush Katif from where we live anymore, we make reservations with Shlomi and take the little bus he drives to and from the bloc everyday. The feeling of solidarity begins when we get on the bus, the calls from people needing a ride from or to Gush Katif come in all the time and Shlomi, is familiar with everybody's daily schedule. On the way, he takes the time to pick up a young mother, her baby and toddler from her parents' house, and helps her get the carriage and bags into the back of the bus. Yeshiva students from the bloc and their teacher need a ride to Jerusalem the next morning, and in the afternoon, visitors from abroad have to be picked up from the airport and delivered to N'vei Dekalim. Shlomi arranges everything with a smile, friendly words and a joke here and there.

Like in the good old days, hitchhiking or "catching a tramp," as it's known among us locals, is still considered safe in Gush Katif and you can actually rely on any passing car to stop and give you a ride, even if it means a detour for the driver. But this time, we wanted to see as much as possible, so I got almost all my chutzpah together and the day before asked at the office of the Katif Bloc Regional Council if there was any chance that we two could have some sort of a guided tour of the area. The young secretary on the phone was not at all surprised or annoyed by my request. She told me to wait a second while she found out and gave me the names of two people I could talk to.

Micki Rosenstein, the friendly guy I called, told me that he couldn't drive us the next day, but he wanted to arrange for someone to take care of us in his place. He asked me to give him a call from the road the next morning. When Shlomi dropped us off at the beautiful place in front of the municipality of N'vei Dekalim, I called; and a couple of minutes later, the guide and the car he had promised came to pick us up. Though he thinks he has done absolutely nothing to deserve any gratitude from us, we want to give our very special thanks to Micki for his great kindness and help.

Our wonderful guide was Michael Tan'ami of the village of Gan Or (Garden of Light), a yeshiva high school director and teacher with two hours "to kill" between 10:00 and 12:00 that day. He took us to see the beautiful greenhouses and nurseries of B'nei Atzmona and Ganei Tal, where gorgeous geraniums and orchids, tree-high tomato and pepper plants heavy with fruit are being packed and delivered abroad and throughout Israel. We visited the impressive dairy farm at the village of Katif, where hundreds of cows deliver tons of milk for dairy processing every day.

Michael took us to the little community of Shirat HaYam (Song of the Sea). He showed us the beautiful synagogue of Gan Or. In B'dolach (Crystal) we were welcomed by Efraim Tzfira, one of the farmers in the village, whose eighteen-year-old son Assaf was one of two Israelis murdered by a terrorist on November 6th, 2002, in the B'dolach greenhouses.

After showing us around, Efraim gave us a huge box topped with fresh and delicious baby-greens, coriander, peppermint, celery, parsley, spinach, green onions and salad - all beautiful produce of his nursery.

A bus carrying a group of Germans from Stuttgart arrived at the lake while we were there and it turned out that they all moved here, to live and pray for the fulfillment of G-d's promise to the people of Israel. One old man we spoke to told us that he came to visit 17 times and then decided to move here for good. He lives, as does most of the group, in Zichron Ya'akov.

On the way to see the dairy farming, earlier that day, we passed what used to be the home of the Hatuel family in Katif. Tali Hatuel, eight months pregnant with her first son, and her four daughters, Hila, Hadar, Roni and Merav, were murdered by terrorists on May 2nd, 2004. Michael told us that the same afternoon we were visiting, a Hachnassat Torah (Torah dedication) commemorating the five victims of the Hatuel family would take place at the Katif synagogue. Later, while eating our lunch in N'vei Dekalim and thinking of hitchhiking back to Katif for the ceremony, we were forced to change plans - as missiles started falling over the bloc, and we were told to leave the terrace of the little restaurant and look for safe shelter until further notice.

Each time we came to spend the day in Gush Katif, we were deeply moved by the kind, friendly and open-hearted people, and the warm welcome we were given everywhere. I guess this must be the kind of land the old-timers remember, and we still sing about, the days of the good old Land of Israel, hopefully coming true again in Gush Katif. Most of the people we met were curious to know what we were doing in Gush Katif, and when we told them that we were just visiting, they would happily thank and congratulate us for being so brave, for coming and showing them our solidarity.

We think, though, that we are the ones who should say thanks to them, to all these brave men, women, youngsters and children who, despite all the hardships, the almost daily missile attacks that claim lives and bring destruction or serious damages to their homes, still keep on fighting and defending the rights of every single Jew to the Land of Israel.